Survival Archetypes – Their Role in the Collective/Personal Psyche; and Why You Should Know About Them (Part 1)

“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to a better understanding of ourselves.” ~ Carl Jung

I’m a beginner in the field of psychoanalysis, but as a writer I’m immensely curious about people and I wanted to provoke some ideas, thoughts and reflections in you that have recently been stimulated in me; thanks to a wonderful lady who is helping me to understand more about myself and others.archetypes - Jung

I hope that by the end of this blog the next time someone ‘pushes all your buttons’, you will be able to step back and witness your reaction and perhaps understand the unconscious behaviour they are exhibiting which is exactly the ‘shadow’ part of yourself that you have been resisting.

Working on ourselves is the only answer, we cannot change another – EVERYTHING comes from within.

In any given relationship between two people there are multiple personalities at work – no wonder life gets so…interesting!

Light and shadow

There are four survival archetypes that everyone on the planet shares: CHILD, VICTIM, SABOTEUR and PROSTITUTE. There are another twelve predominant archetypes that many of us will work through in our lifetime, but beyond that they are probably limitless. I’ll explore the Child Archetype more closely in this post, and the Victim, Saboteur and Prostitute archetypes in part 2.

It’s important to note that the archetypes themselves are impersonal; each contains an element of light; what we know, the positive aspects of that archetype, and an element of shadow; the perceived darker part that we don’t acknowledge, know about or integrate. The point is there is light and shadow in each of us.

Wonderful talk by Alan Watts about Carl Jung on accepting the darkness of Self and others:

Being aware of what we don’t want to look at and are resisting in ourselves absolves us from judging others; we learn to observe, rather than react to the unconscious behaviour they are mired in. The moment someone offends us it means we have gone into an archetype.

As our understanding grows, we ‘see’ how we have ‘acted out’ in the past when confronted by other people’s archetypes, as well as dealing with our own!

Insight and hindsight can bless us with foresight…

“Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darknesses of other people.” ~ Carl Jung

Conscious and Unconscious mind

The Conscious and Unconscious mind has been compared to an iceberg: what we see above the surface (conscious mind), is but a fraction of what lies beneath it (unconscious). Ninety five percent of our thoughts and actions stem from the Unconscious. When we think and act consciously were are responding, but when we act beneath our conscious level we are reacting, and we react according to the archetypes that we have failed to integrate. Patterns become the foundation for our personality.

Dominant Archetypes

Dominant Archetypes

Archetypes are the language of the Unconscious. When we aren’t aware of why we’re doing something the archetype takes over and transparent beliefs and holding patterns drive us. Like a robot we operate on our default behavioural settings.

“There is no coming to consciousness without pain.” ~ Carl Jung.

Collective Unconscious  

According to Jung, the Collective Unconscious is the sum of all human experience from the beginning of time. Therefore, whatever happens to an individual, group or nation also affects us as a species. We are not separate from the recent disaster in Mecca or the unfolding humanitarian crisis in the Middle East, or to the suffering stemming from trauma, past and present. It all goes into the primordial ‘shared’ mind and we all draw from it.

Fairy tales and literature

Hamlet & Ophelia by Dante Gabriel Rossetti c. 1866

Hamlet & Ophelia by Dante Gabriel Rossetti c. 1866

There’s a reason that fairy tales are so prevalent in Western Culture (and the habit of passing on stories in other cultures), because they help children to understand themselves.  Characters such as Peter Pan, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, the Wicked Step Mother, the Prince, the Free Spirit, the Damsel in Distress, along with iconic archetypes penned by Shakespeare and modern tales/films such as Lord of the Rings and Star Wars filled with heroes, villains, sages and mentors, all of which we can relate to as they exist at the substrate of our psyches.

Our task for our time on Earth is to understand these fundamental human questions:

  • Who am I?
  • Why am I here?
  • What am I supposed to be doing?


There are two types of power: control over others and internal power (when we move from ego into soul power). Our spiritual task is to master personal power. We see the legacy of misery and suffering that exists in the world when individuals and groups seek to wield power over others. Personal power requires us to live with integrity, self-respect and self-belief so that in expressing our truth we can benefit others.

In order to do this we must integrate all parts of ourselves, the light and shadow. Free-will and choice are inherent to the Conscious mind and allow us to respond rather than react.

As James Hillman comments, Archetypal Psychology focuses on the soul and the intrinsic patterns that shape our psychological development “the fundamental fantasies that animate all life”.

Wonderful lecture from Dr. James Hillman about myths and archetypes:

The four survival archetypes common to all of us

CHILD Archetype: represents innocence and sets up our perceptions of life. The themes are safety, loyalty and family.

Lesson: to move from dependency to responsibility.

Within this archetype there are five categories:

Orphan Child

Harry PotterLight – Usually features heavily in children’s stories. Don’t feel part of the family, have a fear of being alone and probably had to develop independence early in life. Constructs an inner reality based on judgement and personal experience. The orphan represents the fear of surviving alone in the world.

Shadow – An inability to grow up. Suffer from feelings of abandonment. Does not develop independence and needs a tribal union, e.g. joining unsuitable groups.

Wounded Child

Light – Have been abused, neglected or suffered trauma and are likely to invite dysfunctional relationships. Usually compassionate towards others (life’s future therapists). It’s the path to forgiveness.

Shadow – An abiding sense of self-pity, a tendency to blame parents and resistance to moving on through forgiveness.

Magical/Innocent Child

Light – Believes that everything is beautiful; the part of us that is enchanted and enchanting to others.  Ann Frank was a great example of this archetype. She embodied the qualities of wisdom and courage in the face of overwhelming difficulties. Demonstrate the power of imagination and the belief that anything is possible.

Shadow – Retreating into fantasy. Depression and pessimism arises when dreams are thought foolish by adults. Miracles are no longer possible.

Nature Child

Light – Loves to be outdoors, can balance tender, emotional qualities with inner toughness and the ability to survive. Has a great communication and rapport with animals.

Shadow – Cruelty to animals and disregard for nature, such as the destruction of the rainforest.

Eternal Child

Light – Determined to remain young in mind, body and spirit.

Shadow – Refusal to grow up and embrace adult responsibility e.g. Peter Pan. Become dependent on others for physical security, inability to accept the ageing process. Joan Rivers at least made us laugh about this aspect of the archetype! Plastic surgeons cater to this group…


If you catch yourself saying, or hear anyone saying these phrases (or variations of) you know that you/they are operating in CHILD:

It’s not Fair! Nobody loves me, I don’t deserve it…

Recognising Child behaviour

Wanting to be pitied, self-pity, pouting, child-like stance, avoiding eye contact, always wanting to be the centre of attention, refusal to take responsibility and wanting someone else to undertake a task you are perfectly capable of doing.

“The debt we owe to the play of imagination is incalculable.” ~ Carl Jung

3 thoughts on “Survival Archetypes – Their Role in the Collective/Personal Psyche; and Why You Should Know About Them (Part 1)

  1. Pingback: Kick Fear to the Curb and Start Embracing It

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