Even the strongest of superheroes or magicians can fall into “The Victim Vortex.” Like it or not, it’s a place we mere mortals might visit on our journeys, too. In the past twenty years, for example, I’ve gotten trapped there several times.
It only takes a few wrong turns before one enters into this whirlwind of woe, so if you’re finding yourself emotionally incapacitated on your journey, please know that it’s not just you. Fortunately, there’s a way through The Victim Vortex when we learn to access another part of ourselves. I’ll borrow Dan Millman’s name for it – “The Peaceful Warrior.”
How Did We Get Here?
The Heroes’ Journey is a leap into the unknown where death and rebirth take place halfway through the process. My sense is that this can happen many times until the hero learns the lesson fully and is ready to ascend into the next phases of his journey. Such is the case with me. I rarely learn anything well the first or second time. I tend to cling to the rocks when the water gets strong.
The part of the journey where a part of us eventually goes to die is another name for The Victim Vortex.
Giving up familiar parts of ourselves that have protected us since childhood, adolescence or even young adulthood can be traumatic, but that is what’s required to take the next step on our journey. A young person has to leave his comfortable home and his mother’s soft embrace and walk out into the cold to access his warrior self. Later, he may have to leave yet another home – a job he is used to or a city where he’s planted some roots. In most cases, it is wrenching even when it feels like the right thing to do. It’s the “leap and a net will appear” part of life.
In my case, the journey has brought me to a small home in Sullivan County, NY where I feel very far away from the person that lived in Yorktown Heights, NY only a year ago. I see that man and his life, the one I shared with Beth, our children, our dog, and our friends as if through a glass wall. And if I’m honest, it feels very painful to have lost the life that I built in that place. I’m not just grieving the loss of a dog, but the life that we had with him in our home of 17 years.
Thomas Wolfe said, “You can’t go home, again.” And he’s right, of course. I could no longer be happy in that home and, truthfully, wasn’t really happy there the last few years. And when I go back there I remember why I left. We needed to expand and we have done so.
The Victim Vortex can feel like a man sitting at a blackjack table without any money left to play. His head is bowed in defeat because he feels shame for ever thinking that gambling was a way out of his predicament. He turns in on himself, then, and often moves into other forms of self-abuse: drinking, drugging, etc. Sadly, this happens many times a day to many of our brothers and sisters. It happened to my father. Some get trapped in the Vortex.
So, I have got to be careful. I’m in a transition, yes, but it’s important to see that where I am now is a waypoint, not the destination. The Yorktown part of my life ended, the dog died and I haven’t got a clear idea of where I’m going, yet. But it’s transitory. I will not be permanently caught in this current whirlwind of woe. The grief and loss I’m feeling are me expanding into my emotional True Self.
The True Self, a term borrowed from Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACA), is what happens when the False Self dies. This is death and rebirth. It may sound silly or crazy to you, but Scott Bierko, the guy who lived in Yorktown Heights, is no longer here. He has been replaced by a newer, better model that’s still learning how to walk and talk in his new body.
What will emerge, what I see glimpses of, is The Peaceful Warrior. In past posts, I’ve referred to “Bierko Strong.” That’s the first inkling that he’s here, present and expanding while this other, older part is still being mourned by my conscious mind.
Before the Phoenix rises, the bird that he was must die in the flames. At my worst, I’ve wondered out loud if I really want to keep going. I’ve never consciously planned to take my own life, but the thought that dying would be easier than this has crossed my mind on more than one occasion. Again, this is part of the process. It is my old, false self crying out to be recognized. On one hand, it feels like an easy solution (stop trying, growing), but it’s really the worst of all possible outcomes. In my belief system, my soul would have to come back to earth anyway and start again! And what has to die isn’t ME, it’s the smaller “me” that once was.
The way forward is rough, but I can make it. I’m still crawling, but one day soon I will rise up on both legs, spread my wings and embrace this True, New Self – the one that I was born to be. Stay tuned.
So, what’s next? Today. I have written this down because the loud sounds in my brain, the echoes of The Victim Vortex, get quieter when I create and share. So, you readers play a role in this. You see me and I hold no secrets from you. My pain is laid out because bandaging it up without baring the wound and cleaning it would be worse, by far. In this respect, we are partners, you and I.
Thank you for reading and for caring. I hope that in some small way what I share helps you, too. And I look forward to the moment when we shall take wing, hopefully together.