The victim/victimizer polar pair

Stanley Sobottka, Emeritus Professor of Physics, University of Virginia

 

The concept of victimizer is the polar opposite of the concept of victim. Where there is an image of the latter, there is necessarily an image of the former. The reason we suffer is not only because we identify as the helpless victim, but also because we perceive something as being our tormentor. The concept of victimizer comes from the idea of how things "should" be. Whenever something is in disagreement with our idea of how it should be, then it must be "wrong", i.e., it is seen to be what is victimizing us. It is important to realize that it is identification as the victim that makes the victimizer seem real. All suffering comes from resisting the victimizer, which is as fictitious as the victim.

 

It is tempting to think that "I" am victimized by my spouse, by my boss, by my guru, by the person ahead of me in the checkout line, by my unfortunate birth, by my parents, by my teachers, by circumstances, by life, by the world, or by God. However, suffering is never caused by anything other than a perceived separation within my own mind. This is most clear when the victimizer seems to be my own body-mind so that "I" seem to be the victim of my own thoughts, feelings, emotions, and sensations. As a result, "I" hate them, anguish over them, agonize over them, condemn them, am disgusted with them, or am disappointed with them.   

 

When we blame somebody outside of ourselves, we project the image of victimizer onto them. For example, when our parents were not the parents we wanted them to be (the way parents "should" be), we had an image of our parents as victimizers and we blamed them for victimizing us. We could not have suffered as victims if there had been no image in our minds of them as victimizer. From the viewpoint of the ego, there is nothing more frustrating than the absence of somebody or something to blame. That is why nonduality is so threatening to it.

 

What seems to be victimizing us is not independent of the mind, but is an image in the mind. Both victim and victimizer are nothing but images in our minds. It is essential to realize this in order to be free from suffering. Suffering is nothing but the concept and feeling of victimhood. Freedom requires seeing see that both the victim and victimizer are in our own minds.

Below are examples of some common attitudes that indicate that the person holding them is identified as victim. A valuable exercise is to look for the conceptual victimizer in that same person’s mind as well.

 

“You can’t beat the system.”                     “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more.”
”Don’t get mad. Get even.”                       “Those extremists are the problem.”
”Big government is the problem.”             “Those liberals are the problem.”  
”Those conservatives are the problem.”     “Racism is the problem.”
”Those multiculturists are the problem.”    “I need you!”
”They are trying to turn the clock back!”   “You promised!”
”I can’t live without you!”                             “He done me wrong.” 
”How could you do that to me?”                 “Don’t start on that again!”    
”No rest for the wicked.”                             “My past is catching up with me.”               
”What on earth made me say that?”          “What have I done to deserve this?”              
”Why me?”                                                “Nobody understands me!”            
”There’s nothing I can do.”                          “I’m just no good.”                     
”You have to get it while you can.”              “It’s kill or be killed.”    
 “Do it to them before they do it to you.”    “I’m just a slave to my passions.”            
 "Poor me!"                                                  "It's a jungle out there!"

 

The ego needs enemies in order to survive. An "enemy" can be anything that appears to resist or oppose the ego, e.g., a competitor, an opponent, an adversary, a thought, a feeling, an emotion, or a sensation. The ego gains strength from resisting and fighting enemies and from recruiting allies. Witness the need for opponents and cheerleaders in sporting events, for competitors and friends in the workplace, for enemies and allies in wars, and for the concepts of good and evil in the mind.

 

The ego and the world of egos thrive on the clash between polar opposites. Without the concept of victimizer, and the strength that it gives the ego, the concept of victim could not survive. Disidentification from both is necessary for peace of mind.

 

It is easy to fall into the trap of blaming one's ego for one’s suffering. But, who is it that is blaming the ego for its suffering? Can there be two egos? The ego, being only a concept, does not and cannot do anything. Suffering occurs for one reason and one reason only, and that is because of our identification with the sense of a separate "I". Without this identification, there could be no helplessness, guilt, shame, pride, hatred, envy, or jealousy. However, suffering is not necessary or inevitable. Understanding how the mind functions and inquiring into who it is that suffers makes it clear that neither the victim nor the victimizer exists..

 

No concept can reflect or describe the intrinsic wholeness of nature. For this reason, every concept that we use in this course is fundamentally inadequate to describe Reality---we can only point to It. All concepts that we use are merely pointers. The only way to know Reality is to see that we are Reality. That is why this course cannot teach us what we really are, but it can encourage us to find out what we really are, which means to be what we are. Essential to being what we are is to see what we are not. This means that we must see that we are not a body, not a mind, not a doer, not a thinker, not a decider, not an ego, not a self-image, not any thing. In contrast to the impossibility of seeing what we are, it is possible to see what we are not, because anything that we think we are is merely a concept or image, so we can also see that we are not it. The reverse of identification is disidentification, and seeing what we are not is an essential part of disidentification.

 

Question: Have you ever had an experience of unlimited vastness? [This might be described as the (usually sudden) vision that I am far more than I perceive.] How would you describe it? Can it even be described?

 

 

One should not assume from the above that concepts are useless or unnecessary. This course consists entirely of concepts, and they are essential for functioning in the world. Conceptualizing by itself is not a source of problems--it is identification with concepts that causes all problems. The sage uses concepts as a necessary part of living but does not identify with them. In particular, there is no identification as the "me" so there is no belief in a sage entity.