Unrecognized, Victim Consciousness adversely impacts all areas of our life. Sadly, it is particularly damaging to our ability to build and maintain intimacy in our relationships.
A number of years ago, early in my current romantic relationship, my partner and I had a conversation during which he unknowingly prompted me to recognize and confront one of the manifestations of my Victim Orientation to life. Late one Saturday morning, after we had just returned home from the gym and were planning the remainder of our day, he innocently asked me, “Would you like to go to the movies?” What a simple and direct question, right? Without much thought, I responded, “Do you?” This reply was met with annoyance and irritation on the part of my partner. Apparently, this was not the first time in our relationship that I had failed to respond to one of his questions with a direct and clear expression of what I desired or felt. On this day, however, he pointed out my habitual disconnection from my desires and he insisted on knowing what I really wanted to do.
What my partner was unknowingly pointing out during this exchange, and, thankfully, I was present to recognize and thus begin to change (remember, change = awareness + conscious new action), was one of the common manifestations of a learned Victim Orientation to life, namely, a lack of awareness of what we want or desire and an unconscious, fear-based avoidance of a direct and honest expression of our wishes.
In the years since the events I just described, I learned to replace the automatic habits of Victim Consciousness with new behaviors- habits of an empowering orientation to living I choose to call Creator Orientation. This shift in how I show-up to life has resulted in a deepening and maturation of the intimacy that my partner and I get to experience in our relationship. We are both happier today as responsible co-creators of what we desire in life, and as cooperating, interested negotiators of the decisions that affect our partnership. We live in a fuller recognition of our feelings and awareness of one another as empowered, creative, resourceful and whole individuals. Absent this, the experience of intimacy in our partnership would be dramatically limited.
Unrecognized, Victim Consciousness adversely impacts all areas of our life, sadly, it is particularly damaging to our ability to build and maintain intimacy in our relationships.
If you identify with today’s article, know that you too can learn to live differently. Inhabiting the Creator Orientation to life is simple but not easy. Expert coaching is a vital asset for those who seek the shift from disempowered Victim to empowered, responsible Creator. My coaching programs are dedicated to assist those who are intent on successfully completing this transition.
“The first step in breaking free from the habitual responses typical of a Victim Orientation to living is to recognize the patterns of Victim Consciousness as they emerge in us.”
5 Habits of a Victim Orientation to Life
The first step in breaking free from the habitual responses typical of a Victim Orientation to living is to recognize the patterns of Victim Consciousness as they emerge in us.
The following five tendencies are common to those who experience life through the lens of Victim Consciousness:
1. As Victims, we commonly confuse helplessness and powerlessness.
When we experience life through the lens of Victimhood (and the Victim position of the Drama Triangle in particular), we are identified with our childhood disempowerment. As such, we are unconsciously invested in denying our personal power. The Victim position offers us a safe-heaven within which we need not take responsibility for creating the life we desire. We believe ourselves incapable of coping with that over which we are clearly powerless (but not helpless)- our past, and people places or things we relate to as perpetrators. Experiencing ourselves as Victims, our psyche prefers to remain in its learned position of disempowerment rather than face uncertainty, potential failure, rejection or abandonment. Instead of acknowledging our personal power and learning to use it responsibly to resolve conflicts, we remain “trapped” in circumstances (careers, jobs or relationships, for example) we dislike, and we often choose instead to seek power through control or authority over others (typically those whose vulnerabilities we exploit in order to feel one-up).
2. We are disconnected from our wants or cannot express them directly, even if prompted to do so.
If we habitually respond to life as Victims, it is likely that as children we learned that it was dangerous to express our feelings and needs directly. We may have discovered that it was preferable to discern and meet other people’s needs instead of our own so they would like us, protect us, take care of us and stay with us. Now as adults, we may harbor unconscious fears of abandonment that keep us from acknowledging and expressing our needs, preferring instead to ignore them as I demonstrated above in the example from my own personal life.
3. Our Inner State is not our responsibility.
As Victims, our Inner State- our happiness, joy, sense of safety, serenity, etc.- is at the mercy of other people’s emotions. We discover that how we feel about ourselves is dependent on other’s opinions about us. We can’t be happy unless those around us are happy, and we fear other’s anger or disappointment out of concern that those feelings may imply impending abandonment. In addition, having suppressed our emotions for most of our lives, we likely carry much unprocessed and repressed or suppressed anger, thus it takes little effort on the part of others to provoke an angry outburst in us.
4. We live lives of avoidance.
The hallmark of those who unknowingly perceive themselves as Victims is the avoidance of personal responsibility for most of what they experience in their lives, particularly that which is unpleasant or disappointing. As Victims, we avoid taking responsibility for our actions, choices and feelings, relying instead on excuses or the blaming of others (or situations seemingly beyond our control) to explain away tardiness, decisions that anger others and all forms of bad behavior.
We also avoid re-negotiating our commitments when it is clear we can’t meet them. We avoid setting boundaries, thus we are easy prey for those who consciously or not use our emotions to manipulate or control our behavior. In addition, Victim Consciousness is at the heart of most addictive behaviors. Addictive numbing out is a Victim’s favored means of reacting (avoiding) to feelings that often accompany difficult life situations. When confronted with circumstances that evoke fear or anxiety, for example, a Victim reacts to those feelings with addictive behaviors intended to assuage the feelings- unfortunately, this avoidant reaction typically leaves the provoking situation unresolved, thus ensuring that the uncomfortable feelings will return.
5. Our lives are filled with expectations and resentments.
Though as Victims we may be incapable of expressing our desires, we nonetheless harbor unconscious wishes and the expectation that others will meet them. Having failed to express our needs and to negotiate for how they might be met in our friendships and partnerships (business or romantic) ensures that people will eventually fail to satisfy us. When this occurs, the Victim experiences resentment- the only feeling available to one who believes he is incapable (helpless) of taking the necessary actions that would contribute to their desired outcomes. ............................................ There are many other manifestations of Victim Consciousness, for it affects all aspects of our lives. Today, I have focused on some common perceptions of the Victim position of the Drama Triangle. In forthcoming editions of this newsletter, I will describe the typical perceptions of the Rescuer and Perpetrator positions of the Drama Triangle. Until then, try this as an exercise in empowered living: choose to take responsibility for everything you experience in your life tomorrow. What would change if you were to do this? How might you feel if you decided that no one or no circumstance was a perpetrator, if things were not being done to you but were happening to you instead? If you are wondering how this might be possible or how to address the thoughts that would argue against this experiment, call me and schedule a complimentary coaching session.