Riding on the bus made me very anxious. Would it stop right in front of my home, or would it miss my stop and ride on? I wasn’t sure the bus driver even knew where to stop. After all, I was afraid to walk too far next to the big road that ran by my house. Being six years old and finishing a day in first grade was enough excitement for me. I can still vividly remember the one time the bus driver forgot my stop – it caused me to feel vulnerable. How many memories in our minds have caused us to feel anxious or vulnerable? These natural human feelings can often pile up on us. Whether the emotions are conscious, or unconscious is not the question here. Emotional pain, real or perceived, can affect all of us at some point in our lives.
“The primary objective of the victim archetype is to develop self-esteem and personal power.”
-Caroline Myss, Sacred Contracts, Awakening Your Divine Potential
One of the patterns in our humanness can be how emotional pain sometimes feels like a jail. We may have lost a bit of hope and purpose when dealing with daily life. We may have learned to suppress our fears, angers and yes, even rages. Our culture does not allow us to “lose it” very often. Keeping it together all the time can seem like a victimizer lives in our heads. The light side of the victim archetype pattern in us can work with that bully in our heads. We can choose to nurture our victimized selves with essential oils. The pain that comes from our overachieving society can be one of the biggest victimizers. So how do we cope? How can we choose something immediate and healthy to soothe our souls? We can connect with nature. Using a simple oil blend in an inhaler, cotton hankie, Kleenex or diffuser can help our conscious and unconscious minds relax and calm down not only to cope, but to add a bit of hope. Up to 50% of the inhaled essential oils enters our blood stream and has a very quick effect, lasting up to two hours.
Some helpful essential oils to use when shadow victim thoughts enter our minds and cause emotional pain include the following: Ylang Ylang Cananga odorata, Sandalwood Santalum album for a sense of grounding, Neroli Citrus aurantium or Lavender Lavendula angustifolia for centering, and Petitgrain Citrus aurantium amara or Roman Chamomile Anthemis nobilis for an experience of release. Mixing just three of these oils can give a soothing connection to the spirit. Essential oils work on a conscious and unconscious level. So, we keep in mind the intention of ending the pattern of emotional pain which victimizes ourselves as we use our oil blends to remember who we are, feel a bit better about ourselves, and breath easier.
As always, if you need further and deeper help with emotional pain, please seek professional help by seeing your health care provider, qualified counselor, pastor, or spiritual director.
“Neroli oil may be considered for any deep emotional pain that robs us of hope and joy.”
-Gabriel Mojay, Aromatherapy for the Healing Spirit.
Ever get super annoyed about a date’s habit of eating loudly, or feel uncomfortable because they have a super hot ex? It can be oh so easy to extrapolate small things into relationship-stopping catastrophes even when other aspects of the situation are great. When your list of deal breaking items gets longer than five, the Saboteur is lurking in your psyche and things are about to get messy.
This archetypal dating guide has a reputation as ‘the Ninja’ because it has a way of being subtle and lethal before you know what hit you. I’m referring to the archetype of the Saboteur which is often cloaked in some pretty typical dating behavior.
The Saboteur shows up when we feel vulnerable and acts as a defense for a wounded part of ourselves (often the Victim). The reasoning of the Saboteur in dating is that if we can beat a potential wound to the punch then we’ll suffer less. Simple, no? Simple but deadly to any possible relationship with another human being. Ever.
We’ve all probably been on one side or the other of the Saboteur’s razor sharp blade and it hurts either way. Truth is, we can’t mitigate our way out of pain or loss but we can be strong enough to hold our vulnerability and make choices with both wisdom and heart.
It is possible to level up our wisdom by being mindful and recognizing what we are really up to before making choices. Recognizing key patterns as archetypes is a good way to get a hand hold on our own internal machinations. If you can spot the sneaky, weirdly well intentioned Saboteur at work you can then review the situation in a different light.
In the words of the urban poet and rap star, Ice Cube:
You better check yo self before you wreck yo self
Cos I’m bad for your health, I come real stealth
Knowledge is power, so here is a primer on the Saboteur in relationships:
The Two Sides of the Saboteur
Unempowered Saboteur Archetype
AKA The Critic, The CynicKeywords: Reactionary, Fear, Exaggeration, Over-thinking, CynicismThis is the part of us that is consciously or unconsciously ready to sabotage when we feel uncomfortable or get scared. It’s a pattern of over-thinking a situation and/or making extreme judgements as a defense.
The unempowered Saboteur’s voice:
“They do (insert action here) and boom! I’m outta here.”
“I just can’t date a man/woman who (insert annoying thing here).”
“He/she is really great – I wonder what is wrong with them?”
The Saboteur is the chief in charge of trying to figure everything out right away, laying emotional land mines or generally mucking up the works. At it’s worst, the Saboteur is like a pernicious detective drawing all kinds of scary conclusions until we are too confused to know what’s what. Like the Magician, the unempowered Saboteur is a master of creating illusion.
Empowered Saboteur Archetype Keywords: Listening, Wisdom, Clarity, Faith, Trust This is one of those patterns that the upside is being able to spot when the unempowered side is at play and take a breath to check-in with ourselves. It’s the part of us that says “relax, breathe, be open to the truth before you decide”. The empowered Saboteur’s motto is “Check it before you wreck it”. The empowered Saboteur as a representative of clear thinking can help you understand if doubts and worries are legitimate or just a function of fear. Also like a Magician the empowered Saboteur knows how the tricks work and can see what is an illusion before taking action.
“Old defenses block new success. Every defense is really a fear that forces you to play small, live in lack, and limit what is really possible. In truth, no defense can make you strong, no defense can win you freedom, and no defense can show you your true power.” ~Robert Holden, Ph.D.
