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Damsel in Distress and Victim Archetype by Dr Candess M Campbell, #1 Best-selling Author, Intuitive Mentor, Speaker, and International Psychic Medium Healer.
Standing at the corner of third and vine, rocking gently in the arms of her new love, she was ecstatic. The sun had set and it was eerie the way the city lights exposed the gray historic buildings. Dinner at the little corner restaurant where they first met was delectable. Dylan commented on the workmanship of the marble and the wood carved tables. Julia treasured the soft Italian music playing in the background. The setting was intimate with wine, flowers and seductive dripping wax candles.
Julia was dreamily thinking of the night ahead and the intimacy they would share. All of the sudden a woman came running up, grabbing Dylan’s arm and whimpering for help. As she cried and waived her arms about, it took a few minutes for him to understand what she was saying. She looked dressed up, despite being unkempt. He noticed her wearing a stained, low-cut blouse and scuffed shoes. He finally understood she was saying someone had syphoned gas from her car. Dylan responded with concern and then took a look at her dented and rusty blue Ford Escort. She was spewing chaos about getting home, being left alone by a friend, not sure how she would get to work and the damsel went on and on.
As Julia watched the scenario, all of the romance drained from her body and she found herself in disbelief. She was astounded how rudely this woman interrupted their magical evening. She was infuriated that Dylan responded to her hysteria. As Dylan moved into rescue mode and contemplated giving the woman a ride, Julia’s body tingled with fear and she could barely speak. She continued to breath and watch the situation play out. Eventually Dylan’s decision was to give the young woman fifty dollars to solve the situation and send her on her way.
He returned to Julia’s side somewhat shaken and shared his thoughts about the situation. Julia continued to breath, feeling outraged, and reluctant to speak. She smiled at him and calmly said that she was happy it was over. They had planned to spend sacred time together at her place, but she decided that she was done for the evening and wanted to be alone.
Julia, a successful attorney and published author on Women’s Empowerment was devastated. She witnessed her evening disrupted by a woman who was acting as a Damsel in Distress. Her lover, her partner was entrapped in the situation by the very nature of his kindness, but Julia was enraged and saw the situation differently. She went home alone, took a long, hot bath with lavender and replayed the scenario in her mind. Although the evening did not play out the way she had wished, she reflected on the wonderful time they had, released the reaction to the interruption and called Dylan. She reconnected with him through tender words of love.
So what happened in this situation? Was this truly the Damsel archetype or was it the Victim showing up?
“The woman” we will call Janie. Her backstory is she is a single mother who has few social skills, or parenting skills for that matter. She tends to be flighty and has difficulty staying on track with anything. Her responses are generally reactive and so she goes round and round in crisis. She doesn’t take time to stop, reflect, plan and make positive choices.
In this scenario, she presented as a Damsel, but with further exploration, this may also be her Victim archetype showing up. The Damsel archetype is strongly related to the Princess. As a Damsel, in this case Janie would have been beautiful, truly helpless or feigning helplessness and pining for a Prince or Knight to rescue her. On the other hand, if she was acting out of the shadow side of the Damsel, she could be creating situations where she is rescued, not with her beauty and with the delight of the rescuer, but from dysfunction and manipulation. The shadow side of an archetype is the part that the conscious mind does not integrate, relegating it to the unconscious. This is the ego rejecting the undesirable aspect of the personality.
In this case, Janie was functioning in a chaotic and helpless manner. Other than the immediate rescue by Dylan, which may have been manipulative and pre-planned on her part, what she really needed was to become aware of her shadow Damsel and her Victim archetype and begin a process of healing. So what does that mean? First, let’s understand the meaning of archetype.
The creativity of your subconscious mind not only shows up in dreams, but also shows up as archetypes in your life. Archetypes are overlying patterns that show up in all cultures that are seeded in the psyche. Some examples of archetypes are mother, judge, teacher and healer. When you begin to look at these patterns in your life, you can unleash your creative energy. You can access your natural path, heal your wounds and move toward your Divine Soul purpose.
My work with archetypes began in the 1980s and more recently I have been a student of Carolyn Myss’s work. This scenario exposed two archetypes – the Damsel and the Victim. We will explore the Victim here and you can see how well it fits in with the Damsel archetype. When exploring the Damsel itself, I will include more about the Princess, true and modern day.
According to Myss, the core issue of the Victim Archetype is whether it is worth giving up your own sense of empowerment to avoid taking responsibility for your independence. In reference to the Victim archetype, the issue under the victim is lack of self-esteem. The primary objective of healing the Victim is to establish personal power.
So in the situation with Janie, it appears she identified her Damsel and her Victim and used these behaviors to get what she wanted (attention and money) but in doing so gave up her personal power. She is stuck in a pattern of reaching out to others in a helpless or manipulative way to make it in the world.
An alternative for her or anyone examining their Victim archetype would be to identify the victim behaviors and transform them into empowered behaviors. It is interesting how Julia reacted as a victim in this situation as well, but was able to think through the situation, make a choice to spend time alone, nurture herself and return to her relationship with Dylan with a loving phone call to reconnect.
Some of the ways the Victim Archetype shows up in your life is when you -
- Stop standing up for yourself.
- Give up your power to and stop making choices for yourself.
- Lose personal boundaries and allow others to control you.
- Feel sorry for yourself.
- Blame others for your choices.
- Make up stories in your head and react to your own thoughts.
- Behave for sympathy or pity.
- Victimize others for personal gain.
- Draw others into your drama in an attempt at having control.
Like the Lion in The Wizard of Oz, once you have the Courage to look at your life and your behaviors with honesty and integrity, you can make changes. Notice your own chaotic and dramatic behavior. Inventory your reactions and empower yourself. You can gain control and raise your self-esteem. When you are empowered, others will treat you with respect.
Identifying your resentments may be a good place to start. Write out with whom you are angry. Take a look at where you were involved in a situation, and without “making the other person wrong,” what you could have done differently.
When you pull out of the situation and look at it from many points of view, it is easier to see how your own reactiveness controls you. You notice the characteristics of your own Archetypal patterns show up. You can shift how you think about a situation and therefore change how you feel.
As you reflect on this article, take notes on how you see the Damsel and the Victim in your own life or the lives of others around you. What other archetypes do you identify with? Notice what thoughts, feelings, and memories have surfaced for you when reading this article. Think about how others see you. Is your Victim or Damsel blocking you from your Divine Soul Purpose?