Archetype of Worthlessness

topic posted Mon, March 7, 2005 - 8:28 PM by  <Blank>

Recently I've realized that for a long time I've been bumping into what I can describe as an Archetype of Worthlessness. It's a deep existential feeling of having absolutely no inherent self worth, and I'm seeing how it shapes just about everything I do, and is a core source of many patterns in my life I would just as soon move past.

As an example, when I feel frustrated that I'm not more successful in life, I now see my need to feel successful as a 'band-aid' for covering up the deeper pain of worthlessness. Etc. When I follow these things upstream, they all seem to have this existential worthlessness as their source.

Does anyone have any good reading sources etc that would deal with this on this level? The only vein I feel that I could go after would be 'self-esteem' books, but I'm expecting that to be more superficial than I looking for... but I could be wrong. Any other suggestions?
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  • Unsu...

    Re: Archetype of Worthlessness

    Wed, March 9, 2005 - 10:05 AM
    I understand the sense of "Worthlessness " that you struggle with. I think it is more common than people like to attempt. In fact I think it can be the core to many issues such as addiction, depression, etc.

    I have the perfect book! I read it and am re-reading it again. It's "Radical Acceptance" - Tara Brach. She is a Psychologist and a Buddhist Priest, so it's a great integration of both western/eastern psychology. I highly recommend it, because she addresses "worthlessness" from a deeper perspective rather than just building self-esteem.

    For example, she talks about how we have a tendency to "grasp" or "resist" when we feel the worthlessness as oppose to sitting with it and allowing it to pass t hrough us (concept that everything is impermanent-temporary). "Grasping" is when we look for the "band-aid," like you mention, by over compensating our confidence or self-esteem.

    Hope this helps :-)
    • Unsu...

      Re: Archetype of Worthlessness

      Thu, March 10, 2005 - 8:59 AM
      Hi Lisa,

      I was glad to read your post mentioning Tara's book, Radical Acceptance. It's one of the next books on my shelf that I want to read. I just finished her book, Emotional Alchemy, which was so enlightening and enjoyable. She talks a lot about schemas in that book. A schema is a mental structure that represents some aspect of the world. People use schemas to organize current knowledge and provide a framework for future understanding.

      Has anyone read Your Own Worst Enemy or Permission to Succeed ? They sound as if they describe a condition that I have dealt with my whole life...I have dreams and goals, but I find that I quickly lose my focus. To say the least, this is very frustrating and depressing for me, and erodes my self esteem and feelings of self worth. I have been in therapy for a few years, dealing with low self-esteem and depression.

      If you have read either of these books, I'd like to hear your opinion of them.
  • Unsu...

    Re: Archetype of Worthlessness

    Mon, March 14, 2005 - 8:26 PM
    Thank you for brining up this archetype , the one I personaly like ot hide behind a smile and addictive behaviours ,

    From my perspective, I think its something we cannot fix or
    change within us , this particular archeotype plays an important role in the everchanging process of our existance
    • Re: Archetype of Worthlessness

      Tue, March 15, 2005 - 7:33 AM
      Are you saying that this archetype is a 'feature' and not a 'bug?' One that 'motivates ' ( pushes, prods, shoves) us towards something deeper and more real? Or at least doesn't let us get all fat, lazy, and happy?
      • Unsu...

        Re: Archetype of Worthlessness

        Tue, March 15, 2005 - 9:38 AM
        I do beleive and archetype it self is a collective blueprint which acnncot be changed or erased ,
        It is part of the balanced process of the natural interplay of nagative and positive energies.,
        In todays society particualr values of'worth are imposed, and striving to acheve often leads to feelings of faliure eventualy,
        What goes up must come down
        somone else made a point if worthlessnes is an archeotype

        I beleve its a good quetion

        Maybe worthlessess is a state rather then the archeotpye its self which may include this state within its characterisitcs
        Possibly the archeotype may be called WORTHLES.
    • Unsu...

      Re: Archetype of Worthlessness

      Tue, March 15, 2005 - 8:46 AM
      Perhaps it's not something to be fixed, but rather a quality, skill or strength uniquely our own. An avenue that has given us insight in ways that stem out from the norm.

      I believe there lies within the worthlessness, insecurity, sadness or aloneness, an energy, if channeled in a productive avenue, can lead to healing. Or an acceptance of all parts of who we are. It's the old concept of Yin Yang, instead of rejecting what we label as "wrong" or "bad" we integrate all aspects of who we are into a more enrichening self. Therefore, developing a compassion for ourselves.

      We may call that in itself "change"
  • Re: Archetype of Worthlessness

    Tue, March 15, 2005 - 9:08 AM
    Just a little clarification:

    Can the term "worthlessness" be truly termed an archetype? Typically, archetypal energies / qualities / attribute(s) are attached to a personna, i.e.: healer, lover, leader, etc. Is there a personna to which the term worthlessness could be / should be attached?
    • Re: Archetype of Worthlessness

      Tue, March 15, 2005 - 9:45 AM
      Well, perhaps archetype is not the right word, but what else might be used to identify the energy of worthlessness that exists in the universe? Hmmm,

      According to the American Heritage Medical Dictionary (?!), the definition of archetype is "In Jungian psychology, an inherited pattern of thought or symbolic image that is derived from the past collective experience of humanity and is present in the unconscious of the individual." It is in this sense that I originally used the term.
      • Unsu...

