Understanding the Companion Archetype

Written by on October 15, 2012 in On Archetypes

Understanding the Companion Archetype

What does it mean to be a Companion? The archetype of the Companion explores the ways we relate to each other, for the Companion cannot be a devoted friend unless there is someone that needs them in that role. The No. 2 needs to have a No. 1. This dynamic is what the Companion archetype is all about.

This archetype is more associated with platonic relationships rather than sexual ones. It can show up in marriages and sexual relationships but will often become dormant or inactive in the bedroom.

While the Companion archetype plays a secondary role it is by no means a less important role often performing behind the scenes making sure everything goes without a hitch. They are not the stars of the show, they are the unseen and unsung heroes of the world. And that is just they way they want to keep it. Unless of course they are stuck in the shadow side of the companion.

The Shadow Companion

I am only me because of you. . .

The Shadow Companion has difficulty separating their identity from that of the other person. They lose themselves in their friendships, marriages, business partnerships, and other relationships. They do this by allowing the other person to state their opinions and make decisions first so that they can mold to the needs and expectations of that person. The Shadow Companion gains the friendship and approval of the other person by anticipating their needs, by being overly obliging, and blindly loyal. The Shadow Companion compromises their personal integrity in this way. They are usually completely unaware of this motivation.

The consequences though, are deeply felt. This loss of their personal self leads the Shadow Companion to believe that others are better than they are. They are thoroughly convinced of the value and importance of others but cannot see the value and importance of themselves because who they are, has been dissolved in the other person. (It is hard to recognize the value in something you can no longer see.) The Shadow Companion cannot see the other person clearly and often ascribes to them a persona of exceptionalism or perfection. This loss of individuality and self-worth is one of the main challenges for the Shadow Companion.

Boundaries? What are those?. . .

The Shadow Companion can become fixated on the other person, placing greater emphasis on what the other person wants than what they (the Companion) want for themselves. The Shadow Companion often has an obsessive need of the other person because they have attached their own identity and value on to that person. Thus, they make sure that they are so completely indispensable as to ensure that the other person will continue to need them and perhaps reciprocate. The Shadow Companion willingly conforms their identity and personal desires to that of the other person, only to lose themselves in the process. This causes them to feel bound to the relationship and deeply entangled. So much so, that they are no longer sure where they end and the other person begins. This often creates symbiotic  relationships in which the Shadow Companion is attached to a host. This attachment creates a dependency that feels so necessary that to sever it, means death. Consequently the Shadow Companion will put up with a lot of abuse and still stick around. Because there is such a complete loss of boundaries, the Shadow Companion will have difficulty even assessing a situation. Setting boundaries for the Shadow Companion would be akin to throwing darts in a dark room. Being lost in the other person makes boundary setting confusing and and ineffective.

Support for Me?

The Shadow Companion does not take good care of themselves and they have trouble accepting support from others. They find receiving to be difficult and often find ways to turn the receiving back into a giving. They need the other person feeling somewhat indebted to them and they do not like it when it becomes reversed. They will go above and beyond expectations in an effort to keep the indebtedness on the side of the other person. Because of this, the Shadow Companion does not recognize their own needs and second-guesses their own ideas, their own opinions, and they constantly doubt their own intuition. The Shadow Companion seeks out support for themselves only when they feel desperate and it is usually through someone they believe is deeply indebted to them.

Of course they need me. . .right?

No one makes assumptions like a Shadow Companion. They are quick to make assumptions because part of their role is to anticipate and provide for the needs and wants of the other person. The Shadow Companion acts on what they assume others’ needs are or what their needs will be, often without consultation. They sometimes offer help when it is not wanted, or can sometimes act without permission, believing that they are supporting the other person. They meddle in the affairs of the other person because they have misunderstood the communication and cues of that person. They feel that their intentions are noble and others will simply appreciate their contributions. This often leads to resentment and hurt feelings. The Shadow Companion can feel deeply confused. They believe it is their duty to look out  for, care about and serve the other person and when the other person reacts badly or feels violated the Shadow Companion experiences the worst kind of rejection: betrayal. Because Companions are so loyal their greatest fear is betrayal. If they have been betrayed, the Shadow Companion does not forgive the betrayal easily. They assume that their undying loyalty and devotion will result in a guaranteed friendship/love and when this proves itself to be false it can feel as though the sky is falling.

Me? Controlling? Of course not!

