“Somebody insults you and you feel anger. Don’t miss this opportunity; try to understand why, why this anger. And don’t make it a philosophical thing. Don’t go to the library to consult about anger. Anger is happening to you — it is an experience, a live experience. Focus your whole attention on it and try to understand why it is happening to you. It is not a philosophical problem. No Freud is to be consulted about it. There is no need! It is just foolish to consult somebody else while anger is happening to you. You can touch it. You can taste it. You will be burned by it.
Try to understand why it is happening, from where it is coming, where the roots are, how it happens, how it functions, how it overpowers you, how in anger you become mad. Anger has happened before, it is happening now, but now add a new element to it, the element of understanding — and then the quality will change. Then, by and by, you will see that the more you understand anger, the less it happens. And when you understand it perfectly, it disappears. Understanding is like heat. When the heat comes to a particular point — one hundred degrees — the water disappears.” – Osho
To be a victim is disempowering in the absolute sense – there is no opportunity for healing there. I have been raped but I will not refer to myself as a victim. In my search for healing I’ve concluded that there can be no such a thing as a victim, for if there is, healing would be impossible; it would depend on what others do, and that is something I have no control over. The best I could do is attempt to influence, and hope for the best, and this is emotionally draining and frustrating at best.
The victim mentally is a pervasive and disabling part of our culture. It is woven into the way we speak to each other, into our language, when we say “you make me so…” or “he makes me feel…” or “she made me…” Whether the feeling is positive or negative is irrelevant, when we believe others have the magical ability to make us feel something, we believe ourselves to be a victim. But how can I say that in the awful scenario or rape, for instance, that the person raped is not a victim?
Let’s be clear, a person who is raped has had a horrible thing done to them, but no one can control how they will react to and feel about the rape. In the climate of a victim mentality culture, however, most people who have been raped expect that others should do or say something to make healing possible for them. Feeling retraumatized and revictimized by the reactions of others is common. Many people who have been raped report that the reaction of the community, that often protects or apologizes for the rapist, was just as, if not more traumatic then the actual rape itself. I can attest to this since this has been my experience. I was expecting my friends, family, and community to rally around me, and instead I was met skepticism, silence, and even anger. In order to heal, it has become blatantly apparent to me that I cannot rely on others, and I cannot wait for them to “come around” to my point of view. I have allowed myself to be “revictimized” because I felt powerless, because I felt like a victim, because I believed that others have the power to give me my health and happiness or take it away.
A victim is by definition powerless. A victim has no control, and is at the mercy of others. I am convinced that even if a person forces another to submit to them physically, power – true power – has nothing to do with a physical offence. Only the perpetrator’s fear, self-hatred, and feelings of powerlessness can inspire such acts in an effort to regain the lost sense of power. Again, it is magical thinking at work when the perpetrator believes that power can really be taken or exchanged between individuals. If your friend felt powerless could you offer to give him some of your power by choice if he insisted he was hopeless? Could you choose for him? No.
Understand that the definition of power I am referring to has nothing to do with money, or politics, or hierarchy. That has to do with material control. I’m talking about another person’s ability or inability to control your internal state of being, of feeling, of thinking. It cannot be done! Only YOU have the power to control your inner state and that is the only true power that anyone can ever have. All other “power” is an illusion, but the illusion undoubtedly looks very real simply because so many of us buy into the belief that we can be made to feel like a victim by someone else.
I know all this and yet the victim mentality is still the default explanation my mind resorts to whenever I feel imposed upon by others or by situations. It is like a software program that runs in my brain, and healing is going to require my full attention and a commitment to changing the false belief that others can “make” me feel anything at all. Even in the positive instance, for example, when I feel swept off my feet by a lover, I must recognize that the feeling comes from me, and not from them. Another might not feel such lust or love toward that person as I do, therefore my feelings comes from me and only me, and have nothing to do with the inherent qualities of that person.
To heal I must change my fundamental beliefs I have about the world and myself, I must see things through new eyes. What it really comes down to is destroying my belief in a lack of free will, my belief in thought control, for when I acknowledge my real power I see that no one can control my thoughts. In fact, to believe such a thing is in the interest of those who wish to “take power” away from me. It is to their benefit that I believe I have no control over my emotional reactions to them, that I fear them and fear how they can “make” me feel.
