Victim Consciousness and The Victim/Perpetrator Paradigm (Part 1)

The following article about victim consciousness is intended to discuss a passive life-style of self-destructive anger and/or retaliatory impulses that blame rather than accept responsibility. The current Me-Too movement, where victims of sexual abuse stand up for themselves and hold perpetrators responsible for their actions is NOT what this article is addressing. Requiring a perpetrator to take responsibility for their actions takes an amazing amount of courage as victims seek equality, accountability and ultimately justice. This article addresses the slippery slope within human shadow, when people interpret every negative interaction as another victimization event.  

Perpetrators have conquered and marginalized individuals, minority groups and countries since time immemorial. People exploit the weak for personal, political and economic power. Sympathetic groups naturally comfort and offer support to those suffering. Empathy and soothing are necessary healing balms that promote emotional recovery. However, using felt suffering and empathic connection, as a weapon is an important illusion to master. Victim consciousness can blossom when self-serving rubbish, and then retaliation, is the actual goal.

Mass media and social networks have proven very effective at persuading public opinion to side with victims, which creates opportunities for future retaliation. Perpetrators win through direct force, while victims engaging in passive forms of retaliatory aggression can trigger what I term the victim/perpetrator paradigm. A complete discussion of the victim/perpetrator paradigm will be discussed in Part II.    

Victim consciousness is extremely seductive because it soothes pain and shields participants from honest self-reflection. When we become the hero/heroine of our story suffering the slings and arrows of misfortune undeserving of our plight, total permission to do whatever we want without consequences, ownership and guilt for payback fantasies is quickly provided.

Entitlement issues ensue when every dark impulse is seen as a righteous response. Victim consciousness offers justification by referencing all the suffering we went through. A sense of narcissism can develop when no one confronts our behavior and every retaliatory impulse is deemed acceptable. Like a co-dependent parent or spouse who never requires responsible actions, victim thinking fills our ears with placating illusions. Any retaliatory thought or self-pity process is embraced because we believe we deserve credit for endured suffering. Anyone confronting our behavior is quickly dismissed as another insensitive perpetrator.

Victim consciousness is a passive form of anger that has metastasized like cancer through mass media and social networks. Jockeying to claim victim status has evolved into an unfortunate art form in the court of public opinion. Victim consciousness is how we can effectively dissociate from our own violent urges of retaliation towards others as well our self-sabotaging tendencies.  

Aggressors and victims have built in reasons for their actions. When the law of attraction starts to intensify painful mirrors, righteous indignation rears its head. As the pain increases the urge to switch roles as aggressor and the victim becomes stronger. An example of this process is when the victim uses their anger and pain to aggress towards themselves and others. In this way, they can use the badge of victim to recruit others to their aid to help them aggress the aggressor.

Victims tend to believe compensation is due for the pain endured. Society trains many of us to want retribution, feel it is our privilege to retaliate and believe we are entitled to do so because we have endured so much suffering. The seduction deepens when people take comfort in the pain and sympathy their story garners. Trouble occurs when we embrace our suffering to soothe our internal wounds. This gives us permission to disassociate from violent urges to retaliate against the perpetrator without examining our self-sabotaging behavior.

One of the possible reasons why people engage in aggressor behavior while in the presence of individuals or groups that hold victim energy will be explored next. The unconscious, psychological energy of victim consciousness actually sends out a frequency that in essence says, “Kick me” or more blatantly, “Hurt me.” Anyone who has been around an individual, who twists every negative outcome into some form of victimization event, may recognize this phenomenon.

What is happening is the law of attraction, which some term cause and effect.  Love begets love, anger begets anger and payback begets payback, are a few examples of how the universe mirrors our reflection so we can see our creations. Unconscious behavior fuels victim consciousness. For example, victimization’s “kick me” frequency is designed to give us feedback that we haven’t mastered our self-sabotage tendencies, payback fantasies and self-responsibility challenges. Perpetrators, who came to work on their problem, to learn to resist actively or metaphorically “kicking” people when they seem so deserving are similarly challenged.

The last topic that needs clarification is self-sabotage. Whenever self-sabotage behavior surfaces, victim consciousness is at play. When we have positive goals and want to enjoy the fruits of our creations, unconscious injunctions or parts of ourselves can ruin our dream because aspects of ourselves don’t believe we deserve success.

Self-sabotage needs to be recognized as a wake-up call to clean up our illusions. Aligning our emotional, intellectual and behavioral focus in one positive direction creates unlimited possibilities. This is the only way to maintain success in life, generate love and/or any worthwhile pursuit. An unconscious individual will frequently not see the connection between a failed goal, mixed internal intentions and the eventual outcome as their responsibility.

People burdened with victim consciousness will experience themselves as innocents victimized by some outside force, bad luck or the mercurial will of a punitive universe. The challenge for everyone, and this is particularly true for people who feel victimized is to seek enlightened responses in the midst of suffering. Self-sabotage is just a wakeup call to get going on our path to psychological growth. If you find yourself soothed by victim thinking, please remember the following axiom, “When you fall into a mud hole…don’t wallow in it.”

Oct 2018 Eric Ehrke LCSW, LMFT is a psychotherapist at Ommani.  He sees clients on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Call our office at 262.695.5311 to schedule an appointment.