heroic hero

Heroic hero: scenario or stage - the story of one confusion.

The article was published in the journal “Jungian Analysis” No. 4 for 2011.

“As a rule, the child is most affected by the life that his parents (and the ancestors of the parents) did not live ... We are talking about such a segment of life, from which - let's be clear - the parents dodged and, if possible, used for this some semblance of a holy lie.
Carl Gustav Jung

First of all, I want to thank my colleagues Evgenia Zverinskaya and Olga Litvinenko for their help in writing this article.

We often hear that the expressions “heroic scenario” and “heroic part of the ego” are used side by side, or even as terms denoting the same thing, but this is not entirely true. More precisely, not at all. I suggest trying to figure out what is what, connecting thoughts with a clinical case. Our heroine will be a 12-year-old girl, and a little bit of her mother.

Let's start, perhaps, with the “heroic scenario”. This is how this expression is understood in transactional analysis:

“In transactional analysis, a scenario is a master plan of life, which is based on the basic life postulates, behavior patterns, values, etc., adopted with the help of parents. These are repeated patterns of behavior that confirm that life is just the way it is.

Scenario decisions are made based on the basic existential position (“I-Thou” communication) and the characteristics of parental programming.

Hero Script . Existential position I am good, you are bad. Second option: I am bad, you are good, but covered with a “mask of crisis.” This is a scenario of hidden suicide, but with a strong covering hidden command “be useful”, “make others happy”. For example, these are often rescuers, firefighters, resuscitators - people who are “on fire” and risking their lives at work.

Parental instructions . “Be strong”, “be first”, “don’t be a child, be an adult and responsible”, “don’t feel”, “don’t be yourself”, “please others, not yourself”, “be useful”, “don’t belong, don't get close."

Driver that runs the script . “You must...”, “you must...”.” 1

From a clinical case description . “The mother came to the first appointment with her daughter. Both sat on the edge of the sofa, like stones. The absence of facial expressions in both was striking. Their hairstyles were also similar - they both had short, even, boyish haircuts. They were dressed very cleanly, properly and completely boring. "Not a hitch, not a hitch." The most common answer to questions was: “everything is fine”... Mom is the eldest of two sisters, her daughter is also the eldest, and she has a younger brother.

For both parents of the girl, marriage is the first. They live with their mother's parents, they also own the apartment. Grandmother is a very domineering woman, the client's mother is subordinate to her mother. Grandfather is busy with his own affairs, but if he is disturbed, he can be very harsh, punishing both children without understanding who is to blame. Grandmother demands unquestioning obedience. She is the Mistress. There is very little dad in the family history of the client - he works, is busy with the car. At one of the consultations, my mother began to cry a lot, remembered her grievances, and a lot of bitterness poured out. She said that her sister was braver, she could stand up to her mother, and now she lives separately. The bitter story of the first failed love is still very much alive. Mom has a lot of repressed despair, feelings of hopelessness.” 2

Pay attention to how the psychologist presents the case: “The mother came to the first appointment with her daughter,” you might think that this mother will be undergoing therapy, however, in a sense it will be so. Moreover, in a sense, the mother came to the reception with both her daughter and her mother. That is, in the psychologist’s office, a “world of mothers” has reigned in which the girl lives and from which she really needs to get out so that someday she can live her life. Imagine the enormity of this task! But if the girl doesn’t make it out, then she too is doomed to live out a heroic scenario...

From the working materials of Olga Litvinenko: “Female heroic scenario “The Hunted Housewife or a Woman in the Service of the Family.”

motto . “The most important thing is to be needed and useful.” “Put all your energy into making everyone feel good.”

Behavior . Homeliness, caring, fussiness, smoothing out rough edges, lack of conflict, invisibility, if protest is allowed, then passive-aggressive (crying alone, chronic illness, grumpy discontent, passion for romantic TV series).

parent teams . “Please others,” “forget about yourself,” “be content with little,” “it’s not you who are good, but your deeds.”

adaptation type . Dependent, obsessive.

Attitudes of other family members . Condescendingly disregard, "they don't put a penny."

