Victim Consciousness isn’t What You Think it is

Victim Consciousness isn’t What You Think it is

Victim Consciousness isn’t What You Think it is

A concept I’ve seen a lot over the ten years I’ve been involved in spirituality is this notion of “victim consciousness.” It’s the term that New Agers like to use to describe anyone who seemingly isn’t taking 100% full responsibility for their experiences.

Some ways I’ve seen this used include (these are direct quotes):

“Blaming another is forfeiting your personal power.”

 

“Dear Black People…Why do I say ‘All Lives Matter? instead of ‘Black Lives Matter‘?…Because the slogan ‘Black Lives Matter’ DISEMPOWERS YOU. It is keeping you chained up in victimhood.

 

Sex you regret is not the same thing as Rape. Accepting yourself for making a decision you regret is key…not venturing into a Victim identity. Women don’t realize that Victim Culture has robbed them of all sovereignty.”

 

“Yes we need to learn but if traumas don’t require a lesson then how do you come out of victim consciousness?” (In response to the statement “Not all traumas were caused by mistakes that require a lesson to avoid repeating them. In fact, most serious traumas weren’t mistakes on the part of the victim. They weren’t events summoned by their unconscious or their karma to teach them something they need to learn. They were victimizations. They were attacks.”)

Learn more about why we don’t manifest abuse.

These people think that acknowledging when another person or group of people have violated your personal boundaries and your OWN SOVEREIGNTY is “victim consciousness.” In other words…they think that telling someone that what they did to you was not okay is being “a victim.” That’s not victim consciousness, that’s victim shaming, and it enables abusive behavior to continue unchecked, and it empowers abusers because it protects them from consequences. It places the full burden of responsibility for abusive behavior on the person who is being harmed.

When you’re at home minding your own business and someone bursts in through your front door and shoots you, that’s murder and nobody says, “Don’t blame that guy who burst in through your front door, or you’re forfeiting your personal power.” Well, unless you’re Black, the person who murdered you is a police officer and your name is Breonna Taylor.

So why does anyone apply this shit to rape and racism? Because that’s what narcissistic abusers do. They gaslight their victims into believing the abuse is their fault, thereby absolving themselves of any responsibility or accountability.

People who believe they must make themselves accountable for all of the times they’ve been victimized are usually victims of narcissistic abuse and suffering from codependency. People who tell others that they are accountable for all the times they have victimized said other are narcissistic abusers, and when this is being done utilizing spirituality as an excuse, it’s called spiritual bypassing.

Learn more about narcissistic abuse.

Who does have a victim mentality?

There actually are people out there who have victim mentalities, or victim consciousness–whatever you want to call it. And the irony is that those people are often the abusers, themselves.

Victim mentality is a key indicator of narcissism. If the narcissist can make their victims responsible for their actions and emotions, then they aren’t responsible for doing anything wrong.

How do people develop this kind of victim mentality? By having the same thing done to them by other narcissists.

When a person is constantly gaslit to believe they are responsible for other people’s attacks, they may do one of two things: accept that responsibility and become codependent, or deny that responsibility and see every attempt to hold them accountable as an attack, thus assuming an actual victim mentality. And once that line is crossed, they move from being an abuse victim to an active abuser, because they begin using the same gaslighting tactics on others to protect themselves that were used on them to begin with.

Learn more about codependency and narcissism.

How can you avoid true victim consciousness?

Know your boundaries and understand what healthy boundaries look like for others. Abuse occurs when boundaries are crossed, and knowing those edges inside and out will help you understand when abuse is happening, and when it isn’t, and that nuance is the difference between actual abuse and a victim mentality.

Learn more about the nuance of boundaries and bypassing.

Xo,

Ash

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Fear Is Not A Dirty Word

Fear Is Not A Dirty Word

Fear Is Not A Dirty Word

Let’s talk about fear.

In New Age spirituality, fear is probably the most demonized emotion. “Stop living in fear!” everyone likes to preach. And, you know, in some instances, this is a good thing to do. How many opportunities in life do we miss because we were simply afraid to take the risk and instead, stuck to our comfort zone?

