Trauma, Victimhood and Denial

Recently, I read a post by a popular spiritual leader where he picks apart and condemns the new age movement and accuses its exponents of judgement, spiritual bypassing and denial of victimhood. While I haven’t been much of a fan of the new-age movement myself, I feel compelled to speak up (as I do) about a couple of things from personal experience of abuse and trauma:

While it may be true that ultimately that avoidance, denial etc. do not serve, on another level, depending on an individual’s readiness and timing it does. Eg. If one has experienced trauma to the point where the nervous system is stuck in a loop of perpetual reactivity. The ability to consciously ‘face’ the mental/emotional effects of the experience, depends entirely on the ‘skill set’ and resources available to the individual. If the ‘tools’ are not available, then suppression or denial actually serves the purpose of allowing the person to survive and function until they are available.

In the meantime, the practice of seeing the ‘positive’ in everything (for a time) can help immensely to expand one’s mind and encourage a broader and more balanced perspective. This practice requires one to become conscious of one’s thought process to make that ‘choice’, and that is definitely a useful step as opposed to remaining in a state of destructive unconsciousness. 

It can cultivate a sense of one’s creative power and eventually become a strong enough container to allow previously ‘unbearable’ experiences to arise.

It is this process that prepares one to face and feel… the fear, terror, sadness, grief etc. These feelings are not negative unless judged and labelled as such. The word ‘negative’ means to negate. The only real negativity is resistance to facing and feeling that which arises.

The concept of ‘victimhood’ is a touchy one… some people will vehemently and even violently defend their own and other’s ‘right’ to victim status…. and again.. it may be exactly what they need to do for a time to survive and function. What they are understandably trying to do is reconnect to and reclaim their own innocence….innocence is the core every individual’s being whether labelled victim or perpetrator.

Prolonged maintenance of this state, however, sets up a very debilitating pattern of constant defence and hyper-vigilance keeping the body in a state of stress and high alert ultimately leading to illness. The word ‘victim’ is a label, that when explored for deeper meaning is actually an avoidance of the experience of powerlessness. The courage to face our utter powerlessness is the first step in disarming the stress response and reclaiming one’s power through surrender and consequently the ability to self-soothe and regulate. It also breaks the momentum of the victim/perpetrator cycle.

While I have felt utterly smashed by my life experience at times, and been intensely resistant to feeling pain, personally I can say it has never served me to see myself as a ‘victim’. In fact, choosing to not see myself as a victim has allowed me a soulfulness and liberation that I would never trade for a badge of honour in victimhood.

Finally, with all due respect to Mr Spiritual, this feels like a ‘throwing the baby out with the bathwater’ scenario. Judging and criticising ‘the new age movement’ feels like a stuck and contracted perspective and the very same behaviour he is pointing the finger at. We have the free will to choose what serves us at any given time at what doesn’t. People are where they are on their evolutionary path and every experience, pattern and paradigm that life expresses contains a gift and an opportunity to expand our perspective.  

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