In my experience, it is a rare beast who makes it through life without Wounds. Paganism seems to have a fair amount of people being open about their Wounds, and actively doing the Work. However, we also have our share of Victims. The idea that woundedness differs from victimhood seems, on first glance, to be splitting hairs. Aren’t all victims wounded? Doesn’t that make them the same? While the first answer is “yes”, I believe the answer to the second is an unequivocal “no”. This essay is going to unpack some of our assumptions around these concepts and offer a framework with which to discourse on the subject moving forward.
Though related, living in woundedness is different than living in victimhood. I define woundedness as a state of being wounded, yet continuing to push your boundaries and living the full extent of your best life, despite the wounds. You become a Survivor. In order to truly live life, you must be open to your experiences. You will be exposed to disappointment & pain alongside the joy & celebration. Wounds will happen. Some are easily healed, your bestie forgot your lunch date, and some are deep & lingering, such as a mother-wound. Living with and through woundedness, you will experience the pain, fully acknowledge it, and then learn from it.
I want to make something perfectly clear: I am not blaming the wounding on the victim. Certainly the rape victim did nothing to ask for such a horrific action and a child has no control in being abused. Victimhood is a state of mind and a state of being where the individual takes no responsibility for their life. What I am referring to when I reference ‘responsibility’ is whether you take up residence in that wounding and refuse to move beyond it, or you choose to embrace the rest of your life and reclaim your sovereignty. This is going to look different, person to person and even day to day. The point is to make your choice, every day, to live the fullest and most vibrant life you can, despite the discomfort and fear. As long as you are actively working to regain your sovereignty, you are not living in victimhood.
The Victim is an archetype that is present in paganism, psychology, and myth. An archetype is a “primal pattern… [that] reflects the deep psychic need of humankind” (Gloria K Fiero. The Humanistic Tradition Book 6 (New York, NY: McGraw Hill, 2006), pg. 29), and was introduced to modern psychology by Carl Gustav Jung as a way to explain his theory of humanity’s collective unconscious that manifests itself in myths and dreams. You’ll find archetypes in myths like The Hero’s Journey a la Joseph Campbell or stories about the Maiden/Mother/Crone triad. I’ve experienced archetypes in working with the chakras, and you can also find archetypes in the Major Arcana in Tarot. I encourage you to explore these concepts. Many don’t hold with Jung’s original hypotheses anymore, but I think it is quite difficult to escape the idea of basic archetypes that reach throughout the world’s cultures.
As it relates to woundedness and victimhood, the base chakra is said to be represented by two archetypes: The Parent* and The Victim. (*It was taught to me as The Mother, but I prefer a non-gendered approach here) When the base chakra is dysfunctional, that person is said to be living The Victim. “Victims suffer because, it appears to them, all choice has been taken from them and their fate is completely outside of their control.” (Ambika Wauters. Chakras and Their Archetypes (Berkeley, CA: Crossing Press, 1997), pg. 30.) When that chakra is functional and in balance, the individual feels empowered and safe – fully grounded in their life.
In order of ascension, the other archetype pairs from this line of study are martyr & emperor/ess, servant & warrior, pretender & lover, silent child & communicator, intellectual & intuitive, and egotist & guru.
Anne Bishop, writer of The Black Jewels trilogy, offers a beautiful insight into the process of moving beyond the victimhood, framed as Jaenelle counseling Lucifer regarding the scars on their souls: “You have to learn to live with them. You have to choose to live beyond them.” (Heir to the Shadows (New York, NY: ROC, 1999), pg. 293) This decision is the first step out of victimhood, but is the hardest. In a way, living in the wound is safe. Some may receive sympathy or feel a certain protection in being powerless – what is that saying about ‘the devil you know’?
Leaving the wound, crawling out of the crevice to stand tall and say “I will allow you to have no more power over me”, is frightening. The wound may lash out at you, to tell you that you don’t deserve better. You may realize your worst fears as you stand alone against a force that you’ve given all your power to, feeling as if you have no chance to defeat such an enemy. Giving in to that fear, the Victim can continue to nurse a feeling of helplessness, of powerlessness. Coming out of victimhood requires a belief that you have “the right to survive and flourish” (Ambika Wauters. Chakras and Their Archetypes (Berkeley, CA: Crossing Press, 1997), pg. 31.). As trite as it sounds, you deserve better. I may not know you, but I do know that without a shadow of a doubt. You deserve happiness, and the best life you can manifest for yourself.
Beginning a dialogue about personal responsibility can be a very challenging dance. Something I struggle with is choosing language that allows them to hear me, or at least receive the seed of thought for later processing; I can often be too blunt! A person stuck in a victim space is likely to already feel a great deal of shame, so broaching this subject may cause a defensive reaction. It is important to not speak from a place of judgement, and instead concentrate on encouraging the journey of personal sovereignty. Sovereignty is defined as having supreme power and authority, and that’s what taking responsibility for yourself means – that no one else has any power or authority over you, unless you give it to them.
When you take control of your wound and your hurt, when you work through the pain and come out the other side in control of it instead of being subjugated by it, you a Survivor, not a Victim. We all have a choice though; “we can become Victims or we can attempt to understand what these obstacles have to tell us about our life’s journey.” (Ambika Wauters. Chakras and Their Archetypes (Berkeley, CA: Crossing Press, 1997), pg. 33). Taking back the power that was stolen from you via the wounding is how you rise above victimhood and take back your sense of self and your life. That isn’t to say, you must travel that journey alone. Certainly, friends, loved ones, psychiatrists, and even relationship with your spiritual path and/or deity can all be tools to assist you. That first decision, though, is all you. This journey to Sovereignty is at the end of all that we are seeking, and worthy of our life’s Great Work.