MEET YOUR ARCHETYPES: THE VICTIM
WHAT IS AN ARCHETYPE?
In the analytic psychology of Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, it is proclaimed that the human psyche consists of conscious and unconscious parts. Our behavioural inclinations are governed not only by our conscious decisions but also by our instinctive tendencies present in our unconscious. As a close collaborator of the father of psychoanalysis - Sigmund Freud, early in his career Jung agreed with Freud's idea that the individual unconscious plays an important role in personality and behaviour. However, he expanded his theory of the human psyche to include the collective unconscious, which according to Jung contains all of the knowledge and experiences that humans share as a species. This led to significant differences between Jung and Freud and their collaboration coming to an end. Jung developed his own theory of analytic psychology, which states, among other ideas, that the collective unconscious is the realm of archetypes.
Archetypes are understood as a set of symbols representing aspects of the psyche that derive from the accumulated experience of humankind. In the same way that biological instincts are inherited by each individual from their ancestors, so are those aspects in the psyche. These inherited symbols serve as a frame of reference with which we view the world and as one of the foundations on which the structure of personality is built.
Commonly known Jungian archetypes, or primordial images as he first dubbed them, that symbolise basic human motivations, values, and personalities, are the Persona, the Shadow, the Anima/Animus, the Self and different combinations of them, giving rise to new archetypal figures like the Ruler, the Creator, the Sage, the Innocent, the Explorer, the Rebel, the Hero, the Wizard and others.
The Czech born psychotherapist Stanislav Grof is known for combining Jungian psychotherapy with psychedelics assisted explorations and later developing Holotropic breathwork - a technique that can produce what he calls holotropic states of mind - non-ordinary states of consciousness. His research of altered states of mind with clients led him to a conclusion that in order to understand the development of the psyche, we have to go beyond the traditional biographical look at the personal history since birth and include perinatal (occurring around birth) experiences. Grof's theory suggests that our birth is our first time confronting death and our experiences throughout the different stages of birth has a significant influence on our inclinations when it comes to struggles later in life.
The experiential qualities present in four stages of birth can be associated with manifestations of different archetypes emerging from the collective unconscious. In this article we refer to the second stage of Basic Perinatal Matrices (BPM II) - "Cosmic Engulfment and No Exit" and the archetype associated with this stage - the Victim.
THE VICTIM ARCHETYPE
TheVictim archetype is a side of ourselves that we often try to avoid or deny, but which can actually hold valuable insights and opportunities for growth.
While the Victim Archetype is typically associated with negative emotions and experiences, there are also positive qualities that can be cultivated by working with this aspect of ourselves.
Based on Stanislav Grof's Basic Perinatal Matrices (BPMs), the Victim Archetype is associated with BPM II - Cosmic Engulfmemt and No Exit. This perinatal matrix refers to the onset of delivery during birth when contractions start and strengthen but the cervix is still closed therefore there is no way out. During this stage of birth the fetus experiences progressively intensifying loss of comfort as each contraction restricts supply of bloodflow to the fetus and thus - oxygen, nourishment and warmth.
Therefore the state of the fetus in this clinical stage of birth is argued to give rise to the the Victim archetype, which is associated with feelings of helplessness, vulnerability, and powerlessness. This archetype can manifest as a sense of being overwhelmed or trapped in a dangerous or life-threatening situation and thus activate fight/flight/freeze responses. Other qualities of the Victim Archetype can include a sense of being at the mercy of external forces, a tendency to blame oneself or others for perceived failures, and a fear of asserting oneself or taking risks.
THE QUALITIES OF THE VICTIM ARCHETYPE
While the Victim Archetype is often associated with negative experiences and emotions, it also has positive aspects and benefits. For example, the Victim Archetype can be good at sking for help and encourage individuals to seek out and receive support from others, which can be especially important during times of hardship or trauma. This archetype can also cultivate empathy and compassion for others who may be experiencing similar challenges, and can lead to a greater understanding of the ways in which societal or systemic factors can contribute to feelings of powerlessness or victimization. By recognizing and working with the Victim Archetype, we may be able to develop a greater sense of resilience and self-awareness, which can help to navigate difficult situations more effectively.
THE SHADOW OF THE VICTIM
The shadow side of the Victim archetype can manifest as a tendency to blame others or external circumstances for one's own problems or shortcomings, rather than taking responsibility for one's own actions and choices. This can lead to a sense of powerlessness and a lack of agency in one's life. The shadow of the Victim can also involve a pattern of unconsciously seeking out negative experiences or relationships, which can reinforce feelings of victimization and strengthen a sense of powerlessness. Additionally, the darker side of the Victim can involve a tendency to manipulate others by eliciting sympathy or pity, or by using feelings of victimhood as a way to control or dominate others.
However, by becoming aware of and working with the shadow aspect of the Victim archetype, we can begin to take more responsibility for our lives, develop a greater sense of agency and empowerment, and avoid falling into patterns of self-defeating behavior.
Want to know more and embody those different qualities? Join a series of workshops this March in Lagos, Portugal and explore your own behavioural tendencies and how they fall under the umbrella of certain archetypal behaviours: https://www.somaticbliss.eu/post/unlock-your-potential-a-3-week-archetypal-journey-of-self-discovery
Grof, S. (2011) Archetypes, Mythic Imagination, and Modern Society: The Re-Enchantment of the World .
Grof, S. (1988) The Adventure of Self-discovery. Dimensions of Consciousness and New Perspectives in Psychotherapy and Inner Exploration. State University of New York Press, Albany.
Hartley, L (2004) Somatic Psychology, Whurr Publishers Ltd., London, Philadelphia.