4 ways to recognize and work with the Saboteur:
Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.
~Viktor E. Frankl
Trigger Not So Happy
We often have specific triggers that will set the Saboteur off so it’s good to be conscious of them so we can see them coming before anyone gets hurt. I found this article lays out some ways to find and work with these emotional triggers: 5 Steps to Owning Your Emotional Triggers
Phone a Friend
If you are having an “I’m about to wreck it.” moment, call a friend and ask them to hear you out before you do anything rash. Often times we just need someone to listen and witness that we are scared and having a moment of uncomfortable vulnerability. You might even notice that you are trying to sway them to your thinking – another sign that the Saboteur is on the loose.
Speaking with a trusted friend, coach or therapist is often the way to get the Saboteur to put down the sword and so you can hone in on what you really want. You might even be right about your next action but if you make your choice out of wisdom and not fear you will treat everyone humanely and feel a whole lot better about your choice.
The Price of Admission
If looking for perfection is your own Saboteur style, recognize that imperfection is at the heart of what makes us loveable. We want to be loved and accepted as whole people – flaws and all. Perfection as manufactured by the marketing department in our heads is a complete deception that kills off any hope of being in a real relationship. This talk by Dan Savage on what he calls “The Price of Admission” sums up how acceptance of our flaws and those of our partners is key to any healthy and lasting relationship. Warning: the video contains potentially offensive language and laughter.
Over-thinking A Square
If you find yourself thinking non-stop and obsessing about a situation from every angle, the Sabotuer has snuck in and amped your brain to the point that nothing can be perceived honestly. It’s time to get out of your head and into your body. Go for a run, go dancing, take a bike ride or a walk – the more strenuous the better. You won’t stop thinking completely of course, but you will switch gears and hopefully give the non-stop-thought-train a rest for a while. If you can’t get away for some exercise, the simple act of putting your hand on your chest and taking 3 deep, slow breaths will calm you and slow down the rapid fire thinking. Repeat as necessary.
“Intellect confuses intuition.” ~Piet Mondrian
Here is a sweet video that represents both aspects of the Saboteur.
Here Comes the Sun! After the dark debacle of the stage represented by the Moon card, the nineteenth card of the Major Arcana shares its rays of light on the Archetypal Tarot Podcast. Inside the protective walls of a golden kingdom, two children (or a child and horse in the Rider Waite) are happily at play. Like Romulus and Remus, suckled from the wolves of the last card, it is as if the birth of a new Rome has taken place as a long-awaited result of this Tarot journey’s recent trials. Julienne Givot and Cyndera Quackenbush explore this stage of rebirth by delving into the child archetype in its many manifestations, including its shadow.
Listen as Julienne and Cyndera share a synchronistic moment and find out how to have fun while even riding a city bus. In the Hollywood realm, Robin Williams as Puer (eternal youth), Tom Hanks in the film “Big” and Shirley Temple are discussed as examples of this stage. In the Sun card enjoy yourself in a land somewhere between the Teletubbies and the Secret Garden.
The Child: Innocence, Fun, Trust
The Child archetype resides in us all and is the first that we come to know. The Child archetype is sometimes called the guardian of innocence and it represents our beginning point. This archetype sets up our earliest perceptions of life, safety, loyalty and family. The heart of the Child archetype is one of dependency and responsibility. Addressing the Child archetype within can awaken a new relationship with life, a new start.
If dating seems like an ordeal, you are not alone. I’ve heard many versions of “I’m not dating because it sucks” from all sorts of people; gay, straight, men and women of all ages. I’ve expressed that sentiment myself more than a few times, but I also know that it doesn’t HAVE to be that way. Each of the archetypal guides in this series can help illuminate why dating can be difficult and how we can experience the process in a more grounded, wholehearted way.
This next archetypal guide is a biggie – it’s probably the main reason dating can be painful, confusing and un-fun. Just stay with me here because our guide to less vexing and more wholehearted dating in this edition is the archetypeA universal pattern of motivation and behavior. of the Victim.
What did you say woman? Victim?!
(Like I said – hang in there.)
The BIG THING to remember is that the Victim has two sides to it and is all about safety, strength and boundaries. It remains neutral until we feed one side or the other with thoughts, ideas and actions.
Unempowered Victim Archetype
Keywords: Pain, Fear, Blame This is the part of us that is consciously or unconsciously hurt, defensive, pissed off, fearful, vengeful or sad. It’s a tender part that needs care and compassion but it also needs to know it’s not the only game in town. To identify with only the unempowered Victim is how we can end up in dating suckland. Being in the mindset of fear skews our vision and makes for hasty decisions (fight or flight dating anyone?). This is where being present and paying attention to what’s going on in our minds and hearts without judgement can keep us grounded.
Empowered Victim Archetype
Keywords: Strength, Resilience, Courage I like to call this the Victorious part of us but it’s still a part of the Victim – we can’t really have one without the other. This is the archetype of working with the fear, letting stuff go, setting healthy boundaries and getting on with life more informed and stronger than we were before. The empowered Victim is also a wellspring of compassion – for self and others. It opens the door to maintaining vulnerability as a strength, not a weakness. If that sounds like an oxymoron, think of it this way, our ability to truly connect (be vulnerable) allows us to be who we really are beyond the fear we might feel (strength).
Dating means putting yourself out there in a way that could bring old wounds and insecurities to the surface – something most of us instinctively avoid. Hence the Victim archetype rearing it’s head in the middle of our single life saying it’s not safe out there. Here’s the thing though, if we let our fears wall all that stuff up in order to feel safe, we are also walling out what we most deeply want – love and connection.
