In Depth Psychology we recognize the power of an archetypal influence.
Firstly, What are Archetypes?
The Fairy Tale Connection
To understand archetypes and archetypal energy is to useful think of a well-known folk or fairy tale. Fairy tales contain “purely archetypal material,” says Marie Louise von Franz. If you are familiar with the tale of Cinderella you will have no trouble understanding the archetype associated with the girl, Cinderella. She is made to do all the work and given nothing in return. As a result, she could be an archetype of the unloved, overworked, and overlooked feminine. Further, she can be seen as the orphan archetype. But Cinderella bears it all, almost impossibly so. She can represent the archetype of the heroine.
Everyone Can Relate to Cinderella
Regardless of your gender, you may have felt like Cinderella when you were a child, or perhaps you have had a job where you had to take on more than your share of work, and you did not get paid for doing the extra work. You were the office Cinderella.
The Wicked Queen
The Wicked Queen from Snow White, Cinderella’s cruel stepmother. holds qualities we recognize as envy, greed, and self-centeredness. She may be seen as an archetype of the tyrant. In addition, she is a mother, yet she does not nurture or care as we imagine a mother should. The opposite of the stepmother archetype is the nurturing mother, who cares for all her children and stepchildren equally.
An archetype is like a template or a blueprint that we can relate to although we may not feel we are entirely that blueprint.
Archetypes are everywhere in our lives. In fact, archetypes are in every commercial you have watched, every story you have read and every movie you have viewed! Archetypes are in every human culture. The Cinderella archetype is in many global cultures. We are steeped in archetypes.
Why Pay Attention to Archetypes?
Let’s play with the Cinderella archetype for a moment to illustrate the power of attending to archetypes. Firstly, let’s imagine a human child who is mistreated by their actual stepmother. The child is not given the same opportunities as the biological children of the stepmother. The child is not helped, nor are they given the same amount of attention as their step-siblings. Yet the child still wants and needs love and attention.
Created Internal Beliefs
As a result, this creates internal beliefs which the child can carry for the rest of their lives. They will believe that they are less lovable and less valuable than other people. Further, they do not feel that they belong. This may lead them to react to the world in a very different manner than their step-siblings. They may never achieve what they wish because they hold a self-limiting belief. As a result, they embody the Cinderella archetype. It is likely that they resonate deeply with the Cinderella story, without knowing why it impacts them so profoundly. It might be their favorite story, it might be their least favorite.
The Archetype Takes Over the Personality
If the Cinderella child grows up and seeks help in therapy because they feel despair and unfulfilled in their life, they can address the archetype, the role that they were forced to take on in their family. Firstly, once they see the pattern, they can begin to change. Secondly, once they identify that they were Cinderella at home, Cinderella at school, at work, with friends, and in primary relationships, they will have a great awakening. Then, they can begin to work on the internalized archetype. They can see how their beliefs informed others, like partners or bosses, to treat them like Cinderella.
A Case Study
During a Depth Psychology session, I worked with one client who reported that when she shopped for vegetables, she would choose the worst-looking ones. Her thought pattern was that someone else needed the good vegetables. But she had no idea why she did this. In the session, she recalled being 6 years old and reaching for a strawberry at the breakfast table. She remembered her stepfather yelling at her, “Do not take the best strawberries, those are for your mother!”
Where Her Beliefs Came From
This memory helped her better understand from where her belief came. The family culture put her needs and desires below her mother’s. Once she recognized she was shopping for groceries like Cinderella, she could begin to alter this behavior.
She did resonate deeply with Cinderella’s fairy tale.
Internalized Archetypes Can Cause Pain and Make You Feel Stuck.
The forest in Little Red Riding Hood can be seen as an archetype of the unknown and feared place. It may represent our shadow or the things we fear in ourselves and in others. Little Red’s adventure is also an archetype of the Journey!
The wolf can be seen as an archetype of devouring wildness or the dangerous masculine. Additionally, the huntsman may be seen as the archetype of the savior or rescuer (depending upon the version of the tale!). Little Red herself is usually seen as an archetype of the young and innocent feminine who goes on a heroine’s journey.
There is no finite number of archetypes.
Some may be quite familiar to you, like the Heroine or Hero. It is in the oldest cultural literature, in most cultures, where we find the original archetypes.
Getting Stuck in An Archetypal Energy
In Depth Psychology we recognize the power of an archetypal influence like the Cinderella example. When a person is stuck in an archetypal pattern they are in the grip of a complex. The term here is, the Cinderella Complex.
The Cinderella Complex
Remember that a person feels driven by the archetypal energy of, for example, the Cinderella archetype. The Cinderella complex is present because of the experiences a person had in childhood. At the core of a complex is deeply felt emotion. What is the emotion at the core of the Cinderella complex? The emotions a child will experience when being treated like a servant instead of a family member.
In conclusion, the Cinderella complex will inspire a person to always be in a lower position socially and personally. This is an unconscious inspiration, an internal driver. The person does not know they are consistently putting themselves in less powerful positions relationally. Remember the client who always picked the bad fruit?
It is difficult to know when we are in the grip of a complex.
It may take many years to become aware of a complex. Cinderella feels the need for love and attention, care, and positive reflection. She is driven to do all she is told, and because she is a powerless girl, she has no choice but to agree to the role she is given by her family.
It is powerful to look at what stories move us.
It is useful to note what characters in stories are compelling to us. We can identify with which archetypes we resonate and take a deeper look at how we are living our lives.
What story are we telling ourselves?
What Archetype has us in its grip?
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