In this case, the whole False Evidence Appearing Real narrative is somewhat correct. When we are afraid of failure, rejection, pain, of not being good enough, etc. it keeps us small. When we’re afraid of the boogeyman and things that go bump in the night, it keeps us on edge. Religion has used fear of Satan, Hell, and demons as a mechanism for control for centuries. All of these fears are based in total illusion or superstition with no foundation in reality.

Learn why fear-based beliefs are a distortion.

But there’s another kind of fear that has every basis in reality which serves as a biological survival instinct: fear of actual real and tangible danger. Like physical pain, without this evolutionary protection mechanism, the human race would be extinct. Fear in the face of clear and present danger is what keeps us alive.

Could you imagine telling a child not to look both ways before crossing the street because it’s considered “living in fear”? How about intentionally exposing yourself to a potentially deadly virus because wearing a mask was “living in fear”? Or maybe attempting to take a selfie with a wild buffalo at Yellowstone? You catch my drift. These are Darwin Award-worthy acts of stupidity, not conquering fear for any useful reason.

There’s a marked difference between fear-based beliefs and belief systems and actual bodily self-preservation.

Learn more about the difference between fear and danger.

On Pushing Through Fear and Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone

Some people pride themselves on getting out of their comfort zones, and certainly, if you do what you’ve always did, get you’ll get what you’ve always to gotten. But like anything, this all depends on context.

If you’re talking about doing something you’ve never done before, like uprooting your entire life to move across the country with no safety net, and that scares you, that’s an opportunity you might miss because of your comfort zone. It might be worth the risk.

If you’re talking about doing something you’ve never done before that might actually violate your personal values or expose you to harmful relationship dynamics, that’s a whole other ballgame. That’s risky behavior because you don’t recognize risk when you see it.

Sometimes our comfort zones exist because we’ve been severely traumatized, and pushing ourselves out of them too fast, too soon is just like the trauma that created them in the first place. This is harmful.

Sometimes, because of abuse, we don’t actually fully understand what our comfort level is. We ignore our discomfort because that’s what our abusers taught us to do, and when we come up against some similar, subtle, but potentially harmful experiences, we stick around too long, not realizing what’s happening until it’s too late.

Those with people-pleasing or codependent tendencies are not great at recognizing risk or when their boundaries are being violated, and a lot of folks think that pushing through this is somehow conquering their fear in the name of spirituality.

If you’re a recovering people pleaser, or have a history of trauma and abuse, I urge you to ignore the comfort zone messaging on Instagram when it comes to really personal things like relationships, sex, and things which are directly tied to your physical and emotional well-being.

Fear isn’t all bad. Fear is a useful emotion that alerts us of danger. Fear only becomes detrimental when it becomes overprotective.

Pay attention to your discomfort. Explore it. Honor it. Sometimes it’s all in your head. But sometimes it’s there for a reason.

Xo,

Ash

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Fear Is Not A Dirty Word

The Fine Line Between Boundaries and Bypassing

The Fine Line Between Boundaries and Bypassing

A while back I posted a story to my instagram saying that I wanted to start a game called “Boundaries or Bypassing?” where I’d have people submit screen caps of influencers blocking followers and saying it was “setting boundaries,” and we’d examine whether or not this was actually the case. That’s where the idea for this post originally came from.

The fact is, a lot of people are really terrible with boundaries, and a lot of people use boundaries as an excuse to avoid being held accountable, so we’re going to dig into that today.

What are boundaries?

Boundaries are defined as:

A psychological or physical demarcation that protects the integrity of an individual or group or that helps the person or group set realistic limits on participation in a relationship or activity.

In other words, boundaries are a set of internal guidelines you create (consciously or subconsciously) to promote a sense of internal safety and protect yourself from harmful people, behavior, and situations. The more conscious one becomes of what their boundaries are, the more likely they are to enforce them, and the more likely they are to maintain a healthy emotional state. To some degree, you can think of boundaries as your personal emotional and physical comfort zone.

