Let’s consider for a moment that we all have a container in our psyche that holds the entire history of our being wounded: betrayal, abandonment, shame – the whole painful enchilada. This same container also holds the story of our healing: past, present and future. The archetype of the Victim is our guide through these storylines and shows us either a heroic triumph or an exasperating epic that never seems to end. The difference being which side of the pattern we pay attention to.
The Victim, like the rest of the survival archetypes has a bad reputation which might be why it’s easy to spot in others but sometimes difficult to own in ourselves. This bad rep is due to most of us only seeing the unempowered side. The unempowered version of the Victim is stuck, complains about how they have been wronged and are convinced that they had little to no bearing on the outcome of the wounding incident. We’ve all known “Debbie Downers” who incessantly complain about everything and re-frame their experience to get attention or sympathy. Often times this is seen as the Martyr which shares a good bit of DNA with the Victim, but lacks the element of witnessing a larger truth. The unempowered Victim will hand everything over and expect someone else to ‘fix it’. The balance of power lies outside when the Victim shows up in it’s shadow form.
“It’s your/their fault.”
“It’s all my fault.”
“I’m always getting hurt.”
“No one understands me.”
“I didn’t have a choice.”
“This always happens to me.”
Conversely, the empowered Victim has an intimate understanding of their own trajectory of having been wounded and what it took (or will take) to work with it to come out on the other side stronger and more wise than before. Their power remains within them even if they ask for help. Help for the empowered Victim is not handing the problem over to someone else but to actively engage to work through an issue with some assistance.
“I made a mistake, now I’m going to…”
“This is really hard but I can do this.”
“I’m going to need some help with this.”
“I’m getting back in the game.”
“Live and learn.”
Spotting this pattern as it emerges allows for a broader range of choices where one can decide which side of the Victim card they want to play. Recognizing that the Victim is an archetypal pattern that all humans share can be a first step to take the sting out of a situation and make room for real compassion. After all, compassion is one of the things we seek when we’ve been hurt. Recognition and attention to the situation seen first as a pattern also points us toward discernment and wisdom instead of harsh judgement which can just exacerbate the pain of the situation.
The richer more enlivening place to draw from is that of the path of healing, which is to say the empowered Victim. Healing encompasses the story of the wound as well as what it it took to get to wholeness again. Not only wholeness but an expasiveness that did not exist before the wound. What do I mean by this? This quote from Elizabeth Kubler-Ross the pioneering psychiatrist sums it up nicely.
“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These people have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen…”
Having gone through something difficult and come out the other side with more wisdom, compassion and understanding is the Victim’s ultimate journey. The ways and means of a life with knowledge of the Victim pattern reminds us how strong we can be. A talisman that says we can’t rush healing to a perfection of wholeness but neither can we stay in the pure pain of a wound for very long. Even those who claim they are wounded beyond repair are not immune to what the world brings them as healing salve if they are open to it. The kindness of a friend or a beautiful piece of music can be healing. It’s the choices one makes to accept the gifts of healing and the stories we choose about what happened to us that make the difference. The Victim is a guide to how we work with the painful times as well as a way to be more generous with ourselves and others.