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How Chakras And Their Archetypes Can Help Highly Sensitive People

If you are interested in holistic healing, you have probably encountered the concept of Chakras and come across ways to heal them. But for those of you who haven’t, the word Chakra is a Sanskrit word that literally translates to mean wheel or disk. The Chakra system originated in India, more than four thousand years ago. Knowledge and awareness of chakras came to the West through the practice of yoga, whose ultimate aim (superseding just physical practices that are commonly thought of as yoga) is connecting an individual to divine or universal energy.

Definition Of Chakras

In one of the classic Chakra books, Eastern Body, Western Mind, Dr. Anodea Judith defines a chakra as “a spinning sphere of bioenergetic activity emanating from the major nerve ganglia branching forward from the spinal column.” There are seven of these “wheels” stacked in a column of energy that spans from the base of the spine to the crown of the head. This invisible energy, called Prana, is the vital life force, which keeps us vibrant, healthy and alive. The concept of this vital life-force energy is similar to what the Chinese call Chi.  

In the Yoga tradition, different psychological and physical issues are thought to be related with different chakras. They can be worked on in many different ways. Some of the simpler ways include using the energies of sound, color or food to bring in a certain kind of energy into the body. For example, red is associated with the root chakra (the first chakra, at the base of the spine), orange with the sacral and yellow with the solar plexus. Wearing clothes of these colors or eating fruits and vegetables of these colors brings in a quality of the energy that might be missing in your life.

If you search online, these are a few of the more commonly talked about ways in which to heal chakras.

Archetypes And Chakras

Then, there is also another perspective, another starting point that can help us specifically understand and deal with different psychological issues associated with each chakra. It has to do with the archetypes related to each chakra. While many books on Chakras talk about these, I have found them most clearly delineated in Ambika Wauters’ books. At the start of this new year, as I thought about what patterns I have changed and also about everything that still needs to be changed in my own life, I thought again of these concepts.

Maybe, like me, you might find them useful as well.

In her book, Chakras and their Archetypes, Ambika Wauters talks about how archetypes are in a way, universal projections or mirrors of all the emotional qualities that make up our human experience – strength and weakness, love and hate, courage and fear. So, we have the Hero and the Villain, the Fool and the Wise Person, the Healer and the Destroyer. Like these, we have umpteen other archetypal figures that we recognize around us. When we respond to stories or when we resonate with the characters we see in movies, we are responding to something universal, something archetypal whose patterns we are already familiar with. We also see these parts in us, the Fool and the Wise Person, the Healer and the Destroyer.  

In a similar way, there are functional and dysfunctional archetypes related with each chakra. While there are seven major chakras, we will talk in detail about the first three.  The first chakra is located at the base of the spine, the second chakra is at the lower abdomen and the third chakra at the solar plexus. 

The Victim and the Mother

The dysfunctional archetype associated with the first, or the root chakra is the victim. The functional is being your own good mother. The Victim is one who experiences itself at the mercy of outside forces. When we feel like a victim, we feel that “something happened to me,” something that we now feel affected by, something we feel we have no choice over. We are frozen in fear and feel disempowered.

While many of us might have been real victims of harsh circumstances or abuse in the past, those experiences are different from staying in the Victim position in our lives. If there is something we can do and we neglect to do it to change things, Wauters says, then we are choosing to be victims. So, taking responsibility for ourselves and making choices is the way to start changing the Victim mindset. We can also think about where this pattern originated in us. What are our beliefs around it? Does it come from some family history of oppression or lack? Was it handed down in our culture?

As opposed to the Victim, the Mother is the functional archetype for this chakra. As someone who has had great problems with being my own good mother, I know this doesn’t come easy for everyone. There was a time in my life where I would not eat breakfast and go on for long hours without eating anything. I still expected myself to work like a machine. This inability to take care of myself at this most basic level has changed with conscious effort, but this is an area I still have many struggles with.

How can we be our own good mothers? As HSPs, how can we first caretake for ourselves instead of always taking on caretaking roles for others? How can we respond to our own needs so that we can fill ourselves up? What are the beliefs that are holding us back?

Are we being the Victim or our own good Mother?

The Martyr and The Empress/Emperor

The dysfunction archetype of the second, the sacral chakra, is the Martyr. The functional archetype is the Empress or the Emperor. While a person who plays out the Empress/Emperor archetype enjoys abundance and looks for the pleasure in life, the Martyr, Wauters says, lets its energy dissipate by always seeking approval and helping others.

