Victimhood and the Child Archetype – by Lyn Cowan

The following excerpt is from a chapter titled ‘The Archetype of The Victim’ in Lyn Cowan’s book Tracking The White Rabbit: Essays In Subversive Psychology (page.92). Here the author makes a direct correlation between victimhood identity and enactment of what Jungians refer to as the child archetype.

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As noted earlier, the root of the word victim carries an ancient meaning of “increase” or “growth.” However, I am not suggesting that victimization ought to be considered an occasion of “positive growth.” To do so minimizes the horror and fear and shame or represses them completely. The injunction to the victim to “grow” through adversity is a subtle appeal to the victim’s ego to leave the victimization experience behind (a form
of denial). “Growth” in this usage is defensive, the demand of an anxious parent who does not know what to do for a child in pain (as in, “Grow up, stop crying, stop feeling sorry for yourself”).

A deeper objection to the demand on the victim to “grow” is that it keeps the experience of the victim within a fantasy of the child. Whatever complex meanings victimhood may have for the soul are obscured and reduced to false simplicity by forcing them into the single perspective of the child archetype. Thus the victim appears passively childlike or irresponsibly childish. This may be one reason why our culture takes a profoundly ambivalent attitude toward victims: either total neglect and abuse or idealization and galvanic convulsions to rescue. (Remember little Jessica McClure, who fell down a well in Texas in 1989? The whole country vicariously participated in the rescue operation.)

When perceived through the child archetype, the victim is infantilized: whatever injury has been done can now only be understood as a sign or consequence of psychological immaturity – the naïvety of a child, the innocence of a child, the carelessness of a child, the abuse of a child, the child who cries for grownups to play fair. Instead of an adult drama deep in the soul’s sacred interior, victimization is seen as one of many misfortunes that befalls a child. We demand either excessive responsibility of the victim (“She should have known better”) or expect him or her to be as helpless in trauma as a child.