The Shadow Companion feels the need to be one step ahead of the other person so that they can control the relationship. This need for control is acute in the Shadow Companion because in so many ways they give up their autonomy and personal authority in favor of the other person. The need to be covert, manipulative and often downright deceitful becomes the only way for the Shadow Companion to passively control their lives. This can create conflict for the Shadow Companion because it feels disloyal to hide, manipulate and lie. So they become better at predicting behaviors, responses and attitudes of the other person while disconnecting from their own personal truth. The Shadow Companion is a classic enabler, supporting any behavior that keeps the relationship going. They become overly committed, believing that more loyalty and support will result in that which they crave from the other person. Here are few samples of the kinds of things the Shadow Companion hopes their love and support will get them: Respect, reciprocal love and support, belonging, being needed, expectations met and someone to look out for them and maybe most of all-to be wanted.

Your wish is my command. . .

The Shadow Companion is quick to drop whatever they are doing to serve the other person. Acting for the other person is second nature to a Shadow Companion. Their investment in the other person is so complete that they often neglect, not only themselves, but their other commitments, their dreams and their own ambitions. They live for the approval and acceptance of the other person and it doesn’t take too much to keep them working hard to please. In fact, many Shadow Companions allow themselves to be used, taken advantage of, abused, pressured, mistreated, and disrespected if it means that they will continue to be viewed as a loyal, devoted and loving friend/partner. They believe that their loyalty and devotion will someday pay off. The pay off is different for different individuals but the pattern of behavior is the same.

When things go wrong. . .

Sometimes the Shadow Companion gets tired of obligation, investment, commitments and taking care of others. When this happens, the Shadow Companion will usually withdraw from the other person. They want the other person to know how important their contribution has been and how much the other person needs them. Withdrawing support and attention, the Shadow Companion waits in the dark to be rediscovered. If the relationship is co-dependent the other person will usually seek out the Shadow Companion apologizing and trying to soothe their hurt feelings. It doesn’t take much before the Shadow Companion is eating out of the other person’s hand again.

The Shadow Companion loves others to need them, only to feel angry when others take advantage of them. But instead of communicating this, they keep their opinions to themselves, afraid to be disloyal and to cut themselves off completely the source of their love and acceptance. When they get pushed past their limits they will blow up and get angry. This is often followed by a period of withdrawal and then eventually they will come back, asking for forgiveness. Sometimes they long to be noticed, loved and valued so much that they force themselves into the spotlight. This is usually something they regret doing because being inconspicuous is more their strength and all that exposure only makes them feel vulnerable and unmasked. When the relationship threatens to fall apart or becomes too deeply dysfunctional, the Shadow Companion becomes the ultimate victim, having given their last breath for the other person, they feel completely justified in avoiding responsibility. When the Shadow Companion is angry they can betray the one they have devoted themselves to, either through taking advantage of the trust that has been placed in them or by spreading gossip and disclosing confidential information.

The Enlightened Companion-How to be a No. 2

Mine, Yours, and Ours

The Enlightened Companion has learned (albeit painfully) how to be there for others without losing their own sense of self and individuality. They have developed the boundaries necessary to maintain clear limits and and to support themselves. They are especially adept at setting boundaries because they can do so with gentleness and humor. They delight in sharing with others but they know (beforehand) where the line of giving ends and they will not give up their own ideas, belongings, time etc. without carefully choosing to do so. This clear decision making keeps the Enlightened Companion responsible for their own actions. The Enlightened Companion is a whole and complete individual, not defined or improved by their relationship to others. They are sure about themselves and do not get tangled up in others’ stories and drama.

Once a Friend, Always a Friend

The Enlightened Companion is a humble person. They don’t seek out attention or the spotlight, but are comfortable accepting both with humility. This humility allows them to speak honestly to the other person without offending. They bring out the best in their friend by keeping the relationship open and honest. Because they are adept at looking out for others the Enlightened Companion is an excellent listener, giving their whole and undivided attention to their friend. Their humility and personal warmth make them very approachable because they are not intimidating or overbearing. The Enlightened Companion is forgiving and has a big heart. They will not stew over insult or injury for very long. They may need to set new boundaries and take care of themselves but they will not hold onto grudges. Their loyalty and love are endless. They will stand by their friends through any and all challenges and will not be easily put off.

How May I Help You?

The Enlightened Companion knows the power of kindness. It is in their very natures to be kind and service oriented. You will find many Enlightened Companions quite happy doing menial work such as digging ditches, cleaning up after the dog, making the bed and other such small tasks. They understand better than anyone that the little and unnoticed things are often the most important. The Enlightened Companion enjoys volunteer work that connects them to others allowing them to support those who have little support and to be a cheerleader for those who have lost trust in themselves. For example, you may find the Enlightened Companion at homeless shelters offering kindness to the disadvantaged or at hospital volunteering their time. You can find them at support groups and other organizations that offer help and advocacy to those who need it most. They will be the person holding the hand of a grieving widow, helping a tired Mom with her groceries or just comforting someone that is feeling upset and worried. The Enlightened Companion has a quiet power that brings calmness and security to whatever environment they enter.

