Archetypes are about the management of our power and this is readily seen in the Slave Archetype. The Slave has negative connotations and images of the control and subjugation of one person over another come to mind. But the slave is about the relationship with the self. Cultivating a connection to the self is what the archetype is all about. In the shadow we experience just the opposite, disconnect and a lack of awareness about the self. Dependency is also part of this archetype and developing dependability on the self, is the transformation process. Learning to be one’s own master is what the Slave archetype teaches. The Slave is not about the development of independence but about learning to be guided by an inner truth. The Slave is drawn into relationships where the lessons, gifts and challenges of the archetype of the Slave are played out. The Slave archetypes a two fold pattern, one of slavery and one of mastery.
The Shadow Slave
Willpower and Making Choices
The Shadow Slave is a survivalist and has found that being passive has yielded the best results for surviving. Like a possum that simply “plays dead” to encourage would be predators from taking a bite, so too does the Shadow Slave make themselves emotionally and mentally dead in order to survive. The Shadow Slave loses their own sense of will and looks to a master or owner for guidance. This is not simply a result of a meek and unassuming personality, the Shadow Slave believes that having their own will or guiding their own life creates more problems than it solves. Making choices is a real challenge to the Shadow Slave for they would prefer that others make decisions. They don’t believe in their own power to make wise and effective choices so they make no choice at all. Theirs is the sin of omission, no action is better than a wrong action that can cause the Shadow Slave to feel tremendous guilt. But allowing others to make their choices for them, is a choice itself, and one that has a long string of consequences attached to it. The Shadow Slave has great willpower, they simply don’t know where to direct it and so they turn it over to another or a something that can act as a guiding force. If the Shadow Slave is in a relationship where the Master is kind and good the Shadow Slave will express itself in self-centered or even obnoxious behavior. The Slave/Master relationship isn’t always one of cruelty and bondage. The Shadow Slave can actually be controlling of another by refusing to make decisions and being passive. They force others to carry the burden of responsibility and consequences.
Parent/Child Relationship and Lack of Responsibility
The Shadow Slave often recreates a parent/child relationship with whomever or whatever is their owner or master. The Shadow Slave has not developed their own inner authority and looks outward for guidance. The parent/child relationship looks something like this. Child looks to parent for guidance and authority, parent tells child what to do. Child complies believing it is for the best. When the child chooses to do his or her own thing punishment follows. The child accepts punishment because they know they have violated the parent/child rules. Acceptance of punishment is part of this pattern, believing they are at fault and are deserving of punishment makes sense to the Shadow Slave because they have unconsciously made an agreement with the master to obey. Why does the Shadow Slave accept such circumstances? No responsibility. Parents are ultimately responsible for children. By not taking responsibility for their lives they are able to shift the problem to someone else. The Shadow Slave has exchanged their free will for a different kind of freedom-freedom from responsibility. This exchange, personal power in exchange for freedom of responsibility creates a powerful loyalty and makes the breaking of the pattern particularly difficult. But don’t be fooled by this description of passivity and mindless obedience in exchange for no responsibility. The Shadow Slave can be belligerent toward any other person that impinges the Master/Slave relationship. It all depends on what or who the power is given over to. For example: The Shadow Slave could be enslaved to an addictive substance that becomes the Master. Have you ever tried to take drugs from an addict? Or the Shadow Slave could be a slave to a thought pattern that controls their life, i.e. “I will never be able to take care of myself.” In this case, a person could develop a dependency on another person but is really a slave to their thoughts that they will never be able to take care of themselves. Their thoughts are their Master and they are Slave to them, unable to assert their own willpower over these thoughts. The Shadow Slave can be extremely stubborn if challenged to free themselves from negative thoughts that have become their Master. To the Shadow Slave freedom is death. If they cut the puppet strings they fall in a heap and are unable to move. The puppet is a good metaphor for the Shadow Slave.
