The Martyr Archetype

The psychologist, Carl Jung, used the concept of archetype in his theory of the human psyche, believing archetypes reside within the collective unconscious of people. For the most part, Archetypes are neither good or bad, but just are, and essentially are a means to understanding the underlying motivations of a person.

The theory goes that when you understand people’s motivations, you become in a position to make choices when you become “conscious” of such in order to effectively choose. My date of consciousness was fully recorded.

Jung was a master at objectively weighing two sides of the same coin by displaying both a positive and negative side of each archetype. The Martyr Archetype has both a negative and positive side represented as the Shadow Martyr and Enlightened Martyr. 

The Shadow Martyr 

The Shadow Martyr is the negative side of this archetype that focuses on manipulation and control used to induce guilt to dominate others by placing themselves in a superior position. Essentially, think of it like the single Catholic mother that did not get an abortion, but then neglects her child and lives the life of a single woman. Most of this type’s archetype suffering is self-induced in the unconscious realm based on giving up on his or her dreams that trickles bitterness, resentment, and anger that other people are forced to deal with. Essentially, the negative side of this archetype is that it punishes “everyone” and notoriously is unaware that he or she does as such.

The trademarks of a Shadow Martyr are similar to that of a “scapegoat” – they take the blame and feel responsible for others and passively allow the finger to be pointed at him or her. In short, they do not defend themselves and are responsible for fault, requiring validation, appreciation, sympathy, acknowledgment, reciprocation and support.

The Shadow Martyr will most often feel that you are always unappreciative of their involvement and may become cold, distant, and resentful.  In short, sacrifice is the equivalent of self-worth. Paradoxically, suffering can be considered a way for the Shadow Martyr to feel special similar to that of a co-dependent.

Changing a Shadow Martyr is difficult and at its worst spectrum, he or she is fanatical, self-righteous, self-centered and controlling. In short, the Shadow Martyr will not exhibit joy or optimism and will feel “unworthy” of such positive emotions.

The Enlightened Martyr 

On the opposite side of the counterbalance is the Enlightened Martyr that can be surmised as the one who does what is right, even when the whole world is against him or her, even when even it serves contrary to any individual alliance or prerogative.  In short, the mantra when this type of archetype is displayed is: SACRIFICE IS CHOICE and is applicable when such person is conscious of what he or she is doing and for what specific purpose.

This Enlightened Martyr is entirely objective and contemplates what is right for everyone as a whole and balances to each person involved, putting self last to receive if he or she can obtain an acceptable balance by such sacrifice.

Almost as a sixth sense, the Enlightened Martyr can see what needs to be done to benefit the whole and is remarkably talented at recognizing an opportunity to give by making the conscious choice to sacrifice without expectation of anything in return or making anyone feel obligated. In short, he or she simply sees it as what must be done that often will make no sense to others who are unable to adopt such mindset, but will always effectively complete a means of execution.

The Enlightened Martyr is keen and knows he or she has the strength and time to endure, where others may not stepping into the role with humility and integrity. In short, he or she is able to acknowledge that part of life’s journey involves sacrificing for others and by in so doing, gives him or her a joy and a sense of individual purpose for that particular project. However, this type of Martyr is not quick to sacrifice his or her values and possesses a remarkably strong sense of individuality and self-esteem.

In furtherance, the Enlightened Martyr has conquered his or herself and does not need recognition of self from others. He or she will not be needy of praise or approval, and recognizes his or her value and what he or she can bring to the table related to any matter when it pertains to the sacrifice being made. Such person can become a rock of foundation that many others come to rely in the correct social setting.

These traits come from the conviction that the Enlightened Martyr is aware of the balance to which extent his or her sacrifice matters in both the short and long run and will seek to be a redemption for others. Such person is not a coward and will stand tall in the face adversity, but may go invisible at times while supporting other persons or recalibrating his her approach based on discernment of whether such involvement is worthy of his or her individual strengths.

This person knows instinctively that he or she is a source of strength for others and sees his or her ability to stand at the center, even to be invisible at times, while supporting others.

The Martyr has a super-human ability of which she or he can use strength for personal empowerment when faced in a situation of opposition that can sacrifice his or her ego and bring about the finding true self in his or herself and others. The Enlightened Martyr is at his or her very best noble, selfless, reliable, strong, and able to endure great suffering without becoming embittered by it.

The Martyr may struggle in the following areas: needing sympathy, pity or constant attention from others (child), doing to feel valuable (prostitute), willing to do anything for acceptance even at the compromise of self (prostitute), or suffering as sacrifice as self-inflicted punishment or penance (victim).

***This blog post was largely summarized from Susanna Barlow’s  Understanding the Martyr Archetype



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