In the fall of 2015, while engaged in the kind of deep self-examination I love to hate, I discovered that when “bad” things happened to me, I reacted predictably. While my emotions might range from annoyance to downright martyrdom, my overall feeling was that life was against me. I was a victim. Who could I blame?
Sometimes I was a victim fighting back, i.e., I was angry, resentful, argumentative, but when I found myself in these modes I felt even more victimized, because external events forced me to act in a way I didn’t like to behave.
Since I like to assume the identity of a someone who is in charge of her life, this victim discovery didn’t please me at all. Once I discovered it, though, evidence for for a pervasive victimhood began accumulating, and I decided that instead of resisting it I would explore it.
The Victim Identification Test
When something goes wrong in your life do you:
Feel as if the world (or someone) is against you?
Blame no one or take responsibility for what happened?
I am not suggesting you take responsibility for a hurricane which knocks down power lines, just that you not blame the weather, God, or mysterious forces which are out to get you. (I write more about responsibility further on in this article.)
However, if you forgot to pay an electric bill and your power gets shut off, do you blame anyone for not reminding you about the bill or blame the utility company for not allowing enough time to pay the bill? Do you say you can’t help it if you’re bad about paying bills, and those in charge should make allowances for the checkbook-challenged?
Regardless of your immediate answer to these questions, you may find it helpful to keep these questions in your mind as you go through your days. They can come up in these and other ways:
You’re at work, and your boss asks you to work overtime. You ask yourself, “Why me?” “Why me?” is very likely a victim’s question.
Your child brings home a report card which suggests he will be very fortunate to graduate from grade school, let alone any higher form of education. You ask yourself, “What did I do to deserve such a child?” This is a variant of “Why me?” You take bad weather, traffic jams, and long lines personally. You notice how often you say, “That’s not fair.” You decide you have been designated to experience a loveless life. You welcome a blow or disaster because now you don’t have to dread its occurrence.
The important thing is to notice how you respond to any situation which is a problem, crisis, or in any other way disturbs the flow of life as you expect it to flow.
How Victims Are Born
If you discover you have a tendency towards victimization the chances are very good that one or both of your parents were — not because there’s a gene for it, but because our earliest lessons about how to respond to life come from parents and other significant adults.
Our parents can teach us how to be victims in other ways.
Did either of your parents ever say to you, “I’m punishing you for your own good” or “I’m punishing you because I love you?”
Think of the hidden messages in these statements.
Love is punishment.
Love is painful.
Love is suffering.
Children who receive attention only in the form of punishment will seek it by “misbehaving.” This behavior can persist through adulthood: the person who constantly makes mistakes at work and is called in to his boss’s office on a regular basis, the person who forgets to perform expected household duties and is yelled at by a spouse or partner, the person who regularly gets into financial difficulties.
If we have this way of being, punishment can make us feel important. It may even make us feel like martyrs. If we come from strict Christian religious backgrounds, being martyrs can make us feel not only very important, but can reverse our thinking so that we see ourselves not as wrong, but as right and persecuted
The Victim-Guilt Seesaw
In the course of my exploration of my victim syndrome, I realized that I so readily adopted the victim identity because I didn’t want to blame myself, i.e., feel guilty. This is the opposite of victimization. I discovered how flexible I was in going back and forth between the two emotions.
In a victim state, we say, “Life isn’t perfect, and it’s someone else’s fault. I am innocent.” When we are in a guilty state, we say, “I am not perfect, and it’s my fault. I am guilty.”
Let’s look again at the examples I gave above. You forgot to pay an electric bill, and your electricity got shut off. In blaming anyone else for this, you may be resisting another way to react: blaming yourself for being stupid, careless, or whatever adjective you might be tempted to use.
In the case of the disastrous report card, the resisted thought might be, “I’m such a bad parent. Why didn’t I realize he had this problem?”
