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  • Writer's pictureZenho Chad Bennett

Healing your Victim

Let's have a fresh look at victim consciousness. And why not? Is there something so despicable about our victim, deeming it unworthy of our attention? In our dedication to Waking Up and Growing Up, we leave no stone unturned; Witnessing awareness takes no preference and, yet, seems to show great interest in all of its experience.

There are two ways the personality appears to turn when we approach the word “victim”. We either over identify with the “I” that was victimized or the “other” that was victimized. This is especially true when we are triggered with being in or near our own trauma vortex which can leave us feeling hopeless, powerless, and alone. Then the old and habitual record plays: “What did I do wrong to be feeling so despicable?” Or, “Who is to blame?” The danger here isn’t so much the voice itself but that we become overly identified with victim consciousness allowing it to govern us because of its resistance to becoming seen clearly by Witnessing awareness.

Above is a model to further unpack our exploration which is referred to as Karpman’s Triangle or the Drama Triangle. You will notice there are three components to the Drama Triangle and from the point of view of Witnessing awareness, they are inseparable and all arise simultaneously. This does not mean that we always notice this but when the Victim arises, there must be an “other” to blame, a Persecutor, and we will also seek a Rescuer because as a Victim we are surrounded by an ocean of beliefs, emotions and sensations which convince us there is nothing we can do for ourselves. Although we may have habits of falling into one of the three roles more habitually, the paradigm of all three arising simultaneously could equally be explored from both the Persecutor and Rescuer. Even “good”, “helpful” Rescuers, for example, are dependent on the other two if we have entered the Triangle. If you’ve got one, you’ve got them all!

Why would we want to reclaim our victim consciousness?

For a start, we may miss out on some of our strengths and subvert our energy, purpose, and achievement. Refusing to integrate where we feel victimized, we often compensate by using a great deal of energy to develop a false persona that is quite the opposite. This can look like over-drivenness, an attachment to power or money, and a false image of strength which blocks the healthy vulnerability required for satisfying relationships. A comprehensive reclamation of our so called “weaker” parts allows for a wider spectrum of emotional maturity and an ongoing confidence that we can live in Witnessing awareness even when it appears that the world is caving in on us. Reclaiming the victim and stepping out of the Drama Triangle results in unshakeable tenacity rather than a “house of cards” type of strength.

Also, if you are one of a growing number of people feeling concern for political, multicultural and/or environmental movements, we can be sure we all will become so much more effective and compassionate when we are not approaching it from inside the Drama Triangle. All of us as unconscious Persecutors, Rescuers and Victims of oppression could even join together in a commitment to becoming aware of this. Healing needs to be done at all levels and there are varying degrees of ability to cope with victimization but especially for those of us who habitually move into Rescuer or Perpetrator mode, if we could heal our own Victim first we will be so much clearer in how to respond- rather than react- to oppression when it arises.

How do we reclaim our victim?

1) Let awareness do most of the work. By cultivating or strengthening a meditation practice, we quite naturally notice the nearly constant movement of mind that generates the Drama Triangle. I have had clients often remark how shocked they are about the number of hours they discover we are all acting out the Triangle paradigm. Just read the news, or contemplate what is driving “successful” economies, or reflect on the rates of incarceration in America. By taking up a practice that strengthens Witnessing awareness, we are able to see what we are doing and step outside of this entirely allowing new insights into how we could be actually useful without creating any more Victims, Persecutors or Rescuers.

2) Play with collapsing versus standing tall. One step in working with victim consciousness is to literally DO something different. For example, if we have a tendency to collapse or move into shame, we might try temporarily straightening up our posture and noticing the results. This requires seeing the Victim’s arising first and then “standing up for it” in its place. If we are more the type to move into anger or Persecutor, thereby covering the vulnerability of our Victim, it may be helpful to explore collapsing for periods of time, really experiencing the Victim. The key to any sort of experiment here is to keep Witnessing awareness online as much as possible and it can be helpful to have someone to skillfully guide us into these difficult areas. We will soon learn much about what we continue to do to ourselves in order to preserve our identities in the Drama Triangle.

3) Notice times when we are not in the Drama Triangle. By identifying these times at the level of Witnessing, tuning into thinking, emotion and bodily sensation, we reward our nervous systems and even our personalities with ease, clarity and compassion. We can literally rewire our brains toward positivity over time and set the stage for further personal growth and awakening.

But be forewarned! The Drama Triangle is pretty much the standard lens through which conventional reality is seen. It’s our collective agreement. So when we begin to look AT it rather than THROUGH it, it can be a stunning and painful insight which is very difficult to take responsibility for. However, working gently and steadily with ourselves over time, coming out of our Victim consciousness clears the decks for an entirely fresh way of looking at ourselves and the world. Imagine… no Victims, No Rescuers, No Persecutors. What would remain?

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