A good sense of wellbeing depends on finding meaning in life, and fulfilling your purpose. Research suggests that knowing your life purpose is linked to better health, longevity, and even economic success. Finding meaning and realising your life purpose builds and sustains mental and emotional health.
Archetypes provide a way in. They bring meaning into those random events and challenges in your life. As stories, archetypes represent life lessons.
According to Caroline Myss, author of Anatomy of the Spirit and Sacred Contracts, there are four archetypes common to everyone’s personality. They are the Child, Victim, Prostitute and Saboteur. I imagine your immediate reaction is one of, oh no, not me, but bear with me. There are two sides to each of these stories.
Here they are:
The Child Archetype
The Child Archetype can help you to find more joy in your life. The Child is the part of your personality that demands that you keep your attention in present time. This is preferable to dwelling on, or remaining stuck in the past, or obsessing about the future.
Watch a child at play next time you have the opportunity. They’re so absorbed in their games that they forget about everything else. Children can be so present-minded that they don’t notice when they are too hot, or too cold, or if they are hungry, or even tired. They’re in their flow.
The Child aspect of your personality can be open and vulnerable to both positive and negative influences. The Child Archetype creates the type of situations that alert you to where you tend to give in and become overly dependent on others, or where you might be in danger of becoming co-dependent. It highlights how you avoid, or let go of being personally responsible for playing your part in your relationships, at work, financially. Any and every area of life.
The Child Archetype, and its strengths and weaknesses, as a part of your inner world, act as a bridge to access the wisdom of your soul.
As an adult, you’re meant to be in charge of your life. The Child Archetype is not meant to grow up, but to challenge you to nurture or re-parent yourself if that is what you need now. This can be done through constructive and creative primary pleasures, rather than destructive or addictive secondary pleasures. You’re supposed to nurture, rather than neglect yourself, so that if and when you need to take care of others, you will have enough physical, emotional and mental energy available to do so.
It doesn’t matter how old you are. This archetype will always be an aspect of your personality. The greatest gift this story brings is a sense of lightness, spontaneity and fun. It’s too easy to forget this part of your personality. When you neglect it, you become too serious, unimaginative and rigid.
The Child Archetype will test you so that you learn to balance your responsibilities, duties and obligations with light hearted curiosity. Like Goldilocks and the Three Bears, the Child Archetype will make sure that your level of responsibility is not too much, not too little, but just right. Think about the times when you have taken on too much responsibility or perhaps not enough. Either can be disempowering for yourself and others too.
The Child Archetype is highly creative. It enjoys all the things that children love. You need to spend quality time with this part of yourself. Imagine that you’ve had a child living in your house for all these years. Are you still ignoring this child as they wander about your house alone, vulnerable, maybe scared, and without direction? Remember, the Child requires nurturing and attention given in the form of primary pleasures, rather than neglect that comes in the form of secondary pleasures.
This is the part of your personality that enjoys learning and loves to be creative.
- Make time for those primary pleasures in your life by taking up a craft, hobby or course of study for fun and enjoyment.
- Now you’re an adult, why not take your inner Child to the movies? Watch a comedy, walk in a field or visit a theme park with friends, or take your children. If you don’t have children of your own then take a friend’s child out for the day.
- Play games for fun, rather than purely for competition.
- Treat yourself. Indulge in bubble baths.
Secondary pleasures too often come in the form of drinking to excess, using illicit drugs and eating food that you’re better off without. Secondary pleasures are not constructive. They neglect, rather than nurture the child within.
When this part of your personality is not nurtured, then surviving and thriving becomes difficult, so the negative aspects of the Victim Archetype begin to appear in your life. If a small child is neglected, it is left exposed and disempowered. When you neglect your inner Child, you will find it harder to stand your ground and protect yourself. Nurturing and taking good care of yourself means that you activate the survival skills of your inner Child. Given the opportunity to stand firm in its empowered state, the Child can then easily assert itself with the support of a positive Victim and your right to be here.
Do you have a weak or strong urge to nurture? Nurture yourself first, and then you’ll be in a better position to nurture, care for, and give to others.
• Nurture, pamper and treat yourself at least once each day.
• Feed yourself good, healthy food and drink plenty of water.
• Children thrive on routine. Get plenty of rest. Go to bed half an hour earlier than usual for the next week. Better still, try going to bed a whole hour earlier. Persevere until this becomes a habit.
• Spend a minimum of two hours each week doing something that is creative and fun. Do this in one two-hour block or in fifteen minute increments once a day. Do something that you would really love to do. Laugh. Take up a hobby. Go to the zoo.
