There’s a relational diagram or tool called the Victim Triangle that clearly defines the three roles we play in Victim Consciousness: Persecutor, Rescuer and Victim. These three roles are all part of a victim mentality that perceives ourselves (or others) as being “at the mercy of” or “done in by” others. This painful way of perceiving life becomes a lens through which we view everything, including politics.
Our whole political structure can be found on the Victim Triangle! For instance, I see the liberal viewpoint as being primarily a Rescuer mentality. Like good Rescuers, Liberals want to save others. They see themselves as givers … and constantly look for ways to provide for those they see as being “deprived.” Rescuers are people-pleasers. They do not want to hurt anyone’s feelings. (Think “political correctness.”) They are constantly trying to protect those they see as less fortunate, or damaged by life in some way. Guilt is their emotional go-to.
While this point of view is well-intended, it has a shadow side. Pity is often confused with compassion by those caught up in this Rescuer mentality. Practiced in extreme, this mindset actually can encourage a victim stance in those they are “helping,” “Learned helplessness” is most often the unintended result. (Think “government handouts.”) People who grow-up under a consummate Rescuer often feel crippled by their lack of ability to take care of themselves. They have been carried so long by their well-intended Caregiver, that they have come to believe that the world is supposed to take care of them; they feel entitled to being taken care of. After all, they were not expected to be able to do that, and then their feelings of ineptness turn to resentment, and even outright anger towards those who have “babied” them.
In Liberal politics, Uncle Sam plays the part of the Primary Rescuer. And the Rescuing Politic fails to see how their enabling actually disables instead. Such rescuing unwittingly produces a society full of “helpless babies,” who then turn on their Rescuers by becoming persecuting bullies when their demands and expectations are not met. Now the Rescuers move to the Victim position on the Victim Triangle, feeling both unappreciated by those they “were only trying to help,” and guilty because their efforts to rescue failed. The classic Liberal Rescuer wants life to be perfectly fair and equal, and feels obligated to rail against the unfairness of life, as if that will fix it.
Reality is not fair, however … and when we resist Reality, we always lose. Reality wins EVERY SINGLE TIME. Have you noticed? Where can peace be found in such resistance? But then, how do we find peace in a world that is not based on fairness?
This is an important question. I have found that it is possible to find peace, even when Reality is not what I want it to be, but the answer is not found through eliminating the opposition. That will not bring us peace or harmony; nor will we be able to forge a better world by getting rid of the opposition. This is because the world is made up of equal and opposite polarities. Thus states Universal Law. There are two sides to everything (think yin-yang, male-female, darkness-light … need I go on?) and there is a reason for that. Movement on every level is caused by the integrated effort of opposites. Take walking for instance; Every step forward requires a complete leg-muscle contraction followed by a complete extension of the same leg. Without that there is no moving forward. Which opposite would you eliminate – the contraction or the extension? Obviously we cannot eliminate either and expect to walk. No, it is not getting rid of one polarity or the other, it’s finding the balance between the two extremes that makes fruitful collaboration possible.
With all that said, let’s explore the other extreme.
Like all aspects of life, our political body is made up of polarized opposites too – and sitting directly across from the Rescuer is the Persecutor, it’s complete and opposite extreme.
Now before we decide that’s a bad thing, let me remind you that there are NO right and wrong positions on the Victim Triangle! It takes both extremes to progress forward. One position is not better than another; the Rescuer and Persecutor roles are the two extremes of the Victim, so both can only lead to Victim on the Triangle.
Of course, once we are on the Victim Triangle, no matter from where we start, we simply move around the Triangle, going from one role to another, until we inevitably land in Victim again. But, based on our particular life perception, we each have a primary, or “Starting-Gate,” position that serves as our home base. Our Starting-Gate position dictates how we move around the Triangle. This means that Rescuers move around the Triangle in a totally different way than do Persecutors, and Starting-Gate Victims have their own particular way of moving round the Triangle, too.
On the Victim Triangle, Republicans are more often on the Persecutor side of the polarity. They are big believers in taking care of themselves, and they want to be left alone to do that. Like controlling, overly strict parents, Persecutors may tend to use whatever means they can, to control and protect what they believe is theirs. They think in terms of containment. They believe that expansion happens best when there are perimeters, laws, and boundaries. They do not like uncontrolled expansion. They don’t mind saying “No,” and they don’t tend to be too concerned with whether others like it or not. They believe in “drawing a line in the sand” and holding to it. Some might call this rigidity – They prefer status quo, resist change, and are invested in keeping things as they were originally designed to be. This is very different from the Rescuer polarity that tends to “go with the flow,” and/or “follow their feelings,” while struggling to “hold the line.” Rescuer Politics run on emotion while Persecutor Politics run on will.
From the Persecutor position, Republican Conservatives tend to see a dangerous world. They focus less on fixing what’s wrong and more on protecting the country from those who would destroy it. Persecutors are about holding on to, rather than letting go; they tend to want to contain, protect, and secure what is theirs.
Persecutors tend to be individualists. They want to be left alone to live their life with minimal interference from anyone, especially the government. They believe the best defense is a strong offense. They believe that things work best when everyone takes care of themselves, and they expect people to take care of their own families and community, rather than looking to the government to do it.
