The only way not to be a victim as we move through life is to realize that the current state of our life is a fairly accurate reflection of our choices—made consciously or unconsciously. I say “fairly” accurate because sometimes there are genuine victims of circumstances and outright evil acts that we obviously haven’t chosen. When an eleven year-old in China is forced to worked on an assembly line, for example, she is a victim of social conditions and unjust political systems. Or, in the case of physical and sexual abuse, nobody with a conscience is going to say that the victim brought it on themselves.
That said, in the Western World, even the emotionally and sexually abused are responsible, with support and resourcing, not to remain chronic victims. When we take responsibility for our lives, we are also making a statement that nobody else can take away our freedom—and freedom is arguably the highest value in an evolutionary process that has taken 13.8 billion years to produce creatures capable of claiming and enacting this inheritance. To choose to remain a victim is to squander this gift.
The psychotherapeutic process could be described in terms of the evolution of one’s capacity to act in freedom in all areas of one’s life. This requires that we take a hard look at the circumstances of our life—particularly when things are not going our way—and asking very difficult questions about how and why we set it up to have these experiences. Ouch! This is radically different than crying out “Why is this happening to me? It’s not fair.” It might not be fair, but until we get to the place of holding our life as our teacher, that it/we are creating with the very circumstances necessary for our healing and growth, we will remain victims.
Michael Brown’s The Presence Process is an excellent resource for anybody wanting to practice assuming full responsibility for his/her life. The premise of the book is that every emotional reaction we have, every unpleasant social interaction, every negative thought, every judgment, every relationship that is not working stems from unintegrated trauma. And until it is consciously integrated, it will be driving the bus. The good news in this is that if we can learn to witness every event and our every reaction in this way, our suffering becomes opportunity and our best teacher.
There is an exquisite and elegant wisdom at work in our lives that seems to want us to be whole. It ain’t easy to work with the wisdom, because it’s going to reveal some nasty stuff that has its roots in early trauma—guaranteed. When I met my wife, the first couple of years were marked by insane love, along with feelings like destiny had found us. The challenge was that the love was deep enough that it brought up all my vulnerability. Fear of intimacy, rage at perceived injustice, insecurity and jealousy, all came up for me to look at.
And I can tell you that the very first thing I tried to do with these feelings was to blame them on her! She was the cause of all my suffering. If only she’d reacted differently. If only she hadn’t used that tone of voice. If only she…blah, blah, blah. This is the voice of the victim. Sure enough, after working it through with my own therapist, and in the context of sacred ceremony with plant medicine, was I able to see the source of it all. And, wait for it, the source was me! Well, it was my reactions, my stories, my compensation patterns for suffering that I experienced. But as an adult, I am responsible to bringing these to consciousness, gaining insight, and then shifting from unconscious reactivity to conscious responsibility.
It took me awhile to realize that as long as I was playing the victim, I could not be free, and if I wasn’t free, then my life was not my own. Once you get this, in your bones, you will discover a deep peace and deep resilience. Nobody and nothing can rob you of your freedom. We will always be required to undergo what Jesuit priest and palaeontologist, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, calls “the passivities”—i.e. shit happens. Taking responsibility does not mean that we are in control of everything. In truth, we are in control of very little. But we can be in control of how we respond to the vicissitudes and exigencies that come our way.
There is a new age belief that “we create our own reality”. It purports to be based on quantum physics, which states that we live in a “participative universe”. Based on some really interesting experiments in the early 20th century it was discovered that an light particle can show up either as a wave or in particle form. It depends, weirdly, on what the observer wants. How does the particle/wave know? Reality “collapses” to assume the form of either the wave or particle, depending on the observer. Ergo, the observer participates in the construction of reality. This is then extrapolated and assumed to hold true for humans and the creation of their reality. Most physicists would say that this is going too far. But it is fair to say that the way we consciously respond to the circumstances of our life—and those circumstances often reflect our unintegrated trauma—does mean that we participate (even radically) in the form our life takes.