Have you ever felt hurt or wronged by someone and felt like retaliating or retreating into a victim state. As long-time therapists working in Hollywood, we’ve seen more than our fair share of patients who are in full the-world-is-against-me mode and our experiences have taught us that this kind of victimhood isn’t just a conclusion or a complaint; it’s a deep inner feeling, as difficult to get rid of as a tattoo.
When you think of someone in your life who “takes things too personally,” it means they see every event as a referendum on their specialness. If you hear someone saying things like “I can’t catch a break,” or “I would never treat them the way they treated me,” you know they are caught in the “victim trap.”
Victims feel put upon by the world. They’re in a passive state: they think things are done to them, not by them. There’s an art to being a victim, a perverse use of your creativity in which you make up excuses for your inability to move forward in life. The victim has a battle cry of “It’s not fair!”
The Price of Victimhood Is Your Relationship
Victims live limited lives. Their abilities to relate to others, to seize opportunities and take risks, and to live in a committed and meaningful way are all compromised. Their picture of themselves and others is blurred, leaving them disconnected and isolated.
One of the few things more painful than being a victim is being around one. Listening to their nonstop complaints can be torture. Victims—and the hidden sense of specialness that drives them—are focused only on themselves. Solid, lasting relationships require you to go beyond your personal needs and become sensitive to what others are feeling, particularly how you make them feel.
But if your focus is purely on yourself, that’s impossible. If you’re the special one at the center of the universe, it’s not important what anyone else is feeling; they don’t matter. So although victims affect everyone around them, they have little or no awareness of what that effect is.
It’s actually easy to identify when someone else is in a victim state: they’re unpleasant to be around. What’s more difficult is to be aware of how others feel when you are in the victim state. As a victim, you are unable to process pain and move beyond it. Instead, you inflict your pain on those around you. The “Woe is me’” stories about mistreatment, complaints about the nature of the world, repeating of personal grievances, etc.,force others to absorb the pain you should be processing yourself. These are “pain injections” that put others through undeserved agony, and weaken the foundation of the entire relationship.
Let’s say you’re having a problem with your boss. You go to a close friend and download a feverish litany of his abusive acts: he yells at you, he demands that you go on personal errands for him, and so on. If she’s a real friend, she’ll immediately assume you need help. She’ll worry about you, try to reassure you, maybe suggest a course of action. But if you’re a victim, you don’t want help; you just want to display your collection of injuries.
You dismiss whatever course of action your friend advises, because you didn’t want to solve the problem, you just wanted a place to dump your garbage and validate your victimhood. Help is actually dangerous for victims—if they let it in, life might get better and they’d lose their special identity as a victim.
One of the primary effects of the drive to be special is the destruction of human relationships. If it can break the ties of love and loyalty that bind us together, it is free to attack person by person. Alone, no individual can win the battle with it. With its usual demonic genius, it has driven you to give your friend a double message: I need help but I won’t accept it.
The more the friend loves you, and the more willing they are to take action to help you, the more confused and hurt this message makes them. Unintentionally, you have demeaned their love and goodwill. The friend leaves each interaction feeling worse than she felt when it started. This is why victims end up complaining that their friends won’t listen to them anymore.
“The Tower”—The Tool We Can Use to Overcome Victimhood
To learn the tool, you’ll need to pick a situation where your feelings were hurt, an instance where you were wounded badly enough that the pain stayed around for a while. It doesn’t matter how old you were or who hurt you. Once you’ve re-created the incident and can feel your hurt feelings intensely, you’re ready to use the tool.
DEATH: Call up the hurt feelings that you just identified. Make them even worse and feel them attacking you right in your heart. They become so intense that your heart breaks and you die. You are left lying motionless on the ground.
ILLUMINATION: You hear a voice that says with great authority, “Only the dead survive.” The moment it speaks, your heart fills with light, illuminating your surroundings. You see you are lying at the bottom of a hollow tower, which is open at the top. The light from your heart spreads through the rest of your body.
TRANSCENDENCE: Buoyed by the light, you effortlessly float up the tower and out the top, continuing your ascent into a perfect blue sky. Your body, purified of all pain, feels completely new.
The Tower makes it possible for you to succeed at the ultimate creative act—the creation of a new version of yourself. The tool harnesses the ability of the heart to transform even the darkest feelings. In the ancient world, this transformative power of e heart was hidden from the average person—it was the province of the gods and the spiritual elite. In the modern world, it is open to each of us.
Every time you use the tool, you’re changing the meaning of pain. Before, you associated pain with the finality of death. Now, instead of pain being something you’re afraid of, it becomes the
portal into limitless life. When you can experience pain as a prelude to rebirth you’ve found the essence of courage.
The tool does more than talk about this rebirth, it gives you a way to feel it. When your heart breaks the secret of the tool is revealed: It’s okay to be afraid, as long as fear isn’t the last thing you feel. That’s why the tool ends with an effortless ascent up the tower. What has started as adversity ends up as transcendence.
Once you’re familiar with the mechanics of the Tower you’re ready to build this bond. You do it by using the tool faster and faster so that you can feel a link between the two states.
The Tower should be used three times in rapid succession, each time faster than the time before. We speed up the cadence so that by the third time there is no space between the feelings of death and those of rebirth.
The process works like this: first do the Tower at the speed we’ve described above. The second time do it faster, make the transitions from one step to another more fluid. The third time condense the fear, the attack and the falling down into a single step and do the same with the voice, the light and the floating upward. Then go from the first step to the second with a quick cadence: one-two or death-rebirth.
Pain and fear no longer have the crushing finality that feels like death because you’ve made it a habit to immediately transcend them. The quick “one-two punch” gets you into the habit of not lingering in your pain – rather you move through it into rebirth. Death is no longer intimidating because it never comes without rebirth attached. For most people, using the tool represents a completely new way to deal with pain. The worse the pain, the more inspiring it is to let it kill you and and send you on the path of more life.