The Rescuer/Liberal mindset, in contrast, feels pressed to put every one on equal footing, by taking from those they consider have “too much,” and giving it to those who have less. Nothing raises the ire of a Persecutor Conservative faster than to have someone take from them (Think raising taxes) what they worked hard to get. They resent it when others try to control their success, or get in their business. (Think Government interference.)
Persecutor Consciousness sees others as takers … and so they become takers in their effort to avoid being taken. They are fighters who believe they must protect their rights to independence, to freedom, and success, etc. When they perceive these rights as being threatened, they get offensive. This is the Conservative/Persecutor perspective on the Victim Triangle.
It is important to remember that both Rescuers AND Persecutors have their strong-points. For instance, Rescuers naturally are drawn to unity through service. Their gift is compassion. Persecutors, on the other hand, are protectors, often loyal to a fault. Their strength is the ability to stand against adversity – an important skill to have if we are to fully embrace the “Yesses” of life. For we cannot truly say “Yes’ until we can say no to what we don’t want. Being able to hold a firm line, even when others don’t approve, makes room for compassion without martyrdom. In this way, both polarities are needed if we are to truly move forward.
When we take on one side of the polarity, or the other, we simply set ourselves up in opposition. We hate, blame, and regale against each other. There is total resistance and the need to justify, or prove, how undeniably right we are. We punish and name call those who oppose our perspective, and like 8-10 year olds, we come to blows with each other; like that will somehow prove us right and them wrong. Neither truth, nor peace, can reign in such an atmosphere. Instead, we stand in total resistance to Reality, the very antidote to where we say we want our country to go. Taking a polarized position only keeps us trapped on the Victim Triangle, fighting it out with each other in Victim Consciousness.
Peace and progress comes from integrating the two polarized aspects so evident in politics. Instead of blaming each other, we begin to engage in a deeply empowering dance between the opposites. We learn to respect the strength and compassion of one another and seek out the places where each polarity excels, conceding, when necessary, to Reality, by looking for how it needs to be what it is.
We all have both extremes within ourselves, by the way. What we resist in the other is only that which we have judged negatively within ourselves, denied, and projected out where we can hate it in them.
Frankly, I can identify with both polarities … Like many of us, my family has members of both parties. This has been wonderful for me because I love all of my family members, and am committed to my relationship with them. So, because I love them, I want to understand how they see things. As a result, I’ve been given ample opportunity to listen carefully to both polarized extremes, and I’ve been able to see myself, at various moments, on both ends of the political spectrum.
In the past I’ve seen myself persecute by blaming those who I believed were unjust in their dealings with others, and I’ve felt justified in wanting retaliation for their wrongs. I’ve also guilted myself into rescuing in ways that have imprisoned, rather than freed those I was trying to help. Neither work. Neither attack nor rescue works to accomplish what we want. We must find a meeting place between the two.
I have come to question any political viewpoint that comes from a place of blame or that launches into acute polarization of the opposite stance, simply because when I see these dynamics in play, I know they are on the Victim Triangle.
We can, I believe, move to a place of greater understanding by applying the principles we learn from observing the Victim Triangle, and by applying certain guiding principles that help us to step off the Victim Triangle.
I imagine a time when we are able to recognize the importance of self-responsibility, rather than fostering a growing dependency on the government for supplying our needs and well-being. I see the possibility of learning to empower people to take charge of their lives in the ways that they are able. Let’s raise our expectations for what others CAN achieve, rather than go on fostering dependency.
And on the other hand, let’s stop saddling those who are self-initiators with the burden of rescuing. Let’s call on the loyalty of the Persecutor Conservative to protect the healthy boundaries that we see which need to be set in place. Let’s work together to find balance within ourselves and with each other, so that we can learn compassion, generosity, as well as grow in our ability to practice assertive boundary setting.
Such an integration of opposites is possible – although we are a long way from it. It starts in our own mind, in the way we see the world. We start by refusing to make the other side of the political circuit our enemy. We stop seeing them as aberrant and recognize instead that they do have something to offer us. We look for that, knowing that we get further supporting what we want, than we do resisting what we do not want.
We learn to trust that the pendulum swings from one extreme to the other on its way to finding middle ground, and so when the pendulum swings to the other side of the polarity, we look for ways to trust that the Universe is striving for some kind of balance, whether we understand how that is, or not.
Learning to listen to one another is primary. To listen, without needing to defend our rightness. To listen as if the other has something to offer, rather than declaring them to be the enemy that must be defeated. Clearly, even if we managed to completely eliminate the other polarity, we would only make matters worse. Only through integrating the two approaches can true progress really happen.
Being willing to work together to achieve common goals for peace, and understanding, without the need to blame or conquer each other; learning to take responsibility, like grown-ups, rather than feeling so threatened by their opinions that we can only insist that we are right and they are wrong. We learn to stand firm, without rigidity, and without needing to force the other to kneel. We come to practice appreciation for the “both and-ness” of our separate, seemingly opposed, stances, and to move towards making peace with our other, equal, but totally opposite counterpart.
We can come together for the same cause that was so brilliantly outlined by our founding fathers in the Constitution: “to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.”
Otherwise the Rescuer/Persecutor dance just keeps us spiraling round on the merry-go-round of Victim Consciousness.
Read the Guiding Principles of Reality
See Lynne’s videoed Interview with Perri Chase on “Politics On The Victim Triangle.”