The Victim Archetype
The Victim can help to protect, strengthen and empower you. A sense of victimisation is the result if you neglect the Child within. The Victim, in its mature state, is a part of your personality designed to protect the innocence of the Child. The Victim will alert you to when you’re in danger of letting yourself be victimised. This happens when you’re too passive, inactive or vulnerable, or when you make rash or hasty decisions and take ill-informed or inappropriate action. It helps you to see where or when you have a tendency to use others for your benefit only, or where you may be in danger of being used or taken advantage of by others.
The Victim can often generate positive feedback, but this feedback is usually in the form of sympathy or pity, rather than genuine empathy and compassion. The purpose of the Victim is to lead you into and then out of disempowering situations until you have had enough. You’re supposed to put your foot down and draw a line in the sand that works like a force field. This protects the innocence of the Child within.
Part of the reason you’re here is to learn how to stand up for yourself, to take charge of your life and to be proactive. The Victim will urge you to be firm and to set your personal boundaries around what is acceptable for you and what is not. You are not meant to be victimised in life. You’re meant to learn how to handle the challenges that face you, and to overcome the fears that consume you so that you develop a genuine strength of character.
The story of the Victim will create scenarios in your life where you find yourself backed into a corner with nowhere else to go. Your only real option is to come out fighting. The Victim will keep you there, with nowhere to turn until you learn to stand up for yourself appropriately. When you take charge of your life, you’ve made a choice. You have chosen to put yourself back in the driver’s seat of the vehicle that is your life. When you’re there, with your eyes on the road, following the signs and avoiding the ditches, you are able to remain firm as you set your personal boundaries and maintain them.
Eventually, the Victim will urge you to choose your attitude and response to what’s happened, regardless of the circumstances you find yourself in. The empowered inner Victim is proactive. It stands strong and firm. Rather than prostitute itself, the Victim moves forward victoriously to embrace life. To activate the Victim in its empowered state you have be personally accountable and assert yourself, rather than hope that someone or something will come to your rescue.
Find ways to be proactive. Decide to choose your attitude and response to life’s events. Ask yourself: How can I see this differently? What am I learning here? Do I have a weak or strong urge to save?
You can strengthen this aspect of your character by saving yourself first. Firmly but gently, take charge of your life and do so without bullying yourself. Then you’ll be in a stronger, better position to come to the aid of others in need so that you can be of real and genuine help to them.
- Develop personal agency by taking charge of your life. Don’t assume that others will take care of you.
- Give up the need to be an emotional rescuer. Stop taking responsibility for other people who need to learn how to take responsibility for their own lives. If you continue to do so, then you deny them their access to their inner resources and the power to empower themselves. You’re in danger of disabling them.
- Help yourself. What can you do to be proactive? Make a list of things you need to be proactive about. Choose at least one a week to work on.
- Seize opportunities to stand up for yourself, to set your boundaries or assert yourself even in the smallest of ways. Speak up if you don’t agree with the opinions of others. Say ‘no’ when you know you need to.
- Practice choosing your attitude and response, rather than reacting in a knee-jerk fashion when something doesn’t go your way.
The Prostitute Archetype
The Prostitute can help you to find your truth and will show you how to live it. If a child is neglected for too long, it becomes a victim. A victim will do whatever it can so that its needs are met. A prostitute can support that because it finds something valuable to trade.
This archetype will draw your attention to how much you are willing to compromise your values, your personal honour and integrity for the sake of maintaining a sense of security, especially in a relationship, or at work, for example. It questions how far you’re prepared to go to maintain the status quo versus stand up for your truth, or for what is right and best for everyone. It throws a spotlight on the times you trade your ethics, morals and values for material security or financial gain.
Because the Prostitute needs something to trade, this archetype will shine the light on where you may be seduced, controlled or tempted, or where you may seduce, control or tempt others. It will lure you in to selling yourself out or into selling yourself short by seducing you with power in the form of things like money, social position or acknowledgement, and material possessions.
Your sense of self-esteem and self-worth will be greatly enhanced when you’re strong enough to resist the temptations that have the potential to sabotage you as they arise through this archetypal story. You’re meant to learn how to negotiate a good deal for yourself. You can do that when you know that you’re someone with something truly valuable to offer the world. But you have to realise that in order to negotiate well for yourself. Eventually you will find that you won’t have to compromise your values or trade yourself off ever again.
With determination and perseverance, you will find that you reach a point in life where the Prostitute, in negotiation with a strong inner Victim and your firm personal boundaries, encircles the inner purity and innocence of the Child with a protective field that says: Don’t even think about it. I am not for sale.
The Prostitute takes on a range of forms that can be difficult to detect. Some people prostitute themselves when they sell their bodies or their minds for money, especially if this involves their work, friendships and relationships. Others compromise their morals, values and code of ethics for money while some prostitute themselves because they have elected to stay in situations that jeopardise their wellbeing. They’ve allowed the illusion of power in their high flying careers to override their personal honour. Still others have put their relationship above their personal health and safety.
