"Living is easy with eyes closed, misunderstanding all you see..." - John Lennon
This week both personally, professionally and in the readings I ran into recurring themes revolving around the victim/perpetrator dance that we all find ourselves in at some point or another. This familiar human dynamic can be so painful especially when it comes to all kinds of deception or hiding. How does our behavior disintegrate into abusiveness and/or repetitive victimhood? There are no simple answers to this question and the why is beyond my pay grade. Most of the pain that comes from humans behaving badly towards each other is rooted in fear and lack of consciousness of that fear. When people are abusing or taking advantage of another or just as equally, remaining in a place where they feel they are being taken advantage of or being victimized, there is a personal choice to live by a construct of "rules" that the person believes in, whether consciously or unconsciously. The biggest mistake that people make in either seat at this table is to assume that the victim or the perpetrator understands the impact that they are having or not having on the other. Assuming that the other should "just know" is "living more easily with your eyes closed." The more difficult path initially (but the easier path in the long run) is to take responsibility for yourself by either asking with an open heart "what is my impact?" or conversely "can I express how I feel that you impact me?" Easier said than done. This course of action requires personal responsibility which is very rare in this day and age.
Perpetrators blame and judge their victims.
Victims blame and judge their perpetrators.
Blame and judgement is easier in the short term and requires no courage.
Open dialogue, accountability and authenticity requires courage.
Taking personal responsibility for whatever struggle you find yourself in automatically eliminates the mask that the label of victim or perpetrator provides. It empowers the victim to assert themselves and to make a change without resentment. It empowers the perpetrator to forgive themselves and experience their impact, creating the space to change their behavior.
I am reminded of one of my favorite teachers Don Miguel Ruiz who wrote one of the best books ever on this topic, "The Four Agreements." The most applicable agreement to the victim/ perpetrator conundrum is "Never Take Anything Personally." There is freedom from pain in those four words. Nothing that anyone ever does or says is REALLY about you. Even compliments. The only thing we really control is our own behavior. The only rules we really know exist in our own minds. By the way, no one else shares your same reality, even if they say that they do or you feel that they do. Ruiz says, "Even if others lie to you, it is ok. They are lying to you because they are afraid. They are afraid that you will discover that they are not perfect. It is painful to take that social mask off. If others say one thing but do another, you are lying to yourself if you do not listen to their actions. But if you are truthful with yourself, you will save yourself a lot of emotional pain." Word Don Miguel...