Survival Archetypes aka the Fab Four

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The four ‘Survival Family’ of archetypes are common to everyone.  The are called ‘survival’ archetypes because they symbolize both our major life challenges, strengths and how we choose to survive.

The four survival archetypes and their primary purpose:

  • The Child – responsibility, innocence, authority
  • The Victim – personal power, self-esteem
  • The Prostitute – faith, negotiation, integrity
  • The Saboteur – choice, truth, self-esteem

These archetypes influence how we respond to challenge, how we make choices especially when we are afraid of something or someone.  I fondly call them the “Fab Four” because they are rich and powerful archetypes that many people want to disregard at first glance.  We don’t go a day without one or all of these archetypal patterns at play in our lives which is one of the many reasons why it’s so important to understand them and their primary purpose.

At first glance many people see just the dis-empowered or shadow aspects of these archetypes so I’ve also listed some suggested archetypes that represent what could be their most empowered state.

Child —> Sovereign
Victim —> Victorious
Prostitute —> Lover
Saboteur —> Alchemist

The Child archetype has many different types and is expanded on in this article:  The Child Archetype

A list of all articles pertaining to the 4 Survival Archetypes


The Saboteur archetype is made up of the fears and issues related to low self-esteem that cause you to make choices in life that block your own empowerment and success. As with the Victim and Prostitute, you need to face this powerful archetype that we all possess and make it an ally. When you do, you will find that it calls your attention to situations in which you are in danger of being sabotaged, or of sabotaging yourself. Once you are comfortable with the Saboteur, you learn to hear and heed these warnings, saving yourself untold grief from making the same mistakes over and over. Ignore it, and the shadow Saboteur will manifest in the form of self-destructive behavior or the desire to undermine others.

The Saboteur can also show up as the inner critic bent on mucking up the works – why? – usually it’s out of fear.  Do you ever find yourself examining something or someone to the nth degree in order to find fault sabotaging it in the process?  Say “bon jour to le saboteur!”  In my experience this is the slipperiest archetype to work with because we can use it to help get clear on a situation but end up over the edge by pulling it to bits.  I reference Miranda (the redhead) from Sex In The City as an example of this archetype.  She can be fantastic at being overly rational/critical and putting the kibosh on an idea or relationship and by turns be the character that clears away the crap to get to the truth (see “He’s Just Not That Into You” episode).

Films/TV: Greta Garbo in Mata Hari; Angela Lansbury in The Manchurian Candidate; Woody Harrelson in The People vs. Larry Flynt. Judy Holliday in The Solid Gold Cadillac; Cynthia Nixon as Miranda on Sex In The City

Drama: Amadeus (Salieri) by Peter Schaffer; The Madwoman of Chaillot by Jean Giraudoux.

Religion/Myth: Loki (in Norse myth, a Shape-shifter and Trickster who is crafty and malicious, but also heroic); Eris/Discordia (Greek/Roman goddess of discord, said to have caused the Trojan War); Bamapana (Aboriginal hero-trickster who causes discord and misunderstanding); Serpent (in many cultures, a figure who deceives humans, often sabotaging their only chance at immortality).


The negative traits of the Victim are self-evident. But when properly recognized, it can be a tremendous aid in letting us know when we are in danger of letting ourselves be victimized, often through passivity but also through rash or inappropriate actions. It can also help us to see our own tendency to victimize others for personal gain. In its shadow aspect, the Victim shows us that we may like to play the Victim at times because of the positive feedback we get in the form of sympathy or pity. Our goal is always to learn how to recognize these inappropriate attitudes in ourselves or others, and to act accordingly.

Related Article(s):  Victim-Victorious   |   Safety vs Strength

Films/TV: Hillary Swank in Boys Don’t Cry; Jodie Foster in The Accused; Meryl Streep in Sophie’s Choice; Glenn Close in Reversal of Fortune; Kim Cattrall as Samantha on Sex In The City; Tom Hanks in Castaway, Sleepless in Seattle and Philadelphia Fiction: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert L. Stevenson; Misery by Stephen King.

Drama: Torch Song Trilogy by Harvey Fierstein

Religion/Myth: Isaac (son of Abraham whom God orders Abraham to sacrifice); Heracles (seized by Busiris, mythical king of Egypt who sacrificed all strangers to the gods to avert famine, Heracles avoided being victimized by using his great strength to break his chains and slay Busiris).


The Prostitute archetype engages lessons in integrity and the sale or negotiation of one’s integrity or spirit due to fears of physical and financial survival or for financial gain. This archetype activates the aspects of the unconscious that are related to seduction and control, whereby you are as capable of buying a controlling interest in another person as you are in selling your own power. Prostitution should also be understood as the selling of your talents, ideas, and any other expression of the self–or the selling-out of them. This archetype is universal and its core learning relates to the need to birth and refine self-esteem and self-respect.

Related Articles: Prostitute Finds Faith in You    |    Dating Survival Guides Part 2: You Are Enough

Films/TV: Jack Lemmon in The Apartment, Some Like It Hot, Save the Tiger, The China Syndrome, Mass Appeal; Judy Holliday in Born Yesterday; Fred MacMurray in Double Indemnity; Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront; Charlotte on Sex In The City, Cameron Diaz and Toni Colette in In Her Shoes, Nicole Kidman in Moulin Rouge

Drama: The Tragical History of Dr. Faustus by Christopher Marlowe

Religion/Myth: Ochun (Yoruba Orisha of love, marriage, and motherhood, who was forced for a time to become a prostitute to feed her children); Temple prostitutes (in ancient Greece, Rome, Asia Minor, and India, women who engaged in public intercourse as a way of sympathetically activating the energy of fertility).


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