Once again I must be aware of the flip side of the coin here. If I allow myself to have the belief that others can take my power away, then I must also believe that they can give it back to me in a gesture of “helping.” The only real help others can give is to show me how to help myself, to inspire me to be the change I want to see. But the belief that another can simply give me power, that I can simply buy my healing from a therapist or a pharmacy, is nothing but a illusion, and indeed it is “giving away” my power to another. This is dangerous, for it even allows for self-interested corruption to function under the guise of helping. There is nothing wrong with seeing a therapist, as long as I am not expecting them to “heal me,” but instead expecting them to partner with me and show me the work I must do for myself. In terms of taking pharmaceutical drugs, I can’t see any potential for healing, only numbing.
The expectation that others need to do something differently or change in order for me to heal or be happy will forever be unfruitful. No one is going to give me anything, even if they wanted to they cannot. Even the truly benevolent do not have any power to help me, just as the truly evil do not have any power to hurt me. It is a choice, and I must defend against my false belief in either sense and take my healing into my own hands. I must work with others who inspire me to find that truth again and again, others who know this and practice it in their own lives. When I take stock, it’s true that the only time I’ve ever experienced any real healing is when I took responsibility for my own health and happiness. Others can point toward the path, but I must walk it myself.
I feel abandoned by my mother, because I know she doesn’t want to believe my dad could be capable of sexually abusing me. She sends emails that start with what I see as a courtesy disclaimer, “It’s not that I don’t believe you, but…” and then tells me all the reasons why she thinks I could be mistaken. It tears my heart out, but I try to be understanding. She has been going through a lot since I broke the silence and told her about the memories I’ve begun to recover, and admittedly she’s in the most difficult position of all.
The little child part of me wants nothing more than for my mother to believe that what I’m telling her is true and choose me over my perpetrator. It doesn’t look likely though, so I tell myself that’s just a childish dream that she could ever choose one family member over another, that she’s built a life with this person, that it’s selfish of me to put expectations on her. But it’s like a knife to the heart. I actually find it hard to value my own life if she doesn’t believe me, and thinking about it too much is the one thing that can send me back into that dark suicidal place I was a few months back. In that place I feel half dead, have rotted, half decomposed, and yet I haven’t taken my life. I am still walking around trying to find a way out that doesn’t depend on her or what she does. Just to feel alive again.
I know on an intellectual level that I can choose whatever experience of this that I want. But that little girl is convinced, “If my own mother won’t believe me, won’t choose me, who would?” She takes it to mean she is worthless, that others’ words to the contrary are meaningless gestures of etiquette, rather than heartfelt truths. The whole world becomes cold and fake to her. This is no way to live.
Accepting that my mother has the right to deal with this situation however she wants has been the most difficult emotional challenge I’ve ever had. The truth is her words and actions have no meaning except the meaning I choose to give to them, so the impact on my self worth comes from my beliefs rather than from her. The clincher is that I know this intellectually, but it still feels like abandonment. It still feels like I have been ousted from the tribe, left to fend for myself, like death is after me, already eating through my flesh.
My only choice is to wholeheartedly accept that only I can give my life whatever meaning I choose, and that yes, expectations and wishes for my mother to do this or that are in fact, just childish dreams, based on the false belief that my self worth comes from her. In truth it never has, and it never will. How much longer am I willing to spend trying to barter for these childish dreams? That I don’t know, but I hope it’s not long. There’s a big beautiful world out there waiting for me.
~ “It is very tempting to take the side of the perpetrator. All the perpetrator asks is that the bystander do nothing. He appeals to the universal desire to see, hear, and speak no evil. The victim, on the contrary, asks the bystander to share the burden of pain. The victim demands action, engagement, and remembering.” – Judith Herman, Trauma and Recovery
Don’t ask for permission to be who you are.
Don’t ask for anyone’s approval.
You don’t need to be sexy or nice.
You don’t need to be anything to anyone.
Say what you want to say.
You are not the cause of anyone’s feelings.
Nothing outside of you is the cause of your feelings.
You are worthy of everything you need and want simply because you exist.
You are choosing your state of being at every moment.
The world means whatever you want it to mean.
No one is going to give you anything.
If you want your freedom and happiness, it’s yours for the taking.
~ “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” – Viktor E. Frankl
I often use the metaphor that my life used to be like a building that was beautiful on the outside, but dark and decrepit and languishing on the inside. Nothing gets spared when you experience sexual abuse as a child or experience being raped. It makes a complete mess of everything and you don’t even know it until you know it.
I was afraid to live because I thought I was a bad person. I was a bad person because of all the things I’d do to cope with feeling bad. I was even bad for wanting love, because bad girls don’t deserve love. People only want them for sex. And women who are good for sex are whores. And whores are bad too. But I was only good at being bad.