The Martyr, Wauters says, is even trickier to figure out than the Victim. This is because our culture validates sacrifice and sometimes even encourages people to give up their dreams for others’ sake. Our definition of a good person often includes someone who always put others before themselves.

The problem is that if others don’t do the same, we feel cheated, resentful.

As an HSP, this is probably the hardest struggle for me. What is healthy and unhealthy giving? When is it okay to put yourself first? Should you always give without calculation? I have started updating these beliefs. In real life, giving without calculation has started feeling impractical, without discernment. It has opened me up to people in past who have taken advantage of this and it has involved me in relationships where I don’t feel a matching energy coming back. So, thinking about who I am giving to has started to become more important to me. That does involve some thinking, some calculation.

Even as I write this, I feel like I have to clean up this belief: Give without calculations. Give without questioning. Maybe the new belief could be Give after thinking. Give after taking care of what’s most important.  

Understanding boundaries and doing things that you, yourself, find enjoyable seem to me to be at the heart of working on this archetype.    

As opposed to the Martyr, the Emperor/Empress is someone who enjoys the good things of life. They have a healthy appetite for food and can give themselves what they like, such as attractive clothes or good music. There is a sense of well-being associated with this archetype. For me, working on the healthy aspect of this archetype means letting myself have more of the things I enjoy, like going to a music concert. Before, it was not so much that I found it hard to spend money, but hard to spend money on things that I really enjoyed. If people around me didn’t value the same things that I did, then I found it easy to discount those needs for myself. But as Wauters says, giving yourself what you enjoy can help break dependence on others.

What about you? In what ways are you being a Martyr or an Empress/Emperor?

The Servant and The Warrior

The dysfunctional archetype for the third chakra, the solar plexus (which is associated with power) is the Servant. The functional archetype is the Warrior. According to Wauters, the Servant archetype undervalues itself and does not honor its basic worth. The Servant represents someone “who does a job well but who is neglected or receives little acknowledgment for what it does.”

For me, thinking about this archetype takes me back to times in my corporate work when I just waited for someone to recognize what I did. Because I am a quiet person, I wasn’t “visible” in the corporate sense of that word. But when I just took what I got, I gave away my power and was someone who let others decide her worth. Looking back, I realize I should have stood up for myself, negotiated a better salary, or looked outside earlier for another job than I actually did.

Wauters says that the way to break through this pattern is to learn to acknowledge ourselves. We need to develop a realistic view of our abilities. If we can own everything we are doing well, we empower ourselves.

The Warrior archetype is in play when we take charge, use our willpower and start changing the things we want to change. This archetype is associated with fully expressing our gifts and talents and also with saying “No” when we need to. For me, there was a time in my life when I had just started writing and started doing freelance work on the side while working in my corporate job. It was then that I found the first writing workshop I ever did. It was during that time that I moved from an underpaying job to a better one. It took a lot of effort, a lot of hard work, running around and taking responsibility. But that also feels like a part of my life where I grew a lot.

Even now, I find myself struggling with the Servant and with exercising the Warrior. There are times when I wait forever for someone to acknowledge me and wait and wait. But there are also times when I have, with great will, moved things around, shifted them in my life.

Like me, maybe you might like to think about the beliefs you have that hold the Servant in place. I grew up in a culture where women were second-rate citizens and part of my being second comes from that.

What about you? Where does the Servant and the Warrior play out in your own life?

Exploring Chakras And Archetypes

The other archetypes that Wauters talks about in her book are The Lover & The Actor/Actress for the Heart Chakra, The Silent Child & The Communicator for the Throat Chakra, The Intellectual & the Intuitive for the Brow Chakra and the Egotist & the Guru for the Crown Chakra.

Like the archetypes for the first three chakras, these provide food for thought and an interesting way to start looking at our own patterns.

Did you resonate with what this piece? If you enjoyed it, please share with someone else who might like it as well.  

About Ritu Kaushal

Ritu Kaushal is a San Francisco Bay Area-based author and blogger. Her book The Empath’s Journey weaves personal stories of her experiences as a highly sensitive person with insights from different psychological theories including the works of Carl Jung, Erich Fromm and Jeremy Taylor. Sign up for her monthly newsletter on her HSP-centric blog at walkingthroughtransitions.com.