- The original Italian version of Pinocchio was written by Carlo Collodi and is a great illustration of the Slave Archetype. Both Geppetto and Pinocchio are examples of the Master/Slave pattern. Unlike the Disney version, Pinocchio is a naughty little marionette who seems to very much have a will of his own. He seems a slave to his every whim or desire. He even kicks Geppetto in the face while Geppetto is still carving him. Pinocchio has no control over himself. The Shadow Slave can be indifferent to others needs and desires and can show a great lack of compassion. The Shadow Slave is not an obedient servant but simply lacks self-mastery. Sometimes this expresses itself passively and other times it can be wild and unrestrained like the Pinocchio character who gets into more trouble and mischief than most. He is drawn into every adventure by a lack of self-mastery and discipline. Geppetto is controlled by his own creation. He created Pinocchio and he feels compelled to take care of him even when Pinocchio is ungrateful and unkind. In the original story, Pinocchio is eventually swallowed by a shark where he finds Geppetto, who had been confined inside the shark for two years. Geppetto had been lost at sea while searching for Pinocchio. This shows Geppetto’s inability to control Pinocchio and he feels responsible for Pinocchio’s bad behavior and it also shows a kind of self-punishment, Geppetto is punishing himself for Pinocchio’s actions. Pinocchio is rescued from trouble time and again by the Fairy who befriends him and eventually he learns his lesson. The Fairy represents magical power, extraordinary power even that is inherent in the Slave Archetype. Pinocchio works hard, studies at school and generously gives his earnings away to care for Geppetto. These good deeds win him favor with the Fairy and one morning Pinocchio wakes up to find he is made of flesh and blood and is a real boy. Geppetto and Pinocchio are aspects of a single psyche and as you can see Pinocchio finally learns to take care of himself by caring for Gepetto (the weaker self) and by showing discipline in school. But unlike the Disney rendition, after Pinocchio becomes flesh and blood human being, he sees his former marionette self, slumped in a corner near the chair, an empty husk. What an amazing image! The person that has no self mastery, is merely a superficial and inauthentic version of the self, a wooden self. A true self emerges when the hard lessons of life are won. A self that is whole and real, belonging to no one and made by no one.
Inner Wisdom and the Lack of Creativity
The Shadow Slave is disconnected from their own inner wisdom. They have pulled the plug, so to speak, on their own desires to align themselves more completely with the Master. The inner conflict of seeking self mastery and not wanting to be responsible for oneself inclines the Shadow Slave to give up their willpower. This makes them vulnerable to addictions, co-dependent relationships, dead-end jobs, depression, gangs and other groups with strong leadership. The Shadow Slave can find themselves at the mercy of cruel people and situations the feel impossible just like Pinnocchio who finds himself pulled into Lampwick’s schemes and ends up a donkey. Being disconnected from inner wisdom also means being disconnected from creativity. The Shadow Slave will find it difficult if not impossible to be creative. Creativity requires self discipline and self trust to allow the unformed to be formed. Geppetto creates Pinocchio but even before he completes his creation he knows that Pinocchio is trouble. He does not trust his inner wisdom but continues carving the boy. He even teaches Pinocchio to walk and talk giving the marionette ability without self discipline or self awareness. It is as if Geppetto is a slave to his own creativity. Any creative endeavor suffers from lack of direction as the Shadow Slave seeks approval from others or is simply conflicted about their own project. As they continue to look outward for evidence of their value, or guidance for their life, the Shadow Slave falls prey to charlatans and others claiming to have wisdom and knowledge. For some, they struggle may all by inward and the Shadow Slave succumbs to their own inner tyrant, that constantly undermines their efforts to connect to their real self.
The Right to Blame (Victim/Perpetrator)
The Shadow Slave feels victimized or at the least, frustrated with the elements of their life they seem unable to change or to have any control over. The Shadow Slave feels they have the right to lay blame on others for their own behaviors and often sees themselves as the victim of others actions and deeds. For the Shadow Slave also feels justified in any number of ill deeds because they can blame the person or thing that has caused their trouble or behavior. What the Shadow Slave often cannot see is how they are the perpetrator of suffering to others. Just like Pinocchio, who went around behaving badly and treating Geppetto with indifference or even cruelty. The Shadow Slave is unaware being tossed about by lives uncertainties and fears. The irony of being a victim is that victims need to blame someone or something for their inability to change their circumstances. By blaming others, they become the perpetrator and often end up hurting the people they care about by casting them in an unflattering light to others and creating problems and bad feelings where none would have existed otherwise. Blaming is the most common act of perpetration the Shadow Slave commits against others. Other examples of perpetration against others include ignoring shared responsibility, playing innocent or childlike, and ignoring their own abilities and personal power. By putting their head into the sand and refusing to look at their own power the Shadow Slave puts those closest to them in stressful and difficult situations.
