Archetypal Defenses & the Demons Within


‘Let your heart break & drop the story’

Pema Chodron


Last night I went along to a talk given by Donald Kalsched who is a Jungian psychoanalyst. The talk he gave was called ‘Transformation of Innocence the Psychotherapy of Early Trauma’. The term trauma is used here as anything that happens to us as children that we can’t process and therefore have to relegate to the unconscious realms.

I’ve been interested in Kalsched’s work for a little while now and how he uses his model the ‘Self care system’  when working with clients. This self care system is described by Kalsched as ‘the defence that protects the client’s trauma or wounding’ and come’s in the form of a demonic archetype that will protect the inner child from having to re-experience the pain. Kalsched talks about this demonic archetypal entity as the force that keeps us from our life-force and may present as depression and a disassociation with innocence. These powerful psychic defences have the one and only task of protecting us from the pain of ‘letting our hearts break and dropping the story’.

The Good and Evil Angels 1795-?c. 1805 William Blake 1757-1827 Presented by W. Graham Robertson 1939

Kalsched spoke at length about how he has worked with these archetypes and found different levels that must be held in mind as we make the journey as clients or as therapists. The ‘Devil’ or as Kalsched call’s him ‘Dis’ (a reference from the Dante’s Inferno) becomes the guardian of the divine child, but there is another child in his ward, the dark child who holds the wounding. The journey we are being asked to make to reach the divine child is first about reaching the the dark child and breaking the identification, this then unveils the illusion and allows us back to the original innocence and the healing can occur.

Dis will do anything in his power to stop the journey being made, and as clients we may not understand why we have come to therapy? All we know is something within us is being held, imprisoned or not expressed. Dis doesn’t want us to feel he wants us to Dis-associate so he will tell us that ‘this is all a waste of time’ or ‘what’s the point, this is all fake?’ As therapists we may get frightened by our client’s seemingly lack of improvement and try and offer false reassurance which just plays in to his hands. Kalsched states that we as therapists must travel through the discomfort of our own ‘dark children’ in order to allow the clients dark child to be acknowledged and then we can truly share the release of pain when we reach our imprisoned innocence.

 ‘In every adult lurks a child, an eternal child, something that is becoming, is never completed, and calls for unceasing care, attention and education. That is the part of the human personality which wants to develop and become whole’

Carl Jung

Read more about Donald Kalsched here