“A deep sense of love and belonging is an irreducible need in all women, men and children. We are biologically, cognitively, physically, and spiritually wired to love, to be loved and to belong. When those needs are not met, we don’t function as we were meant to. We break. We fall apart. We numb. We ache. We hurt others. We get sick.” ~Brené Brown from The Gifts of Imperfection
Love, if it is real, will never be completely safe because it requires vulnerability, which is to say that the soft gooey center of us could get squeezed and maybe not pleasantly so. In order to truly love, our shields have to come down for a connection to be made. This is true of platonic relationships as well but dating can feel like the stakes are much higher.
“No human being has ever lived without knowing heartbreak, and to accept that truth is to give a merciful gift to ourselves.” ~David Whyte
Actively working with our internal Victim can help us cultivate the strength, resilience and spaciousness to experience dating in a whole new way. How we relate to our internal Victim resonates out to how we treat other people, including our potential love partners and sets the tone for our future relationships.
Here are some ways the Victim can be a guide to dating where we feel stronger, more present and grounded:
Know Your Ropes
You know that exercise where someone walks up to you one small step at a time and you tell them to stop when you begin to feel uncomfortable? That’s how we can determine our personal physical boundaries. For some people it’s 5 feet and for others 5 inches. The Victim here is a guide to emotional boundaries, which is all about how we handle our own vulnerability. If we have overly porous dating boundaries we’ll be prone to spilling our emotional guts on the first date, getting hurt unnecessarily or taking on other people’s emotional burdens. Diamond hard boundaries mean we are never going to be able to let anyone in and be a part of an intimate relationship. Understanding how this might work for ourselves emotionally can save a lot of confusion and bruised feelings.
Understanding and developing emotional boundaries is huge topic and there are many resources to support more learning so I’ve provided a few below.
Self-victimization can slide in when we aren’t looking; maybe an un-returned call, text message or presumed mistake on a date sends you into a bout of self-flagellation. Whatever the cause, it’s a ripe time to take a moment to remember that:
1) things are not always as they seem
2) you are human and do all sorts of things that might not be intended
3) berating yourself does not help anything (in fact neuro psychology research shows it can make things worse).
Self-vicitmization is a call for self-compassion. Once you’ve stopped beating yourself up you will know what to do next with much clearer vision. You will also have more compassion for those you are dating.
Don't Go It Alone
The Victim can also let us know when we are heading for a situation that we should avoid and to take precautions to be safe out there in dating land. Hopefully we’ve all learned to meet someone new in a public place and continue to do gut check’s about whether we can trust the other person. This can also go overboard. My brother told me about a woman who brought along her BFF to their first date as a sort of guard. Granted, they met on a dating website but her reaction and obvious Victim mentality really turned him off on what could have been an otherwise pleasant date over coffee.
Whether for physical or emotional safety I recommend a ‘date buddy’; someone you can trust to talk something out with and check in with to let them know where you are going and with whom on a date. Our parents might not wait up for us anymore but it’s nice to know someone has our back. I’m blessed to have two date buddies (a man and a woman) and it really, really helps. I get the benefit of having access to both the male and female perspectives on things and get to support them on their dating adventures as well.
Being present to what comes up with the Victim in dating also reminds us that we can call on resources and helpers in the form of Mentors, Therapists or Groups where we can share our experience and receive support.
Avoid Reruns & Red Flags
You’ve heard the quote about doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result as the definition of insanity right? It’s true, but most of us do it anyway and dating is no exception. The Victim is our guide to say “hey we’ve done this before and it didn’t end so well”. It’s a call to clear thinking and discernment knowing that dating re-runs and red flags can be avoided if we choose to.
This reminds me of a scene in ‘When Harry Met Sally’ when Carrie Fisher’s character says “You’re right, you’re right, I know you’re right – he’s never going to leave her.” about the married man who is always proclaiming he’s going to leave his wife to be with her but never does. The Victim can help us recognize when we get into an unhealthy pattern and need to make some different choices or at least look clearly at a situation.
Although dating can bring uncomfortable things up, an honest and compassionate relationship with the Victim means we can be stronger, more loving people for the difficult lessons and heartbreak we’ve been through. My experience with cultivating the lessons of the Victim in relation to dating has helped me immensely. I never thought the process could actually be empowering and compassionate, but it can be and that is what I hope to share with you. Please comment, share, Tweet and link this article if others that you think might benefit. I love when you do that.
They say to always lead with your strength. I’m going to lead with one of my weaknesses – sometimes I feel like I’m not enough. Not smart enough, pretty enough, rich enough, thin enough etc. Basically, take any positive quality and put ‘not’ in front and ‘enough’ behind it and I can, at some point, feel that this is so. It’s a type of nefarious self-judgement that most people can identify with and it can make dating un-fun and stressful. These self-judgements can take over and have us thinking that inadequacy is the only possible reason why we aren’t meeting that great guy or gal. And here’s the thing – a habit of believing ‘I am not enough’ does influence our dating experience and who we meet. Let me explain by wrapping it in the context of the archetype at play here.
Not-enoughness is the purview of the Prostitute archetype, which also goes by the name of the People Pleaser, among others. The Prostitute is symbolic of how we negotiate our integrity and self worth. The moment we begin to doubt our worth is a sign that the unempowered Prostitute is hanging out on our psyche’s street corner. It also encourages us to pretend we are something we aren’t because lack is crowding everything else out. It also means that everyone else is more important than we are. This only leads to more heartache.
There is a way to enable this archetype to work FOR us instead of selling our happiness out. Begin by noticing when you engage with the pattern of the Prostitute. Any thought that says ‘you are not enough’ is the archetypal voice of the unempowered Prostitute giving out bad information. Period. You ARE enough. The voice of the empowered Prostitute reminds you that you are enough as you are right now – an imperfect and amazing person, both. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t things you might want to work on, it means that you aren’t starting with a deficit.