Thus, it turns out that our heroine’s mother is a person living a heroic scenario.

And how is the symbol of the hero understood in analytical psychology? E. Samuels writes that “from ancient times, the symbol of ego-consciousness with which man could most easily identify was the hero... The hero’s path, described in myths and legends, “denotes the renewal of light and, therefore, the rebirth of consciousness from darkness” (Jung) ” (Samuels 1997). A hero is an archetypal image of someone liberated from the depths of the unconscious mind. The one who fights and ultimately defeats the Dragon - first the maternal part, then the paternal part. John Beebe, following Jung, understands the Hero as a figure symbolizing the leading function of the ego (Beebe 2004). Erich Neumann speaks of the Hero stage as the archetypal stage of ego development (Neumann 1998).

From the description of a clinical case. The reason for contacting a psychologist is a constant increase in temperature to 37, sometimes 37.3 after suffering from a cold a year ago. The parents conducted a full medical examination; no pathology or inflammation was found.

According to her mother, our Heroine has always been an ideal child, “we never quarrel,” “there have never been any visible manifestations of jealousy towards the youngest,” although she never played with other children... True, at the age of about 3 years she sometimes made loud scandalous scenes, she could poop in her pants. The mother, who had already returned to work by that time, did not pay much attention to these unpleasant manifestations of her daughter’s behavior. The girl’s grandmother (mother’s mother) took more care of her, her mother came late, and on weekends there was always a lot of different things to do. The grandmother constantly put things in order in the house, loved it when her granddaughter obeyed, and really didn’t like it when she didn’t obey, but did it her own way. “Eat! Put it on!” - they say, if you do not tell the child what to do, then he will sit on his neck. Of course, having grown up on teams, after 3 years the girl became “a wonderful, obedient child.” She never asked for anything, she was only afraid of any scary pictures, she was especially frightened by the drawing on the fence on the way to the park, where some kind of scary face was depicted. So that the child would not cry, I had to go the other way.

The first drawings in therapy are completely frozen: princesses, palaces, no movement, no dynamics. In the first drawing, the princess had a large hat on her head that covered her eyes and ears. I drew only with a simple pencil, did not color. The pressure is weak, I washed a lot, redid it. I am always dissatisfied with my work, although I drew very well. Among the very lively drawings is a drawing-illustration for a fictitious story about a scary and angry hungry young man. The most lively and beautiful drawing is the “reptile”, a completely vile, incomprehensible creature. The girl herself was very pleased, they discussed this reptile a lot.

In his work “Prisoner, Treasure, Hero and the “Anal” Stage of Development,” Redfern considers the image of the hero as compensation for feelings of normal dependence. The heroic state and style of ego consciousness are part of the process of growing up, and Redfern associates the image of the hero with the active role of the child in feeding and generally making demands. “If we consider what the “treasures” of the unconscious are, we will see that these are the “treasures” of incest, the “treasure” of sadism and other negative pre-genital impulses, the “treasure” of all parts of the personality rejected and despised (the opposite of valued) by consciousness... Of course , these treasures must be transformed into acceptable forms, and this is usually the work performed by the hero” (quoted in Samuels 1997).

The age of “about three years” is the height of the anal stage of psychosexual development. The ego makes the first heroic attempts to fight for independence. So our Heroine “sometimes made loud scandalous scenes, could poop in her pants,” her “untimely defecation, combined with the refusal to perform it at the time or under circumstances desirable for those around her, takes on the character of aggressive opposition” (J. Bergeret 2001), but this “aggressive opposition” is suppressed by the grandmother no less aggressively and the girl becomes an obedient, comfortable child. The rebellion is suppressed, the heroic part of the ego is pushed into the unconscious. The “terrible face” is far away, there are no attempts to come into contact with it - to ridicule it, spit at it, throw a snowball - in a word, to enter into a fight and win. Everything is frozen, there is no movement. But our Heroine is 12 years old - the time of “prepuberty”, “during which all existing drives are equally loaded” (J. Bergeret 2001), the main psychological task that is formed within the personality is adaptation to new conditions caused by physical transformation. And then the temperature bursts onto the surface of the body, it is a little higher than normal, a little hotter, like droplets of lava from a volcano preparing to wake up. Evidence of turbulent repressed processes - “... the child becomes a battlefield of overwhelming feelings of anger, disappointment and isolation, until he reaches a state of “split.” He will grow up having what is called a weak ego, being unable to think... the individual must build artificial defenses against real feelings” (Lambert 2004) - the princess's hat covers the eyes and ears. Then in therapy, when the girl begins to trust her psychologist a little, this layer will rise and “reptile” and “scary and angry, hungry young man” will appear in the drawings.

