Have you ever wondered why achieving and maintaining inner peace can be such a challenge? When people struggle with poverty, loss or other difficult life circumstances the answer is obvious. However, from our society’s standards some people appear to have it all and yet peace continues to elude them. Why is that?
In my experience as a therapist I’ve come to identify two states of being that we constantly move in and out of, that blocks access to our state of empowerment where peace and joy resides. The two states are the victim and the perpetrator state.
Here’s a brief description of the two states:
In a victim state, we feel powerless, unable to take responsibility for our experience of the world, we self-pity. In this state we do not seek to find solutions to our problems we seek to be right -To prove the point that we are innocent and life events or others are to blame for our inner suffering. The victim state is self-perpetuating as from the ego’s perspective it’s incredibly rewarding to be right. Any insights suggested from others goes unheard as we’re subconsciously reinforcing a state of powerlessness to earn the ego’s reward, which is, “I’m right they’re wrong…I’m the winner!”
A typical behavior of someone in a victim state is the constant repetition of a story which justifies and supports the state of victimization. We either become absorbed in our internal dialog or in a social context we seek (on a subconscious level) to convince others of the extent of our powerlessness and victimhood. As a result, we may elicit compassion; those feelings however are short lived and turn to resentment when others who try to help begin to realize that they’re being used to reinforce our state of negativity.
You see, in a victim state, the focus is not on trying to find resolution or solutions to a problem. The ego’s interest is in proving the fact that others are wrong, at fault or to blame for our inner suffering. We get the gold medal for being right! The problem here is that by constantly reinforcing our negative state of victimhood, we suck the life out of anyone who tries to help. In doing so, we turn into perpetrators. In addition to this, we don’t lessen our pain we actually reinforce the victim state that’s at the root of our suffering.
Another typical behavior that we adopt in a victim state is the labeling of people that have hurt us. The ego seeks to diminish the pain induced by others by perceiving them as the villains. “You see if they’re the villains then I’m the good guy.” That’s the ego’s incentive. The problem is, in labeling we limit our ability to gain insights on the pain and deeper motives that fuel the behavior of the people that have hurt us; which if we sought to understand could give us insights on how to forgive and regain our personal power.
In a perpetrator state, we hold on to negative feelings of resentment and seek to target the object of our inner suffering. The perpetrator show’s up to protect and defend the victim. Another role is to keep track of accumulated debt in order to demand restitution for past suffering. The perpetrator doesn’t believe in finding peace within, it believes in the acquisition of power by show of force. The false sense of empowerment gained from controlling people and outside factors is the reward for the perpetrator. “If I’m feeling depressed and oppressed, holding resentment and targeting the cause of my feelings minimizes my sense of powerlessness. It gives me the illusion that I’m in control. I was a powerless victim and now I’m powerful and in control. I’ve identified the culprits now all that’s left to do is to make them pay.” The problem here is that for as long as you rely on others to make up for their bad deeds in order for you to regain your sense of peace…you’re not in control THEY are! You continue to be at the mercy of other people’s behaviors, opinions and feelings. Life is a constant battle and you lose. Your sense of peace continues to elude you.
Guilt is another form of perpetrator. It’s the perpetrator turned against oneself. You beat yourself up for what you did, should have done or didn’t do. It’s a way for the victim to regain control over a situation that feels or felt out of control. I’m the culprit and in order to make things right I bring out my perpetrator and punish myself for all my bad deeds.
To sum it up, in the victim and perpetrator state we never seek to find resolution and solutions to problems. Our energy and resources are used instead to fuel the ego’s rewards which results in further pain for ourselves and others.
Illusion maintained by the victim and perpetrator:
When we are victims of an accident, an assault or an unfair deal for example, the initial cause of our inner suffering is external. At that point we have the duty to transcend the inner pain so that we can stop reliving the trauma associated with the original wound. That’s an internal process. The victim and perpetrator believe in applying external force or targeting outside factors in order to regain inner peace. From their perspective there is no other way to deal with pain that has been induced by external factors. The naive belief maintained by the victim and perpetrator is that an inner state of peace and joy strictly depends on those external factors.
That’s when we have to educate the victim and perpetrator that there’s another way of being, that suffering doesn’t have to be eternal. The way is by accessing a state of empowerment.
In an empowered state:
We take ownership of our experience of the world. By pulling out of the victim and perpetrator state and into a state of empowerment, we shift our focus away from external factors and refocus instead on our internal reality. We use past pain as life lessons to better ourselves; to learn about resiliency, letting go, patience, perseverance, courage, boundary setting, self-respect, flexibility and so on.We regain our personal power as we no longer depend on others to make up for their debt in order to feel whole again. We choose to be at peace. We stop letting external events dictate our internal state of being. We access our higher self. We pull out of fight or flight (victim and perpetrator state) which means we can now access our reasoning; we find solutions to problems and see opportunities that use to elude us. Opportunities eluded us because we weren’t looking for them. Instead our energy was spent in targeting the object of our suffering and in maintaining a state of negativity -In maintaining and fueling pain in our lives.
We gain tools that allow us to progress and become stronger more empowered individuals. “OK, but still…it’s the person that’s to blame for my pain whom needs the life lesson, not me” says the perpetrator. You’re missing the point, those life challenges are from a state of empowerment -opportunities to move ahead in our evolution. We access the deeper meaning in life and begin to identify and nurture our inner qualities which results in a more permanent state of empowerment where peace and joy reside. We move forward in our evolution. Resentment and negativity holds us back. It turns our past experience into our present nightmare. It becomes an underground current of energy that biases our perception and experience of reality.
It’s important to know that we constantly move in and out of the three states. The goal is to move towards a more permanent state of empowerment where peace and joy resides -That’s an internal process. Let’s remind ourselves that life’s experiences in all of its forms, the good and the bad, are meant to bring us closer to our essence where peace and joy reside. Our quality of life depends on the amount of time and energy spent in maintaining one of the three states. It’s good to know that by simply recognizing the role that the victim and perpetrator play in our lives, we become more empowered individuals. We can now learn to choose to nurture and move towards a more permanent state of peace and joy.
© Copyright. Resonance For Life Body/Mind Harmonization Center, 2014. All rights reserved. Unpublished. Anne-Marie Campanella, MA