caregiver archetype
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Overview of the Caregiver Archetype

The caregiver is a fundamental archetype that belies the root core of life. Its principal role is to nurture emotional wellbeing but is also responsible for the seeds you plant into your subconscious mind. 

When the positive qualities of the caregiver archetype are active, you are able to look after yourself and others, and bring goals, desires and aspirations into fruition. 

Psychologically and emotionally, this energy governs your self-worth. Self-worth is a vitally important facet of your internal make-up and plays a central role in how you treat others and how others treat you. 

Integrating the caregiver archetype essentially determines many of your life experiences. As we see in the Persephone-Demeter-Hades triad, the caregiver archetype plays a central role in how you conduct yourself in the world. How you think feel and act determines the energy you transmute. The energy you project manifests as physical reality. When you engage in behaviours that nurture your emotional well-being, you physically feel fulfilled. 

When we come into personal coherence, we feel much better emotionally, spiritually, and physically. Our cortisol levels go down, while the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine balance in our brains. We have high levels of all the brain waves that promote healing and low levels of anxiety linked to high beta. We feel good subjectively, and this translates into objective changes in the biology of our cells. Mind becomes matter as our brains are flooded with pleasure-inducing endorphins, intimacy-producing oxytocin, and the bliss molecule anandamide.” ~ Dawson Church, Mind To Matter

Identifying the Caregiver Archetype 

“Caregiver” is a relatively modern term that replaced the word “caretaker”. The Oxford English Dictionary describes a caretaker as: “one who takes care of a thing, place, or person; one put in charge of anything.”

caregiver archetype

The “one in charge of everything” draws parallels with the Ruler archetype, and as we find in Greek mythology, Demeter, the epitome of the caregiver archetype was the third wife of Zeus. 

It’s easy to see that the caregiver is an aspect of the “Great Mother”. The caregiver archetype is personified in myth as the earth mother (Demeter), the aspect of your nature that regenerates life through nurture and nourishment. 

The other aspect of the Great Mother is the moon mother which gives birth to new ideas or new ways of being. In the role of caregiver, Persephone is cast in the role of the moon mother. In Attica, Persephone and Demeter are considered two aspects of the same consciousness in different stages of development (maiden, motherhood, crone). 

Individuals with a well-developed caregiver archetype know compassion and have a genuine desire to help others without expecting anything in return. They are authentic, provide emotional nourishment, provide good companionship, have excellent organisation skills and are highly dependable. 

For the caregiver archetype to be fully developed, the individual must apply the positive qualities associated with this archetype – self-respect, self-care, patience and determination – to themselves. Because the caregiver breeds self-esteem and self-worth it is central to self-development. 

Shadow Caregiver 

Many people with the qualities of the caregiver archetype fail to fully develop this side of their personality because they lack self-worth. They may show compassion, generosity and a willingness to help others, but do not know how to say no. 

Subsequently, individuals with a pronounced, but underdeveloped caregiver, expend their energy on other people and neglect their own needs. When your emotional wellbeing is not cared for, you develop negative emotions associated with the caregiver; bitterness, resentment, cynicism and anger. 

This draining away of life is reflected by the always-giving nature of an individual with an undeveloped caregiver. The tendency to do things for others is driven by the need to be liked or to feel as though you belong. 

Traits that are common in individuals that need praise and acceptance from others to feel good about themselves shy away from asking other people for help even when they are overwhelmed with work or emotions. 

They may even refuse to take about their problems to their closest friends because they don’t want to feel as though they are burdening other people with their problems.

The underlying cause beneath this type of behaviour is probably because you felt burdensome to your parents. Parents that consistently wave their children away or tell them to be quiet program into the subconscious of the child, I am not worth listening to and bother people. 

A negative trait this program cultivates later in life is co-dependency. Individuals with an undeveloped caregiver expend their energies in toxic relationships, work in dead-end jobs they hate, engage in self-destructive behaviours and may even develop a tendency for self-harm. 

Living marginal lives and the tendency to cast yourself as a martyr is due to a lack of self-worth. You feel as though you need to show other people your value by taking care of their needs. 

But when you are not fulfilled by their gratitude or feel any internal sense of self-satisfaction, you lose all sense of your nurturing instincts and make poor life choices. 

“The dead litter is comprised of ideas, chores, and demands that don’t work, have no life, and bring no life to her. Such a woman becomes pale yet contentious, more and more uncompromising, yet scattered. Her fuse burns shorter and shorter. Popular culture calls this “burnout”—but it’s more than that, it’s hambre del alma, the starving soul. She does not realize that by sacrificing her need for return, she teaches her children to make the very same sacrifices of their own needs once they are grown.” ~ Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Ph.D, Women Who Run With Wolves

Individuals that do not cultivate a sense of self-worth through self-care and self-respect fall into depression.

We see this in the Homeric Hymn To Demeter. Hades rises from the depths of the earth (the unconscious) and snatches Persephone whilst she is picking flowers.

Children that have parents with undeveloped caregiver archetypes will typically grow into adults that lack self-worth and may be overwhelmed by the unconscious. Depression is a signal that something is wrong with your emotional wellbeing. 

If the mother is overbearing, children will also fail to develop the life skills they need to take care of themselves in adulthood. Co-dependency then becomes a problem.

Persephone is the personification of an undeveloped caregiver archetype. Described by Homer as “the one with the delicate ankles”, she represents an individual with a weak, immature mind that is unable to “stand on the own two feet” and take care of themselves.

Children that do not receive sufficient emotional support from their parents are more likely to become adults with an undeveloped caregiver archetype. Because they lack self-respect and self-esteem, they do not receive respect from other people. 

Doing things for other people all the time will not always be met with appreciation. This will make you feel undervalued and eat away at your self-worth. 

Another form in which the negative attributes of the caregiver archetype are allowed to flourish is through the “overbearing mother.” Strict parents, or mothers that do everything for their child stunt personal and psychological growth. Children need time and space to learn for themselves. 

A child needs to learn how to take care of themselves in order to become a fully-functioning and competent adult. Children that learn how to do things for themselves will maintain the willingness to learn as though mature – which is required to develop the explorer archetype – another aspect of the Great Mother reflected in the symbolism of the “moon mother”. 

Individuals with an undeveloped caregiver archetype are predisposed to drift through life without any sense of purpose, meaning or belonging. Moreover, they are more inclined to trap themselves in unrewarding marriages and jobs they simply settle for. 

If your timeline tells a story of toxic relationships, self-destructive behaviours or self-harm, you need to activate the positive qualities of the Explorer archetype and learn to nurture your own self-interests. 

When you find things you care about, you nurture emotional wellbeing. When you learn to say no and take time for yourself, and when you open up to other people and allow them to help you overcome your problems, you develop a sense of belonging. 

You develop self-worth.

You can learn how to develop the caregiver archetype in this article. If you want to learn other critical self-development techniques and the archetypes they relate to, sign up for our Essential Self-Development Program.

Symbols can be used as a powerful tool to help guide you through life and make important decisions with confidence. Our self-development courses use esoteric symbolism to demonstrate how you can expand conscious awareness and improve the quality of your human experience just by observing your unconscious mind and understanding your true nature.

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