Let me illustrate with some common dating scenarios and how the Prostitute archetype can show up in both unempowered and empowered ways:
You've met someone you like.
unempowered / judging
Worry that they won’t be interested in you because you are inadequate in some way.
Allow a list of ‘not-enough’s’ to cascade down the screen of your mind like the numbers and letters in the Matrix.
Get neurotic about whether you should contact them.
Check every ten minutes to see if they have called, texted or emailed you first.
empowered / innate worthiness
Realize that the ‘not enoughs’ are not true and it’s a choice to identify with those thoughts or not. Besides all those crappy thoughts give you a headache.
You are who you are ‘as is’ and you want to be with someone who accepts and cares for all of you.
Call them within a time that makes sense and is respectful, in the mean time – enjoy yourself!
Understand that your value is innate and not based on what other people think.
If he/she isn’t into you, it is in no way a value judgement of who you are.
Dating someone who isn't good for you.
*Not good for you* generally means they don’t treat you well, take you for granted, put you down or in other ways are not positive for your well being.
unempowered / sell-out
You keep dating them because you figure you can’t get anyone who is good for you because you aren’t ____ enough.
You decide there are too many things you lack and it’s better to sell out than be without a date.
You think that because you are inadequate and they are inadequate you somehow belong together.
empowered / worthy
Respectfully and compassionately let your unhealthy relationship go (aka break up).
Notice you spend way more time with the ‘not enough’ thoughts than you do with the truth of who you are and start reversing that situation.
Spend time doing things you enjoy instead of worrying about Saturday night.
Realize that dating someone does not make you any more or less valuable as a person.
Dating someone you aren't into.
unempowered / settling
It’s nice to have someone be nice to you.
They pay for dinner and/or provide company on Saturday night.
No one else is on the horizon.
empowered / worthy
Realize it’s not fair to anyone to stay in a relationship because you feel bad about yourself.
Be the person who is nice to you.
Realize that dating someone does not make you any more or less valuable as a person.
Respectfully and compassionately let the relationship go (aka break up).
Notice when you spend more time with the ‘not enough’ thoughts than you do with the truth of who you are and start reversing that situation.
Playing Hide and Seek
unempowered / unauthentic
Wanting to share a part of yourself with your date/boyfriend/girlfriend but not doing it because they might judge you as not being ____ enough.
Pretending to have traits that you don’t so they will like/love/accept you? (“Oh I love rock climbing” you say to your date when internally you are shuddering at the idea.)
Saying yes to or asking for another date when you don’t want to.
Saying you will call when you don’t intend to.
empowered / worthy
Notice that you want to be known for who you really are and hiding a desire to share something about you is already a rejection.
Your worth and love-ability are based on who you are and not whether you have the same interests as your date. You can show a genuine curiosity about their interests without having to fake enthusiasm.
Acting on what you really want and being honest bestows respect and care on both you and your date.
Did you notice that the empowered sides of these scenarios were more loving, respectful, honest and authentic? That’s exactly who we are without the low worth rhetoric and those qualities are SO very attractive! The habit of thinking ‘not enough’ leads to more of the same; it’s focused on settling for whatever we can get which moves us farther and father away from what we actually want. Understanding that you are enough makes space to focus on what you really want in a relationship and changes the dynamic of choices in who you attract and engage with.
There are many books that have principles and stories that can help re-orient the Prostitute archetype from it’s low energy state to one where you hold your head high and stop trading away your innate fabulousness for anxious worries and low self worth. The wildly popular book from a few years ago, He’s Just Not That Into You highlights this perfectly and delivers it with a with a sizable dose of sharp candor. It applies to anyone working with the Prostitute archetype, which is pretty much everyone except for maybe the Dalai Lama.
The empowered Prostitute holds him or herself with compassion and value, not higher or lower than anyone else but on the firm ground where we can meet others in the same way. It’s the same fertile ground where great relationships can grow. Learning how these internal archetypal patterns play out, can bring us back to center with compassion that begins with ourselves and inevitably out to those around us. And really what could be more attractive than that?
Let’s consider for a moment that we all have a container in our psyche that holds the entire history of our being wounded: betrayal, abandonment, shame – the whole painful enchilada. This same container also holds the story of our healing: past, present and future. The archetype of the Victim is our guide through these storylines and shows us either a heroic triumph or an exasperating epic that never seems to end. The difference being which side of the pattern we pay attention to.
The Victim, like the rest of the survival archetypes has a bad reputation which might be why it’s easy to spot in others but sometimes difficult to own in ourselves. This bad rep is due to most of us only seeing the unempowered side. The unempowered version of the Victim is stuck, complains about how they have been wronged and are convinced that they had little to no bearing on the outcome of the wounding incident. We’ve all known “Debbie Downers” who incessantly complain about everything and re-frame their experience to get attention or sympathy. Often times this is seen as the Martyr which shares a good bit of DNA with the Victim, but lacks the element of witnessing a larger truth. The unempowered Victim will hand everything over and expect someone else to ‘fix it’. The balance of power lies outside when the Victim shows up in it’s shadow form.
“It’s your/their fault.”
“It’s all my fault.”
“I’m always getting hurt.”
“No one understands me.”
“I didn’t have a choice.”
“This always happens to me.”
Conversely, the empowered Victim has an intimate understanding of their own trajectory of having been wounded and what it took (or will take) to work with it to come out on the other side stronger and more wise than before. Their power remains within them even if they ask for help. Help for the empowered Victim is not handing the problem over to someone else but to actively engage to work through an issue with some assistance.
