Victim Consciousness and The Victim/Perpetrator Paradigm. (Part 2)

When innocents are violated, we naturally feel empathy for those harmed. Victimization awakens a zealous fury to protectloved ones and virulent forms of righteous indignation. But the ancient and still popular knee-jerk war cry, “an eye for an eye” to avenge wrongdoings corrupts our well-intended empathy the very moment we use violence against perpetrators and/or innocent bystanders to stop violence. Self- defense is appropriate for protection, but indiscriminate retaliatory responses create more victims and more people wanting to right wrongs.The task to protect or preserve a beloved way of life is potent for it evokes powerful passions, which have birthed philosophies such as the end justifies the means, might makes right, an eye for an eye and we are God’s chosen people that still motivate people today. This article will explore the insidious nature of the victim/perpetrator paradigm.

Sadly though, “fighting fire with fire” merely awakens the beast of inhumanity in a corrupted form of empathy, which subsequently creates more wrongs to right as victims and perpetrators trade places. The allure of honoring a martyr is a very persuasive battle cry to convince others to pick sides to avenge a wrongdoing. Pain and suffering tugs at the heartstrings of humanity and produces compassion, which is employed by victims to win sympathy and the war of public opinion. Polarization inspires propaganda to solidify the story of “us versus them” or rhetoric that justifies retaliatory measures and harsh retribution to right wrongs.

Victimization heals with love and compassion. When retaliation and revenge becomes our primary motivation, a victim/perpetrator paradigm can develop. In this reciprocal relationship victims can be compared to a catcher behind the plate in baseball, while perpetrators are pitchers. Each is convinced he or she is engaging in a solitary activity, but the catcher fails to realize how he throws the ball back to the pitcher to continue the game. This timeless dynamic allows the tragic drama of pitch and catch to endlessly recycle. Self-soothing pity-parties of helplessness, finger-pointing hopelessness and rage-filled retaliatory fantasies are the types of things keeping the ball in play.

Victims tend to believe compensation is due for the pain endured. Society trains many of us to want retribution, feel it is our privilege to retaliate and believe we are entitled to do so because we have endured so much suffering. The seduction deepens when people take comfort in the pain and sympathy their story garners. Trouble occurs when we embrace our suffering to soothe our internal wounds. This gives us permission to disassociate from violent urges to retaliate against the perpetrator without examining our self-sabotaging behavior.

Under stress a blamer blames others for what occurs in his/her life. The blamer lacks self-awareness or necessary self-discipline to self-examine. This failure to become self-responsible combined with a dysfunctional primary love template of internalized pain and/or dissociated rage can lead to a victim/perpetrator paradigm. Those claiming victim status and perpetrators hold opposite sides of a reciprocal pole within the victim/ perpetrator paradigm, since both struggle with personal responsibility and internal emotional honesty. Perpetrators and victims victimize themselves and each another while claiming innocence and blaming the other, which recycles the victim/perpetrator paradigm.

Pain provides information about our internal malfunction and reveals imbalances in our body, heart and mind. Others mirror these malfunctions to us so we can see the reflection of our conscious and unconscious primary love templates. If a bully decides to be cruel to another child for example, the form of illusion provides the idea and the opportunity for a perpetrator to experience cruel impulses and the possible enjoyment or internal relief from watching someone suffer. The pain that the bully imposes on his victim is a mirror for both the bully and victim. The bully may feel a twisted form of empowerment momentarily by copying a perpetrator that victimized them. A victim may imagine retribution will right wrongs by dreaming that bullies “get what they deserve” later. At the core, the bully and the victim are exactly the same—both dream of power. The victim/perpetrator paradigm provides opportunities for everyone to see their reflection in the mirrors of illusion. Whether in that moment we are the bully or the victim, mirrors are provided with the strength and power necessary to get our attention so that we can see our twisted dream or cruel reflection and eventually find where love exists.

Here are some additional considerations within the victim/ perpetrator paradigm:

  • Perpetrators frequently were victims of violence and/or emotional or physical neglect.
  • Perpetrators seek victims and victims feel victimized and then flip-flop roles.
  • Anger/rage and helplessness/passivity are different reactions to the suffering continuum, but both methods dissociate from personal trauma.
  • Dissociation cuts off the ability to feel our own pain but seeing another suffer can provide a twisted sense of relief.
  • When emotional indifference and/or violence are modeled, the victim can encode a sense of unworthiness or invisibility as a primary love template survival strategy.
  • Violence projects internal rage onto another and is another primary love template survival strategy that masks vulnerable emotions within the perpetrator.