Passive Power and Giving Up
The Shadow Slave is afraid of power and routinely blames others for the disconnect to personal power. The Shadow Slave has a pretty solid sense of self but they have no mastery over that self, they feel pulled in every direction, from emotions, thoughts to others opinions of them etc. This fear of personal power keeps the Shadow Slave entrenched and stuck. The decline and lack of creativity can make the Shadow Slave feel as though their life is in a perpetual downward spiral. To deal with this the Shadow Slave uses what I call, passive power. By proclaiming blamelessness and even helplessness they are able to evoke sympathy, help and support from a number of people without ever claiming their proactive power. Passive power allows the Shadow Slave to have a measure of control over a situation without taking any responsibility for it. Another, opposite way, to use passive power is by being overly responsible for others, without taking responsibility for oneself. No person can truly take responsibility for another person and their actions. Using passive power the Shadow Slave can exert influence, create subterfuge and use other manipulative methods of control such as begging or pleading, playing on someone’s guilt or simply wearing them down. Another aspect of passive power is giving up. The Shadow Slave often attempts things halfway or not at all before they are overwhelmed by a sense of hopelessness. It is at this point they usually give up. But underneath, (what appears to be,) the despair is a fear of the power that they really have and by taking action, this power will be released and they can no longer exercise the passivity that has allowed them to live in both worlds, the world of the slave and the world of the master. The Shadow Slave is often marked by a hard early life, or some really challenging event or situation that turns the pattern of the Slave into the Shadow. This event or past, is what must be confronted in order to reconnect with the power that has been dormant.
The Enlightened Slave
Transforming the Slave Archetype
How does the Shadow Slave become the Enlightened Slave? All transformation begins with self-awareness. Working with the Shadow Slave will be similar to working with the Victim because of the seeming lack of personal power. The Enlightened Slave is one of the most individualistic, self-possessed and powerful archetypes. In the light, this archetype can be a real force to be reckoned with or it can be quiet and powerful. What is the wisdom of the Slave? The Slave is humble, passive, open, malleable, sensitive, disciplined, focused, master of the self, doesn’t seek power over others. The Slave begins as a person held in a circumstance or situation that feels without opportunity for choice or dignity. The journey of the slave is to become the master of his/her own life and fate, to know the part of themselves that cannot be controlled or denied by another. The Slave has a strong need to have mastery over externals. They may show intense dedication to projects and unwavering discipline in areas that matter a great deal to them. They can seem like the strongest and weakest person at the same time. But that is the evidence of the struggle or effort to bring the shadow into the light. The Enlightened Slave Archetype has complete personal mastery over the self, is deeply connected to their own wisdom and can act with powerful resolve in the face of incredible opposition.
- Harriet Tubman was born to enslaved parents in Maryland around 1820. Her family was torn apart when several of her sisters were sold to distant plantations. She was a field slave and endured brutal beatings, poor living conditions and other common sufferings of slaves of the South. Her father eventually became a freed slave but Harriet witnessed how his freed status was little more than words on paper. He had to continue working in slave like conditions and had virtually no power to free his family. When Harriet’s owner died she decided to escape to the North. She did so successfully using the Underground Railroad. Her fierce determination to free her people sets her apart from the thousands of other slaves of her time. She went back to the South again and again to free members of her family and hundreds of other slaves. She used her pistol in self-defense and told slaves she was helping to free that she wouldn’t hesitate to use it on one of them should any betray her or her mission. She was a fugitive with a 40,ooo dollar price tag on her head. She was undaunted. Her people called her Moses. She continued on her mission after the outbreak of the Civil War by becoming a Union spy, scout and nurse. She led a corps of local blacks into enemy territory to gather information. The Union soldiers referred to her as General Tubman. Her freed slave husband refused to join her in the North. She left him there and he remarried. She spent the rest of her life in the service of her people. She represents the power the Enlightened Slave to master her fears, emotions and challenges most of us couldn’t even imagine. She used her slavery and her low social status to her advantage as a spy for the Union army. She used the power she DID have instead of wishing for power she didn’t have. This is a perfect example of the Enlightened Slave.
Inner Wisdom and the Development of Intuition
The Enlightened Slave has a strong connection to their own inner wisdom. Quite literally, they have made their inner conscience their master. They have a sharp and highly developed intuition that may seem uncanny to others but is completely hardwired into this archetypal pattern. The development of intuition comes from searching inside for answers and trusting (the natural trust that is part of the Slave archetype) the answer without doubt or question. This allows for the intuition to become stronger and the Enlightened Slave becomes more and more adept at knowing the difference between emotions and intuition. The Enlightened Slave also has a more highly developed intuition because they have learned to listen to their inner promptings without question and doubts. If the Enlightened Slave has creative tendencies this archetype can be a powerful ally as it allows projects to be formed without the interference of the ego and the need for approval. The Enlightened Slave simply respects and honors the creative process no matter what the outcome is. They will often refer to this as “being a conduit” or mere instruments for art, music, writing etc. to be expressed. Intuition is the opening of the channels of creativity. This intuition can be useful for health and healing, for entrepreneurship, for resolving conflicts and offering counseling to others and a number of other skills. This natural instinct to follow, is expressed in a powerful way through the willingness to follow one’s own heart. But sometimes following your heart can be a painful and uncomfortable process before it becomes a happily ever after story.
