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

The Rewards of Letting Your Inner Child out to Play…

“One of the virtues of being very young is that you don’t let the facts get in the way of your imagination.”  ~ Sam Levenson

Children-at-Play by Harry Brooker‘You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one…’ I can hear John Lennon’s immortal crooning in my mind. Isn’t that what children are so good at? They dream. They dream frequently, and they dream about anything they want, and they dream big. Left unfettered from cruelty, their minds are not naturally wired for questioning their self worth. They don’t think of excuses, they just follow their innate sense of curiosity and joy, they let their minds wander, and upon finding something of interest they become completely absorbed in whatever they are doing.

I love to watch Ruby play; she has such a vivid imagination. When she gets into her own little world she dresses up and tears around the house using whatever toys and props (usually kitchen utensils) are needed to fashion her make believe scenarios. If I call her name while she is ensconced in her imaginings she is completely deaf to me. Her excitement at what I would consider a mundane activity never fails to brighten my heart.

I think being a parent probably makes it easier to connect with our bounteous childlike energy, as our children help us to see the world through their amazed eyes.

Ignite Your Childlike State of Wonder:

How many of us can say at some point while we were growing up we were told by a parent, a teacher, or a well-meaning adult, ‘Stop daydreaming!’ It is misguided to think that so called ‘daydreaming’ is a negative trait. Far from it. This is the tool of creation. Creativity is inherently abundant in youngsters, and the school system with its rigid curriculum is not conducive to nurturing this very important aspect of a child’s development.

Federico Fellini - ChildlikeBy the time we reach adulthood most of us, (to some degree), have usually had the light of our dreams diluted or even drained out of us completely. A constant barrage of negative messages from the world around us can eventually drown out our intuitive childlike selves, fostering self-doubt within us instead. The mental baggage is accrued over time, and then it becomes so much harder to follow our dreams, for fear of failure. To be truly ourselves means letting go of other people’s expectations for how we conduct our lives. It means sticking our heads above the parapet. It takes courage to hold our dreams out in front of us like a lantern, glowing with the perseverance and faith that we experienced in our childhood.

“Creativity represents a miraculous coming together of the uninhibited energy of the child with its apparent opposite and enemy, the sense of order imposed on the disciplined adult intelligence.”   ~ Norman Podhoretz

looking for adventure at Waddesdon ManorUnlike Peter Pan, we all grow up, (well, most of us!) but that doesn’t mean life has to be all serious. Although we have responsibilities, bills to pay and all the trimmings that go with adulthood to deal with; the inner child that dwells within each of us can make being an adult so much more fun. We have a responsibility to love, nurture and parent our own inner child. And when properly cared for, children are happy and they flourish. The benefits to us as individuals (and the people around us), of embracing our inner child are manifold: increased joy, laughter, spontaneity, love, emotional honesty, and chiefly, living in the present moment. We do not brood on the past or worry about the future when we are fully engaged in the now…

“Man is most nearly himself when he achieves the seriousness of a child at play.”  ~ Heraclitus

Deepak Chopra quoteI’m not promoting the kind of ‘throw your toys out the pram’ mentality of narcissistic demands or temper tantrums, dependency, neediness, petulance and general egocentric behaviour.  Neither am I suggesting that we live in a world of fantasy. But if we can access that playful and innocent side of ourselves, we can harness this enthusiasm in multifarious ways. We can use that sense of wonder and awe and intense focus (without judgement) in whatever endeavour we like, or indeed, even just to elevate our everyday lives. It is all about achieving that balance between our heads and our hearts. Not living life solely in our conceptual minds, or always wearing our hearts on our sleeves with complete naïveté.

The original Jungian Child Archetype was the basis for many theories and development of the modern term ‘inner child’ including the work of Dr Eric Byrne in Transactional Analysis, and study of the ego states: Parent Child, Adult.

Getting in touch with our feelings can sometimes bring up unresolved trauma or an emotional blockage. However, we can begin to heal when we become conscious of the past wounds our inner child has suffered. Suppressed pain can hinder our functioning at full capacity as an Adult and Parent.

I love this talk by Eckhart Tolle on being yourself:

To coin Ruby’s favourite word, existence is ‘awesome’.  Now I’ve got John Lennon in my head again! ‘I hope some day you’ll join us, and the world will live as one.’

Here’s my own mnemonic: Doing Really Exciting Activities Mindfully

Dream big!