There are two roles that we are taught from almost day one:
Both are part of the human app — there as a part of a coping mechanism for times of great pressure. The issue is that one or both becomes our identity and distances us further and further from our true selves. I’m convinced that that the gap between actor/victim and being our true selves is the root cause of most of the world’s emotional and spiritual suffering.
Each has their own triggers, voice and language. Consider the language of each …
- “Why are you acting that way?”
- “Act your age!”
- “I need to act more like a leader”
- “Get your act together”
- “Why did this happen to me?”
- “I don’t deserve this”
- “It’s your fault”
- “It’s their fault”
These two roles roles often conspire to become our identity -a form of devious yin and yang. When they become our identity, they get triggered and fed over and over again by the extrinsic: people, conditions, situations. Each incident reinforces either role. Eventually, actor/victim drives us to to be the sum of our experiences rather than the sum of our beliefs.
Our psyche/ego quickly becomes addicted to these two roles and keeps our mind in survival and scarcity state. This puts us in hyper-awareness mode where we become overly sensitive to, well, everything. Then how we act and how we are treated by others rises to a whole new sad level. We tend to only be around people who benefit from our act or don’t see it all. We isolate in groups of other victims — all feeding each other the unfairness of life.
Using the language of the stellar book The Four Agreements, we agreed to these roles years ago. We agreed to “act” a certain way to get parental approval or to avoid punishment. We agreed to be a victim when we began to buy in to the idea that we are inherently flawed. We agreed to act a certain way during times of stress. We agreed to respond to situations with a victim mentality.
These roles permeate our career and our relationships. They influence in-the-moment decision-making as well as long-term planning. They warp the lens of our world view towards fear, doubt and anger. They make religious people unloving. They make secular people dark-hearted. They make leaders soul’s die. They make employees zombies. They make key relationships a two (or more) part drama.
Like I said, I believe these two roles are the root of most suffering. You will not be able to eliminate these roles (as mentioned, they are part of our “app”) but you can gain dominion over them.
Here are a few places to start:
- Go inward. Ask yourself: “What do I truly believe?” Consider what has always been there — beliefs, values, convictions you weren’t taught by others or by experiences. You will find that most of the actor/victim issues come from trying to adhere to systemic beliefs rather than what you actually believe.
- Go inward again. When you feel the actor or victim voices, behaviors, etc start to kick in, go inward. Notice your body. Notice your breathing. Go to the moment that triggered the actor or victim reaction and freeze it. Examine the trigger. It will always be some sort of response you were taught. Which means it can be unlearned.
- Flood your heart. Like a submarine filling its ballast tanks to dive below the surface, flood your heart with love, gratitude, thankfulness. No actor or victim role can withstand this outpouring. This flow will wash out resentment, assumptions, expectations, preconceived notions, unforgiveness — all tools of the trade of being an actor or victim.
Over time, you will learn how to properly utilize these traits as tools. In a high pressure and/or unexpected situation, you will learn how to act calm and collected. When interacting with an unreasonable or mentally ill person, you will learn to be still and logical. There’s even occasions where it’s ok to temporarily be a “victim”. This can be a trigger for self-care: getting some rest, eating some food, having some fun. Tuning into the “victim” also helps you practice empathy for others. You can truly understand how they feel because you’ve felt it too!