Joseph the Dreamer
- The Biblical story of Joseph son of Jacob later known as Israel is a classic example of the Slave Archetype. Joseph started out his life as a spoiled favorite son and received a “coat of many colors” as a symbol of his father’s favoritism. Joseph had shared with his brothers two dreams that he had had showing himself as their leader. This soon garners the spite and enmity of his older brothers who want to kill him but instead sell him into slavery to some passing caravans of merchants and traders. Joseph, like Pinocchio begins his journey of transformation. He works as a house slave for Potipher. He was a good slave and soon gains favor and is promoted to oversee the entire household. But Potipher’s wife desires Joseph and tries to get him to have an affair with her. He refuses and she grabs him tearing a bit of his cloak. She uses this to implicate him and claim he tried to rape her. Joseph is then thrown into prison. While in prison he interprets accurately the dreams of his prison mates. The archetype of the Slave, shown through Joseph’s intuition and ability to trust his own understanding of dreams and their meanings, is represented nicely here. When Pharaoh has a dream that troubles him Joseph is sent for. His humility and honesty about the dreams meaning inspire the Pharaoh to give Joseph great status and position. Joseph eventually confronts his brothers and all is forgiven. The story of Joseph is a good template for many who have the archetype of the Slave. The Shadow Slave can use obedience and humbleness to gain favor and approval of others but even for Joseph it did not free him. It eventually created more trouble for him. When he trusted in himself and did not waver he was eventually freed and given great power. He then used this power to help others. (Saving Egypt from starvation).
Self Mastery and Excellence
One of the key features of the Enlightened Slave is the desire for self-mastery. These types will often show amazing strength of discipline if they believe in what they are doing. Even in the shadow, this desire to excel is strong in this archetype. Mastery of anything is highly satisfying. Self-mastery is the beginning point for the talent of the Enlightened Slave and once the self is mastered anything that the Slave decides to attempt they will bring their vast quantities of focus, drive, discipline and quiet consistency to the project. The Enlightened Slave has a eye for excellence and the need to excel is a powerful drive. The real power of the Enlightened Slave lies in their unwavering discipline to the self and the focus of their attention. They have endurance where others would lose faith, they can withstand tremendous odds and rise up in the face of (what would appear to others to be) insurmountable difficulties. The Enlightened Slave can direct their will toward a goal and be unmoving in their commitment to it. The Slave carries the seeds of incredible determination within.
- In the 2000 movie Gladiator this connection between the slave and self mastery is evident. (Spoiler Alert) Maximus, the hero of the story, is a great Roman general and a skilled warrior. He is also humble and does not desire power but only wants to return home to his small farm. The Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius wants him to take the throne upon his death and this causes the Emperor’s son, Commodus to become enraged. He orders Maximus and his family executed. Maximus escapes death but his family does not. He falls into despair and hopelessness as he descends from great general to slave. He is sold as gladiator fighter. Initially he feels victimized. Then he wants revenge. His revenge is eventually transformed into a commitment to his soldiers who await him, loyalties intact. Maximus proves his mastery by defeating everyone who meets in the arena him in spite of handicaps and difficulties designed to make his death in the arena inevitable. Maximus has won the audience and when Commodus discovers Maximus, his old enemy he wants to have him killed but fears the power of the people will turn against him. Maximus is able, as a lowly slave, to have power above the Emperor. He uses the power of his will, his mastery of self and discipline gained in the army to overcome his slave-status and he is elevated to hero by his fellow slaves as well as the audiences of the Colosseum. His actions free Rome and the people from a would be tyrant and cruel Emperor.
Humility and Self-Trust
The Enlightened Slave is naturally a humble person. This humility comes from a deep connection with themselves, and a quiet mastery over their own life. They have no need or desire to control others because they have control over the things they can change and acceptance of the things they cannot control. Humble, vulnerable and open are key strengths of the Enlightened Slave. All three of these traits are rooted in self-trust. What is self-trust? Self-trust is knowing you can trust yourself to handle whatever life throws at you without compromising your own integrity. Self-trust is faith in your purpose and confidence in your ability to manage the challenges that come your way. Self-trust is not simply believing every thought in your head or blindly following your emotions, it is the confidence in your ability to rise each time you fall and to learn from your mistakes. Self trust is the result of the practice of listening to the real inner voice of wisdom and kindness and confronting or challenging negativity, despair and fears.