Boundaries are also reflected in society through expectations of how one should behave in social situations as well as through laws and various other safety nets and measures.

How we define our personal boundaries is entirely dependent on societal expectations and how we were raised, but generally speaking, most humans have at least the same basic boundary requirements.

Boundaries and Abuse

Childhood abuse and societal trauma greatly impact our sense of personal boundaries as well as our ability to consciously enforce them. Those who have had their personal boundaries violated at a very young age, whether emotionally or physically, may overcompensate with extremely rigid boundaries, or, exhibit no real sense of when their comfort zones are being intruded upon by another person or situation. A person may also exhibit both types of boundaries in different situations, for example, upholding extremely rigid emotional boundaries for themselves, but not respecting the boundaries of another person in an equal manner.

People with no respect for another person’s personal boundaries and a pattern of violating those boundaries are considered abusers. Abusers often become abusers because they, themselves, had their boundaries violated as children and have never developed a healthy sense of where another person’s boundaries lie. Enmeshment is also common among those who did not learn healthy boundaries, and they may often engage in unhealthy, emotionally clingy, controlling, or manipulative codependent behavior.

A healthy sense of boundaries respects the line between “you” and “I,” and recognizes where “you” end and “I” begin. Healthy boundaries are also incredibly sensitive to power dynamics to ensure that the person or people in positions of power uphold and respect the boundaries inherent with those positions.

Learn what spiritual abuse looks like.

When a person has a history of abuse and has developed extremely rigid boundaries, they may be triggered by seemingly small, innocent things. In these instances, the person may not have yet established a clear boundary between themselves and others in regard to emotional responsibility, and as such, may project undue blame for their emotional state onto others.

Likewise, a person with a history of abuse that has developed extremely weak emotional boundaries may take on responsibility for the feelings of others and and attempt to manage those feelings by altering their own behavior. We call this people pleasing or fawning behavior. This is a coping mechanism often developed in childhood to protect themselves from someone with an explosive temper or an overly authoritative figure, such as the individual with rigid boundaries described above.

Abusing Boundaries

Now that we know what boundaries are and what abuse of boundaries looks like, we can dig into the ways some people may abuse the concept of setting a boundary as a form of emotional or spiritual bypassing.

Emotional bypassing is when someone attempts to avoid unpleasant emotions. When a person uses spiritual concepts to avoid those emotions, it becomes spiritual bypassing.

Here’s where things get tricky: people with rigid boundaries are often more reactive to unpleasant emotions than someone with a healthy sense of boundaries, or even someone who is used to taking on the responsibility for the emotions of others. As such, people with rigid emotional boundaries are more likely to engage in emotional bypassing, because the unpleasant emotions (typically feelings of guilt and shame) trigger a trauma response and bring forward unhealed emotional energy from their childhood.

This is the person on social media who shut down or block anyone who disagrees with them, challenges their ideology, or otherwise reflects back to them any of those buried feelings of shame.

When these folks are in the spiritual community, they’ll often say that they’re “just setting a boundary,” or even accuse the other party of “projection” but the reality is that their boundaries are an overcompensation that is preventing them from healing and personal growth.
This is especially problematic when the person in question is in a position of power or authority within the community, because their (unhealthy) behavior is setting an example to their followers.

I watched an example of this unfold last summer on Instagram with The Holistic Psychologist, Nicole LePere. Nicole has 3.3 million followers who look to her as an authority on spiritual psychology. During the racial justice protests, many influential figures on social media made statements in support of racial reckoning and of commitment toward examining their own racial bias. Nicole remained noticeably silent.

 

A client of Nicole’s, a Black woman, contacted her expressing her disappointment on the subject. Instead of demonstrating that she was paying attention to the conversation happening around her, or allowing the interaction to alert her to the possibility that she might need to pay attention to that conversation, Nicole remained tone-deaf and treated the client in question like she would any unhappy customer, further demonstrating a total lack of understanding about bias in general, as well her own, and a general unwillingness to examine said bias. Nevertheless, the client gave Nicole the benefit of the doubt, assuming she would now put in the effort to educate herself and her audience about the importance of the matter.