I’ve Got a Friend in Me

The Enlightened Companion is first and foremost a companion and friend to themselves. They offer the same love, support and encouragement to themselves as they do for others. Therefore, the Enlightened Companion takes good care of themselves because they know they are at their best and most supportive when they have what they need. They are adamant about getting enough rest, eating well and having adequate personal time. It is vital that the Companion nourish their own spiritual lives as well as cultivate a rich social life filled with many and varied friends. By caring well for themselves they are able to listen well, give kindness and help and be fully present for others.

The Companion usually has quite an eclectic group of friends. They are not put off by odd people or those who seem friendless. In fact, they are quite taken with people in general and can see right through the façade of most individuals and into the heart of the soul. They feel a pull toward this intrinsic knowledge, and others, sensing that the Enlightened Companion can see their value, are drawn toward them as well. Those people who are in leadership positions or those who are in highly visible situations do best when they have a good Companion by their side. The Enlightened Companion takes their role seriously. They are sensitive to the needs of the other person and are excellent comforters, knowing just what to say and how to say it.

Jobs for the Companion

Some typical jobs of a Companion would be behind the scenes or supporting roles, such as, receptionists, nurses, vice presidents, the secret service, assistants, and day care providers. But that does not mean that the Companion does not have the ability to be a CEO or director of a large organization, it means that they have no desire for such jobs. They know their strengths and keep to them. One of the great skills of an Enlightened Companion is to be able to see undeveloped talent and skill in others and to highlight it. They offer the fertile ground that allows others to grow and flourish. And because they take such excellent care of themselves they are a boundless resource and constant support for those around them. They have no desire to be constantly patted on the back or given credit for all they do. They simply do what comes so naturally to them and enjoy watching others shine. The Enlightened Companion finds it deeply satisfying to remain somewhat anonymous and in the background while knowing within themselves that their strength and support of others has created success for everyone. While they enjoy being needed, the Enlightened Companion does not depend upon it for worthiness. They value their own role of helper as much as the role of leader. They know that the leader is only as great as his/her support team. And the support team is only as great as their leader. They are the ultimate team player. The Enlightened Companion is a tireless cheerleader and champion for others, (they are a force to be reckoned with), defending others from critics and naysayers alike.

The Enlightened Companion and the Ego

The Enlightened Companion knows the value of letting go of the self. Having lost their identities in others when in the shadow, they understand that identities are not necessarily the measure of a person. Therefore the Enlightened Companion is connected to Source. They do not rely on being funny, smart or caring to feel valuable because they recognize their own intrinsic value and the intrinsic value of others. They are not bogged down by the ego and they learn through doing the shadow work of the Companion, how to let go of the individual self when necessary. Recognizing the value of being unnoticed, the ego is more readily transformed. Awareness of the ego and its attachment to identity are early lessons for the Companion.

The Many Faces of the Companion Archetype

Here are some examples of the different roles the Companion can play. If you identify with this archetype notice which of these roles suits you the best.

The Faithful

The Faithful Companion is strongly motivated to stay by the side of the other person, through thick and thin. They don’t feel the need to do, but to always be there and they are concerned with never letting the other person down.

Example: Samwise Gamgee  from The Lord of the Rings is a great example of the Faithful Companion. He is a lowly gardener for Frodo, basically his servant and he becomes one of the greatest support heroes in literature. He never leaves Frodo’s side no matter how despairing things become. His optimism and hope never waver. This is part of the Faithful Companion. Sam is also willing to die for Frodo and proves it more than once throughout the story. This kind of loyalty and devotion is part of the Faithful Companion. Tonto from the Lone Ranger is another good example of the Faithful Companion.

The Organizer

The Organizer is a type of the Companion that spends their time and efforts making sure the other person doesn’t have to worry about the details. The Organizer frees up time for the other person to focus on important matters. Typical Organizer types are secretaries and receptionists, nurses, deputies, and such others that work in the background dealing with problem solving and taking care of menial work and oft forgotten details, keeping things going smoothly for the other person.

Example: Betty Suarez in the TV show Ugly Betty is a personal assistant to Daniel the editor in chief of a fashion magazine. Betty spends her days frantically keeping up appearances for Daniel. They become friends and confidantes.    Alfred, Batman’s butler and valet is another example of the Organizer. He is preparing everything from his clothes to his car, Alfred is a key supporter. He seems to understand the broody Bruce Wayne and acts as confidante, mentor and friend.

The Supporter/Wingman

The Supporter type provides the friend with essential support and back up when needed. This type is prepared, honest and anticipating the needs of their friend/partner. They allow others to lean on them for strength and support. Sometimes they provide a necessary kick-in-the-butt too. They are dedicated and loyal, always at the ready.

