Who is in the building?
Caroline Myss (2008) writes about the victim archetype in her book, Entering the Castle. She presents the two forms of the victim—the shadow and the light—in the metaphor of a building. The ground floor is dirty, unkempt, chaotic, and very much about ‘survival.’ When you enter the building and take the lift to the penthouse, she explains the environment as completely different with expansiveness, quiet, and beauty. She draws a link between being in survival mode (unable to see beyond the immediate) on the ground floor, while the penthouse is a higher perspective (about to see the future and possibilities).
What do the shadow and light forms look like at each layer?
The Ground Floor
Victim in the Shadow: One person is the perpetrator and the other is the victim. If she can’t extract a meaningful apology, she feels there is a right to punish the other person either by getting others on her side or cut off contact to overt further offence. The underlying belief is that she has done nothing wrong and that she needs to maintain the moral ground.
Victim in the Light: You can stop and ask, what is this about? What is there to blame? You will look for anything that you can hang it on, for example “it’s just your/my time of the month” or something the other person/you needs to address. It is an excuse. It is still nothing about you. This approach is imperfect as it awakens as pity (for the other person or yourself).
The Second Floor
At this point you may ignore the relationship and the immediate hurt in favour of past data. The victim in the light begins to make advances, but the shadow lies beneath.
Toward the Other: One of the downsides at this level is that you may try to psycho-analyse—look for root cause. It assumes that the other person has issues of trauma that are unresolved. The focus moves from ‘not about me’ to how the other person is ‘wounded or hurt.’ This may wake up some degree of compassion, as well as offering objectivity. You may begin to look at the other person with pity and may reach out with support. But once again, the balance is uneven. You are the counsellor; they are the wounded person. And this is the shadow presenting itself again.
Towards the Self: We may reach out and share our story in the hope that their compassion for us may help with our healing. But beware of hidden agendas! This could be a round-about way of securing an apology or a ploy of getting them to ‘wake up to themselves.’
The Third Floor
This level is all about the collective, “Everyone is to blame, and no one and nothing is to blame.”
Victim in the Light: You stop the (invented) story you created. In this place, you may realise that both the other and yourself had a role to play. You may own your part, make amends, and try to move forward. This will involve digging up past data and rationalising. This level becomes about honouring the hurt and moving into kindness (no one is wrong). You may start to think about the intention to forgive and consider what this might look like. The big question here is whether to stay in the relationship with the other or part ways.
The Fourth Floor
Here, the victim lives in the fullest sense of the light. This is being like the Buddha. For many of us, the penthouse is a place that we touch into a few times in life (if at all).
Victim in the Light becomes The Compassionate Witness: The hurt evokes a flood of compassion for yourself and the other person. Instead of pushing away, ostracising, blaming, you feel compelled to bring them in. This is a place where you create space for feelings, sensations, and thoughts; noticing and being curious about what they are communicating and what you need to do with them. The need to feel safe on the ground floor has evolved into realizing compassion is the safe path.
Breathe…and only if you are ready drop down into…(Part 3)