Are you stuck in a dead-end relationship but don’t have the courage to move on? Or, conversely, do you find yourself dumping an exciting new partner before the relationship even has the chance to get off the ground? Maybe you just despair that you’ll never have a good relationship, that it’s okay for everyone else to be happy, but not you.
These problems all look very different but they have an underlying connection – each one shows a problem with a key archetype. The great psychologist Carl Jung said that our psyches are ruled by a range of unconscious patterns of thought which have built up over thousands of years. ‘These archetypes have the power to disrupt, and the power to transform,’ says psychotherapist Simon Matthews, a facilitator at transformational retreat The Path of Love.
He says the problem isn’t that the archetypes are there in our psyches but that, all too often, we are unaware of them so they play out unconsciously in our lives. ‘When unconscious forces drive our thoughts, emotions and behaviour we are at their mercy,’ he says. ‘We can feel that we are being storm-tossed by forces outside of our control. Feelings of helplessness, powerlessness and despair soon follow.”
However, once you start to become aware as each archetype comes out to play, you can turn them from enemies to allies. ‘Once we realise that we are in the grip of archetypal patterns of relating we can step back, assess, and engage in self-enquiry around our patterns,” says Matthews. ‘This buys us reaction time, allowing us to choose how we react, rather than lurching into habitual reflex patterns.’
The Path of Love focuses on three major archetypes that have the power to scupper our relationships – the Victim, the Prostitute and the Saboteur.
Root fear: I can’t survive.
“When we are in the grip of the Victim we believe that we have no power over our lives,” says Matthews. “We whinge and complain. Something has been “done” to us and we feel that we have no power to change the situation. We feel small and helpless, and often bitter and angry.”
When we’re ruled by the Victim, it’s never our fault. We put the blame on everyone and everything else in our lives. Why isn’t our partner richer/more attractive/more helpful? Why are we doing all the work and the childcare?
The predominant thought is “It’s not my fault” swiftly followed by “It’s not fair.” When the Victim rules, it can feel as if the entire universe is conspiring to make your life miserable and can even lead to depression.
How to work with The Victim
Ask yourself: How do you blame others for your life? Do you envy people who always seem to get what they want in life? Be honest – is there an advantage to playing Victim? Are you afraid to stand up for yourself? Do you enjoy getting sympathy? Is there a sense of entitlement – ‘I have a right to feel and behave this way’?
By being honest about how much we play the victim, we can recognise how we become stuck in a downward spiral of repeating patterns. The key lesson here is to start to take control over our own destiny.
• Evaluate your personal power. Look at your relationships. Who holds the power? How do you give away your power?
• Take responsibility for how you feel. Maybe you need to establish new, healthier, boundaries. Maybe you need to be brave and find ways to handle challenges and face fears.
• Start shifting unhealthy situations. Have honest conversations with your partner about difficult areas. Dare to show your authentic self.
Note: always seek professional help if you are in an abusive relationship or dangerous situation.
Root fear: lack of security
‘This is a difficult archetype to see and own,’ says Simon Matthews. ‘The name has strong and often mainly negative associations.’ However the Prostitute archetype is not necessarily about sex. It is active in our lives whenever and however we sell ourselves out as a result of fear. ‘This habitually happens around money (which equals survival in our society),’ says Matthews. ‘When the Prostitute has us in its grip we lose faith in our ability to survive on our own and start to compromise ourselves and do things that are out of alignment with our higher values. Shame and low self-esteem soon follow.’
The Prostitute is at play when we stay in a relationship that is well past its sell-by date. We stay because we are scared that we can’t survive on our own. ‘Before we know it we have sold ourselves so often that it becomes steadily easier and easier to do,’ says Matthews. ‘Our internal critic then jumps on us and starts to undermine our feelings of self-worth.’
How to work with The Prostitute
Ask yourself: Have I ever stayed in a relationship because of a desire for security? Have I ever ‘bought’ someone’s support or loyalty to get my own way? Do I judge people who are always compromising themselves? Have I ever sold out to people I don’t truly believe in?
Recognising and owning the Prostitute within us helps us live more in our truth and lets us make decisions that feel right and healthy. ‘Befriending this archetype may not make you rich, but it will keep you honest,’ says Matthews.
• Are you living your truth? Or are you stuck in a relationship or job because of fear of financial insecurity? Be brutally honest.
• How would your life look if you had a big ‘Not for Sale’ sign around your neck? Think deeply about what would happen if you lived every aspect of your life with deep integrity.
• Start building your trust in a benevolent world that will take care of you. Meditation and prayer can help. Find a spiritual group that appeals and flex your faith muscles.
Root fear: I’m not good enough
“We all know our inner Saboteur,’ says Matthews. ‘It’s the part of us that is terrified of change. Most humans prefer the comfort of the known, however dysfunctional that may be, to the scary unknown that lies outside of us or our experience.’ He points out that the Saboteur will come for us just at the point when we are ready to make change in our lives. We suddenly get nervous at the last minute, or “forget’ what it was we wanted to do. Or we put it off until tomorrow.
‘How often have we all made resolutions and commitments and then abandoned them or modified them at the last minute?’ he asks. ‘The Saboteur keeps us stuck. We feel we have no power to move forwards and we persuade ourselves that we are okay just as we are.’
How to work with the Saboteur
Ask yourself: Why am I scared to step into my power? What is the worst thing I could find out about myself? What are my greatest fears? How do I sabotage my relationships (blame, staying safe, lying, infidelity, rejecting a possible partner so you can’t get hurt)?
‘Once we become more aware of the influence of the Saboteur, we can start to challenge it, becoming more courageous, daring to take risks,’ says Matthews. ‘The Saboteur’s power shrinks when we do this and its voice gets weaker over time as we demonstrate that it is a “paper dragon”. We are able to move forwards in our lives and expand our way of being in the world and align more closely with our destiny.’
• Low self-esteem is often a factor in the Saboteur archetype. You may need to work on this with a psychotherapist or counsellor.
• Silence the Saboteur with acts of bravery. Start small, challenging little acts of self-destructive behaviour. Build up taking on much larger, scarier opportunities.
• Follow your intuition. The positive aspect of the Saboteur is a finely honed gut instinct.
The Path of Love is a week-long residential process which looks at transforming our relationships – both with ourselves and with others. It flushes out the fears we have around relationships and teaches how to be motivated by love and truth. See www.pathretreats.com for full details. Courses run in the UK and around the world.
For more insights on the three archetypes read Sacred Contracts by Caroline Myss (Bantam Books).
Image by Jane Palash via Unsplash