 

Instead, Nicole made a single post acknowledging the racial justice movement, made no indication of a commitment to understanding bias, no effort to educate her audience, and continued with business as usual.

 

The unhappy client then made a public comment on one of Nicole’s posts, and made a public instagram story about her experience. Other women, both Black and White, began confronting Nicole in the comments sections of her posts on the matter, many in perfectly reasonable tones and language. Nicole began blocking them all, including the original client, claiming she was “setting boundaries.”

I’m 100% certain that in Nicole’s mind, she was simply setting boundaries, which demonstrates a lack of self-awareness and total ignorance to the importance of examining bias. As a spiritual psychologist, this is incredibly problematic. You cannot teach something effectively if you haven’t attained any level of mastery. It also demonstrates a very real disregard for the things happening in the world around her, as well as a disregard for the lived experiences of her potential clients. You can’t expect to create a safe environment for your clients of color if you are not willing to examine and dismantle your own bias, and you can’t expect to be trusted if you’re not also willing to put in the work to make society a safer place for them. And finally, it sets an incredibly poor example for the 3.3 million people who are looking to you as an authority.

Learn about bias vs. bigotry vs. racism.

It would be one thing if she were to accept accountability and listen to the chorus of voices who were (and still are) trying to wake her up to herself, but instead, she continues to shut down the conversation and avoid it using boundaries as her shield. This is a clear example of spiritual bypassing.

What happens when you resist a lesson the universe is attempting to teach you? The problem persists. And it grows. The longer Nicole continues down this path, the more people are talking about it, and the more awareness is spreading. Other influencers have picked up on and joined the conversation in calling her out, some of them with their own audiences of nearly a hundred thousand.

This dynamic isn’t new and I’ve seen it all before. This is why I say that one sign of a spiritually immature wellness influencer is if they have an army of haters trolling their social media posts, or if they’re engaging in an online feud with another influencer. It’s typically indicative that there’s some kind of shadow energy being manifested that they are refusing to look at, and if that influencer’s entire platform is built around being an authority on doing shadow work, that’s a big problem!

Nuance Is Important

Naturally in some cases, there’s other reasons a person may be setting a boundary in that moment.

When it comes to social justice, I often see people take an all or nothing approach. “You must join us or else you’re with them.” Yes, in general, silence is complicity, but as with everything, there’s always exceptions. I saw some unnecessary and downright dangerous shaming happening last summer as well. Another mental health influencer I followed told her 60K Instagram followers that their mental health wasn’t an excuse and if they had PTSD, they needed to suck it up. And she brands herself as Trauma-Informed.

A few years ago I had someone convey a similar message to me when I was in the midst of an emotional breakdown/dissociative state where I could barely form a coherent sentence and spent most of the day laying in bed staring at the ceiling. I couldn’t have formulated a complete thought on anything of significance if I wanted to. I was physiologically incapable and every ounce of mental energy was spent on holding myself together. I have memory loss from that time period and also experienced a severely traumatic event which was not public knowledge.

Unlike Nicole, I also wasn’t carrying on with business as usual on my platform. It was public knowledge that I was going through some shit and my writing topics–however infrequently posted–shifted to an internal focus, and changed to self-reflection and processing my experiences. My blog became more of a personal journal at that point. I cocooned from literally everyone and everything–including the news–for nearly three years. I also stopped writing completely for almost a year.

I tried to explain to this person, as best I could with my limited capacity to think at the time, that I could not do what she was asking me to do. And that led me to have to set a boundary.

Also unlike Nicole, I wasn’t engaging with other influencers on Instagram promoting questionable ideologies that alluded to violence, anti-semitism, white supremacy, and QAnon.