From a clinical case description. Dream: “Mom and I arrived by train to a clearing in the forest, with forest on all sides. Railway dead end. There's a carousel and a big table, and a lot of one-year-olds trying to get on the table (without their parents). The clearing is surrounded by nasty yellow mushrooms. My mother and I went into the forest, took two steps, and got lost. There are mushrooms everywhere, rotten, with worms. Muck. We crawled a little, got tired, and sat down on a snag. Darkness. Our eyes began to get used to the darkness, and suddenly we saw that we were in an old abandoned house. These are not trees, but furniture. Growing ugly mushrooms. She looked out the window and saw that the house was on top of a cliff, and the rock was in the sea. "What do we do?" And then the alarm clock rang. Girl’s comment: “I really love mushrooms. I like to go with my dad to the forest to pick mushrooms. And here, in a dream, they are vile and nasty”… “An even more terrible incident happened at the dacha, when together with dad went to the forest for mushrooms and got lost. Gone far. I asked: “Dad, how do we get out of here?” And dad said, "Don't be afraid." And then there was a swamp, an unfamiliar place. It was scary, what if the wolves would attack, or we would drown in the swamp. But my dad took me out."

Marie-Louise von Franz wrote that the forest is often a symbol of the bodily unconscious, just like a house, and the sea and ocean are a symbol of the collective unconscious (M.-L. von Franz 2007). In this forest, in the clearing, there are many one-year-old children who are trying to climb onto a large table - why? To be eaten? Many children - many rotten yellow mushrooms ...

From the description of a clinical case. What caused the most tension at the first and several subsequent meetings was the picture of a “fish” that hangs in the psychologist’s office. There, on a yellow background, a couple of fish are depicted as a snack with big sad eyes, and behind there is a mug of either water or beer. The girl could not cast a glance in the direction of the picture.

Two children in the family - two fish on a yellow background.

Mother and daughter are crawling in the dark - completely absorbed in the unconscious, there is not even the ability to stand on their feet. But the eyes get used to the darkness, learn to see in the dark - “... another part rises symbolically as ... “higher masculinity”: the head, a symbol of consciousness, with the eye as its governing organ - and with this the Ego now identifies itself” (Neumann 1998) and It becomes possible to see “that we are in an old abandoned house. These are not trees, but furniture,” it is possible that this old house is Rod’s unconscious, the trees were cut down and furniture was made from them. “I was alone in an unfamiliar two-story house. It was "my house". I found myself on the top floor, there was something like an apartment with beautiful old rococo furniture... Going down the steps I found myself on the first floor. Everything here was much older... I walked up to the heavy door and opened it. I discovered a stone staircase that led to the basement... I guessed that the walls had been built under the Romans... I examined the stone floor slabs: in one of them I found a ring... I went down and found myself in a low cave..." (Jung 1998), so Jung first encountered what he later called the “collective unconscious.”

She looked out the window and saw that the house was on top of a cliff, and the rock was in the sea. From the window, from the top of the cliff, she saw that our Heroine was mastering the patriarchal space, the world of the Fathers. But the dream devalues ​​the masculine, while it is only “The clearing is surrounded by vile yellow mushrooms... There are mushrooms everywhere, rotten, with worms. Nasty... Nasty mushrooms are growing.” Here it is appropriate to agree with Freud that “the mushroom is undoubtedly a symbol of the penis; there are mushrooms that, due to their undoubted resemblance to the male penis, received the name Phallus impudicas during classification” (Z. Freud 1999). The girl’s consciousness straightens out the picture, telling stories about going with her dad to the forest to pick mushrooms, about getting lost in the forest, “And dad said: “Don’t be afraid.” And then there was a swamp, an unfamiliar place. It was scary, what if the wolves would attack, or we would drown in the swamp. But my dad took me out." The growing heroic part of the ego desperately needs paternal support.