“I made a mistake, now I’m going to…”
“This is really hard but I can do this.”
“I’m going to need some help with this.”
“I’m getting back in the game.”
“Live and learn.”
Spotting this pattern as it emerges allows for a broader range of choices where one can decide which side of the Victim card they want to play. Recognizing that the Victim is an archetypal pattern that all humans share can be a first step to take the sting out of a situation and make room for real compassion. After all, compassion is one of the things we seek when we’ve been hurt. Recognition and attention to the situation seen first as a pattern also points us toward discernment and wisdom instead of harsh judgement which can just exacerbate the pain of the situation.
The richer more enlivening place to draw from is that of the path of healing, which is to say the empowered Victim. Healing encompasses the story of the wound as well as what it it took to get to wholeness again. Not only wholeness but an expasiveness that did not exist before the wound. What do I mean by this? This quote from Elizabeth Kubler-Ross the pioneering psychiatrist sums it up nicely.
“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These people have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen…”
Having gone through something difficult and come out the other side with more wisdom, compassion and understanding is the Victim’s ultimate journey. The ways and means of a life with knowledge of the Victim pattern reminds us how strong we can be. A talisman that says we can’t rush healing to a perfection of wholeness but neither can we stay in the pure pain of a wound for very long. Even those who claim they are wounded beyond repair are not immune to what the world brings them as healing salve if they are open to it. The kindness of a friend or a beautiful piece of music can be healing. It’s the choices one makes to accept the gifts of healing and the stories we choose about what happened to us that make the difference. The Victim is a guide to how we work with the painful times as well as a way to be more generous with ourselves and others.
Little things can mean a lot. Let’s say you’re having a crappy day and you’re at the store when the cashier pulls out a coupon that saves you a dollar. This gives you a boost and you walk out the door in a better mood. Maybe you don’t honk at the numbskull ahead of you for doing whatever it is that annoys you. That person doesn’t get irked with you for being a numbskull honking at them and who knows what other little improvements occur because someone did you a solid just for the heck of it. Little bits of beauty & generosity have a tendency to carry on long after their tipping point. Like watching a TED talk and getting inspired to write an article about something both simple and radically important about the patterns at work in our lives.
Neil Pasricha decided to do something seemingly small when he was going through a very rough patch in his life. His marriage was falling apart, his best friend took his own life and he naturally was finding it really hard to think of anything good. He started a blog in order to record and share what he called 1000 Awesome Things, figuring that it might help him focus on the positive again. Little did he know that this one effort would have him publishing books, calendars, TED talks and receiving a Webby Award for his blog in 2010. All of this AND bringing a grin or a LOL to millions of readers. Neil’s 17 minute talk about how all of this came about is totally worth watching so, go ahead, it’s right down there, I’ll wait. Then you can read about how this talk is an invocation of three of your core archetypes. (Or you can just skip to the next bit.)
Neil calls the major lessons of his experience the three A’s of Awesome: Attitude, Awareness and Authenticity. Each of these invokes one of your core archetypal patterns, the Victim (Attitude), the Child (Awareness) and the Prostitute (Authenticity). These are 3 of the 4 core universal archetypes common to everyone also known as the Survival Archetypes.
Neil’s own story has a lot to do with the Victim archetype. He could have simply wallowed in his circumstances, let them take over and obscure the beauty in his life. The unempowered side of the Victim is the part of us that can get wrapped up in anger, sadness, and blame. We all have a Victim pattern in our lives – we have setbacks, get hurt, make mistakes, have crappy days when we feel like we’ve gotten the fuzzy side of the lollipop. We also have the empowered side of the Victim that makes choices to get out of the mire of blame and move on. Neil calls this ‘Attitude’ and I see it as using the pattern of the Victim to make a gigantic difference in a few small choices.
The second ‘A’ of Awesome is Awareness and this invokes the Child archetype in us. The Child or as Neil says, our inner three year old, can be amazed at the simplest things, see beauty where most adults just see a knot in a piece of wood. Invoking the awareness of the Child archetype can help us enjoy something simple, open our eyes to opportunity or just appreciate something we would ordinarily pass by. This isn’t just a mood lifter, but a way to be in the world with a deeper sense of presence. The Child can be the antidote to a fast paced world where it’s difficult not to become jaded to little pleasures like putting on socks still warm from the dryer.
The third ‘A’ is for Authenticity which believe it or not, invokes Prostitute archetype. The unempowered Prostitute is that part of us that will negotiate our self worth away because of someone elses opinion or keep us doing something we dislike because we feel we can’t do anything else. The empowered Prostitute reminds us that we can be authentic and make choices not based on fear but out of an authentic belief in ourselves. Neil uses the example of pro football player Rosie Grier and his penchant for needlepoint as an example of authenticity. Rosie could have easily kept his passion for something unmanly under wraps and let what other people might think of him control who he was (keep in mind this was the early 1970’s) but he didn’t. In fact he published several books on his interests. It doesn’t get much more authentic than that.
While this archetype has a shocking name, it can be a guide for us to live authentically. Are you not doing something because you are afraid of what people might think of you? Are you putting the opinions of others over your authentic dreams and desires?
Understanding archetypes goes much deeper than a chat about a movie and beyond the confines of a psychology textbook. An archetype is not just a pattern “out there” in theory but it is a recurring set of experiences that unfold through the course of a human life. Our ability to spot when a particular pattern walks in the door makes the difference between acting out and making a conscious choice. We begin to view the shape of our lives within an archetypal language by introducing ourselves to four patterns that we all share, the Survival Archetypes. Let’s imagine that four well-known television characters become clothed for a time with each her own version of a pattern. Rose, Blanche, Dorothy and Sophia share a home somewhere in Miami in the Emmy winning television sitcom, The Golden Girls.
