Archetypes are systems of readiness for action, and at the same time images and emotions.
The last few days of The Healer’s Gathering in Sisters, Oregon has been great. Whenever we attend powerful healing workshops like this, people have childhood issues surface and they have the opportunity to process their feelings and heal the Child Archetype.
The Child Archetype is the one of the four main archetypes: the Child, the Victim, the Prostitute and the Saboteur explained in Caroline Myss’s incredible book Sacred Contracts.
There is the Wounded Child, the Orphan Child, the Magical/Innocent Child, the Nature Child, Puer/Puella Eternis (Eternal Boy/Girl), the Dependent Child and the Divine Child.
After taking a class from Caroline Myss on Sacred Contracts as well as Medical Intuition, I taught this work for many years. This information is a combination of information from her book and my interpretation and sharing.
The mature child archetype is the part of us that nurtures us and is lighthearted and innocent. The child watches for the wonders of the world, no matter what age we might be. It brings playfulness and balance to our lives and brings out the best in others.
The core issue of the Child archetype is dependency verses responsibility. It governs when we take responsibility, when we have a healthy dependency or interdependency, when to stand up to the group and when to embrace the community.
The Wounded Child Archetype remembers the abuse, neglect and traumas that were experienced in childhood. Since therapy has become more acceptable, many people identify with this archetype. It is the child that blames their parents for their lives, their choices, and the dysfunctional relationships they create. The positive side of the wounded child is they have the desire to help other wounded children and have a deep ability to be compassionate.
The shadow side of the wounded child is they blame others for their pain and get stuck in the past, not moving through the painful memories into present time.
The Orphan Child Archetype is well known in childhood stories. Orphan children do not feel they belong to their families. One of my favorite stories is the Ugly Duckling. I was so happy when I realized I was not a duck at all, but was a swan. I had often felt I was dropped out of the sky into this family and wondered, “who are these people?” Orphans who do not belong to the tribal spirit of the family often become independent early and feel like they raised themselves. As Caroline Myss says “The absence of family influences, attitudes, and traditions inspires or compels the Orphan Child to construct an inner reality based on personal judgment and experience.”
The shadow side of the Orphan is they suffer from feelings of abandonment. They often seek out surrogate families or support groups in which to connect. Creating and maintaining healthy relationships is often a challenge for the Orphan Child.
The Magical Child / Innocent Child archetype sees beauty in all things. They are able to maintain wisdom and courage when what is happening around them may be catastrophic. A good example is Anne Frank. When her family was hiding from Nazis, she was still able to believe that humanity was good.
The shadow side of the Magical Child leaves the person without a sense of possibility and a lack of transformation from evil to good. Pessimism and depression can surface, especially if the child had a dream that was discouraged by adults. Another shadow side is when the adult gets lost in fantasy and does not believe action and energy are required to obtain a result. They get lost in magical thinking.
The Nature Child Archetype manifests as a child who has a strong, intimate bond with the earth and with animals. They may show a tender, emotional side, but also can be tough and have great survival skills, “the resilience of Nature herself.” Often nature children can communicate with animals and these animals may even rescue the nature child in some way. Nature children also may have developed abilities to communicate with nature spirits and work with them to help the planet. Veterinarians and animal activists are often nature children. Today is Earth day and I imagine many of the activists connected with Earth Day are nature children.
“The shadow aspect of the Nature Child may manifest in a tendency to abuse animals and people and the environment.”
The Eternal Boy/Girl Archetype manifests as an ability to stay young in body, mind and spirit. These children continue to have fun and enjoy life even as they age. I imagine many who write books on anti-aging have this child archetype.
The shadow Eternal Child manifests and an inability to grow up and be responsible. They live outside the conventional norm of adulthood and remain child-like, not taking on the responsibilities of the adult. Some of my clients have referred to their husbands as being “another child to care for.” These men have the Eternal Child archetype. For a woman, the Eternal Child archetype can manifest as extreme dependence on those who take care of their physical security. The woman cannot be relied upon and does not accept the aging process. “The Eternal Child often flounders between the stages of life because they have not laid the foundation for a functioning adulthood.”