In this dream there is a development in the movement from the “railroad dead end” in the forest and the “nasty yellow mushrooms” to the top of the rock and the ability to see, a movement from the “lower” chthonic masculinity of matriarchy to the “higher” masculinity of patriarchy.

From a clinical case description. Dream: “We were walking with some girl near the garages behind the house. Twilight. Two guys jumped out from behind the house - in half masks, with guns, with scary faces. They began to shoot. But I was only hit in the hands and leg, right through. Terribly scary. A woman came out of the house, and they killed her, and they killed some man. They began to catch up, shoot, and throw petrol bombs. They almost caught up with us, but I woke up. It was very scary that they would kill me. I’ve never been so scared in my life.”

“... the male member is symbolically replaced... with similarities to the designated one to penetrate inside and wound, that is, with all kinds of sharp weapons, knives, daggers, spears, sabers, as well as firearms: rifles, pistols and a revolver very similar in shape. In the nightmares of girls, being pursued by a man with a knife or gun plays an important role” (Freud 1999).

The dreamer's ego receives wounds to the hands and feet from the Horrible Man, who “functions not only as a principle that disintegrates consciousness, but even more as a principle that fixes consciousness in the wrong direction. It is he who hinders the further development of the Ego and maintains the old system of consciousness. He is the destructive instrument of matriarchy... and finally, he represents the power of patriarchy, like the Terrible Father” (Neumann 1998). The wounds of the hands are associated with the wounds received during the crucifixion, with the wounds of Jesus. Our heroine seems to pass from the World of Mothers to the World of Fathers, and at the same time, as if she does not pass. She gets stuck between worlds.

Neumann identifies two options for stuckness - patriarchal castration - of the Hero during the transition to the stage of patriarchy. This is enslavement and obsession.

In the case of enslavement, the ego remains completely dependent on the father as the representative of collective norms. The “higher” spiritual part of the ego is lost. Respect for the old law drowns out the inner voice, preventing one from getting closer to the creative part and hearing the unconscious.

With possession, the earthly part of the ego is lost - “destruction through the spirit.” "Eternal son", "eternal revolutionary" - identifies himself with the hero who slays the dragon, but does not realize the relationship with the divine father. He is afraid of becoming a father and taking power into his own hands, because “taking power” means, in due time, transferring it to his future son and ruler, “... with age, the eternal revolutionary turns out to be a neurotic who is not ready to behave as befits at his age, does not accept its limitations (Neumann 1998).

Isn't it true that this story of enslavement and possession is very similar to how the heroic scenario is understood in transactional analysis?

And then it turns out that the heroic part of the ego helps the development of consciousness, strengthening it in the struggle, both with the maternal and paternal parts of the dragon. his accomplishments, his sufferings illustrate what will later fall to the lot of each individual” (Neumann 1998), while the heroic script is stuck in the paternal (cultural, social, etc.) side of this dragon. “... If a person allows his libido to “fixate” on his childhood environment and does not release it for higher purposes, then he falls under the spell of unconscious compulsion. Wherever he is, the unconscious will recreate the infantile environment, projecting its complexes, reproducing over and over again - in complete disregard for his vital interests - the same dependence and lack of freedom that previously characterized his relationship with his parents. His future is no longer in his own hands... (Jung 2007).

From a clinical case description. She has become more mature and more confident. A few meetings before the end of therapy, the young Heroine began to dress more modernly, the way she liked, and her mother supported her in this. There was a “note” in the clothes, an attempt to create my own style. The girl began to grow her hair into a different hairstyle. The family situation has not changed, although my mother talked a lot with her grandmother, and she seems to have begun to “press” the girl less. The mother herself, when asked by a psychologist to go to therapy, honestly admitted that she was afraid and was not ready.