On the other hand, there are those who have found themselves in a variety of similar situations, where they were tempted to sell out their ethics and values, but they resisted. They found they were strong enough to say just one word and mean it: No.
The inner Child remains at a disadvantage when the negative Victim constantly blames everyone else for their predicaments. This keeps the inner Child in a holding pattern, stuck in their wounds and unable to move on. It is too easy to fall into a false sense of security, finding comfort in the pity and attention this type of misery can bring.
Without a stable Child and a firm Victim in place, some have as a consequence, allowed the lowest form of the Prostitute to enter their lives. They’ve sold themselves out or sold themselves short because they’ve lost touch with their values and what is truly important to them. A lack of personal responsibility and loose personal boundaries has reduced their ability to be congruent with their values. Their integrity has been lost, along with their ability to be true to themselves.
When you remember that the Child is here to help you to maintain an appropriate sense of responsibility, the Victim can then empower you by setting flexible personal boundaries that are right for you. Strong boundaries make you strong enough to be true to yourself, rather than betray yourself or let yourself down. You can rise to the challenge, and maintain your self-worth and integrity. Then you’re free to love, serve and heal in a way that works for you.
In its lower forms, the Prostitute has a particular service to offer, but there is very little heart in it. In its highest form, the Prostitute also offers the world a service. This time, however, it’s a service that comes straight from the heart. There’s a passion, a love and lust for life that drives this part of you to seek union with humanity by serving your God, your community, society or the environment.
The ultimate Prostitute surrenders and says to the heavens: Here I am, at your service. Use me. Use my body as a channel for the expression of love, service and healing in action. You have to serve yourself appropriately if you want to serve others effectively. You need a strong sense of self-worth to do that. Otherwise you let yourself down. You betray yourself. If you find yourself in a position where you have to compromise then do it well. What does that mean?
Prove to yourself that you can be loyal and true to what you value most. If you must, for example, remain in a job that you loathe because it is all you can do at this point to survive, then you’ll need to make a deal with this aspect of your character, the Prostitute. You have to help this part of yourself feel better about these circumstances or you will create an increasingly stressful and dissatisfying situation. Your health will suffer as a result. Make plans to move on when you can. You owe it to your soul.
Consider doing something new and exciting that you would like to put your heart into. Think of your job at this point in time as a means to an end, but be sure to pacify your inner Child, the part of you that needs to enjoy itself on a regular basis. In the meantime, take up that hobby or course of study, just for fun. Otherwise, your self-worth will be battered into submission, and you’re reduced to feeling like a victim of circumstances, without any choice, instead of someone who has something of value to give to the world.
- Make a list of all the qualities that are important to you, such as honour, respect, courage, honesty, trust and so on. These qualities are your values. This list can be as long as you like.
- Be congruent. Be sure not write any quality on your list that you are not prepared to put into practice. Stand up for, and serve your values first, in order that you reignite your passion and lust for life.
- Now make the commitment to yourself to be true to any one of your values at every opportunity.
- Your collective set of values represents your truth. When you have made the commitment to be true to your values, you’re on your way to finding and living your truth.
The Saboteur Archetype
The Saboteur will help you or hinder you in every area of your life. From self-neglect, to victimisation, to compromising your values, your self-esteem is destroyed and finally self-sabotage is the result.
This archetype will do its best to get in the way of your intuition. The purpose of this part of your personality is not to sabotage you, but to help you understand what drives you to sabotage yourself.
There are hundreds of ways that people sabotage themselves, but eventually they become so frustrated after making the same mistakes again and again, that they’re motivated to try something different. It is truly a catalyst for change.
When you’re not aware of this pattern, then self-destructive behaviour or the desire to undermine others is the result. Just when you start a new project up and running, or you begin an exciting new relationship, you find yourself standing in your own way because of your fears. Then it’s your fears, instead of common sense, that influence the quality of your decisions.
To understand this theme and how it affects behaviour, you need to make a list of the many ways in which you sabotage yourself.
The Saboteur usually surfaces when you need to make a decision. No decision is too small or too large for the Saboteur. To manage this archetype more effectively, you can ask yourself: Why do I do what I do? What is it that motivates me? Is it a positive emotion, or a negative emotion? Is it a weakness or strength of mine that is motivating me?
When your intentions are clear, you’re less likely to sabotage yourself. The purpose of the Saboteur is to lead you into and then back out of situations that require you answer those questions. By creating situations where you feel weak and strong at the same time, the combination of these two energies will inspire you so that you rise out of your patterns of self-destruction and sabotage, and into all that you can be.
Once you master this challenge, the Saboteur can be thought of as the Motivator because it becomes an ally that alerts you to when you might be slipping into your fears. It motivates you to make a wiser, more conscious and empowering choice.
This theme can become a useful companion, rather than something to be feared or ignored. The Saboteur can help you to follow your intuition. Doing so allows you to make better choices in life. How so?
