Today we ask that you look at the way you think about victims and victimhood.
This is a very charged subject for people. Nothing inspires outrage like questioning one’s concepts around victimhood.
Usually, when one begins to question concepts around victimhood, the defensive “how dare you” response focuses on extreme cases, such as innocent children who are brutalized or killed. For the sake of conversation, let’s not focus on extreme cases.
Let’s instead focus on garden variety, everyday victimhood.
The victimhood of the despised job, the long commute, the chores of parenthood, the trials of marriage, the burden of bills and taxes.
If there is a universal language on Earth, it is the language of victimhood. One might call it “Complainese.” It is the common tongue of all men. You could take two very different people from far-flung places around the globe — but get them complaining to each other about their jobs, mates, or children, and they’d find common ground.
In fact, if you listen to ordinary human conversation, most of it is in “Complainese.” Ask someone how they are doing, and generally you will hear about their problems and how they feel like victims today. It doesn’t matter if they are rich or poor, male or female, black or white. Everyone on Earth has something to complain about.
It could be said that victimhood is the great human pastime and addiction. Indeed, there is nothing more seductive and addictive to humans than the Victim Identity.
The Victim Identity is to humans what the Venus Fly Trap is to flies. People don’t like the experience of victimhood, yet they are powerfully drawn toward the Victim Identity. It is irresistibly alluring. And yet once you take the bait, you are stuck in a very uncomfortable place. You struggle to get out, but your struggles only tighten the trap. Many people spend their whole lives deeply in the snare of the Victim Identity, and are consumed by it.
Victim Identity is alluring because it is such a strong identity. It allows people to feel very self-righteous, noble, and special. After all, they are victims. Whatever their problems may be, it is always someone or something else that is to blame. The government, evil corporations, their parents, their genes, that they weren’t born rich. As victims, they share an instant social bond with other victims who feel victimized by the same things. Women who hate their husbands, for example, always have plenty to talk/complain about.
So there are many “benefits” to being in the Victim Club.
But there is also a huge downside.
For anyone who spends his life trapped in the snare of Victim Identity will, in general, be miserable, anxious, and depressed most of the time. And the more he dwells on his individual victimhood, or victimhood in general, the more severe this will be.
And yet as miserable, anxious and depressed as people caught in Victim Identity are, the idea that there could be any other way to live is unthinkable and often horribly offensive. First of all, they are victims! They had no choice in the matter. Maybe you have had some kind of easy life, but obviously you do not know what real victimhood is if you’d ever dare to question it.
And that is okay. There is actually nothing helpful or useful in attempting to talk someone who is strongly rooted in Victim Identity out of being a victim. In truth, it cannot be done.
However, for some people, there comes a time in life when they are very weary of being miserable, anxious and depressed. They are weary of the “human condition,” and long for something better. Though the Victim Identity may be very familiar and even comforting in some ways, they are sick and tired of it.
Such people will begin to search for another way of being. This message is for those people.
Here is something you can pay attention to:
When you spend a lot of time being exposed to Victim Stories — in the news, on the internet, or talking to people you know — how do you generally feel afterward?
If you pay attention, you will notice that exposure to Victim Stories usually increases your own level of anxiety, paranoia, and depression.
Even if the Victim Story has nothing to do with you personally, it will trigger your own sense of victimhood in regard to your personal issues. When you hear about other people’s tragedies, you begin to feel more fearful and defensive about your own life — so as to ward off such tragedy befalling you.
Just watch for this pattern. Once you notice it, it’s hard to miss.
When you think of other people as being “victims,” always simultaneously, often unconsciously, you are affirming your own capacity for victimhood — and thus increasing levels of anxiety, depression, and unhappiness that go hand in hand with this state.
The way out of this trap — and this may sound unthinkable and outrageous — is simply to stop thinking of people as “victims” altogether.
Do not focus on the extreme cases right now. Focus on the garden variety, everyday victims you encounter in daily life.
What is being asked is that you stop thinking of these people as victims, no matter what they believe about themselves and no matter what they tell you.
If you look at all human myth and drama, the theme of victimhood is ubiquitous. Every hero in every myth endures a state of victimhood. Think of Cinderella, think of Luke Skywalker, think of Harry Potter. Terrible things befall these characters early on in their stories. They are “victims.”
But they do not stay there. In the course of the story, such characters always move from a state of Victimhood to a state of Mastery.
Almost all human dramas show this progression, from Victim to Master.
“Master” here just means someone who is deeply comfortable and at home in this world, because he is deeply comfortable and at home in himself. Though external adversity may still beset him, he does not fall to pieces with anxiety or despair over it.
Characters like Obi Wan Kenobi and Yoda are “Masters.” These beings are anything but insecure. Even if they are in danger, even if they are attacked — no one would ever think of them as “Victims.”
All “Victims” in this reality — all of them — are on their way to becoming “Masters.” It may not happen over the course of one lifetime, but gaining this kind of mastery is, quite simply, what beings do here.
You are not a Victim. You are a Master-in-Training.
You are not a Victim because of the people and circumstances in your life.
You are a Master-in-Training because of the people and circumstances in your life.
The people you see who are most strongly rooted in the Victim Identity are also Masters-in-Training.
Don’t tell them that, because it will make no sense to them.
But you have the capacity to perceive them that way. And this shift in perception can profoundly affect your life experience and the substance of reality itself.
So just play with this.
The next time you are getting caught up in all the tragic victim stories, notice how you are feeling.
Try reframing the story in your mind, to perceive people not as “Victims,” but as “Masters-in-Training.”
Sometimes the most tragic victims are, in fact, hidden Masters. For this reality is not all there is, and death is not the end of anyone.
And it is okay if you do not believe this. It is just something to play with.