Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today

How Has Being “The Black Sheep” Impacted You?

Part 3: Exploring the gifts in the pain.

Key points

  • When we do the work to heal and grow, we can find gifts from the black sheep archetype.
  • Seeking reparative experiences and relationships can give us nourishing things that may have been missing from our community of origin.
  • Investing in therapy to move toward and craft the life you want to live is one of the most effective and pivotal steps you can take.
Danil Nevsky/Stocksy
Source: Danil Nevsky/Stocksy

In today’s article—the last in the series on the black sheep archetype—we explore the gold in the mud, the gifts in the pain that can come from living out this archetype.
These gifts, if mined and explored, can catalyze even more healing and growth for us in our relational trauma journeys.
How do we explore the gifts that can come from living out this archetype?

Primary Psychological Tasks

First, we familiarize ourselves with and willingly take on the primary psychological tasks of anyone who self-identifies as the black sheep, which may include the following:

  • Cultivating self-awareness: Accepting your differences and getting to know yourself apart from others’ expectations.
  • Grieving: Mourning your losses, perhaps of your family or place of origin, and certainly of the experience of acceptance you likely didn’t have. And, please know, this grieving work takes time, and it’s critical.
  • Individuating: Facing your fears of isolation and loneliness by moving away from your family (physically or psychologically) and finding your proverbial wolf pack instead.
  • Healthy relating: Learning or relearning how to have close, connected, healthy relationships and embracing interdependence versus independence or isolation.
  • Becoming self-esteemed: Standing in your deep truth and keeping yourself psychologically and physically safe from those who would unconsciously or consciously harm, berate, shame, blame, or otherwise make you feel unsafe in the world. Keeping yourself safe and whole and healthy is an extension of being self-esteemed.

So how do we do the psychological work that may be required of us to grow, to heal, and to fully claim the gifts that come along with living out the black sheep archetype?

I can’t emphasize this enough, but I think investing in therapy to move toward and craft the life you actually want to live is one of the most effective and pivotal steps you can take.

Therapy gives you the chance to experience exactly what you may not have experienced in your family or communities of origin: acceptance, safety, attunement, mirroring, and the transformational experience of being in a healthy, functional relationship (this alone cannot be underestimated as a healing force!).

So, whether you work with a therapist in your hometown or you choose to do this work on your own in the safe pages of your old-school journal or in a password-protected Google doc, dig into the sample questions below to know more about how living out the black sheep archetype has played out and impacted your life and what you may need in order to do something different.

Questions to Consider

With or without the help of a therapist, consider the following:

  • When you read through this post or the others in the black sheep series, what came up for you?

  • Did you full-on identify with being a black sheep?

  • Did only some parts of it feel true for you?

  • In what ways did you experience “being the black sheep” of your family of origin? Your community of origin? Your childhood peers? Your childhood religious institution?

  • How did you cope with being the black sheep?

  • What ways of being or thoughts or behaviors did you create to keep yourself safe and sane?

  • Were they effective back then?

  • How well are those behaviors, ways of being, or coping mechanisms working out for you today? How are they now getting in your way?

  • What do you think you need to grieve or mourn in order to process the pain of having been the black sheep?

  • What do you need to give up or release?

  • What do you see as some of your big healing tasks (psychological or physical or logistical) that you may need to face to “find the gold in the mud” of being the black sheep?

  • What supports and resources do you need to gather around you to do this work? A therapist? A support group? Your wolf pack?

  • What do you think life might be like if you could heal the pain that you’ve carried around from identifying as the black sheep?

Living out the black sheep archetype is a familiar pattern and source of pain for those of us who come from relational trauma backgrounds. However, if we’re willing to explore this archetype and how it’s played out in our lives, we can find tremendous healing and personal growth in lessons learned and the gifts we’ve earned along the way.

More from Psychology Today

More from Annie Wright LMFT

More from Psychology Today