The Victim archetype is one of the four survivor archetypes identified by Caroline Myss in her work on Sacred Contracts. The other survivors are the saboteur, prostitute and child. Each of us embodies the four essential survivor archetypes from birth to death. They are the foundation of what it means to be human. The survivors tend to matters of, you guessed it, our survival, but also our evolution. The lessons we gain from survivor archetype struggles are what bring us into our divine nature, our authentic selves.

Being the Victim

There a difference between playing the victim and being the victim. Uncontrollable forces can rage in and destroy everything. Our life as we once knew it becomes completely unrecognizable. Could we have stopped this terrorizing, shattering power? Maybe, but by the time the chaos rains down, it is too late to staunch the flash flood of devastation. We may have even seen it coming, but now it’s too late.

When all is lost, we are the victim. Shock is real. Agonizing pain is genuine. That blank stare and unresponsive state is honest. This space of utter powerlessness and despair can last five minutes or five years. There is no way to predict how the victim archetype in all of us will cope with the loss.

This is the face of the victim we are most familiar with, the powerless, helpless, hopeless pile of suffering on the floor that is overwhelmed by the terror of the experience. To skip over this honest piece of what it is to be human is to do the victim archetype, and humanity, a disservice.

It is important that we understand victimhood as a real state that requires our compassion. Facing the suffering in the world reminds us of our own vulnerability, and that vulnerability is exactly the power we need to move through our own annihilation.

Playing the Victim

As a culture we’ve grown tired of people who are playing the victim. We see people suffer long past the point of what we feel is reasonable. The complaining, misery and moodiness grows old. We try to raise the victim up and cheer them up. We grumble about how their energy brings us down. When we lose hope for a loved one’s hopelessness, we sever ties. This, paradoxically, makes us feel like a victim.

On the other hand, you may be the person playing the victim caught in an endless depression that continues to alienate you from the outside world. You may wish that you could stop your whining. You might think that you should be over this by now. Frustration with yourself causes more feelings of victimhood. Whining becomes a power tool you use unconsciously or consciously to manipulate others into noticing you.

All of these moods, all of this messiness, are the familiar shadows of the victim archetype. 

Facing the Victim

We all are the victim and we all play the victim card. The key question is, “How do we acknowledge this without falling deeper into despair?”

Caroline Myss wisely teaches that all archetypes have both a light and a shadow aspect. It is our soul’s work  to bring the gifts of our archetypes into the world, these gifts are the light. The trials we experience and overcome make our light stronger. The victim archetype is a prime example of this process.

Through facing the shadow of the victim archetype and cultivating the gifts, we have a chance to grow our self-esteem. This cultivates resiliency and compassion beyond measure.

Self-Esteem & Fortitude

Self-esteem is the collection of attitudes we carry about ourselves. Examples of these attitudes are:

  • I am smart
  • My memory is terrible
  • I don’t make a good first impression
  • I am a good communicator
  • And so on…

These attitudes are beliefs or judgements that comprise our self-identity. Poor self-esteem is when negative attitudes about yourself outweigh positive self assessments. A person with good or strong self-esteem is going to be optimistic and hopeful.

The light aspect of the victim archetype is the “Guardian of Self-Esteem”. Every time you make a genuine, heartfelt assertion about your own good nature and talents, you are acting from the light aspect of the victim archetype. Nevertheless, this goes beyond liking who you are.

Every time you affirm that “I am strong” and “I will make it through this,” you are tapping into the infinite power of the omnipresent victim archetype. This belief that you will survive against any odds is the grace of fortitude. The victim in the light brings unyielding courage in the face of adversity. This is where the victim archetype power merges with the power of your soul.

The triumph comes from the tiniest glimmer of hope that resides in the core of your being. That is the victim in the light.  The victim archetype is willing to finally say “enough” to adversity and strive for something better. The victim is the fundamental champion of light over darkness in us all.

The Victim Archetype Brings Compassion

If you want to stop playing the victim and embody the light qualities of the victim archetype, the greatest tool is compassion. Compassion means to suffer (passion) with (com-). This does not mean to sink into a deep, dark pit of misery with someone and be unhappy because they are unhappy. To be compassionate means to be beside someone, to love and support them, to bear witness to their pain, and to channel mercy.

The victim brings compassion for others and for yourself. We default to judgement more often than kindness.  We want to fix and heal pain. Suffering is uncomfortable. When we resist suffering in ourselves and others, we perpetuate the cycle of victimization.

When we say that being sad is “wrong” and we need to get better, we judge ourselves. This judgement only makes the feelings worse. It is okay to be sad, hurt, traumatized, etc. These are natural states. We are not meant to stay in these places for too long, but they must be lived through. When we try to shut negative feelings out and make ourselves wrong for feeling bad, we fall deeper into despair. To stop playing the victim you need to be with the victim so you can move into the light.

When we meet negative feelings with equanimity and don’t exaggerate or downplay them, we are with the victim archetype in the light. Watching suffering as a compassionate witness offers the wound love without getting wrapped up in it. Reminding ourselves that everyone has traumatizing experiences and that we are not alone helps too. The victim archetype in the light reminds us to speak to ourselves and others with kindness. It sounds simple, but takes it incredible power to make a practice of turning away from meanness and into compassion.


“The Victim: Cultivating Compassion” Online Class

– Find your way out of your hurt and into your heart
– Discover the pathway to the true grace of forgiveness
– Transform your ideas of self-esteem
– Develop self-compassion as a spiritual practice



About Author, Stacey L. L. Couch

stacey couch spiritual directorStacey L. L. Couch, Certified Archetypal Consultant through Caroline Myss’s CMED Institute, works as a publicist and journalist for Mother Nature and is the author of Gracious Wild: A Shamanic Journey with Hawks. She empowers people with the ability to explore life’s big questions by calling on nature, story and synchronicity as sources of guidance and healing. Stacey has a unique blend of rational and mystical perspective that makes the world of symbolism and archetypes easily accessible to others. She values mindfulness, wonder, and compassion in her daily spiritual practice. Learn More about Stacey.