I feel profoundly blessed that I am not currently experiencing the relationship paradigm I will discuss here. Although I am not experiencing this dysfunction in my own life, I am quite familiar with it, and the topic has been nagging me for months, asking me to address it. I have watched the dynamic play out in the lives of many of my clients and loved ones, in particular, my male clients and loved ones. Currently, a large percentage of the men I encounter are living out the victim archetype (assuming the role of victim) in their intimate relationships. I have, of course, repeatedly observed (and in the past fallen victim to) the male as aggressor/ female as victim archetypes. Much of it manifested in its original form: the female in the relationship as the victim and the male as the aggressor. However, more recent observations have reminded me of the importance of looking at this social paradigm in its entirety and myriad manifestations. These observations have very firmly reminded me that I have also observed the other manifestations of this archetypal relationship dysfunction. I have seen males as aggressors toward younger, smaller or more vulnerable males and females. And I have seen females as aggressors victimizing males and females who are younger, smaller or more vulnerable.
The specific dynamic I have repeatedly observed in the last year has been of women victimizing their child/ children, their male partner, or their ex-partner (male). This victimization or abuse is predominately emotional in nature, but in some cases has also taken physical form. I think it would be easy to simply label this as a role reversal, since historically it is the man who is the perpetrator of this sort of behavior. And it is a reversal of roles, however I believe it is far more complex than that. It is important to explore those complexities because reversing the roles only adds more dysfunction to the already broken (sick) system.
This is a conversation we desperately need to have. Probably over and over again, because the dynamic has become so tightly woven into the fabric of society that we either don’t see it anymore or we believe it is the only way things can be. The problem with ignoring or accepting it is that it is becoming more and more toxic to relationships, and to the humans attempting to find success in relationships. We are social animals and we need relationships. We need healthy relationships, so it is important that we heal this wound; personally (if it is a wound we carry as an individual) and collectively.
To me this archetypal relationship dynamic demonstrates a deep societal dysfunction, and a heaping dose of wounded-ness within us and amongst us. I believe the socialization process: which in this discussion includes a) how we are enculturated as both males and females (as well as the entire continuum of gender identification that exists among us), and b) the wounds we carry with us; has more to do with how we relate to each other and ourselves than any biological, physiological, or anatomical differences between us.
I use the term archetype to indicate a commonly held model of behavior in society. In reading this article it will be helpful to understand that all archetypes can be manifested by all people. So, for the sake of this discussion, just because the archetype we are looking at is ‘male aggressor’ that does not mean that a woman or a trans-gendered woman or man (this is not an exhaustive list) cannot adopt and play out the archetype ‘male aggressor.’ I have chosen to stick with the archetypes ‘male aggressor/ female victim’ because those archetypes are the most entrenched in our society and therefore are useful examples of this particular dynamic. I also choose to use the archetype in its original form because it lends itself well to discussing how we work with the feminine and masculine energies within us. In making this choice, it is also important that the reader understand that these archetypes can be adopted by anyone and the dysfunctional dynamic that comes as a result is the same regardless of who is taking which role.
I will approach this topic from the perspective of energy medicine and the energetic body. This gives me an effective way to focus the discussion, as it is enormous and complex. From the energetic perspective, the archetypes victim and aggressor, can be seen as two sides of the same coin. That is to say that the energetic imprint (or vibration) is the same in both instances. They are two manifestations of the same archetype, so to speak. The differentiating factor is that one manifests the feminine aspects of the archetype and one manifests the masculine aspects. We could just as easily say that one is the receptive manifestation of the vibrational imprint and the other is the active manifestation. All things are a balance of feminine and masculine (receptive and active). This is why we can see these societal archetypes present in any kind of relationship, and between two people of any gender. This is an energetic problem. It emerges from the foundations of who we are and how we interact with each other on an energetic level.
This brings me to the origins of the dysfunctional archetype and how we come to adopt/ adapt it in our own behavior and experiences. We start with the larger patriarchal system that hands these archetypes (or models) down to us. This is done through establishing beliefs and behaviors as the norm, as the acceptable way to think or behave. Think of the expressions: “boys will be boys,” “she got what she dressed for” and “he’s such a pussy.” These are examples of victim/ aggressor archetypal beliefs we hold as a collective (even if we don’t personally subscribe to them). This is a gross and necessary simplification of the socialization process.
The other aspect of the perpetuation of this archetypal dysfunction, and our socialization, is how we individually carry it and pass it on. As I get a clearer picture of this particular archetypal manifestation, I have started to observe it from the perspective of how our individual and collective wounds affect our behaviors, as well as how they interact with the enculturation process. It gets a little convoluted here because the trauma we experience in life is part of the enculturation process, and it also affects how we receive/integrate or reject the process of enculturation. Do we accept the archetypal dysfunction that is being handed down to us or do we reject it?
