Archetype of the Fugitive

To forever feel you must avoid intimate human contact; to forever be running from something that is hard to define; to never be able to feel that where one is in life is home, is a place to relax in, is a place where you can feel peace and look around and take in the world, instead of looking around to see where danger is – these are signs of the fundamental feeling of alienation or aloneness.

All of these have anxiety or the fear reaction as their root. As fear is one of the major reactions to life, archetypical patterns of behaviour have developed around the fear response. The description of the little boy at the beginning of the section on archetypes who was lost and running frantically is an example of behaviour which is not developed out of personal experience, but is instinctive or archetypical.

In modern Western culture, where religious, social, family and work connections are no longer as stable or meaningful as they were just a few generations ago, many of us face this sense of alienation or of not belonging. Richard Tarnas, in his book Cosmos and Psyche says that this situation of finding ourselves alienated from the world, from nature, from each other and the cosmos, is a crisis Western society and individuals are facing at the moment. This makes it an archetypal influence in our lives, affecting almost all of us.

Being the fugitive in our dream, or relating to one, may also suggest an avoidance of something. The fear may be that of being overwhelmed by ones urges, such as anger or sexual desire; it may be a response to past hurts that we find difficult to meet. It may, as often happens, be a habit which developed in earliest infancy as a survival fear reaction to not feeling safe – such as might happen to a premature baby who was not held and made to feel wanted, and is therefore exposed to the overwhelming sense of abandonment.

The following example is typical of a basic anxiety reaction to something that may have no external reality – based perhaps on past pains or fears, or present worried speculation about what MIGHT happen in ones life. The thing one is running from remains unclear because we don’t know what it is. The old bogey man fear is shaking chains out of sight, and our hair stands on end. It is helpful to stop and face such fears and recognise them as chimera we create out of our own memories or worries. See: anxiety; nightmare; Am I meeting the things I fear in my dream under processing dreams.

I am in a light, green forest, no gaps in trees. I am running away from something and am very frightened. I can hear loud breathing, like someone is running. I keep running and bang into a tree while looking behind me. I think I see a very unshaped, black very tall thing. I fall down to the ground. Time passes, maybe a few seconds. I looked behind me again and start running. Looking behind me I see the black thing. All around me is like bad home movies, all jumping up and down. I can see myself from the air, then wake. Poppy S.

That is a very powerful description of being a fugitive from fear.

N. D. Browne, in a paper published in the International Journal of Psycho Analysis, (December 1987) states that one of the causes of fugitive dreams is ‘early sexual overstimulation – leading as it does to precocious erotization and rage.’ To protect against being overwhelmed by sensations and emotion, and thus the fear of losing oneself, or self control, the person remains apart from others to disguise rage and inner deadness.

However, that is only one possible reason for our meeting with the fugitive archetype. Other reasons are that at some time in your life you may have made a life decision that you are different from others, do not fit into the group you live in, are an immigrant from another culture living in what might feel like an alien environment or social atmosphere, or that you have faced harsh accusations or judgement at some time.

The positive side of this archetype is that you are no longer captured or immersed in the view of life or social responses that are taken for granted around you. For instance your peers may believe that it is a great pleasure to get drunk each weekend, but your alienation from them enables you to escape from that worldview. It might have the same influence in regard to religion, politics and the general worldview around you. It might also enable you to take new directions, explore unusual ways of doing things or thinking about things. It can therefore be a useful influence to creativity. See Archetype of the Outcast.

The negative side to the influence is that we might really feel antagonistic to the group around us, and thus be unable to interact with them. It can also lead to feeling isolated and abandoned. Sometimes enormous anger and destructiveness arises out of this, and is probably involved in a great deal of social destructiveness or terrorism.

Useful Questions and Hints:

Am I aware of feelings of isolation or of avoiding others – if so can I recognise their source in the past or present?

Am I running away from or avoiding some of my own feelings through fear, guilt or shame?

Do I feel I don’t fit into modern society, or sense a lack of connection and isolation?

Copyright © 1999-2010 Tony Crisp | All rights reserved