Various teachers and mystics have suggested that there are only two emotions, love and fear. If this is so, then you could say that all positive emotions are born out of love and all negative emotions are born out of fear. Then you need to ask: Will this decision or action that I am about to take be of real and true benefit for the highest good of all concerned? Is it based on love or fear?
What is it that motivates the choices and the decisions that you make? Either fear or love will influence, hinder or enhance the quality of your decisions.
Janus was the Roman god of beginnings and endings. He had two faces and a talent for seeing into the past and future. The Saboteur archetype has some characteristics in common with this god.
Sabotage can cause destruction and bring an end to things, but this leaves the space for something fresh and new to manifest. The Saboteur will also motivate you to follow your intuition, especially when all else has failed. Like Janus the Saboteur also has two faces. One of those is the inner critic. The other is the inner guide.
Each face can be used to represent the pros and cons for the following exercise.
Let’s say you want to take up a course of study.
Using a journal, you can set some time aside to interview the inner critic and the inner guide, with the purpose of exploring the pros and cons around your idea.
Start with the negative associations first. Interview the inner critic. Identify a list of the cons associated with your new idea. Ask the inner critic to give you all the reasons why you shouldn’t go ahead with this project.
Keep listing these reasons until the process feels complete. The key to working with the inner critic is to give it plenty of time to have its say. If you ignore the inner critic, this part of you is forced to go underground, where it grows darker, gloomier and larger than ever. It keeps growing and growing until one day, seemingly out of the blue, it resurfaces, at best, as a pattern of self-undoing that will undermine you, and at worst, like a volcano spewing chaos all over your life.
An ignored inner critic behaves like a broken jack-in the-box. It will continue to resurface at random, popping up repeatedly in your efforts to undermine yourself, others, where others undermine you, causing you to make the same mistakes again and again.
Once your list is complete, take an objective look at it. Review the content.
In amongst the list of cons, you might actually find some valid points worth considering, such as:
• Do you need to find extra money to pay for the course so that you are not left short in other areas?
• Can you set things in place so that you are able to manage child care and study commitments?
• Do you need to consider a part time course over a longer period rather than cramming it in full time?
• Do you need to get tougher in delegating chores to be done around the house?
• Can you be successful and not feel guilty about it?
• Instead of fearing success or failure, can you handle the level of responsibility and power that comes with success appropriately and with integrity?
Next, interview the inner guide. Ask this aspect of your character to give you all the reasons why you should go ahead with your course of study.
‘What are the pros and benefits for me if I undertake this course?’
• It’s something that you would love to do
• You will meet new friends with similar interests
• You will have a useful qualification
• You have age on your side – you have prior experience in the industry
• You’ll have prepared yourself to re-enter the workforce
• You will have created new career options to move into once the children have grown
• You will have a career instead of a job
• You will have a career that pays twice as much as your former work
• You will have shown the children that learning and creating opportunities for yourself doesn’t ever have to stop
• Besides, they might even be encouraged to do their homework and study with you
New information often needs time to cook or percolate, if you like. Once you have your list of pros and cons, leave it for a few days. Give it time to integrate into your mind and emotions. Sleep on it.
Now ask yourself what feels right for you. What is the direction you need to take for the highest good of all concerned? Then make a firm decision one way or the other.
The Saboteur is designed to emphasise the many creative and different ways you sabotage yourself and others, or how others sabotage you. The following formula is an ideal one to use if you want to create self-sabotage:
Negative Emotion + Decision = Same Old Mistakes.
You sabotage yourself when you let negative emotions, rather than positive emotions influence the choices you make in life. This aspect of your character urges you to confront and expose your fears. You need to look hard for it because it’s hiding behind your decisions and choices. Your intentions and motivations influence your decision making processes.
Are you making mistakes or collecting feedback? When you have trouble making a decision, then think ahead for a minute. What does it feel like when you imagine that you’ve said yes? How does it feel when you imagine that you have said no?
Which one feels better, or feels right, or is based on the highest good of all concerned? Is it the Yes or the No?
Positive Emotion + Decision = I know what to do.
The purpose of the Saboteur is to teach you that:
Experience + Failure = Feedback
Knowledge + Experience = Emotional Intelligence
Emotional Intelligence + Time = Wisdom.
Each of these archetypes can influence your behaviour and therefore will manifest as life lessons. If you’re not aware of your archetypal strengths and weaknesses, as unconscious influences, they have the potential to drive you crazy. They become the driver behind the wheel in the car that is the vehicle of your life.
Remember the formulas so that you fill your vehicle with the correct fuel. You would want to know if a bad driver or an expert was sitting behind the wheel in virtual control of everything in your life. This driver has the potential to influence what you do with your entire life, your health, work and relationships.
Your life is a product of your conscious or unconscious thoughts, attitudes and beliefs.