A couple having a romantic picnic on the beach.

What is Carl Jung’s Lover archetype, and what does it look like? What are some examples of this part of the psyche?

Examples of the Lover archetype include seeking a sense of purpose, being fueled by emotion, and in imbalanced cases, hedonism. Like all parts of the psyche, balance is key to healthy expression.

See what the Lover looks like in action in healthy and unhealthy examples.

The Lover: Desire, Passion, and Joy

Other parts of the psyche are concerned with various kinds of control: control over oneself, control over one’s surroundings, or both. The Lover is the opposite—it’s the part of the psyche that wants to unrestrainedly enjoy all the pleasures that life has to offer.  Examples of the Lover archetype include expressions of emotion more so than control.

This aspect is unique because it’s motivated by emotions, rather than by intellect. The Lover fuels a person’s feelings of vigor, passion, and joy. It also drives him to fulfill his various needs and desires; this includes biological urges like food and sex, but also less tangible cravings such as joy, love, and a sense of purpose. Therefore, someone under the Lover’s influence wants to explore and experience as much as he can because he’s looking for ways to satisfy those desires.

(Shortform note: In neurological terms, many of the Lover’s functions are explained by the chemical dopamine. In The Molecule of More, the authors explain that dopamine motivates people to seek out new experiences and to pursue the things they want. A person’s brain releases dopamine when they encounter something new or unexpected, or when they make progress toward a goal. That dopamine release is pleasurable, so people naturally want to do things that cause it. A few examples are eating a good meal, pursuing a new relationship, and working toward a promotion.) 

The Lover is also highly empathetic, meaning that someone with a strong Lover aspect instinctively understands other people’s feelings and shares them. This can be very painful, but he finds joy even in the pain; to the Lover, all experiences are things to enjoy and celebrate. 

(Shortform note: It’s a common misconception that people can spur their empathy by imagining themselves in someone else’s position. However, that tactic engages the intellect (the Magician) rather than the emotions (the Lover) and may cause people to bring their own assumptions and biases into the situation. In Atlas of the Heart, Brené Brown explains that empathy simply means understanding another person’s feelings and accepting those feelings for what they are.)

The Immature Lover: the Oedipal Child

A boy who didn’t have a nurturing masculine presence in his life, such as a loving father, is likely to get stuck in a boyhood version of the Lover aspect called the Oedipal Child. This happens when the boy grows up believing that all forms of love and care must come from women, since he never experienced them from a man.

Someone under the influence of the Oedipal Child longs for an ideal version of the feminine: a woman who’s impossibly loving, caring, and beautiful. This nonexistent woman is how he saw his mother when he was very young.

(Shortform note: The Oedipal Child archetype derives its name from the play Oedipus Rex. The play is about a tragic character named Oedipus who (unknowingly) kills his father and marries his mother. This is where Sigmund Freud got the name for the Oedipus Complex—however, unlike Freud’s Oedipus Complex, Jung’s Oedipal Child doesn’t feel sexual attraction toward his mother.)

As an adult, the man hasn’t realized that he’s still searching for his childhood experience of femininity and motherhood rather than for an actual person. He therefore struggles in his relationships with women, because none of them—including his mother—live up to his childish idea of what a woman should be. Until the Oedipal Child brings his concept of femininity into line with reality, he can never be fully satisfied with his life. Therefore, until that happens, the Lover aspect can’t fulfill its purpose. 

(Shortform note: The Oedipal Child aspect’s overdependence is harmful to both the man and the woman or women he’s closest to. It’s not reasonable to expect someone else to meet all of his emotional needs all of the time, so his expectations often put a lot of strain on his relationships (both romantic and familial). This might happen because women exhaust themselves trying to meet his demands, he obsesses over their “failure” to do so, or both. Also, because the man is so reliant on others for emotional support, he never learns how to emotionally support himself using tools like self-care, self-compassion, or rest and recreation.)

The Imbalanced Lover: Hedonism and Depression

The last psychological aspects we’ll discuss are the two versions of the imbalanced Lover. 

The Hedonist

The first of these is the Hedonist. Recall that the Lover’s purpose is to help the man satisfy his wants and needs; for someone under the Hedonist’s influence, there’s no such thing as satisfaction. Instead, he becomes obsessed with his own pleasure and spends his life chasing one whim after another.

The Hedonist usually arises because the Lover isn’t properly balanced by the psyche’s other aspects. As stated earlier, the Lover hates boundaries. That’s why it needs the King’s judgment, the Warrior’s discipline, and the Magician’s wisdom to keep it in check. 

The Hedonic Treadmill

This pattern of behavior is commonly called the hedonic treadmill: People chase after something they think will make them happy, enjoy a moment of pleasure when they get it, then start chasing the next thing in order to recapture that feeling. It’s referred to as a treadmill because people constantly “run” after happiness but always end up in the same place emotionally. 

There are many tools that people under the Hedonist’s influence can use to help themselves get off the treadmill. A few examples are:

Ask “Do I need this?” When he’s considering buying something, the Hedonist should pause for a moment and ask if it’s something he needs or just something he wants. Another way to approach this is to consider whether it’s going to help him in some way; if so, then it may be a need, but if not, then it’s only a want.

Practice gratitude. Instead of thinking about what he wants to buy or experience next, he can remember and appreciate what he already has. Examples might include his health, his family and friends, his job, his home, and his accomplishments.

Find pleasure in simple things. The Hedonist forgets that happiness doesn’t always require money or a lot of effort. Instead of chasing after expensive items and intense experiences, he could indulge in the simple pleasure of taking a walk or watching his favorite TV show.

The Unfeeling Man

At the opposite end of this spectrum is the Unfeeling Man: Whereas the Hedonist is lost in his desires, the Unfeeling Man doesn’t even know what his desires are. 

Someone under the influence of this aspect has lost touch with his emotions. Without desire or pleasure to motivate him, the man soon becomes lethargic and bored. In short, he’s depressed—nothing excites him, nothing motivates him, and he doesn’t enjoy anything anymore. 

(Shortform note: People under the influence of the Unfeeling Man aspect should consider how severe their depression is and how long it’s been happening because they may be suffering from clinical depression. Short periods of sadness and fatigue are normal, especially when there’s a clear reason for them like a death in the family or a stressful job. However, when those feelings—or lack of feelings—last for a long time and start having serious impacts on the person’s life and well-being, they should consider seeing a professional to determine if it’s a clinical issue.) 

Examples of the Lover Archetype: Fueled by Emotion

Becca King

Becca’s love for reading began with mysteries and historical fiction, and it grew into a love for nonfiction history and more. Becca studied journalism as a graduate student at Ohio University while getting their feet wet writing at local newspapers, and now enjoys blogging about all things nonfiction, from science to history to practical advice for daily living.

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