How To Avoid Spiritual Bypassing

You can ask yourself a few questions and take a few actions when setting boundaries that can help you determine your motivation:

  • Pause and examine your emotional state. Ask yourself what emotions you are feeling. Name them. Is there shame underneath?
  • Which person is in a position of power in this dynamic? Is it you, or is it the other person?
  • Is the person triggering this feeling attacking your character (shame)? Or are they holding you accountable for your actions (guilt)?
  • Are you attempting to bypass accountability by setting a boundary? Or are you setting a healthy boundary because someone is actually shaming you?
  • Does this situation remind you of any past instances where you were abused? Does it evoke emotions from a painful memory?
  • Does setting a boundary result in the harm of the other person? (Healthy boundaries never harm someone else, even though an abuser will perceive it as such.)
  • Does NOT setting a boundary result in your own harm?

Answering these questions really requires us to dig into the nuances between shame, guilt, accountability, and what belongs to us and what doesn’t. They’ll give you a really clear idea, though, of what appropriate boundaries look like.

Xo,

Ash

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The Shadow Self and Shadow Work’s Role In Spirituality

The Shadow Self and Shadow Work’s Role In Spirituality

The Shadow Self and Shadow Work’s Role In Spirituality

The shadow self and shadow work maybe concepts you’ve stumbled across during the course of your spiritual journey. Shadow work is the entire realm of healing that every person must engage with in order to “ascend” or pursue enlightenment to any degree, and there’s a massive overlap with psychology and trauma that I think often gets overlooked by the spiritual community, and that’s what I’m going to talk about today.

We live in a society that is so mentally and emotionally unwell that we are exposed to a covert undercurrent of micro-traumas almost daily. Sexism and sexual harassment are traumatic. Racism is traumatic. Anti-LGBTQ attitudes are traumatic. These are covert societal traumas that are inflicted upon social groups over generations. These kinds of abuses and microaggressions can become so systemically “normalized” and occur so subtly that some people who experience them end up internalizing them and may not even recognize the abuse when it occurs.

Then there’s overt societal traumas: Genocide, war, and the displacement of people that occurs because of them, as well as poverty and the displacement of people that occurs because of it, like gentrification and homelessness. Terrorism and hate crimes are also a part of this.

Then we have social traumas: being bullied for your weight, intellect, physical appearance, religious beliefs, disabilities, or any other factor that makes you physically, neurologically, or ideologically different.

You can think of all of these things as the collective “karma” that we, as a society, have created here on earth throughout our history.

And then we have the traumas that are passed down to us through our families–generational trauma, or as some in the spiritual community refer to it, ancestral karma, generational karma, generational/ancestral curses: sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse, psychological abuse, narcissistic abuse, mother wounds, father wounds, etc. These are the traumas that when viewed from the outside, we can mostly agree are problems, but they are difficult for us to recognize in ourselves. Particularly in cases of emotional and narcissistic abuse, most of us never had another familial experience to compare it to, so we assumed our parents behavior was normal, and thus, never recognized the abuse, and because we never recognized the abuse, we never dealt with it.

Throughout our lives, as we are bombarded with all manner of abuses and exposed to innumerable traumas great and small, we learn strategies to survive and feel safe. Many of the coping mechanisms which we develop to keep ourselves safe in these toxic situations in our formative years prevent us from having healthy relationships and healthy lives in adulthood. In the case of societal abuses, we are being re-traumatized every time we experience one.

For many of us, this initial traumatic “programming” as you could call it, makes us more susceptible to abuse and trauma later in life, because it instills subconscious fear-based beliefs about ourselves and the world around us.

All of these coping mechanisms–and the emotional scars that they are trying protect us from re-experiencing–are lodged deep in our subconscious psyche: our shadow.

In Jungian psychology, the shadow or “shadow aspect” may refer to:

(1) an unconscious aspect of the personality which the conscious ego does not identify in itself. Because one tends to reject or remain ignorant of the least desirable aspects of one’s personality, the shadow is largely negative, or…

(2) the entirety of the unconscious, i.e., everything of which a person is not fully conscious. There are, however, positive aspects which may also remain hidden in one’s shadow (especially in people with low self-esteem).