‘Rose’ image via Wikipedia
This pattern and the next are the most obvious to match with characters from the show. Rose captures the essence of the Child perfectly. Her wide, gullible eyes lack any indication of doubt because she accepts anything an adult tells her. The pattern itself balances innocence and responsibility. Forced to make her way through life by her own efforts, Rose gathers herself up from a fantasy world where she is taken care of by her husband’s pension plan or a steady job and takes life on directly. This is significant because the Child has to leave the safety of the family and enter a harsh world populated by sharply critical adults. When we want to run away from a situation and deny what is happening, we are confronting the Child within us. Yet this is also the pattern where we can choose to see each situation as overflowing with limitless potential and see things as new again.
‘Blanche’ image via Wikipedia
Of course it’s Blanche. In almost every episode, she decides to assign a value to her body by comparing her looks to another woman or using her body to advance her own interests. At every turn Blanche is chasing a man or furious that her wiles haven’t produced the results she expected. The Prostitute grabs a price scanner and makes its mark on every part of us it can so that we feel safe in the world, often by remaining in a relationship or a job. Whenever she is confronted with a problem, Blanche throws on a negligee and adjusts her makeup in order to barter her way through. She never fully believes in her own capacity to solve her problems beyond her salable attributes. Only by the end of an episode does Blanche find what is truly valuable: Her friendships and sense of herself beyond her outward appearance.
‘Dorothy’ image via Wikipedia
Dorothy is the “smart” one with the cold stares and the newspaper in her hand, ever expounding on the failures of society with its potential to violate and betray us. It is her voice that speaks up after silently burning for a few moments, waiting for the assault to stop, and sets appropriate boundaries. More than a few times Dorothy picks up a newspaper and hits Rose over the head when the St. Olaf stories go on too long. This is the Victim, present when we feel unable to defend ourselves but also when we go after someone else for revenge. Its empowerment isn’t in aggression and dominance but in being clear about our boundaries as they relate to who gets “in” as well as how far you get “out.”
‘Sophia’ image via Wikipedia
Sophia’s entrance is often preceded by someone starting to dream about a wonderful new idea or vision of themselves. She shuts them down with a opinion based on how they will fail, often gouging out a chunk of self esteem in the process. The Saboteur does the same. Dorothy, for her part the empowered Victim, slaps her hand across Sophia’s mouth to prevent the impending criticism. When you are about to make a choice that will interrupt a new opportunity for you to build self-esteem and connect to your destiny, the Saboteur has entered the room. Through the entire series, Sophia exemplifies the Saboteur in her attempts to pursue a vibrant, active life for a woman in her eighties and confronts the view that she is hastening towards senility and the grave. The ability to step into a new life for ourselves is guarded by the Saboteur, but make no mistake: This is the pattern where WE are blocking our way forward, not anybody else.
Blanche: What do you think of my new dress? Is it me? Sophia: It’s too tight, it’s too short and shows too much cleavage for a woman your age. Dorothy: Yes, Blanche. It’s you.
Picture it: One night you can’t get to sleep. Something’s really bothering you at work or you’re ashamed of your bank account. Maybe you’re not with the person you love anymore. Whatever it is, you get up and shuffle into the kitchen. Soon, you are surrounded by four of your lifelong archetypal pals, only they’re doing all the talking. You sit there on the table while they pick at you, bicker and lay into each other with their concerns and fears. Basically, you’re a cheesecake, slowly eaten away bite after bite. Instead of becoming a pile of crumbs when these voices are in control, we can take the time to pursue a relationship with them. We can know when we are making a choice that obscures or magnifies our destiny. At first a silent partner, studying our deeper motivations, but in time we claim our place at the table. Eventually, we will distance ourselves from their automatic choices and see what has been waiting beyond our fears in front of us the whole time.
Andrew lives in Portland. When he’s not concocting original condiments, knitting, and reading, he occasionally finds himself writing poetry and archetypal articles. You can email him directly: firstname.lastname@example.org Photo by: Anatoly Petrenko
It’s summertime here in the northern hemisphere and it seems our Child archetypes are clamoring to go out and play. I remember as a child, summer was about being outside and hanging out doing whatever we fancied at the time. For most of us, childhood was the only time we’ve felt totally free. Once the archetype of the responsible Adult comes along, any frivolous playtime tends to get reserved for weekends and vacations. We box up the fun and put it on the shelf until the appropriate time.
Summer can bring the Child out in all of us. I’ve noticed it in my clients when assignments are not getting done and lots of appointments are getting re-shuffled. Something in our core nature says it’s time to play during the summer. Most people take their vacations during the summer, the cycle of nature practically demands that we take some time to relax and play.
From personal experience, fighting off the Child archetype and the need to play can make me miserable. It’s as if the Adult in me is punishing the Child by putting off something fun until I deem it totally necessary. Frankly, that sucks and it continues to be so until I open up to an opportunity to play and then totally go for it. Here’s an example of just such a situation. I’ll place the archetypes in parenthesis to illustrate.