Many individuals have been taught (socialized) to believe that we are either victim or aggressor. This is one of the ways in which this particular energetic imprint becomes internalized. Many of us have been victimized in childhood: through emotional, physical or sexual abuse, or through neglect and abandonment. These experiences also teach us that we are either victim or perpetrator. We often witness, or experience personally, that females are more likely to fall victim to males. Or we observe/ experience that children are more likely to be victimized by adults. This teaches us about hierarchy and dominance. We start to form beliefs about humans that tell us the world is made up of victims and aggressors. We start to believe that if we aren’t one we have to be the other. In this way we spread, either through the generations (via our children), or in our intimate relationships, the dysfunction of how we experienced intimacy with our parents, our caregivers, and our society (i.e. we hand down the wounds that came as a result of our individual enculturation process). The neglect, abuse, abandonment or enmeshment that we experienced in childhood plays out in our relationships in adulthood, and the archetypes society hands down to us, give us the basic models for our behavior.
Analyzing the energetic root of this phenomenon will hopefully help us come to an understanding that reversing the power structure does nothing to heal our wounds or mend society. That is to say, that once the ‘victim’ is finally able to wield a measure of power and use that power over someone else, this does not heal the original wound. It only creates more wounds. For the victim, who has now become the perpetrator (aggressor), and for the person they are in turn victimizing. With this approach we continue to add layers of wounding, we add layers of dysfunction to the enculturation process, and we reinforce the original archetypes; individual after individual, generation after generation. The role reversal that is happening, and that I have been observing for the last year, is an example of how someone goes from manifesting the vibration in its receptive/feminine form (as victim) to manifesting it in its active/masculine form (as aggressor/ perpetrator), or vice versa. It does nothing to actually transmute and clear the vibration (archetypal dysfunction) we carry within us, or to re-pattern our behavior.
The men I have been observing are men who seem to have chosen not to be the stereo typical male. They are kind and gentle, they try to take responsibility for their part in a situation, and they care for people. In other words, they are manifesting more feminine energy in this regard. What I want to explore, is the idea that they have stepped into the victim role (expressing the more feminine dysfunctional energy of the archetype), possibly as a result of not wanting to step into the perpetrator role (expressing the more masculine energy dysfunction), or possibly because they were always in the victim role and haven’t figure out how to heal that. On the other side of the discussion are the women who would now appear to be perpetrators (expressing the masculine side of the dysfunction). In all likelihood they were victimized as children (just as most male perpetrators were), and have chosen to be the aggressor as their way to escape continuing to be the victim. (Note that when I say chosen, it is likely a completely subconscious process.)
So, we can’t heal this wound (individually or collectively) by simply manifesting the other side of the archetypal coin. For example: When a woman who has been victimized in her life chooses (subconsciously) to be an aggressor toward her children or her partner/ ex-partner she is then manifesting the other side of the coin. She is behaving according to the exact energy imprint that allowed her to be a victim. No actual healing has occurred. She is simply manifesting the dysfunction from the other side. The same is true from the aggressor perspective. If a male has been taught through his life experiences to be an aggressor, but chooses to not manifest that in his behavior, he will likely manifest the energy of the archetype from the victim side of the coin, which makes him vulnerable to being victimized by others. This is because in both cases the individual still carries the original dysfunctional energetic imprint. Reversing roles will only add to the entrenched nature of this societal issue, it will never heal it.
The way this looks on the individual level, is that many people who have been victimized in their life seem to feel (or at least they behave in a way that would indicate they feel) they only have two choices in their own behavior when relating to the people with whom they have an intimate relationship. The two options that are available are to be a victim or to be an aggressor. It doesn’t appear that we know, as individuals or as a collective, that there are other options. The societal archetypes that were handed down to us, and the wounds we still carry in are cells, are very powerful. They have a way of making us believe they are the only options available to us.
Yet we don’t have to continue to be a victim, and we also don’t have to victimize others in order to achieve peace and safety in our lives. Why is it so difficult for us to see that we have more options available to us? Well, because we haven’t healed that energetic imprint within us, as individuals or as a society. This is a collective, patriarchal, systemically perpetuated, oh so very old paradigm, and until we heal and transmute (read eradicate) the energetic imprint we will continue to perpetuate this archetype in our relationships.
On the other hand, releasing the energetic imprint (vibration) allows us to release the old pattern, and discover new ones. Once we clear the energetic dysfunction (or false belief) we are then open to new options. The color pallet we are working with instantly expands. It’s a bit like going from tunnel vision to a panoramic view of your personal story. What does that mean? It means that we, as individuals and as a society, have to take our emotional and energetic healing journey to heart. We have to see it as just as important as feeding ourselves nourishing food and drinking clean water. To heal physically and psychologically in not enough, we have to heal the energetic dysfunction as well. Find someone who can help you clear, dissolve and transmute the dysfunctional archetypal imprint from your physical and energetic being. You deserve to enjoy healthy and fulfilling relationships. We all do.
I want to briefly note the importance of the “Me too” movement and the momentum that women are experiencing in social change and empowerment. This is a critical piece of the healing puzzle. It is also critically important that we not simply instill the feminine mirror image of the current patriarchal social structures. We must all take part in building an entirely new system. That is the beauty of the feminine Divine: It is inclusive, restorative, and collaborative, and it seeks wholeness and love. We must take all of society into this healing with us. We must help the men and the wounded male energy as well as the women and wounded female energy, and bring it all into our healing circle.
Tawa Ranes has a very curious mind and has always been interested in the nature of consciousness and the workings of the Universe. Since healing has been a big part of her own personal journey, much of her curiosity focuses on understanding how and why healing occurs or fails to take place.