The shadow is where all of our unconscious habits, patterns, addictions, subconscious beliefs, and traumas lie. It’s the emotional bruises we’ve sustained that are so painful, we tucked them away and never looked at them. And when we haven’t dealt with those emotional scars, they bubble up from within the shadow as depression, suicidal ideation, anxiety, rage, narcissism, abusive behavior, projection, dissociation, an inability to form secure attachments and healthy relationships, addiction, codependency, and so on and so forth.

A lot of people never make the connection between being abused and developing mental illness.

These are all trauma responses or destructive coping mechanisms we created to help us deal with (or not deal with) our emotions. This is the shadow made manifest, and what many spiritual people label as the ego.

(Note: What most spiritual people label as the ego is not the same as the definition of the ego in psychology, which is defined as the totality of our conscious self, or our identity. Thus, our ego–or identity–can never be truly killed or destroyed, merely transformed. To have no ego would be to cease being human.)

Learn more about the purpose of the ego.

Furthermore, when it comes to relationships, that subconscious programming in our minds (and souls) continuously attracts us to similar behavioral patterns, emotions, and energy throughout the rest of our lives because we’ve learned that this is what love looks like and it becomes what we’re attracted to in others. Because we’ve also normalized abusive behavior, we don’t have healthy boundaries and can’t identify red flags. That looks like experiencing repeating patterns of the same relationship issues no matter who you’re with, the same toxic work environments no matter where you go, and meeting the same kind of toxic people over and over (some might call this the Law of Attraction). The incidents mirror or recreate the original trauma, but they also present an opportunity for that trauma to be processed and healed.

READ: Your fear, anxiety, depression, and other self-sabotaging beliefs and behaviors are caused by unhealed trauma, and that trauma, when allowed to run rampant in society over generations, has created the world we live in.

When we create beliefs around these trauma responses and coping mechanisms, and then create social norms, and governing policies around those beliefs, we then manifest that shadow into the world around us.

“Trauma decontextualized in a person looks like personality. Trauma decontextualized in a family looks like family traits. Trauma decontexualized in a society looks like culture.” –Resmaa Menakem, trauma expert

You’ll find a lot of spiritual teachings that discuss acknowledging the shadow self and and learning to acknowledge it and integrate it. Through this process of acknowledgement, we recognize our traumas and the behavioral patterns that have resulted from them. Through that acknowledgement and the subsequent practices of reclaiming our power away from that trauma, we integrate it. When we acknowledge that all of our emotions are okay, even the negative ones, we integrate pieces of our shadow, and recognize ourselves as a whole person again. As we heal, we step into our power, and into alignment with our higher self and our higher purpose. We “ascend.”

Learn more about ascension.

It’s also important to note, once again, that the shadow isn’t only negative. It also includes positive aspects of yourself that you aren’t able to consciously see because of all of the beliefs we’ve created around our abuse and trauma. For example, someone who has been emotionally abused may believe that they aren’t worthy of love. Their inherent worthiness and goodness is trapped in their psychological shadow, where they can’t consciously access it. Only through shadow work can they excavate their self-worth–usually by sifting through some of the heavier emotions around traumatic experiences that it’s buried under and working to release them.

Shadow work isn’t only a mental and emotional exercise. Trauma is what creates emotional blockages in our energy bodies and our physical bodies, and that stagnant energy contributes to our inability to process the trauma and keeps us stuck in our repeating patterns. Utilizing various types of energy work like reiki, crystal healing, acupuncture, or physical movement therapies like somatic therapy, yoga, and dance can help re-align the emotional and physical bodies with the mind, and shake loose stagnant energy that can then be processed through more traditional types of therapy like cognitive behavioral therapy, trauma-informed talk therapy, etc.

Our shadow is not something to be destroyed, it’s something to be explored. Through that exploration, we discover ourselves, and by discovering ourselves, we are able to become more conscious of who we are, and live with more awareness, both of ourselves, and how we contribute to the co-creation of the world around us.

Xo,

Ash

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