I often am asked questions about how the guiding principles apply in the case of truly traumatic life happenings, such as the holocaust, etc … Or as one student put it, “How does the construct of a transformational approach to the “victim triangle” address and apply in situations of such severity ?
I always appreciate the opportunity to expand on this important issue because it is one that confuses many – this distinction between victim and victim consciousness – and so bears exploring.
To begin with … there are true victims in the world – victims of war, rape, disease, natural disaster, starvation, poverty – the list goes on. There is no intention in this approach to undermine the reality of real life victims.
However, what this approach allows us to understand is that we have a choice about whether or not we will go into victim consciousness. That is always our choice. We choose how we feel and how we will respond to the circumstances life presents us. We learn that it is not about what happens to us, but about what we do with what happens to us in our own mind – it's our attitude about it, or mind-set, that determines our internal victim status. This inner mental state is what determines whether we are in victim consciousness or not.
The things that happen to us do not define us unless we choose to define ourselves by them.
Often, I am asked questions about how the Jews, for instance, could have seen themselves as anything but as victims. There is a simple answer, although not necessarily an easy thing to do. The answer is this: They, like you and me, get to choose to see what happened to them in ways that built inner strength, faith, and love, rather than to see themselves as victims, no matter how justified they might be in claiming so. (Indeed it is well-established, that many of the Holocaust survivors DID indeed report that their decision to adapt to reality was what saved them)
Read “The Search for Meaning” written by Victor Frankl, a Jewish psychiatrist who survived concentration camps after losing his whole family, as one description of a man who chose an alternative to victimhood. Dr Frankl's book describes how he survived the experience of life in a concentration camp and then went on to develop a style of therapy based on what he learned from his experience there about accepting Reality.
Another example is the movie, “It's A Beautiful Life, ” a beautifully imaginative movie describing a creative way of doing something about one's own victim status. It's a movie made many years ago about a father who used his acting talents to spare his small son from the trauma of living in a concentration camp …
Examples like these demonstrate for us that it's in the way we frame life, not in what happens to us, that we find peace, and freedom from the suffering that we cause ourselves.
Rather than being a victim to our life circumstances, we can choose to see our life situations, and the troubling relationships we have with others, as opportunities to learn more about the nature of our own relationship with ourselves and the world at large.
When we come to see the world is my mirror instead of focusing on how we've been victimized, we quickly come to recognize that whenever we are resisting, or blaming something outside ourselves for our unhappiness we are in victim consciousness.
When, for example, we are bitter, angry, or when we blame the world for the bad things that happen to us, we transmit an energy that vibrates on that anger frequency … should we be surprised then, when what we get back from life is anger from those around us?
Of course, the world being the reflective surface that it is, we will go on attracting people who are bitter, angry and blaming towards us, as long as we, ourselves hold onto a way of seeing the world that generates anger, hurt, and blame.
Instead we can learn to take that thing, whatever it is, that we are blaming for robbing us of peace in the moment, and look at it instead from the angle of asking what part of our own mind treats us (and others) in the same way that we find ourselves so offended by here.
Rather than to bemoan life's happenings, use them as grist for the mill of refining your own consciousness – there is no victim left … and that's makes the real difference: a victim who refuses to see themselves as a victim is no longer a victim – no matter what their outer circumstances may be.