        Re: Archetype of Worthlessness

        Tue, March 15, 2005 - 11:25 AM
        Worthlessness (aka worthiness) is a belief. A belief about ourself just like any other.... Our level of worthiness was established in our accumulated past and from our childhood experiences we take on beliefs about ourself. Based on certain events we establish for ourselves a level of worthiness that we become accustomed to because 'our inner voice' tells us constantly that we deserve "this much" (or this litle).

        When we recognise our own worthiness level and then begin to see where we allow the good stuff to come into our lives (which is when we usually sabatoge it somehow) or we let ourselves descend into our own darkness until we finally let it get bad enough we decide to change it. This is the 'worthiness cycle' we live in.... most of us anyways....

        Whether it be love, money, relationships, career, we will only allow what we believe we deserve.... this is our self-imposed 'comfort zone'. It never gets too good, we never let it get too bad, we just live our days..... in the 'zone'.

        Does this make sense in terms of the originating post?
        • Unsu...

          Re: Archetype of Worthlessness

          Tue, March 15, 2005 - 11:33 AM

          I have to play the devils advocate on this one
          I disagree

          I feel that worth is a concept of illusional measurment of ones value.
          I feel this idea comes from a particual socail uprbinging , especialy here in north america

          Beleiveing your are worh anything is complying ot the values of money currency and such

          I like the moto of
          less is more
          more is less

          Worthlesness is jsut a stage a phase a learning portal,
          again, I am playign a devils advocate, your resopnse its totaly valid and I see its 'value' wink*
        • Unsu...

          Re: Archetype of Worthlessness

          Wed, March 16, 2005 - 10:11 AM
          I have to agree with Bruce. A sense of worthlessness is a matter of perception or a particular lense in which we view the world through. A distorted perception so to speak. Aren't we all worthy of love, validation, acceptance, success, etc.

          If our accumulated experiences only reflected the belief of low-self worth (ie, lack of parental validation), than that is the only lense we are looking through. One thing feeds the other...the cycle of worthlessness.

          Perhaps change begins when we choose to try on a new lense rather it's through visualization or new experiences where we try on a different persona...see how it feels...therefore drawing people, situations, experiences that support the new perception.

          You may call it the universe bringing forth the very thing we desire to change or simply creating new neuropathways in the brain...the begins of transformation.
          • Re: Archetype of Worthlessness

            Wed, March 16, 2005 - 11:05 AM
            The gestalt method may be a good way of dealing with worthlessness. To sit with the feeling and see where it takes you, then through chair-work, visualization, psychodrama, etc. find the roots of the issue (usually parental, but maybe sibling, relationship, etc.), then confront the source by proxy, etc. and re-write the rules for yourself to move forward. Can be a very powerful and beneficial intervention if you work with a good therapist / facilitator.
            • Re: Archetype of Worthlessness

              Sun, March 20, 2005 - 7:15 AM
              One of the things I havn't seen mentioned here is the tie in of "worthlessness" to self-esteem. Someone who feels worthy has high self esteem, someone who feels worthless has low self esteem. However, those ideas are almost always in the individual's head.

              Ted Bundy was said to have had very high self esteem, and felt that his life was more valuable (i.e. worth more) than the lives of all the women he killed combined. Not too many people would agree with Ted Bundy's assessment of himself. So what is the use of high self esteem?

              In the 80's, many studies found that there was a correlation between high self-esteem and success in school. So some not-too-bright educators saw this as causational, so began touting the need for high self-esteem in children, at the expense of traditional socialization methods. They began seeing everything through that lense, which created a whole generation of children who could not learn from their own mistakes in life.

              A feeling of worthiness and actual success DO correlate, however, they are NOT causational, but both are the result of a particular mindset. That particular mindset, they are finding, has nothing to do with actual reality, and a lot more to do with your genetics and upbringing, the programming you have in your own head.

              I was once given a meditational koan to work on, and it went like this: Think about the food chain, and the fact that we as humans are on the top. Now think about all of the plants and animals that have died so that you could survive. Every bean, every egg, every hamburger. Now think about what you have done with all that life-force energy up to this point in your timeline. What have you done with it?

              This is the gift of the Universe to you, a granting of Favor because you are incarnate. How can you return the favor, help the Universe evolve? Would you teach your children better than your parents did? Would you pick a career that was helpful to others? Would you not litter/pollute/ignore the planet?

              This meditation will show you that your worthiness (or worthlessness) is what YOU make of it, and nothing else.
              • Re: Archetype of Worthlessness

                Sun, March 20, 2005 - 8:04 AM
                Wow, Sienna... what a wise and profound posting. Thank-you. Namaste.

                • Re: Two archetypes per chance operating?

