All of us have had something happen in our lives that we didn’t prefer to have happen. Perhaps that event was a one-time thing, or perhaps it was ongoing. Yesterday at an outdoor coffee shop, I watched a mother continually threaten to hit her son to control his behavior. That boy is certainly experiencing some ongoing trauma that is going to affect him throughout his life. This is what I’m talking about - the things that we didn’t ask for, and the things that by definition, we fell victim to.
Can you allow yourself to think of some of those things now, painful as they may be, either short term or ongoing?
Now here’s my next question: how do you identify with them now? How have they stuck with you? And how do you bring those situations forward as a basis for how you relate with the world now?
Looking at those one by one:
How do you identify with them now?
By “identify,” what I mean is how have these associations become part of your actual identity? Everyone does this, so you can’t breeze over this question. How have the things that have happened to you become a part of how you see yourself? Is this negative, positive, or neutral?
How have they stuck with you?
We could call the bad things that happen to us “traumas.” Traumas impact the brain both consciously and unconsciously, and they impact our ability to connect, our emotionality, our perceived sense of safety, and our future relationships.
How do you bring those situations forward as a basis for how you relate with the world now?
Not only is there a question of how you see yourself in association with those traumas, but how do you actually relate to the world differently because of them? Let’s take the little boy from the coffee shop. If his mother parents him this way daily, which I presume she does from what I saw for over an hour, then he will grow up with a mother wound and an inherent distrust of women. This will affect how he attempts to please women but feels he can not ever connect with them, probably for many years to come. This will play out in his relationships and in his sense of self worth.
Sound familiar? I imagine that for many, it does.
We all bring our patterning forward, subconsciously, until we bring it into consciousness. It will likely be up to that little boy to work out what has happened to him, sadly.
All of the above being very understandable, the degree to which we identify with what has negatively impacted our lives is called Victim Consciousness.
I have recently been unpacking these words in my life. A series of events happened early this year, and I realized that I was behaving afterward in certain ways that were associated with very old trauma patterns - ones that had subconsciously become part of my identity because it had been with me for so long. As I was working with the beliefs and behaviors that had set in during childhood, I realized that the degree to which I identified with these traumas, and the degree to which I continued to behave under that subconscious programming, was the degree to which I identified as the victim. And then I began to unpack what effects this might have, and what to do about it.
If you have a story that you tell yourself in regard to gender, relationships, or safety, that impacts how you relate to others, I imagine that you might have some victim consciousness running. Again, it’s understandable. Recognizing you are doing this and asking yourself if this story that you are telling yourself is really your own belief, or one developed as a result of interactions with others, is a first step.
The things that have happened “to” us, the actual times we were a victim, are often sad, traumatic, and difficult times. Some of these circumstances have to do with ongoing negative relationships, like the scenario I outlined above for the little boy. These imprints can take a long time to repattern - it can actually be the work of a lifetime - but it’s worth it in order to gain your autonomy. Hire a therapist or a coach to support you in doing this work. I recommend therapists for going back and unpacking the childhood programming, and a coach for when you are ready to watch these patterns and take action in present time to change your life. Both can happen at the same time.
Daily mindfulness practice allows you to watch your thought patterns, your judgements of yourself and others, your somatic responses, and your intentions. Begin breathing on purpose and inquiring about your inner world. Practice acceptance of what is, in this moment, even if you are in victim consciousness. Denying or judging what is will only prolong your suffering.
Practice forgiveness, responsibility, & autonomy:
As adults, we are now responsible for how we interact with our lives and others. If we are running a script in our minds associated with victim consciousness, then we are not free, and we are not practicing the necessary degree of responsibility to evolve as an adult. We are each responsible for how we interact with the world. Owning that personal autonomy and practicing forgiveness principles are healthy and necessary behaviors for moving forward.
You are not the things that have happened to you. Weeding out who you are, underneath, is again, the work of a lifetime. And it is worthy.