Recovering From the Victim Identity

Unwinding the Knotty Threads of Belief.

Posted Mar 04, 2011

There is generally a deep sorrow within the person who identifies as Victim. Often that sorrow is related to real traumas, real heartbreak that occured in childhood, real tragedies. Sometimes the person who unconsciously identifies as Victim is ill or physically challenged in some way.  Sometimes this person has literally been victimized in some way. 

But the Victim identity is not based on those heartbreaks, traumas, or challenges--though the Victim may successfully convince himself and others that they are. Rather, the Victim identity is based on an identification with victim-ness.  This identification unconsciously insists that the person so identified can be nothing else but victim. Life-all of life-becomes defined by the thoughts and emotions of a pervasive as-if victim-ness, even when the Victim is not being victimized.

In the last blog we outlined some general belief systems held by the Victim. It is these belief systems that have primacy when it comes to healing the Victim.  These belief systems have to be changed. But how do we change belief systems? 

Belief systems are just that-systems. The beliefs within this system cannot be isolated and done away with in isolation, because every one belief is intertwined with several others. The belief systems held by any of the roles we have and will yet outline are comparable to a ball of yarn that has fallen, rolled across the floor, completely unwound and then been wound again.  The threads are a jumbled up mess and untangling them involves several knotty issues. 

For the Victim in particular, looking at the individual beliefs within the system of beliefs is doubly hard, because each one looks as if it proves the other. So, the first premise that has to be understood, and yes believed, is that each one of the beliefs is mutually affirmative to the others. So, if the Victim believes that no one could ever possibly understand how hard it is for her, that belief is mutually reinforced, not only by the external world she's created out of that belief, but by the belief that you can't trust anyone, and the belief that if you get up you'll just be kicked back down again.  And these beliefs all add up to the common denominator of them all:  Life is hard-really, really hard.

In order for the Victim to begin to process the idea that these beliefs might just be wrong, he has to have formulated the potential for another identity.  He has to have made some kind of affective connection with the Authentic Self.  Of course, we will be talking much more about how this happens as we go deeper and deeper into the inner terrain in this blog, but for now, all we need to know is that if the Victim comes to therapy, it is a wonderful opportunity for him to begin to see that perhaps he is the creator of some of his problems. 

Just this insight alone can be enough to allow the Victim to begin to question the beliefs that hold her down. Is life really any harder for her than for anyone else?  Really?  Probably not.  How does one compare suffering after all?  Though we do try, don't we? It is rather humorous to see two Victims try to out-victim each other, comparing all of the depth and gravity of their enormous life-scars. So in order for  the Victim to allow herself to questoion  her own beliefs, something else also has to be in place:  She has to be able to look at her beliefs without judging herself.  The minute she starts judging herself, she is likely to think that whoever is in the room with her is also judging her, and she'll get defensive in order to save herself from this person who is trying to victimize her yet again. 

The fact is that the Victim developed this set of beliefs as a defense mechanism, a way of coping with life:  If you are already a victim, you can't be shocked and surprised when you get victimized.  So if he can begin to see that these beliefs were not developed because he's a wimp or because he is manipulative or bad, then he can stop judging himself for having them and look at them more objectively.  Though he may manipulate because he has these beliefs and feels that manipulation is all that's left to him, he didn't develop these beliefs in order to manipulate. 

Without judgment hindering her growth, the Victim can look objectively at these beliefs and even logically argue against them.  But like any other unconscious compulsion, the beliefs will come up again and again and need to be viewed objectively and seen as untrue again and again.  In the process of working with these beliefs, the Victim slowly unwinds from the web of victim-ness she's created for herself, begins to find her own feet and walk somewhat closer to truth.  It is a journey and she should be willing to be patient with herself as she processes through the intricacies of these tiny threads of interlocking beliefs with which she's tied herself to the mast of her own boat.