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You don’t have to bond through victimhood

The Weekly Seeker #11

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Shared misery, victimhood, and self-pity are very common forms of bonding in our culture.

We sometimes find it easier, or more convenient, or less threatening to connect with other humans based on how much we’re suffering.

We might bond over (and complain about):

How messed up the world is.

How much our parents screwed us up.

How a past relationship or situation is to blame for our current suffering.

How men (or women) can’t be trusted.

How unfair life has been to us.

Complaining in these ways – and using the behavior of complaining to bond with others – is a favorite pastime of the ego.

The ego self likes to make a show of how much we’re suffering, how much the world has cheated us, or how unfair things have been for us.

The ego relishes in complaining, analyzing, obsessing over, magnifying, and talking about misery.

You likely know at least one person in your life who is a chronic complainer – someone who often talks about how bad things are, or is always anticipating how bad things might get.

It’s near-impossible to have a more uplifting, stimulating, or joyful conversation with someone in this state of mind… because they are completely ego-identified.

(No judgment whatsoever if you are a chronic complainer or have been one at some point in your life. I’ve been one, too.)

It’s also worth noting that chronic complaining keeps you stuck in a fight-or-flight state. It keeps your nervous system hyped up.

Complaining in a compulsive, unhelpful way (i.e., without making any changes or getting actual help) is interpreted by your nervous system and body as a threat and as a stressor.

This is true whether you’re complaining about others, about the world in general, or about yourself through self-criticism.

Existing in a state of victimhood is also perceived by your nervous system, body, and mind as a threat – one that, by its very nature, feels inescapable.

And yet

… sometimes, if we’re radically honest with ourselves, we might discover that a part of us doesn’t want to escape victimhood. Doesn’t want to let it go.

Victimhood and misery can become very strong parts of our identity, which we might unconsciously wield to get sympathy, love, acceptance, or care from others.

(Spiritual teacher Caroline Myss wrote a whole book about this – Why People Don’t Heal and How They Can. I highly recommend it.)

Ultimately, victimhood is just another survival strategy. When a member of the tribe gets sick, all other members of that tribe will naturally rally around that person to provide care, food, medicine, comfort. Perhaps they might take over the sick person’s duties and obligations.

So being sick – or taking on the role of victim – can have its benefits. It can help us be perceived as non-threatening by other tribe members (i.e., other humans) and therefore help us bond with others more easily.

Of course, this is not a genuine or very healthy form of connection.

It keeps us confined to a reality of suffering, of feeling powerless, of never truly finding peace within ourselves (or with others).

Tough questions to ask here:

In what area(s) of my life have I been playing the victim? How would it serve me to abandon that role now?

I hope you will courageously explore these questions and allow the answers to emerge, lovingly and without judgment. Asking these questions can transform you.

With lots of love and care,

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