It seems like an almost universal trait to blame victims for their plight. Rape victims are often accused of enticing their attacker, sex abuse victims are made to feel somehow responsible for the abuse, and people who are mugged are told they took foolish chances. Many victims confide that the ways they were treated by the authorities, their mate or lover, family or friends afterwards was almost worse than the event itself, for it left them feeling ashamed and alone at the time they most needed comfort and protection.
In our personal lives, blaming the victim most often arises from the need to deny that we ourselves could be vulnerable. In order to avoid confronting our own fear of powerlessness, we assume that the victim had the power to prevent what happened. Since they did not, we reason that we are smarter, stronger, more together and luckier than they are, and so what happened to them would never happen to us. This gives us a sense of control over our lives, but is done at the expense of compassion. We can then become smug and judgmental, feeling superior to the victim.
In our New Age practices, you would think that we would know not to add to our client's pain in these ways, but ,unfortunately, coming from a spiritual perspective does not take away our less saintly motives and emotions. Sometimes it only covers them over with a layer of New Age platitudes. The practitioner who comes from a posture of feeling wiser, more enlightened and purer than the client only reinforces the shame and isolation that being wounded creates. With the weight of spiritual authority behind them, controlling, condescending, and judgmental practitioners can even create new wounds that make it hard for the victim to ask for help again. Most of us would never go this far, yet unless we are vigilant, it is easy to fall into denial about the times we are being judgmental or controlling. We'd vastly prefer to attribute worthy motives and divinely-inspired guidance to all our professional dealings.
For example, though a believer in karma, I cringe when the concept is misused to convince people that they are suffering now because they were bad people in other lives. If they were raped, they may be told that they must once have been a rapist; if they are beaten by their husbands, they are accused of being batterers before; and if they were assaulted, it is payback for being violent last time around. That's just another level of being told that "you asked for it", impossible to refute because no one remembers their past lives in detail. Being told that the trauma is payback for sins of past lives only increases victims' shame, self-blame, and sense of helplessness.
Even if we'd never hurt a client by voicing our judgments out loud, those thoughts will come across non-verbally and/or be picked up psychically. Whatever spiritual platitude it is cloaked in, blaming the victim can come up when we feel powerless over clients' more severe problems and when we are uncertain that we can help them. It is likely to arise when they aren't getting better despite our best efforts, as a way to keep from doubting our own professional skills. It is especially common when we identify too strongly with the client and thus the fear of being vulnerable ourselves is evoked.
If we conclude that we sometimes blame the victim, what essences can we take? We'll look at some familiar Bach remedies from this perspective in a moment, but first here are two you may not know. Desert Alchemy's formula called Embracing Humanness is a combination of essences that increases our compassion and acceptance of those places in ourselves where we are all too human and flawed. As we are more and more self-accepting, we have less and less need to judge others for their flaws and mistakes as well.
For the problem of over-identification with a client, Desert Alchemy's Making and Honoring Boundaries formula is invaluable. It does exactly what the name says and does it quickly. It helps restore boundaries that get blurred when similarities between clients' current difficulties and our own past ones make us less effective in treating them. It helps us to avoid becoming enmeshed with others, and one result, oddly enough, is that we have less need to create walls by being judgmental. (It is also a boon for the practitioner who has trouble setting healthy limits with clients due to over-identification.)
Among the Bach remedies, Beech eases the Inner Critic when it gets going on clients, which is generally an eye-blink after it gets loose on ourselves. When we find ourselves getting frustrated with clients who aren't changing in the ways we think they should or at the pace we'd like, the remedy that helps is Vine. (I know, I know, it's for control freaks. I'm not saying you are one, just that we could all use a bit of it from time to time.) Sometimes we get into blaming when we've worried so much about a client's toxic situation that we've gotten to the place of having to shut down. Red Chestnut helps relieve excessive worry about others.
Suppose that you are generally able to detach and still feel compassion for clients, and yet there is one particular client -- or type of client -- that all too quickly sends you into a state of frustration or judgment. It is entirely possible that the issue the client is struggling with is also one of your own, whether conscious or not. Even if you've worked on the issue -- and I would assume that you have long since used essences and other tools to do so -- there may still be residues that get stirred up.
Treating yourself to a healing session that uncovers and releases those residues can be timely and helpful -- not just for your practice but for your personal peace of mind. (If nothing else, being in the position of asking for help will re-sensitize you to how that feels for a client.) You might also have a look at the remedies that you keep giving such clients and test yourself for them, as you may just need a "booster shot". As a rule, whenever we are tempted to blame or judge clients for their difficulties, it is a clue that there is something in ourselves that we want to hide from and could profit from addressing.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Annabeth Meister is a retired flower essence practitioner who occasionally graces our pages with observations drawn from her long years of practice. She regrets that she is unable to correspond by email, but caring for her garden of endangered wildflowers takes up much of her spare time. She is also a weaver and breeds sheltie dogs. For more of her writing, see How to Become an Essence Practitioner and Forgiveness: A Key to Inner Peace.
CREDITS: Photos from Art Today.