The victim/perpetrator paradigm occurs because perpetrators are usually disconnected from internal wounds within their own hearts, which makes any objective form of self-examination extremely difficult. Sometimes narcissism and entitlement primary love templates develop to mask emotional wounds, which blind us from realizing the harm we cause others. Unfortunately, on a bigger scale, recycled rage and love linked to pain is also the reason why the victim/perpetrator paradigm persists. Throughout human history, bullies, predators and abusers terrorize, while martyrs, saboteurs and those using other passive forms of rage tend to self-victimize. Children raised in these environments frequently link love with pain and abandon (self-sabotage or victimize) themselves in similar “invisible” ways just like the models witnessed from parents or abusers. This phenomenon is how cycles of abuse, victimization and self-sabotagehave proliferated and perpetuated themselves in both families and the larger society alike. Healing and releasing a dysfunctional primary love template that evolves into the victim/perpetrator paradigm requires passionate dedication.

A perpetrator parent, for example, will, as twisted as it may sound, get a sense of relief from witnessing a child’s experience of pain. The complexity of the victim/perpetrator paradigm is that the parent is usually disassociated from his or her own pain but experiences a sense of relief when someone else is suffering. When an individual or parent is emotionally cut off from their pain, that person often purges their unconscious rage through periodic violent episodes…frequently focused on loved ones. The result of unconscious rage within the family unit is that the emotional needs of the child are in effect “invisible” to the perpetrator/parent. Children will tend to re-victimize self or perpetrate against others if their unconscious primary love template persists.

Primary love templates recycle until we become conscious and create a new path. Twisted over the millennia, thisparadigm has mutated into the insidious virus we commonly call terrorism. Terrorism, in all of its forms, is a pandemic problem that we have yet to develop an appropriate response to.

When Albert Einstein said, “Energy cannot be created or destroyed, it can only be changed from one form to another,”[i] he probably knew that his brilliant observation also applied to emotion. Thus, emotional trauma can be transformed into love in a productive manner or a pernicious victim/perpetrator paradigm.
Paradoxically, I have come to realize the baffling truth, through the examples of my clients, that untreated internal rage actually calms down when an unconscious individual witnesses someone else suffer. Maybe the Romans created the gladiator games for this reason. Deriving satisfaction from the suffering of another has been part of every culture throughout the world since the beginning of time. Who hasn’t felt compelled to watch another’s tragedy? As long as humans remain unconscious to primary love templates that link love to pain, repetitive cycles of violence, bullying, murder or abuse will occur and reoccur in families and society.

Our encrypted primary love templates and victim/perpetrator paradigms of neglect or abuse we inadvertently recycle are our responsibility to resolve. Reviewing and addressing every dysfunctional pattern recycling our suffering is a good practice and requires self-realization. It can be daunting to deal with victim and perpetrator tendencies on our own. Please seek assistance if you run into trouble, because brutal self-knowledge is critical to untangling dysfunctional patterns and templates. Facing negative patterns on your own can be overwhelming.

The question becomes, where do we find the inner peace, mindfulness and love that humanity seeks? On this subject, Laozi wrote:

Cultivate Virtue in yourself, and Virtue will be real. Cultivate it in the family, and Virtue will abound.

Cultivate it in the village, and Virtue will grow. Cultivate it in the nation, and Virtue will be abundant.

Cultivate it in the universe, and Virtue will be everywhere.[ii]

This information about The Victim/Perpetrator Paradigm and how to stop it comes from my book, The Promise of Wholeness: Cultivating Inner Peace, Mindfulness and Love in a Divided World. (Rowman & Littlefield pub. 2019) You can purchase it at or Amazon.

[i] Laozi, Tao Te Ching, chapter 54.

[ii] Laozi, Tao Te Ching, trans. Feng Gia-Fu (New York Vintage Books, 1972), Chapter 27.


Go to Part 1 – Victim Consciousness