I recently heard someone, a mental health professional, state that "victim mentality is the only mental disorder people suffer from." I thought, well, a pretty bold statement. I also notice that addressing "victim mentality" certainly seems fashionable, and people throw it around like confetti... Which is weird. After all, "victim" is a very, very difficult word with a heavy vibration... so why all this ease?
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 it's not. Humanity is capable of exceptional 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 to do 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 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, don't want to perceive, don't even perceive, and 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 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 into the safe container of authentic 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 solid 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 is an energetic program like any other program in our psyche. This specific encoding is then reflected in a certain way of a specific person's thinking, feeling, and behaving. The victim archetype is expressed as a body-mind-spirit state; it is impersonal. 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 lives. It implies the belief that we're not as responsible for what we do in our lives as we are.
An evergreen example from a psychotherapy practice is the 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 decision because they were in the middle of work they needed to finish. They don't see that the therapist has reserved an exclusive appointment for them, while they won't be showing up. They also forget that they prioritize their needs and obligations, set boundaries, and respond to work pressures and demands.
All these are issues about self-responsibility and also a victim archetype.
Self-responsibility means taking care of our energy by proactively pursuing our role, and our 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, and 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. When others respond to our disadvantages, we can even feel acknowledged for who we are. The trap is that we can easily get caught in this mentality of an unbeneficial way. As much as we must know who we are and be realistic about our background while not taking responsibility off our culture’s shoulders, the truth is we have this consciousness that makes 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, take care of our food, and earn basic income; we're probably also adults capable of consciously creating our reality. Yes, our past and present deprivations are real because we have them. My neurodivergence is real. Your sexual abuse is real. Her growing up in a remote village is real.
Our existence is vital 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 stand. We cannot automatically demand that other people give us something. At the same time, we receive something and give nothing back - when we can give something back and actively participate in the exchange of energy. This is 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 relinquish, leaving “it all behind.” When 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."
First and foremost: build a good attitude toward overwhelming emotions, and never make emotional decisions, which are choices based on overwhelming negative emotions that should be avoided.
Here are seven steps on how to wisely approach daunting negative moods, often linked to the channel of the Victim:
Cultivate a new perspective on yourself and beliefs about negativity,
Protect yourself and others from acting all this out,
Go deeper into "negativity" in a conscious way – emotionally, mentally, spiritually,
Get aware of projections you might be running in alignment with the negativity and own possible projections,
Recognizing the energy of the victim archetype as an inner part operating inside of you
Expose that inner part to the light of Consciousness, and do the necessary inner work (with EFT, journaling, inner parts work, else)
Replace the ego truth - I'm the victim, with a higher truth - I have, and I will find even more of inner and outer resources to go through all this!
Find a trusted mentor if you cannot do all this alone and you are losing yourself in circles. This is always a wise option because you will release and integrate shadow skillfully. We should dissolve the energies of our shadow with the care and compassion of our mature impeccable Ego, the adult inner part in us that can adjust to reality and modify it, knows “how things are,” and can 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 deal with the emotional pain consciously, 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 unfortunate 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.
Consequently, they expect others to care for and provide for them in unrealistic ways. They become disappointed, resentful, and frustrated when this doesn't happen. I think the basic triage happens when people realize their personal power.
Owning a personal power doesn't mean we're 100% responsible for everything in our lives. Systemic inequality and oppression are natural and affect us - whether we meditate. Taking radical responsibility for ourselves is simply the opposite of the victim mentality. It means owning our power as much as possible albeit systemic oppression, the distribution of various privileges, and social inequality. When we realize that we are connected to the Divine and that our consciousness is our most important spiritual tool, something changes within us, reflected in our circumstances. We still have our destiny, our fate if you'll, but suddenly we begin to interrupt and co-create our 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 who become much more satisfied when it happens.
Last but not least? We should be careful not to refer to people - and ourselves - as "victims" 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. We should always be careful not to use the term "victim" as a label - unless we use it in a clearly defined, specific legal context.
**Tina Božič is a psychologist and psychotherapist in private practice, a women's issues professional, practicing holistic, energy-based psychotherapy.