Recently, I was offered an opportunity (Adult) to go to Los Angeles and help test a new game (Child) about archetypes produced by a couple of my instructors from school. I would also get the opportunity to check out a business that trains actors using archetypes, something that I am interested in (Adult). I would need to re-arrange all of my appointments for a few days (Adult) but the opportunity sounded like a lot of fun (Child). I also could catch up on some learning material in the car on the drive down (Adult) so I loaded up my iPod with lectures that I had been meaning to listen to. What happened was my Adult was so busy planning and making things happen, that by the time I got in the car early Wednesday morning my Child archetype had had enough. I happened upon a satellite radio station that plays 80’s new wave and the Child archetype took over. I sang along and danced in my seat all the way to LA. I was filled with child-like joy and didn’t once think about anything that I ‘had’ to do. I got to LA refreshed and ready for anything. My friends and colleagues even remarked about my infectiously happy mood. I realized pretty quickly that I had really done myself a favor by just letting the Child archetype take over for a bit. None of the so-called responsibilities of my trip were neglected and in fact I had a lot more fun doing everything I set out to do during my visit. During the 6 hour drive back home I listened to some of the lectures and sang along to some more songs and caught up with some friends on the phone (yes I used my hands free headset). All in all it was a great exercise in paying attention to what was needed in the moment – neither Child nor Adult archetype was neglected and provided something that I wanted to share with you here.
I invite you to be open to opportunities to let your Child archetype lead you to some fun. Please share your stories, ideas and suggestions for listening to the call of the Child archetype in your life in the comment section bel0w.
The term Prostitute doesn’t typically come up in polite conversation. It does however in popular culture, usually in it’s slang form, “ho”. In fact “ho” is used quite liberally and casually in music, movies and by kids talking on the bus.
So what is all this “Ho” business? Do they really mean the Prostitute archetype when referring to someone as a “Ho”? I looked up the definition from the slang website Urban Dictionary (Warning – this site does contain much foul language). Below is the 3rd listed definition:
Ho (noun): Anyone who dehumanizes themselves by selling their soul to others. The term can be applied to either a man or a woman or–as in the case of <Anne Coulter>–both.
Aspersions on Ms Coulter aside (although it did make me giggle), the definition is spot-on for the Prostitute archetype in it’s shadow aspect. So it seems the terms don’t differ in their meaning but I believe that there is a much better, more productive way of looking at this archetype.
The Prostitute is one of the four survival archetypes which we all have. You, Me, the barista at the cafe and yes even Ann Coulter (ok, I’ll leave her alone for a while) – we all have a Prostitute archetypal pattern working somewhere in our lives. The Prostitute archetype is our negotiator. It is also a signpost of our level of faith in ourselves.
We all negotiate ourselves one way or the other – much of the time it comes down to how we feel about ourselves in the situation. Sometimes it’s a case of selling out or selling up. So as with any archetype, we meet it in both it’s light and shadow incarnations.
To find the Prostitute archetype one only needs to look to the moments when we feel our faith in ourselves slipping away. Be it in our job, relationships, finance or shopping for shoes, the Prostitute archetype can go looking for something to trade away to feel safe again. Minor or major, situations like these come upon us again and again:
We withhold our opinion because we fear being judged. What this does however, is make their opinion more important than ours.
We stay late at work, neglecting our personal life in order to feel more secure in our job. Is the job important? Of course it is, but when this negotiation is based on fear, we are more likely to sell out which is not an empowered position.
We stay in a relationship that has gone bad in order to have someone in our life. – OR – We neglect our own needs because we are afraid that it might lead to a break up, a fight or more work than we want to deal with.
We sell our happiness, peace and honesty for what often times is just a flimsy sense of safety. Sadly these things tend to pile up and create an ugly reckoning later on.
So how do we not become a ‘ho’ in these situations? Awareness is the first step – it can be a doozy – but it’s the doorway to better choices.
Be on the lookout for this pattern in your life.
Look at when it comes up and why.
What situations trigger it?
What are some alternatives to the un-empowered behaviors and choices that it can tempt you with?
The role of the Prostitute is to alert us when we are losing faith in ourselves. Use it as a ‘poke in the arm’ to remind you that you have the ability to shore up faith and confidence in yourself. The empowered Prostitute archetype imbues a sense of worth, faith and confidence.
The film “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” provides a prime example of the hero’s journey of each of the four core (or survival) archetypes: the Child, the Victim, the Prostitute, and the Saboteur. This film is an archetypal treasure trove, but for brevity’s sake I will concentrate mainly on these four.
The first character that we meet in the film is Dorothy – the Child. She looks for attention and is struggling to be heard and recognized by the adults (the Child seeking self-authority, responsibility). She longs for a place “somewhere over the rainbow” where she can have both authority and innocence – that is to say, a home of her own. The Child is the guardian of innocence and is the part of us that both wants and shuns responsibility and protection. Her hero’s journey begins when she is whisked out of Kansas by a tornado (chaos) and is taken to Oz where she finds new friends who will aid her on her journey back home.
After being recognized as a Hero by the Munchkins for doing away with the Wicked Witch of the East, she asks how to get home and is told that she needs to go ask the Wizard in the Emerald City for help. And so with a gift of ruby slippers on her feet, she starts out on the yellow brick road and happens upon the Scarecrow, her first ally on the journey.
The Scarecrow – the Saboteur, points in one direction and then another because he can’t make up his mind. He is stuck on a pole and announces that he is a failure because he hasn’t got a brain. The Scarecrow sings about all the things he would do ‘if only’ he had a brain. This is the Saboteur in the shadow aspect. The Saboteur is the guardian of self-esteem and choice. It represents both the voice in ourselves that sees things as confusion, lack or ‘if only’ as well as the voice that sees the attributes, resources and abilities available to transcend difficulties. In this sense the Saboteur is both our best ally and worst critic depending on what aspect we choose to imbue (shadow or light). You’ll see throughout the film the Scarecrow claiming he isn’t smart (shadow) and then using his intelligence (light) to help Dorothy and the others succeed in their quest.