Ella Enchanted (Recognizing Personal Power)
- Ella Enchanted is a clever spin on the Cinderella story. Ella is placed under an obedience spell from the fairy, Lucinda. Ella is a slave to anyone who orders her to do anything. Her mother orders her not to tell anyone about the spell and this causes Ella all sorts of trouble. When she meets the handsome Prince Char they like each other. Without getting too deep into the story Ella decides she cannot be with Char because she is a risk to both him and the rest of the kingdom. When he asks her to marry him she says no. She suddenly realizes she has broken her own spell with the power of her love of Char and her desire not to cause others pain. She discovers her personal power even though it was the fairy Lucinda who casts the spell on Ella she has the power to break it. This story illustrates the power of the Slave Archetype through the transformational process. She starts out helpless and at the mercy of others and through her unwillingness to hurt others she discovers her personal power and frees herself. The classic fairy tale of Cinderella is also a good example of the Slave Archetype. The fairy godmother represents her magical power, the evil stepmother and stepsisters, the cruel masters and the her willingness to defy her imprisonment all bring about the transformed character who goes from slave to ruler.
Responsibility and The Power of Surrender
The Enlightened Slave looks inward for strength and freedom. Taking responsibility is the only way to reclaim the power of the Slave. Just as Ella takes responsibility for her spell (even though she was not at fault for having it cast upon her) she refused to allow others to suffer by it. She responded to it instead of reacting and this responsibility led to her empowerment. The Enlightened Slave is the ultimate individual, self-possessed and able to act according to their own consciences with humility and sensitivity. Responsibility sometimes requires surrender. Surrender is not the same as giving up. Surrender is the willingness to be responsible for power that flows through them. To let go of old belief patterns, old thoughts, painful emotions, requires an act of conscious surrender. The difference between giving up and surrender is choice. Choice is the key word connected to the archetype of the Slave. To choose to wave the white flag often shows more courage than to continue fighting a pointless war. It requires humility and responsibility. Surrender is much more challenging than giving up because it means letting go of the need to control while also taking responsibility for choices made.
The Reverse Slave
There is great wisdom inherent in the Slave Archetype. In Eastern mythologies the prince/princess seeks out the low born sage and becomes their servant. The story of the Buddha is an example of this.
- Siddhartha, as the Buddha was known before his enlightenment was born into a royal Hindu family. He was shielded from all human suffering and was given wealth and power at a young age. He married a princess and had a child. Although he had every form of material wealth and power over others he felt something was missing from his life. One day, he leaves the palace to meet his subjects. What he sees disturbs him greatly. Poverty, suffering, aging and death. He abandons his home and family to enter the life of an ascetic. Although he had many teachers and yogis he continued to move on looking for the answers. He became even more extreme trying to find enlightenment through deprivation, personal suffering and self mortification. He almost dies before he realizes he needs to find a more moderate way. This awareness of the Middle Way, led to his enlightenment under the bodhi tree.
The wisdom found in lowliness is made evident in this story as is the power of self mastery in the quest to overcome. Even a prince seeks the path of the slave for the gifts it holds.
The Pattern of the Slave
Notice this pattern in your own life and situations where you have confronted the Shadow Slave. What part of the pattern are you experiencing now?
- Begins as either innocent, ignorant or indifferent and self centered
- Finds oneself in a controlled situation, prison, drugged, influenced, under a spell, bought or sold etc.
- Tries to avoid dealing with self power by tricking the master/owner (passive power)
- The Master betrays the slave: drugs don’t work anymore, the person leaves or abandons you etc.
- The slave is alone and looks inside for strength, gifts, support, visions, help, hope etc.
- Makes a sacrifice, takes a great risk, doesn’t give in to pressure, stands true, uses the discipline of self mastery to overcome
- Frees himself and others
Questions to Ask Yourself
- Who or what is my master?
- When I am a victim who am I also victimizing?
- When did I last feel my true power choose?
- What is my personal form of slavery and how am I held by it?
- What part of me is held in bondage?
- How do I use passive power?
- Where is my willpower being directed?
- Have I ever felt my own fairy/fairy godmother guiding me?
- What does self-trust feel like when it is exercised?
Some Forms of Slavery
Thoughts and belief systems
Approval or acceptance
A spouse, parent, child, authority figure such as teacher, boss etc.
Victim (getting to be free of responsibility)
The archetype of the Slave is a fascinating one. If you relate to the patterns and behaviors in both the Shadow and the Light you may have this archetype as one of your own. Like all of the archetypes, the management of power requires self-awareness and a willingness to confront our inner demons. Don’t be discouraged. Often, when confronting your own immense power will be met by an equal force of power that tests your own. For challenging the Shadow Slave, I highly recommend reading the book Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor Frankl.