I wasn’t brave. I was busy running away from the problems and pain but one day all my demons caught up to me, and it was going to be them or me. I was so sick and tired of being unhappy in this beautiful but languishing building that I finally wanted to see what was hidden inside, so I lit a match to see the horrors for myself. And there they were hiding in the shadows, all of my demons. Everything in my life finally began to make sense, and I could see I wasn’t bad after all, it was the demons, and the demons had to go.
But how does one kill a demon? I tried to chase them out many times before but it was ayahuasca that taught me the only way to kill a demon is with fire. They must be charred into ash and returned to source, and this is how I accidently burned the whole building to the ground.
I watched piece by piece as my life burned up, every piece of what I thought of as “me,” drenched in flame and reduced to ash, crumbled and disappeared, and I saw that the demons I tried to set fire to were just shadows cast by my own structure. I saw that the only thing to fear was myself, and the fire’s transformative alchemy spared me no dust-covered illusions from my attic. It left me naked and nameless and powerful.
Every relationship I had changed, because I had changed, and there was nothing I could do as I watched the old relationships burn, for they were just reflections of me. I was laid off from a job where I was unhappy, I left my showroom perfect apartment, and I began to operate on an unapologetic level where I could just exist and not have to answer to anyone but myself. When I was all that was left, there was no more fear; there was nothing to lose anymore, and that is what set me free. That is what showed me who I am really am and what I’m really made of.
~ “Expose yourself to your deepest fear; after that, fear has no power, and the fear of freedom shrinks and vanishes. You are free.” – Jim Morrison
I was seriously considering moonlighting as a dominatrix a few years ago, seeing it as a healthier outlet for my anger towards men than disrespecting them in general. The idea came up when I’d met a practicing dominatrix in a Shanghai nightclub. She was a blonde German woman, which would have made her quite popular among the locals, and I remember her grinning ear to ear as she told me how much money men pay her to “stomp on their balls with my stilettos.” I never actually did the dominatrix thing, but I’ve always wondering about why it appeals to me so much, although it’s not a general appeal. I’d never feel the urge to dominate a man I feel safe around already, just the ones I don’t feel safe around. Dr. Michael J. Bader’s book, Arousal: The Secret Logic of Sexual Fantasies, offers this explanation.
Many “tops” have experienced feeling like a helpless victim as a child, and in identifying with the abuser rather than as a victim, they overcome the belief that they are in fact helpless and capable of being overpowered. Instead, they claim the “power” their abuser had over them. It can relieve the self-blame and self-hatred a person has for themselves for “allowing” the abuse to happen to them by putting them in control.
“Tops” also often experience being labeled as a “bad person” in day to day life. This might look like being told that they are responsible for the feelings of others, when in fact they are not responsible for how others choose to feel. “Tops” can feel tremendous guilt and worry about the person or people they’ve been told they are responsible for. For instance, a son who is always told he is responsible for this mother’s negative emotions will tend to relate to women in the same way, feeling responsible for their hurt feelings when no negative intent is actually there. He might believe that he’s a “bad guy” if his girlfriend gets upset and blames him for her feelings.
In a consensual Master-slave relationship, the arousal of the slave is essential to the Master’s arousal. The slave’s pleasure at being dominated, hurt, and abused proves that the Master isn’t really a bad person or an abuser after all. It helps the Master get past their negative beliefs that they are guilty for hurting others, guilty for not being able to help or save others, that they are somehow responsible for others’ suffering. It also relieves the guilt of wanting to be in control of another.
Master-slave sex takes all of the “bad” about the Master, and turns it into “good.” It proves to the Master that they are not a helpless victim, but a powerful and appreciated dominator. I was always told by both of my parents that I was “bad,” and deep down, I always believed it. So for me, having always felt like I was a “bad person,” the urge to dominate and inflict pain on men might be more about wanting to feel like a “good person” than a revenge fantasy.
It’s usually men who take the role of dominator during sex, so this is insightful as well to explain how society socializes men to feel responsible for everyone else. I wonder how many men out there feel like they’re a “bad guy,” and that they’re responsible for womens’ feelings? And, since being a dominator is also the socially acceptable role for a man to play in his sex life, I also wonder how many men out there are playing “top” when they really want to play “bottom”? I’d bet it’s more than we think.
~ “It is always by way of pain one arrives at pleasure.” – Marquis de Sade