Next our heroes meet the Tin Man – the Prostitute. He is standing alone, frozen and unable to speak in the forest. With the aid of Dorothy and the Scarecrow his joints are oiled (is given attention and love) and he can once again move and speak. The Tin Man’s complaint is that he hasn’t got a heart and sings about how loving he would be if he had one. He could then love freely without becoming frozen in fear. The heart here is symbolic of his faith in himself. The Prostitute archetype represents our internal negotiator, our guardian of faith and integrity. Like the Tin Man we can become frozen in fear when we feel our survival is threatened and will negotiate a price for ourselves to feel safe again. When Dorothy asks the Tin Man to join them he asks “Suppose I got there and he wouldn’t give me a heart?” – another question of faith.
The Cowardly Lion comes on as the Bully/Coward archetype but quickly transitions to the fourth and final Survival Archetype – The Victim. He claims that he has no courage and is therefore always the Victim (shadow). He is tormented by his fears and even scares himself. He complains about how unbearable life has been (seeking pity – shadow) and wants the Wizard to give him courage so he could be victorious (light). Later in the film he sings about how he would be transformed into a gracious and compassionate King (light) once he gets some courage.
Each of these characters is on a quest to get what they perceive as lacking from someone outside of themselves.
They have given the Wizard of Oz the authority to grant them what they need and have to face their fears and obstacles on their way to meet him. Each of these fears and obstacles are conquered using the exact thing that each of them believes they are missing. Only when they discover the Wizard to be a fraud do they begin to realize that they had what they were seeking all along. Being gracious though, they accept the blessing of the Wizard along with the symbols of their quest; a medal for courage (empowerment and self-esteem), a scroll for intelligence (choice and esteem), and a heart shaped pin for love (faith and integrity). Dorothy was carrying her symbol, the ruby slippers, the whole time and so too was her ability to get home (self authority).
We all have these powerful and transforming archetypal patterns in us and like the characters in the Wizard of Oz, we are on a quest to re-discover them. These are some of your powers – use them for good and not evil ;).
Simply said, we all have had a childhood and a part of us remains a child throughout our lives. Eight or Eighty we are all still capable of playing wild and free, throwing tantrums, hiding from grown-ups (authority), believing that anything can happen or just being silly for the sake of doing so.
“We are every age that we have ever been.”
The Child archetype resides in us all and is the first that we come to know. The Child archetype is sometimes called the guardian of innocence and it represents our beginning point. This archetype sets up our earliest perceptions of life, safety, loyalty and family. The heart of the Child archetype is one of dependency and responsibility. Addressing the Child archetype within can awaken a new relationship with life, a new start.
There are many aspects of the Child archetype each with their own set of specific expressions. While we can carry expressions of all of these aspects, one will usually be dominant in our childhood as well as our later life. Which aspect best describes your experience of the Child archetype? Review the list below along with descriptions on the following pages.
Orphan Child (Abandoned Child)
The Orphan Child is the major character in most well known children’s stories, including Little Orphan Annie, the Matchstick Girl, Bambi, the Little Mermaid, Hansel and Gretel, Snow White, Cinderella, Harry Potter and many more. The pattern in these stories is reflected in the lives of people who feel from birth as if they are not a part of their family, including the family psyche or tribal spirit. Yet precisely because orphans are not allowed into the family circle, they have to develop independence early in life. The absence of family influences, attitudes, and traditions inspires or compels the Orphan Child to construct an inner reality based on personal judgment and experience. Orphans who succeed at finding a path of survival on their own are celebrated in fairy tales and folk stories as having won a battle with a dark force, which symbolically represents the fear of surviving alone in this world.
The shadow aspect manifests when orphans never recover from growing up outside the family circle. Feelings of abandonment and the scar tissue from family rejection stifle their maturation, often causing them to seek surrogate family structures in order to experience tribal union. Therapeutic support groups become shadow tribes or families for an Orphan Child who knows deep down that healing these wounds requires moving on to adulthood. Identifying with the Orphan begins by evaluating your childhood memories, paying particular attention to whether your painful history arises from the feeling that you were never accepted as a family member.
Films:Margaret O’Brien in The Secret Garden; Hayley Mills in Pollyanna; Daniel Radcliffe in Harry Potter, Matt Damon in Goodwill Hunting, Linguini in Ratatouille Fiction:David Copperfield by Charles Dickens; The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum., Harry Potter by JK Rowling
Magical / Innocent Child
Magical Child represents the part of us that is both enchanted and enchanting to others. It sees the potential for sacred beauty in all things, exemplified by Tiny Tim in Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, and by Anne Frank, who wrote in her diary that in spite of all the horror surrounding her family while hiding from Nazis in an attic in Amsterdam, she still believed that humanity was basically good. Her insights offered at a time when most people were collapsing under the weight of war and persecution continue to inspire people to seek out the wondrous side of life, even in a crisis.
One might assume from the name that this archetype refers to only the delightful qualities of children, but as demonstrated by Anne Frank and Tiny Tim, it also embodies qualities of wisdom and courage in the face of difficult circumstances.
Baudelaire wrote that “genius is childhood recaptured,” and in that sense the Magical Child is something of a genius too. The Magical Child is gifted with the power of imagination and the belief that everything is possible. The shadow energy of the Magical Child manifests as the absence of the possibility of miracles and of the transformation of evil to good. Attitudes of pessimism and depression, particularly when exploring dreams, often emerge from an injured Magical Child whose dreams were “once upon a time” thought foolish by cynical adults. The shadow may also manifest as a belief that energy and action are not required, allowing one to retreat into fantasy.
Films: Drew Barrymore in E.T.; George du Fresne in Ma Vie en Rose; Audrey Tatou in Amelie; Shirley Temple in Good Ship Lollipop Fiction: The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry; Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren; Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll; Luna Lovegood in the Harry Potter Series