Recently I heard a mental-health "professional" state that "victim mentality is the only mental disorder people suffer from". A pretty bold statement? To speak of victim mentality certainly seems to be fashionable, and a tricky thing to do.
The energies of abuse, addiction, betrayal, violence, poverty, disease, and abandonment are the energies of the shadow. They've been present in humanity for millennia. The far back and present history of humanity is also a history of trauma, and it makes little sense to pretend that it's not. Humanity is capable of amazing creativity and deep love, but it's also capable of the most unimaginable stupidity, crime, and even horror.
The problem with the shadow is tightly knitted with the concept and reality of trauma. Both are subjects of human ignorance, sheer denial, or sophisticated spiritual bypassing. This ignorance is saddening and it is universal. As Judith Herman writes in Trauma and Recovery,
"It's very tempting to take the side of the perpetrator. All the perpetrator asks is the bystander do to nothing. He appeals to the universal desire to see, hear and speak no evil. The victim, on the contrary, asks the bystander to share the burden of pain. The victim demands action, engagement, and remembering."
The ignorance, denial, and evasion all come from profound ignorance of our part in the dynamics of trauma and shadow. Climate change, constant wars, and global pandemics pile up our losses, and we're desensitized to the painful aspects of life to survive. At least, that's how it seems. Since the global "pandemic" kicked off in 2020, shadow energies seem to flood our individual and collective consciousness even more intensely.
“Reports of suffering are upsetting, but it’s a mistake to think we can do nothing about it. Many problems we face are of our own making. Since we are social animals who need friends, the least we can do is smile and respond to others warm-heartedly… that will make a difference.” – Dalai Lama
Speaking of shadow energies and trauma - my belief is, we are equipped to deal with them, individually and as a society. We can transform shadow by exposing it to the light of human consciousness and taking actions that are in harmony with who we are in our truth, beyond any mask, shadow, and trauma - on a soul level.
The shadow consists of unrecognized or rejected energetic patterns that exist on individual and collective levels. It arises from all that we don't want to remember, that we don't want to perceive, that we don't even perceive and that we don't want to deal with.
Choices, and thus actions, that we make from the shadow energies are always compulsive, reactive, unconscious, and survival-oriented. This is how we can recognize shadow energies.
To avoid these types of choices, we need to endure the necessary inner work. We can only transform shadows by exposing them to the higher states of consciousness, which requires emotional-energetic work. To shift the shadow, the dark and the pain must be exposed to the light of consciousness, then processed through the body, and transformed in the safe container of real human love.
Perhaps a crucial aspect of contributing to the much-needed healing of the shadow energies on this planet is that we heal our sacrificial channel of the victim archetype. The victim archetype is a part of our collective psyche that becomes very individual and has a strong connection to the energies of repression, suppression, powerlessness, and lack. Our victim archetype is often well hidden in the trenches of the most distant, shadowy parts of our psyche, but very present in our daily choices and actions.
The "victim" archetype in itself is an energetic program like any other program in our psyche - a certain encoding, and this encoding is then reflected in a certain way of thinking, feeling, and behaving of a certain person. The victim archetype is basically expressed as a body-mind-spirit state; it is impersonal in nature. It exists and runs as a given potentiality, activated on a spectrum. I do not think any human being is without this energetic program, but each of us has a specific, unique relationship to it.
The problem with the victim archetype is that the energy of sacrifice, when it takes over in our system, is closely linked to the habit of secretly refusing to take full responsibility for our own lives. It implies the belief that we're not as responsible for what we do in our lives as we actually are.
An evergreen example from a psychotherapy practice - cancellation policy. A client cancels late and when they get an invoice from the therapist, they get angry at the therapist. In their mind, they're angry because the therapist sent them a bill for a session they canceled due to pressing work commitments, and they aren't responsible for suddenly being overwhelmed with work orders from their boss. The client forgets the consent he made with the therapist. Hopefully, he signed a form with the therapist that includes the terms for late cancelations. They also don't see the late cancelation as their own decision because they were in the middle of work they needed to get done. They also don't see that the therapist has reserved an exclusive appointment just for them, while they themselves won't be showing up. They also forget that it's they who prioritize their needs and obligations, set boundaries, and respond to work pressures and demands.
All these are issues about self-responsibility and victim archetype.
Self-responsibility means taking care of our own energy by proactively pursuing our own role, our own influence in all interactions with the world around us with the highest possible level of awareness. 100% self-responsibility is linked with our ability and willingness to take an honest look inside ourselves and explore, and not even necessarily find, answers to questions like these:
What is my part in what is happening?
Where am I involved, with what specific choices and actions?
Can I approach and choose differently?
What are the consequences of my behavior?
How can I be the change I want to see in the world? #gandhi
Self-responsibility also requires that we let go of hidden feelings of entitlement. If we identify too much with the energies of victimhood, that is, if we get caught up in a victim mentality and behave accordingly, we also live by unconscious beliefs that we're entitled to a certain status or position or deeds and goods - just because of our past, present or future status (childhood story, abuses, country of origin, diagnoses, etc.).