Our story begins with “Mom came to the first appointment”, and ends with “Mom, at the psychologist’s suggestion to go to therapy, honestly admitted that she was afraid and not ready”, and we can assume that a lot of work has been done in therapy if a woman, stuck in transition from matriarchal to patriarchal, living the heroic scenario, admits she can move on, that it's all up to her, but she's "afraid and not ready" right now.

Some theoretical explanation . Erich Neumann understands the masculine and feminine as archetypes, not just characteristics associated with gender. Femininity is associated with the unconscious, while masculinity provokes in both sexes a struggle for the emergence of consciousness. They precede the differentiation of the Father and Mother archetypes.

Matriarchy represents a mental situation where the unconscious and femininity dominate, while consciousness and masculinity have not yet achieved sufficient independence, stability and self-confidence.

Patriarchy, in Neumann's concept, has nothing to do with a sociological law derived from the primacy of men. It denotes “the dominance of the archetypal masculine consciousness, separating the systems of consciousness and the unconscious, which is established relatively firmly in opposition to the unconscious and independently of it” (Neumann, cited by Liard). The Western woman is interested in this confrontation if she wants to become the creator of her own destiny. The purpose of patriarchy is the advancement of the individual, the “liberation of the feminine positive element, separating it from the terrible image of the Great Mother” (Neumann, quoted by Liar), both in men and women. For women, this process ends with the formation of their Self and their Shadow, while the male goal is the liberation of the Anima (D. Liar 2007).

Thus, coming to the end of this article, we can conclude:

  • At the heroic stage , as a stage of ego development, firstly, in the process of confrontations with both the external and the internal, the heroic part of the ego is formed, capable of protecting the values ​​and independence of the individual. This part will subsequently be activated in moments of crisis. Secondly, living through the heroic stage is a tense, complex process, filled with pain, fears, and depressive experiences, but it is always about the process of development, about movement.
  • The heroic scenario is when the ego is at the heroic stage of development, but, due to its unpreparedness (weakness, infantility), cannot withstand the tension during the transition from matriarchy to patriarchy (in the sense of Neumann’s theory) and gets stuck in constant struggle. If this struggle is rejected, not realized, then this is patriarchal castration “enslavement”, but if the ego is “flooded” by the struggle and does not want to recognize everyday reality, then this is “obsession”, that is, the heroic scenario is a stop in development. In essence, the “heroic scenario” is the Isaac complex, in the sense that Erich Neumann understands it (Neumann 1998).

In the epigraph, Jung says that children are strongly influenced by those parts of their parents’ lives that the parents “avoided.” This is true. But, living through these parts, deciding on something that their parents did not dare to do, children often move their parents off the ground, and a powerful intra-family process begins. I think that here we can reflect on the Heroic part of the Family, but this is a topic for another article.


  1. K. G. Jung Conflicts of a child's soul M, Canon, 2004
  2. E. Samuels Jung and the Post-Jungians M, CheRo, 1997
  3. D. Bibi Understanding consciousness through the theory of psychological types http://grap-kz.info/library/bibi_tipy.htm
  4. E. Neumann Origin and development of consciousness. M, Refl-book, Wakler, 1998
  5. J. Bergeret Psychoanalytic pathopsychology M.V. Lomonosov Moscow State University, 2001
  6. K. Lambert Analysis, recovery and individuation Perm, Janus, 2004
  7. M-L. Von Franz Cat “Class”, M., 2007
  8. K.G. Jung Memories, dreams, reflections. Lvov, "Initiative", 1998
  9. Z. Freud Introduction to psychoanalysis. St. Petersburg, Aleteyya St. Petersburg, 1999
  10. K.G. Jung Symbols of transformation M., AST publishing house, 2007
  11. D. Liar Children's Jungian analysis M., Cogito, 2008


1 From personal correspondence with Olga Litvinenko, a psychologist practicing new solution therapy and transactional analysis.

2 Clinical case provided by analytical psychologist Evgenia Zverinskaya.

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