She is a facilitator and trainer in the San Francisco Bay Area, California, USA. She has presented at many international conferences over the last ten years, including the North American Systemic Constellations (NASC) Conference, the International Systemic Constellations Association (ISCA) gathering, and the Australasian Intensive (Sydney). She also directed the 2015 NASC Conference in San Diego, California, USA, and is founder of the West Coast Constellations Intensive. She is a frequent contributor to The Knowing Field, the premier English constellations journal.
Article of Leslie Nipps
The “Victim Mindset”: An Appreciation
Imagine what it would be like for life to be like this:
Almost every time your partner tries to talk to you about something sensitive, you are certain it’s about to be over and you’ll never have another partner again.
It’s difficult to manage your emotional swings, from hatred at yourself, to fury at others.
Every small setback throws you into hopelessness, a sense that life won’t work.
You feel constantly attacked and persecuted, even when there’s not much external evidence that that’s what’s happening.
You feel terrible about how easily you are triggered into anger at behaviors of others that in hindsight were pretty innocent.
Sounds pretty awful, huh? Well, most of us have at least some of this, and some of my clients kind of live there much of the time.
It’s become common practice in some circles to call this the “Victim Mindset”: a kind of unconscious perspective on life that leads to consistently feel at the mercy of almost everything around us.
I have clients who’ve developed an admirable ability to recognize this pattern in their lives; they see how miserable it’s making them, and they come to me begging for help in changing it.
I have complete sympathy for this request – heck, I sometimes want it for myself! And, over the years of practice with clients, I have found that a tenacious pattern of “victim mindset” is one of the more valuable indicators that something very important has not yet been fully included, seen, honored or respected in the larger family system.
It can be something really obvious: the experience of childhood abuse that’s never been acknowledged in the family, for instance. Or, the experience of struggling with not being accepted for being gay in the family, or of being subjected to persistent racism. If these things haven’t been fully acknowledged, then they stay “stuck” in the system, awaiting full inclusion.
It can also be something far more subtle and unconscious in the family history. A history of slave holding, perhaps, or the grandmother who was abused by the grandfather, but who’s experience was never spoken or acknowledged.
Persistent “victim energy” in a system always leads me to ask – what or who is missing? Always. Even if sometimes what happens is that people get cranky about it and want it to go away (especially if there is no obvious reason for it).
If victim energy “sticks” in a system despite everything that seems good and loving about the system, I look for what experience of violation has been left out. Again, I underline this – always. Systems do not maintain victim energy out of nostalgia or habit; they do it because something hasn’t been included yet.
Now, I don’t want to be simplistic about this. Often – and perhaps most of the time – we cannot expect a simple resolution by finding the perpetrator and getting the acknowledgement. Yes, Family Constellations work can access the consciousness of long-dead perpetrators and graciously find a way to elicit that acknowledgment, and that’s a wonderful and clearing experience for everyone.
But that is not always available, even through the magic of constellations work. However, there is always a way, in constellations work or other modalities, to find the energetic core of the violation and make it visible – maybe symbolically or indirectly, but nonetheless with powerful truth in it which heals.
If you feel like you have a certain amount of victim mindset that you just can’t shake, whether you know the original violation or not, here’s an exercise you can try:
Imagine in front of you a representation for the original victim(s) and a representation for the original perpetrator(s). If you know that your feelings are connected to your own childhood trauma, then the representation of the victim could be your younger self.
(Having said that, our own childhood traumas are often preceded by ancestral ones that reflect our own, so sometimes it’s still helpful, even when we have our own personal trauma, to do this as if we were looking at long ago ancestors who’ve never been seen or acknowledged.)
Be present to them, and say “I see you. I acknowledge you. You are part of my family. It was very sad, but it is over. I hold a place for you in my heart, always. I will honor your suffering by living fully.” Just that, by itself, can sometimes be quite powerful for someone who’s had a hard time shaking a feeling of victimization that’s been driving them kind of nuts.
If the situation is an ongoing situation (and therefore not over and in the past) then you can still do the same thing, just leaving out the part about “it is over.” Instead, you can say “It is still going on for me.” Or something like that. Remember, constellation work is to a great degree about acknowledging, fully, what is. This has deep, deep power.
Then, maybe, we can just start feeling like a person, finally not so bound by the rules of victims and perpetrators…
And, some stuck feelings aren’t fully resolved by such a simple exercise. That’s often the beauty of full constellation work – the capacity to go deeply into the complex meanings in our family to reveal the subtle, excluded element. But, it is possible. I see it all the time. Can you imagine it for you and your family?
What is your experience of the “victim mindset”? Can we have a friendly and curious perspective on it? Please share your experience, comments and questions on my blog here. I am really supported when people who connect with what I write share it so that others can see it, so I would be hugely grateful, if you have a response, to please share it there. Thank you!
Portuguese translation is in portuguese language