On (Not) Being A Victim

woman mad

When you stop being a victim, you've taken the first step towards not victimizing others.

We are all victims to one degree or another.

What? How can I say this, you ask? It's really very simple.

Let's look at how "victim consciousness" forms. In order for there to be a victim, there has to be a perpetrator. A perpetrator is one who has the intention of inflicting pain on another. The perpetrator can come from within us as well as without. If there is any part of our beings or consciousnesses that we are not loving and embracing, but rather judging or holding out of our hearts and minds, then we are being simultaneously a perpetrator and a victim. The only way it's possible to not be a victim at all is for us to become fully conscious and accepting of (concur with) every aspect of our beings. This takes a lot of work!

Unfortunately, if one is both a victim and perpetrator to oneself, then one must also be both a victim and a perpetrator with others. A few of my favorite "takes" on the golden rule are: "We do unto others as we do unto ourselves," "Others do unto us as we do unto ourselves," "We do unto ourselves what others have done unto us," and all the logical corollaries of these. How does this work? It's almost like we have more than one personality living inside of ourselves. In fact, Carl Jung, one of the foremost minds in psychology, said we actually do have numerous "sub-personalities," each with its own distinct characteristics. These sub-personalities form when things happen to us that are too painful or too frightening for us to allow ourselves to fully experience at the time. We wall off these events from our conscious mind and cast them down into the unconscious. These castigated feelings don't die, they form constellations of energies that take on lives of their own in the form of sub-personalities. These sub-personalities are always seeking expression and life, even though we don't want to have anything to do with them. (And you wonder why you have stress in your life!)

For example, let's say that you had a perfectionistic father. Every time that you did something less than perfect, he criticized you for it. You needed your father's love, approval, and protection, but your father withheld his love, disapproved of you and attacked you whenever you did anything that was less than perfect in his eyes. As a small child, you weren't able to see the situation as it really was—that is, that your father was incapable of giving you what you needed from him. This would have been too hopeless of a predicament for you. Instead, you chose to believe your father and tell yourself there really was something wrong with you. That way, if only you could somehow figure out what it was that was wrong, you could finally fix it and get the love, acceptance, and approval you needed from your father. It was seemingly a less painful, more hopeful solution to the problem. So you introjected the critical, perfectionistic father into yourself—it became a sub-personality. This sub-personality is commonly referred to as the critic or the judge. Most of us have it to one degree or another, and because this was all done unconsciously, the pattern continues to play itself out in your life. You not only judge yourself, but you also judge others and find yourself being judged by others. You are both a victim and perpetrator.

So, you may ask, how does one put an end to being a victim/perpetrator? The first step—always—is to realize the truth about one's predicament. There is plenty of evidence in every person's life that shows exactly where they have been a victim or a perpetrator (and here I want to reiterate, being a perpetrator means doing anything that is not completely loving, however gross or subtle—anything else is violent to one degree or another), if only you're willing to take an honest look at how you live. But this requires stopping (instead of continuing to run so fast as to stay one step ahead of your "demons"), looking and listening to what's inside yourself. The reason this is so hard to do is that the things that we're running away from in ourselves are painful and/or scary. That's why we buried them in the first place. This means that it takes a lot of courage to do this work. In fact, there are only two reasons why one would choose to do this work: 1. The buried pain has finally caught up with one in one's life and one can no longer ignore it, or 2. One has an insatiable hunger for the truth.

Once you've chosen to heal the victim/perpetrator complex and have found the pain, you have to feel that pain. This pain was too much to bear when it was originally inflicted, but now you have to fully experience it with awareness; it is not enough to merely feel the pain. You must bring an open, inquiring mind to the process, asking "What was this really all about? What was really going on here?" Ultimately, for a complete healing, you must see and feel both your own pain and that of the perpetrator. There must be forgiveness and complete acceptance, or else the pattern will persist in your life, creating ongoing suffering for yourself and others. The process might look something like this:

  1. Take an inventory of your life: write down all the ways, however subtle, in which you have been a perpetrator or victim.
  2. Ask your friends and relatives to add what they see.
  3. Sit in/feel the pain of being both the victim and the perpetrator.
  4. Let yourself see/feel the whole predicament—yours and the other person's—as deeply as possible. See what was really going on, way under the surface.
  5. When you're ready to, forgive both yourself and the other person for your roles in the victimization. You both "knew not what you were doing."