The Dependent Child Archetype will appear needy and dependent and have a heavy feeling within that nothing is ever enough. They are always trying to replace emptiness from childhood, but they can never figure out what the emptiness is. They often suffer from depression, sometimes severe. If you identify with this archetype, you can use it to alert yourself to when you are becoming too needy and self-absorbed. Although this is my own thinking, I often refer to women who have this archetype in full activation as the female narcissist. Everything becomes about them and their needs.
The Divine Child Archetype (excerpted from Caroline Myss) is closely related to both the Innocent and Magical Child, but is distinguished from them by its redemptive mission. It is associated with innocence, purity, and redemption, god-like qualities that suggest that the Child enjoys a special union with the Divine itself. Few people are inclined to choose the Divine Child as their dominant Child archetype, however, because they have difficulty acknowledging that they could live continually in divine innocence. And yet, divinity is also a reference point of your inner spirit that you can turn to when you are in a conscious process of choice. You may also assume that anything divine cannot have a shadow aspect, but that’s not realistic. The shadow of this archetype manifests as an inability to defend itself against negative forces. Even the mythic gods and most spiritual masters — including Jesus, who is the template of the Divine Child for the Christian tradition — simultaneously expressed anger and divine strength when confronting those who claimed to represent heaven while manifesting injustice, arrogance, or other negative qualities (think of Jesus’ wrath at the money-changers in the Temple). Assess your involvement with this archetype by asking whether you see life through the eyes of a benevolent, trusting God/Goddess, or whether you tend to respond initially with fear of being hurt or with a desire to hurt others first.
I hope this is helpful for you. Use this to look at your relationships with others and see where you fit! Enjoy!
“A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other.”
― Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
November 1843, Hans Christian Andersen’s story, The Ugly Duckling was published in Copenhagen, Denmark. This amazing fairy tale has been read and re-read by adults and children alike, all over the world.
The story, as you probably know, is about a baby bird raised by a mother duck in a flock of other ducklings. The bird was teased and bullied unmercifully throughout his life, because he looked different and behaved differently. As an adult, the bird sought out and joined a flock of swans finding them to be beautiful birds. Although he expected the same abuse, the swans were open to his joining with them and they accept him. One day this ugly duck saw his reflection in the water and realized he was not an ugly duck at all, but really was a beautiful swan. He found his flock and fit right in. He was transformed.
Common to all of us is the desire to be heard, seen and understood. Many of us can relate to this archetypal story of not fitting in and finding ourselves teased, attacked or excluded. We continued to look for and hoped to find “our people”, our flock or our tribe. In the journey of doing so, we often changed our opinions or beliefs. Sometimes we gave up our voice and became silent, all in an attempt to fit in.
So often I hear someone telling another person what “the truth” is and insist on what they “should” be doing or thinking. Communication becomes about what is right or wrong. Opinions become polarized and those who do not agree with either the loudest voice or the group voice can be intimidated, shamed or alienated.
Over the years, the precious beliefs developed as young people get lost in the mass of voices and one’s self-esteem takes a hit. So often when working with clients, the undercurrent of their situation is a feeling of being unworthy or undeserving. How others have treated them guides their beliefs about themselves.
What would happen if, instead of stating your opinion and telling someone what you think, you asked the person to explain more about what they were saying? Wouldn’t it be interesting to see how your relationships change if you went into conversations with the sole purpose of understanding their point of view. How would your posture change if you were there just to receive, to just hear the story?
My focus is on Relationship for the New Year. I challenge you in the month of January, and hopefully throughout the year, to practice “just listening.”
Now, there will be times to share your opinion and have debates of course, and to enjoy the fun and creativity of a dispute, but let’s change it up a bit. Think about a few people in your life that are important to you. Make a conscious choice to have a couple conversations with them where you just “hold the space” for their musings, for their sharing, for how they see the world. Experience them deeply. Look into their eyes and be present to them. Give them the gift of being heard, seen, and understood. Bring them into your fold and see them as the swan they truly are. Allow your loved ones to be transformed by the incredible generosity of your listening.
Candess M. Campbell, PhD is the #1 Best-selling author of 12 Weeks to Self-Healing: Transforming Pain through Energy Medicine. She is an international Psychic Medium, Intuitive Consultant, Speaker, and has practiced as a mental health and chemical dependency counselor for over 30 years.