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

Is there a difference between playing the victim and being the victim? The short answer is, “yes.”

There are uncontrollable forces in life that 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 it 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 huge disservice.

It is important that we understand that victimhood is a real state that requires our utmost compassion, for we too someday again will need to tap into that same reservoir of 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 play the victim. We see them suffer long past the point of what we feel is reasonable and we grow increasingly irritated with their complaining, misery and moodiness. We try to raise them up and cheer them up. We grumble about how their energy brings us down. We may sever ties with a beloved friend or family member because we lose hope for the hopeless. This, paradoxically, makes us feel like a victim.

Or, you may be the person playing the victim, caught in an endless depression that continues to alienate you from the outside world. You may hear your own whining and wish that you could stop. You might agree that you should be over this by now. The frustration with yourself causes more feelings of victimhood. You may even understand that the whining is a power tool you use to manipulate others into paying attention to you.

All of these moods, all of this messiness, are the familiar faces of the victim archetype. It is no wonder that we wish to stop playing the victim and that we do everything possible to avoid becoming a victim.

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 in this lifetime to bring the gifts of our archetypes into the world, these gifts are the light. The gifts grow stronger through the trials we experience and overcome in the shadow, 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 which cultivates resiliency and compassion beyond measure.

The Gift of Self-Esteem

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

  • I am smart
  • I have a hard time memorizing things
  • 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 a collection of negative attitudes about the self that 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. 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.

For someone moving from the shadow to the light, the positive affirmations can feel phony at first, but it is not the affirmations that cause the change, it is the willingness to try. The triumph comes from the tiniest glimmer of hope that resides in the core of your being. That is the victim. 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.

Boundaries & Hope

If you are wondering how to stop being a victim in the shadow aspect and start embodying the light qualities of the victim archetype, a couple of the greatest tools are boundaries and hope. Setting boundaries takes a lifetime of practice, but is well worth the effort.

At first, when we set boundaries we are awkward, rude, defensive, meek, and ineloquent. Be willing to fail. Loved ones may not hear you or, worse, hang up the phone. Reach back out for repair and forgiveness. When it is time to try again, readjust and give it your best try. Just when you think you have it all figured out, life will give you another opportunity to rehearse. As long as you set boundaries with love, you will succeed.

Have you realized that hope is not an emotion? Hope is a grace just like love and peace. Hope can come to us through the Divine and overtake our being. This sensation defies logic, is miraculous, and is another, unrecognized power of the victim archetype. Pray for the grace of hope to fill your heart. The Guardian of Self-Esteem will rise up to help.

Want to know more about the Victim Archetype?

In this recording of a live online class, Certified Archetypal Consultant,
Stacey Couch, covers how to

  • Break free from the shadow of the victim

  • Set healthy boundaries

  • Cultivate self-compassion

  • Tap into the power of the Guardian of Self Esteem

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