Shrink Wrap gets frequent requests from authors to submit guest articles. I have always turned them down. Then I met Tana Saler, Mind-Body Coach and Trainer, via The Embodiment Conference. Upon reading her remarkably wise analysis of the workings of, and remedies for, being stuck in a victim mindset, I knew immediately that I had to invite her to share it here.
Thankfully she agreed, so please welcome Tana as Shrink Wrap’s first ever guest writer. I’m sure you will be as impressed with the wisdom and clarity of this piece as I am.
– Stephanie Thompson
Here’s why seeing the world through a Victim’s eye is hard to change, and what you can do about it:
- A Victim is always superior to a Villain. Status is a perk that’s hard to renounce.
- The Victim gets pity, which is a form of attention, and attention nourishes. When one is depleted and disconnected from love, any attention will do, including pity.
- Many social organizations are built upon the Victim-Villain-Rescuer triangle model, with support systems that offer a venue for the Victim to complain about the Villain, organized by Rescuers.
- The Victim has the right to complain, which confers entitlement – another perk which is difficult to renounce.
- Victims have stories to tell, about injustice done to them or to others. The emotions aroused by stories of injustice are intense and compelling – from resentment to anger to rage and even hatred – which makes the stories highly likely to be heard. Emotionally charged stories draw attention, and attention nourishes the speaker.
Vanquishing my Victim
I had enough adversity and have known enough oppression as a descendent of Holocaust survivors and a child of an oppressive dictatorial regime behind the Iron Curtain, to be fused in my personal identity with the Victim aspect of my mind. I have complained, felt helpless, felt entitled and when my personal development fan friends told me that I saw myself as a Victim and I should take my power back, I had no idea how to do that. Here’s what I’ve figured, so far:
- The Victim is one voice of many inside one’s mind. To free oneself from its grasp requires the counter-intuitive act of giving it a voice. The fused identity with any sub-personality (aspect of the psyche) means that one is locked into that particular perspective. The Victim is the subject, “I”.
By giving the Victim a voice, listening to it and looking at it, the Self differentiates itself from that voice, and the Victim becomes an object, an “it”, while the Self, as the subject “I”, has access to other options for the Self’s ‘driver seat’.
- There are embodied practices that give the Victim a voice. My favourite is the Voice Dialogue (I’m a lover of language so no wonder I prefer this one), then the Shadow Integration process, which I like doing by combining language and embodied states (walk, talk, move, and gesture as the Victim). You can also dance, draw, and journal as Victim.
- Fulfillment is the ultimate anti-Victim medicine. Paul Linden says, you can’t stop something; you can only start something else. The Victim is injusticed, oppressed, deprived, helpless. You can’t stop that, but you can do the opposite: Meet your own needs, take good care of yourself, practice appreciation, and cultivate personal power through embodied practices.
Being well-rested, well-fed, well-loved, well-cared for and in the habit of expressing gratitude for all things beautiful, good and true makes it impossible to remain Victim, as the two states are incompatible.
The Victim is right, the Victor is happy.
- Walk away from Victim narratives. Not easy to do, as they are ubiquitous. I bet you have enough friends, family members or co-workers who make complaining a central part of their conversations. I encourage you to not engage even if you may be, like I am, tempted to join in the gossip and complaining because it is satisfying as shown at the top of this article. Or, if you like to rise to the occasion of sharpening your leadership skills, elegantly steer the conversation away from the complaining and towards possibility and resources.
I personally boast a degree of success with this (easier with clients than with peers because of the power balance) by stopping the complainer from venting and asking: “What do you need?” or “What would you like to see happen?”
- Be willing to feel guilty rather than injusticed – it’s a wise priority. I was a single dog mom to my old Akita, Kinook, staying by her side towards the end of her life, never leaving her alone for more than a couple of hours. Occasionally though I made a conscious decision to stay away for an extra hour pleasure shopping, in order to not resent her for being deprived of life’s little joys. This way I was able to give her love with all my heart, to her last breath.
- Deciding that nobody owes you anything is the ticket to freedom, fulfillment and in my own experience, sanity. Entitlement always leads to disappointment because nobody can ever live up to the high expectations of an entitled Victim.
On the other hand, thinking that nobody owes you anything – attention, time, friendship or favours – will prompt you to act in such ways as to make yourself attractive, pleasant and useful so that people enjoy giving you their attention, time, friendship and favours.
The Victim demands, the Victor earns.
Adversity is tempting us to switch to Victim mode: After all that’s been done to me / that life has hurt me, I should be getting this, having that. I’ve done that more than I’m willing to tell you about. I’ve been a regular member of my own Poor Me club and paid my dues with misery and depression, diligently pushing people away by effectively being as insufferable as I was able to – and did a good job at it.
However, I am pleased to share with you that it is possible to leave the Poor Me club and join the Lucky Me club, or as I heard some say, “The more I practice, the luckier I get”.
Cultivate pleasure; prioritize meeting needs, yours and your loved ones; practice daily gratitude – a central practice to reformed Victims; be aware of limitations and focus on abilities and possibilities.
And if you want to rebel against your oppressors, give them the finger by being happy, joyful, grateful and fulfilled.
And every time the Victim shows up in yourself or others, give it some love and compassion, and give it a voice, for it is part of you, but certainly not all of you. You are the boss of your mind, and you alone can decide which of the many aspects of “me” is driving your car.