Are you running victim consciousness?

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.

Getting conscious:

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.

Get help:

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.

Practice mindfulness:

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.

The perpetrator doesn't get to decide

The perpetrator doesn’t get to decide how long the victim should grieve. The process of grieving is inside each individual. Everyone will be affected differently.

The perpetrator doesn’t get to decide how quickly they should be forgiven, as if when they are finished thinking about their action everyone else should forgive them too. No. They do not dictate when they should be forgiven. They do not control another person’s forgiving process.

The perpetrator doesn’t get to decide the short term or long term actions or reactions to a victim’s healing process. This is where we see an increase of manipulative behaviors or outright threats when the victim begins to realize that they have inherent power to do something for themselves. The perpetrator’s power relies on stealing power from others, complacency, and silence.

The perpetrator doesn’t get to have a say over their victim’s psychological process. They do not get to dictate where the trauma gets stuck or how long it takes to work it out. Often in relationships when this happens, mention of the trauma is uncomfortable to the perpetrator, and therefore the mention of it or symptoms thereafter is often met with more attempts to control or suppress.

The perpetrator doesn’t get to go on being the perpetrator. Each and every one of us has at times been perpetrator as well as victim. And each and every one of us has the responsibility to own our own behavior. We need to do the mental, emotional, psychological, spiritual, physical processes. We need to attone. We need to understand that healing does not come through more demand or through a means of escape (religion included).

We live in a dominator culture, and thankfully the awareness of that is on the rise now, but we still have a long way to go. Men have historically been more violent, but it is the repression of authentic masculinity and femininity, and the emphasis on domination and control in the patriarchal system that has lead to this, and women are not exempt as we have learned to adopt dominator methods to attempt to gain control and power in this model.

This is so pervasive that unless one truly wills himself to change, and does the work to become aware of their patterns of domination, they will by default perpetuate. In my experience, it is uncomfortable to admit that you have been the perpetrator, but only while you are clinging to the dominator model as the only way.

bell hooks says in her book, The Will To Change: Men, Masculinity, & Love, “No man who does not actively choose to work to change and challenge the patriarchy escapes its impact. The most passive, kind, quiet man can come to violence if the seeds of patriarchal thinking have been embedded in his psyche.” I will add: the most loving man, the father, the man who is aware of his shadow, the man who goes to the men’s groups, the man who is aware of his mother wound - even these men will come to violence. It will happen, because this is the dominator culture we are rewriting now. It is default. Let’s make this conscious.

It also is important to note that over-identification as a victim will not help to rewrite the cultural narrative. This is where we get “all men” and “all women” finger pointing. Each person is responsible for how they have behaved and how they have moved through it. Each person is responsible for unpacking both the trauma that came before an event of perpetration and the event itself.

This past week, I co-hosted an event where the men in the circle were asked to write held judgements of women down on little slips of paper, and women were asked to write down judgements of men on little slips of paper. Then we put all the slips of paper into one basket. As we read each one aloud, we asked every person in the standing circle to take a step forward if they had ever been the perpetrator of what was on the slip of paper, and nearly every single time, nearly all of the men and women all stepped forward. Both. All. Taking accountability and meeting together to find a new way.

We are here in a new time, where personal responsibility is allowed, where your healing is welcome. If your shame of your perpetration is clouding your behavior, change it. Own it. If not, you will, by default, continue domination regardless of any attempts to subdue, avoid, or deny.

If you are not happy with how you’ve behaved or the feedback people are giving you about how you’ve behaved, you can, and need to, take action. When you do, you break the dominator model in your own life. Thank you for doing that. It benefits the whole.