An Inner Critic

The four weary travelers came through great danger to the king of the Mark. He looked weary, was bent over, almost dwarfed, having sat “too long in shadows and trusted to twisted tales and crooked promptings.” They came to warn and assist him but were accused of bringing bad news. Wormtongue, his advisor, praised his self-defeating viewpoint, reminded him that his son was slain, that everything was hopeless, that the courageous hero who undertook the quest against the dark was not to be trusted. It was better to give up, await certain death. (1)

This elusive figure is whispering: “Do not try, you know you can’t, why bother; everything is hopeless.” This is negative self-talk, “constant self-criticism, shaming and guilt. The task is to pay attention to the inner speaking – what we are saying to ourselves all the time.” (2)

Wormtongue, as the personal shadow, was sent to the king by the evil Saruman, the Trickster in his negative aspect. The figure of Wormtongue fits in with the passive-aggressive character structural pattern (not personality disorder or rebellious teenager) as described by Dougherty and West. This pattern or trait, perhaps as unconscious Sensation, is associated with identification with the stranger archetype, the Trickster or the Self, as opposed to the mother as the primary caregiver. This creates a false sense of independence, while the child is still fully dependent on the parent.

The hallmark of the pattern is negativism, and “of being done to”. Denial is the “bedrock” defense of this pattern. It is described as provocative and self-defeating, while obstructing and playing with reality, retreating from responsibility. (3)

The four types are patterns and aspects of the Self, our archetypal foundation, and give rise to the personal shadow. To engage consciously with the negative self-talk, and the archetypal energy behind it, is the beginning of active imagination. In a letter to PW Martin, Jung explained that there is no single technique of dealing with the shadow, but ultimately rather of negotiation and of consciously suffering it through, a crucial aspect of the integration of the opposites. (4)


  1. JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings, 1966, p. 533 – 537
  2. L. Sikes and MD Molton, Four Eternal Women, Toni Wolff revisited, 2011, p. 67 – 8
  3. NJ Dougherty and JJ West, The Matrix and Meaning of Character Structure, 2007
  4. Jung’s Letters, PW Martin, 8-20-1937