Examples: Watson from Sherlock Holmes is a good example of this type. Never far away, always ready with information and a back-up strategy, he keeps Sherlock out of trouble more often than Sherlock solves a mystery. Sherlock would be lost without Watson, who is grounded and responsible. Watson is calm and methodical and every bit the detective but he never steals the limelight from Sherlock. Robin from Batman is another type of the Supporter Companion archetype, providing emotional support as well as a crime-fighting partner.

The Protector

The Protector type is the guardian often seen as a bodyguard, a secret service agent etc. The Protector type respects their friend/hero almost to the point of worship. This type shares many qualities with the Supporter and the Faithful.

Example: Dwight Shrute from the TV series, The Office is a humorous example of the Shadow Protector/Companion to Michael Scott, his boss. Dwight would do literally anything to save his hero including drive his car into a lake! It is helpful to see this archetype in a humorous setting. Another example is Little John from Robin Hood who is always nearby to keep Robin Hood safe from the Sheriff and his men.

The Giver

This type, the Giver Companion loves to give and is always deferring to the other person. They will always take the back seat (literally and figuratively), they eat what the other person chooses at restaurants, they let the other person’s choices, comforts and initiatives take precedence over their own. The Giver is happiest when their friend is happy.

Example: Bert from Sesame Street. Bert and Ernie are a classic duo with Bert as the reluctant Giver Companion. It seems poor Bert never gets what he wants and is always misunderstood by the lovable, slightly naive Ernie.

The Conscience

Sometimes the Companion acts as a moral compass for a person that is a bit unpredictable and wild. They feel it is their responsibility to keep them on the right track. They will cover for them when they are late, they make excuses for them and basically make sure the other person never loses face.

Example: Jiminy Cricket is Pinocchio’s Companion and Conscience. He warns him of trouble and tries to help him when Pinocchio does not listen and gets himself into trouble. Watson from Sherlock Holmes also plays the role of Conscience. Another example is C3PO from Star Wars. He is a robot but he plays the part of the Companion archetype, trying to reason with Luke Skywalker, but always supporting him in the end.

The Doubter

Another more interesting type of the Companion archetype is the Doubter or Skeptic. This partnership works because the Doubter brings a bit of reality to the relationship, pointing out would be hazards and trying to talk their friend out of crazy or dangerous ideas and/or criminal activities.

Example: Ethel Mertz from the TV show I Love Lucy. Ethel always warns Lucy of the consequences and never really believes in Lucy’s schemes. But like any good Companion, she goes along anyway. Another example is that of Hermione, Harry Potter’s sassy sidekick in the Harry Potter books. She is ever skeptical and her doubting ways save Harry from many a pitfall.

The Joker/Fool

The Joker type of Companion offers comic relief to the often over-serious friend. They bring laughter and light-hearted quality to serious situations. The Joker type uses the wisdom of humor to keep the spirits of those around them lifted and never lets optimism die. They are the constant supporters through humor and laughter. They are able to offer wise words without offending the pride of their friend.

Example: Dory from animated film Finding Nemo who keeps Marlin from giving up the search for his lost son. Barney Fife from the Andy Griffiths Show is another look at the Fool type Companion. In his bumbling attempts to be helpful he often makes a bigger mess but never fails to keep Andy smiling.

You may find one or many types within yourself as you explore the myriad aspects of the Companion archetype.

The Dog, Man’s Best Friend

I cannot talk about the Companion archetype without including a mention of the dog. In the animal world, the dog ranks highest on the list of companions. Loyal, protective, forgiving the dog exemplifies all that is good in the Companion archetype. There are so many stories of dogs acting heroically on behalf of their owners. They serve as guide dogs for the blind, service animals for the handicapped, bomb dogs in war. They are renowned for their bravery, protectiveness, loyalty, companionship and unconditional love. Some famous examples and depictions include Rin Tin Tin, Lassie, and Toto from the Wizard of Oz.  In one true story, Hachi the Akita dog, waited at the train station for his owner, a Japanese professor who had died, for nine years. Look no further than your pet dog for a wonderful example of the qualities of the companion archetype.

I hope you have learned more about this oft forgotten archetype and if you recognize your own behavior in both the shadow and the light, you may have this as a personal archetype.



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  1. Donna says:

    Thank you for this insight! Recently, as an inward excersize through the philosophy of ‘Animal Spirt Totems,’ I came to the understanding that I was more personally connected with dogs than any other animal species. Also, delving into numerology, I found my personality number is a #2. This discussion of the Companion has given me as much clarity on these symbols that keep cropping up in my life as anything else I have read.

  2. Susanna says:

    Thanks Donna for the comments. I agree about the dog and feeling connected to animal so aligned with companionship and loyalty. And what I have learned about #2s in numerology fits with this archetype too.

  3. Justin says:

    Amazing piece, incredible honestly.. Thank you for the insight, expect a follow up email from me. I’m going to subscribe to your site now , Cheers