Relying on our "disadvantages" can make us feel momentarily relieved and when other people respond to our disadvantages, we can even get a sense of being acknowledged for who we are. The trap is, we can easily get caught in this mentality in an unbeneficial way. As much as it is important that we know who we are and are realistic about ourselves in terms of our background while not taking responsibility off our culture’s shoulders, the truth is we have this consciousness thing that makes a whole of a difference.
As long as we're adults whose, to say neurobiological, prefrontal lobes function at a level so that we can, say, drive a car and take care of our own food and earn basic income, we're probably also adults capable of consciously creating our own reality. Yes, our past and present deprivations, because we do have them, are completely real. My neurodivergence is real. Your sexual abuse is real. Her growing up in a remote village is real.
Our existence is incredibly important and unique, and it's also full of potential. But we also live in a field of infinite potency, and that's our energetic reality. And because that's so, not only does no one own anything of ours, but no one can do anything in our place. Instead of us. We can cooperate with others, ask for help and expect respect! But first and foremost, we must take our own stand. We cannot automatically demand that other people give us something while we receive something and give nothing back - when we can give something back and actively participate in the exchange of energy. This is simply not how the universe and society work energetically.
How to recognize when we are stuck in the victim energy
When we are over-identified with the energy of the Victim archetype, we feel powerless, miserable, sick, and stuck. We want to give up all and vanish, kind of leave “it all behind”. When we have over-identified with victim archetypal energies, we are typically preoccupied with justice, focused on the possible or impending disaster, drama or crisis, feeling we have no support. I can't get any help. Life feels heavy; we are angry and full of rage or seem to get lots of anger and outrage from others, "for reasons unknown".
Psychotherapists' advice? First and foremost: build a good attitude towards overwhelming emotions, and never make emotional decisions - choices based on overwhelming, negative emotions should be avoided. Here are 7 steps on how to wisely approach daunting negative moods, often linked to the channel of Victim:
Get a different perspective on ourselves and beliefs into (our own) negativity,
Protect ourselves and others from acting all this out,
Go deeper into negativity in a conscious way – emotionally, mentally, spiritually,
Get aware of projections we might be running in alignment to the negativity and own possible projections,
Recognizing the energy of the victim archetype as an inner part operating inside of us
Exposing this part to the light of our consciousness, do necessary emotional work (with EFT, journaling, inner parts work, else)
Replace the ego truth - I'm the victim, with a higher truth - I have or I will find inner and outer resources to go through this
If you cannot do all this alone, and you are losing yourself in circles, find a trusted mentor This is always a wise option because you will release and integrate shadow more skillfully. We should dissolve energies of our shadow with care and compassion of our mature impeccable Ego, which is the adult inner part in us that is able to adjust to reality and modify it, knows “how things are”, and is able to serve through Love and Light.
A victim mentality can be found on a spectrum. People with a deep-seated victim mentality have often been through severe trauma and hard times, or, on the other hand, they've experienced a severe shortage of frustration in life. Either they haven't found resources to consciously deal with the emotional pain, let go of the pain, and back-engineer their innate self-esteem and personal strength, or, on the other hand, they've never been called upon to take care of themselves and others, because they didn't have to. As a result, they develop a rather painful view of life or a rather painful way of treating others.
Because they experienced so little control over what's happened to them, they believe that it's not in their power to master life and therefore attribute the power to others.
As a consequence, they expect others to take care of them and provide for them in ways unrealistic. When this doesn't happen, they become disappointed, bitter, resentful, and frustrated. I think the basic triage happens when people realize the personal power they've.
Owning a personal power doesn't mean we're 100% responsible for everything that happens in our lives. Systemic inequality and oppression are real and they've real effects on us - whether we meditate or not. Taking radical responsibility for ourselves is simply the opposite of the victim mentality. It means owning our own personal power as much as possible albeit systemic oppression, the distribution of various privileges, and social inequality. When we realize that we have a connection to the Divine and that our own consciousness is our most important spiritual tool, something changes within us and this is reflected in our circumstances. We still have our own destiny, our own fate if you'll, but suddenly we begin to interrupt and co-create our own journey through our conscious choices. That then is a turning point, despite the circumstances, despite all the injustice on this planet. How and why this happens, is a mystery to me, but I see it happens to people, and when it happens, they become much more satisfied people.
Last but not least? We should be careful not to refer to people - and ourselves - as "victims" in order to shame, criticize, or ridicule them or ourselves. It's a sensitive word that must be used respectfully. It's said that words are magical; the intonation of the words is what matters, and the vibration behind the words is what's most important. I think we should always be careful not to use the term "victim" as a label - unless we use it in a clearly defined, unambiguous legal context.
Tina Bozic is a mom, wife, skilled practitioner, psychologist, and psychotherapist with more than two decades of experience in self-development. She helps women to own who they're on the level of their soul. Her approach is process-oriented, relational, holistic, non-pathologizing, trauma-informed, and neurodiversity-informed.