Whenever we feel either victimized or guilty, we rob ourselves of power. The loss of power became real for me when I sat down to think about certain things I wanted to create. I found myself unable to visualize any of these things without having thoughts such as, “Never happen.” In focusing on the negative thoughts, I eventually came up with, “Don’t deserve it,” and connected that thought to guilt.
I asked myself, “What would happen if these things I say I want came true?” The answer was clear: I couldn’t be a victim any more.
Victimization, like any way of being, becomes comfortable through its familiarity and firmly-set boundaries. A victim doesn’t have to take risks, doesn’t have to do unfamiliar things, doesn’t have to take responsibility for his/her life.
Think of a situation in which you feel victimized, or if you don’t like the “v” word, think of a situation you feel isn’t fair or think of something you haven’t been successful in manifesting. They may be the same. For example, you may want a promotion, but think your boss doesn’t appreciate all the hard work you do. You feel this is unfair.
Focus on a particular situation. Let yourself really feel the unfairness of it.
Now check into how you are feeling emotionally. What sensations are in your body? Are there areas which feel dense or heavy?
Now think of some project you want to create or fulfill. Do you feel empowered to work on it?
Do the same experiment with a situation about which you feel guilty.
A Third Way
The healthy alternative to both guilt and victimization is taking responsibility. Responsibility is NOT blaming yourself; it’s literally the ability to respond. A response is distinct from a reaction. Reactions are automatic and are stimulated by unconscious beliefs, usually acquired in childhood. Someone who unconsciously absorbed the belief that good parents have children who excel in school will automatically react negatively to a poor report card.
Guilt and feelings of victimization are reactions. We don’t deliberately choose to have these or other negative feelings.
When we respond, it’s a conscious act. We may feel the reaction, “My child has let me down” or “I have failed my child,” and let this reaction and the emotion it triggers to pass, then allow ourselves to be in the present and respond to the situation. We ask, “How can I help my child?” We have a conversation with him. We make it clear that we are available. We may speak to the teacher. We respond with the intention of solving the problem.
Being responsible also means acknowledging a mistake without guilt and learning from it. It means not blaming others for their mistakes.
I strongly believe that everything you do to help yourself to a state of unconditional self-love will release the Victim within. When we love ourselves, we don’t experience problems as punishment. When we love ourselves, we don’t experience punishment as love.
This is a two-way process. With every act of responsibility you restore power to your being. Empowerment is contagious. You set a powerful example for others. By not reacting with feelings of victimization or guilt you don’t trigger these reactions in others.
You also bring yourself closer to a state of unconditional love, and generously extend this state to others.
Each act of responsibility you take may feel small, but every time you choose responsibility, you help to make the world a happier, more loving place.
The properties of sugilite indicate the connection between guilt and resentment (a common way in which people express their feelings of victimization). This crystal can help to dissolve both feelings. The general intention of sugilite is to assist us in releasing any feeling which is disempowering.
Azurite can give us a deeper understanding about what goes on beneath the surface of our conscious thinking. It also helps us to bring to the surface those beliefs which direct our reactions to people and situations.
Green Calcite is particularly useful in dissolving emotional and mental rigidities. Once these rigidities are released, we are able to think creatively and solve problems from a more open perspective.
Carnelian is the crystal which helps us to be focused in the present. When we are in a state in which our decisions aren’t based on the past, we are better able to make wise choices.
Flower and Other Essences
Willow (Bach) is the classic essence for resentment, which as I note in describing sugilite, is a common aspect of feeling victimized.
Wild Rose (Bach) addresses another common aspect of victimization: resignation. Everyone is against me, so there’s just no use in even trying any more. Wild Rose helps to get us back into the flow of life.
Pine (Bach) is the most useful essence for guilt and feelings that anything less than perfection in one’s being is personal failure.
Bear (Wild Earth Animal Essences), the animal who sleeps all winter, symbolizes the exploration of the unconscious mind.