It wasn’t until I began to study counselling that I really started to understand the difference between victim and survivor. Or that these two words reflected a world of difference in how we choose to live our lives.
I guess you could say I’ve spent most of my life slipping between both those positions trying to find a comfortable balance. Mostly hitting my head against resentment. Occasionally finding a position where I could exercise forgiveness. Finally realising that what matters is my authentic self. My truth. With a healthy dose of personal responsibility thrown in to balance out my rights. In working through this particular spiritual test I’ve also embraced the victim in me. And turned her into a survivor. Better than that, I’ve turned her into a ‘loud and proud’ voice for my beliefs. Best of all, I let my actions follow my words. Because I know this is the way to work from my heart centre.
So why the victim? In my experience there are a range of reasons why I or someone would identify themselves as a victim. Of course we have all had experiences where we feel that we have suffered some harm or abuse at the hands of others. Unfortunately that does happen and I won’t ignore that bad behaviour and treatment does happen far too often. However, it’s when we get stuck in defining all of the events in our life as being ‘done’ to us i.e being powerless, helpless, that a victim playing pattern begins to emerge. The person concerned, for whatever reason, turns all challenges, prohibitions and no’s into another justification for reacting as if they were a victim.
The boundary between the outer world and the inner world becomes distorted. Sadly if the label victim is embraced by the person eventually everyone else becomes the ‘enemy’.
This is where aggression can further distort the perception of the victim. Because the person is defending a belief in powerlessness everything becomes a battle to assert power. Whether the facts support the assertion or not. Aggressive words and actions follow in an effort to reclaim the ‘lost’ power. Except that this response often reinforces the sense of powerlessness when the other person/people respond. In this distorted energy circle it can be really hard to break through a victim mentality. Which is where the word survivor can be of real use. I have had all sorts of bad experiences. In order to move on from a feeling of powerlessness I have had to consider my life events from a different point of view.
I’ve become a survivor. This is a powerful way to define myself. It acknowledges that bad things have happened. At the same time it gives me a sense of myself as able to cope, powerful enough to get through all of the consequences and become whole again. Whole but different. It also removes any sense of guilt or shame that I was powerless. What I have experienced will have reshaped who I am. But not to my detriment. Survivors endure, persevere, are resilient. If I hold this self image I can continue to experience the world without bitterness or fear. There will be no need for my behaviour to be as if everyone else is an aggressor. I will also be able to respond naturally to the aggression of others with kindness. Perhaps even understanding. Rather than perceiving threats everywhere. As a survivor I will be able to handle conflict and confrontation.
Understanding the difference became a cornerstone of my counselling practice as I supported many people who moved from victim to survivor. Then I started to wonder what the spiritual significance of victimhood represented.
Why did I want to experience this particular life view? Especially more than once! What purpose did it serve? Of course it took me ages to understand why I was choosing to use this energy. It was all about use and abuse of power. Another recognition came quickly after that. Sometimes I am the mirror for another person. The karma agent. Being the victim offered someone the chance to experience being the persecuted. It might seem off the wall to want to play these roles (or archetypes) yet I found it helped me to understand my spiritual journey. We aren’t here looking for love and connection. I know we have that in the pink perfect. We are here to experience the absence of love. Self-love.
Following on from this it seems clear to me that if I am the victim I can also be cast as the persecutor. I have to mirror that energy as well. What a spiritual conundrum. In any exchange which am I being? What is the truth? Victims need persecutors. Or to perceive me as the ‘baddie’ so that they can continue to experience victimhood. That certainly made my counselling supervision and spiritual guidance lively. Similarly, as a survivor I had taken on aspects of self-love. Perhaps embracing the reality that connections between people have many, many layers of meaning. What is on the surface is not the reality at all. The surface is the place where manipulation can happen. Guilt-tripping. Fighting fire with fire. Self-justification. An absence of shared truth.
How do I step out of this cycle of victim-survivor and regain my personal power?
It took me quite a few spiritual lessons to work this one out. When I looked at the underlying energy of this type of situation I realised that what the victim wants is power and what the survivor wants is power. The power of love instead of it’s absence. Then it seemed an awful lot clearer for me. I already had power. It had been with me all the time. In life shit happens. Always. It’s how I shovel it that matters. So I stopped giving away my power. If things happened I asked what I had done to help them turn out this way. I acknowledged when I was self-sabotaging myself. And I loved myself enough to stop. I also understood that I could step out of the game any time I wanted. It became possible to give voice my views about game playing too.
I stopped giving my power to others. Stopped loving them more than I loved myself. And I make a commitment to examine my own feelings, thoughts and behaviour. So that they couldn’t be manipulated by others. Twisted against me by aggression. Or pulled into blame, shame and guilt by those who needed to feel like victims. I understood that stepping out of the game would make me more visible. People who are prepared to stand in their own power are often feared. Because we have escaped. And we are not afraid to tell it like we see it. Most of the time nowadays I let the power struggles pass. I will always speak my truth, especially when called upon to witness aggressive behaviour by others. Because I have no vested interest in outcomes. I call out their behaviour because until we end power games unconditional love will struggle to get a toe hold in this world.
There are too many victims, not enough survivors and too few of us standing in our power. So sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.
Day 541 of my blogging challenge