                  Thu, April 14, 2005 - 7:20 PM
                  I am new here and finding this discussion very interesting. Thank you Blank for posing it to us. I work with empowerment, archetypes, self-esteem and among other things am a Shadow Work facilitator. I was wondering how I might approach this if you were what we call "on the carpet" and we brought the parts out in ritual space.

                  I realized that I was missing some other archetypes that are probably in the dynamic with what you are naming as the part of you that is worthless. For instance, I see Worthless but who else is there with Worthless I wonder? Who is keeping Worthless down? Where would you put Worthless as a character if you were to lay it out for us? And what would be the posture and words that Worthless might say and do? What or who is operating WITH Worthless that we are not looking at? My guess is that it is a dynamic.
                  Simplistically often there is little and there is big. Forgive me but the hour is too late for greater descriptions of such energies so I am keeping it simple.

                  I don't think Worthless was born worthless. I hold a belief that Worthless learned something from somewhere about being worthless. So good self esteem or not, something probably needs to be done with what I will call "big, or predator, or judge or whatever you want to call an internal oppressor". This can include having the most amazing part of you that you might not even know yet, bless you just as you are.

                  I find that when we come together in work inside of ritual containers with things like Shadow Work or psychodrama, it is amazing to see what new shifts can take place. But my view is that it is not just the archetype. It is most likely a tango between two of them. And sometimes, you just need to do something about that in a container (that is safe of course) to set your self free. Goodnight from the east coast!
  • Re: Archetype of Worthlessness

    Sat, April 16, 2005 - 9:15 AM

    Thank-you for your terrific contribution to this thread. I concur with you on the effectiveness of with working with psychodrama. In the training program I went through, we used it often, in the class situation, ALWAYS with profound results. There is something quite powerful about the group energy and its focus on an individual and the issue that is up for them. Interestingly, I participated in a psychodrama just this past week, working with the group of us who graduated last spring. One member is working through, but still very stuck in, a dark, hysterical place as a 3-year-old child -- all, seemingly linked to feelings of lack of safety and not being seen by her father, at that very early age. We set up a scene with me playing the role of her alcoholic, abusive father, and others playing her mother, siblings and 2 playmates, dramatizing a specific incident from her childhood. The play was incredibly emotional and triggered some quite dramatic activity and exchanges. And she came away with several profound (hopefully helpful) "ah-ha(s)". And, in fact, I was so into my role as the father, that I was quite triggered, in the de-roling exercise, from having played the narcisistic violent character of the father. An amazing process and evening in all respects.

    I'm wondering, Alisa, if you wouldn't mind elaborating on the "Shadow Work" you mention in your post? I'm keenly interested in that subject and would appreciate any information you may be able to bring to us on the topic. Suggestion: Maybe start a new thread on the subject?


  • Re: Archetype of Worthlessness

    Tue, April 19, 2005 - 10:22 PM
    >> Can the term "worthlessness" be truly termed an archetype? Typically, archetypal energies / qualities / attribute(s) are attached to a personna, i.e.: healer, lover, leader, etc. Is there a personna to which the term worthlessness could be / should be attached? <<

    I disagree, and feel that a broader interpretation of the term "archtype" is a valuable approach. My sense is that an archetype is a universal thought/feeling-complex. Most people are more capable of grasping a concept when it is anthropomorphized. But in the same way that art need not be representational, archetypal forms need not be personified.

    I would argue that concepts such as "universe," "time," "nothing," and "love" are archetypal in the sense of their ubiquity. Some of these archetypes can be personalized, such as Aphrodite representing romantic love. Others, by their very abstract nature (or, in the case of "nothing," a total lack of attributes), cannot be so personified.

    Ultimately, I feel that an anthropomorphic archetype is a cognitive handle for grasping the essence of an essentially noncorporeal principle. We are so accustomed to interacting with humans that it is expedient to anthropomorphize everything. An impersonal cosmos is a difficult place for most people to live; they view it as cold and uninviting. Therefore the universe is personified in a Creator, humanity is personified in a Savior, and so on.
    • Re: Archetype of Worthlessness

      Tue, April 19, 2005 - 10:25 PM
      Oh, and BTW, the archetype of worthlessness is well known to be the Prima Materia, the stone of no worth. It is the chaotic, undifferentiated state of universal being. It is precisely this stone which is transformed into the Philosopher's Stone through long and arduous alchemical processes.
      • Re: Archetype of Worthlessness

        Tue, April 19, 2005 - 10:50 PM
        Now here is something new. More please.
        • Re: Archetype of Worthlessness

          Wed, April 20, 2005 - 1:38 PM
          Not sure what else I can say. The Prima Materia stands for formlessness, worthlessness, the base material, the ground of being. It's the starting point. Without it, the Great Work cannot proceed.

          I wish I could give you specific references to Jung's writings on alchemy, to help elucidate this concept. Although my knowledge of his writings is fairly thorough, it is diffuse and unspecific. Many years ago I absorbed the bulk of his Collected Works, to the point that his theories have been nearly completely internalized in my psyche.