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05-19-2010, 12:34 PM
Breathe in, the fear of the victim
Breathe out, the anger of the predator
Mindfully, be neither

Many say there are two kinds of people in the world: sheep and wolves. (Okay, I know those are animals not people but help me with the metaphor please.) We see them in our everyday life as victims and predators. Many think that we all have to make a choice about being one or the other. If we choose to be sheep we are destined to a life of internalized fear and pain. If we choose to be wolves we are destined to a life of externalized anger. Both are fear-based and neither is truly desirable.

Wait; there is a third option, to be a sheep-dog. But this is beyond this article and will have to wait for another day and another column.

I recently co-authored an article for our dojo newsletter on bullying in the dojo. While I have never been the direct target of any bullying (a lot of bull, but no bullying), I am aware that it does exist. As a Sempai, I have been made aware of the situation and have had the honor to intervene. Please remember that O'Sensei encouraged us to practice "loving protection".

As a result of this article I was asked to do a speaking engagement. What interests me was that I was asked to speak about victims, but when the email came out I was talking about the predator. For over 30 years I have professionally treated offenders, victims, and families of violence, trauma, abuse, and addiction. So I know both sides of the relationship. What always gets my attention is how quickly we switch our focus from the victim to the perpetrator. I teach psychology of the victim in a graduate forensic psychology program. I am constantly reminding students to stay focused on the victims. It is a very hard discipline.

So I thought I might talk (okay, write) a bit about the psychology of the victim, the predator, and their relationship. Perhaps another day I will write about the guardians (sheep dogs) who stand between them.

I am often asked why predators are the way they are. As far as I know there is no genetic DNA that predetermines or predisposes a person to be a predator. Therefore I assume it is a learned role. The good thing about anything learned is that it can be unlearned and relearned a more constructive and productive way. Yes, predators can change.

Predators can be overtly violent, verbally abusive, or just emotionally manipulative and exploitive. Predators are acting out their anger externally towards others as a protective reaction to their own internal fear and pain. It is not uncommon to find some victimization in the history of most predators. This can be seen as correlated and contributing but not always directly causative and is used as an explanation and never as an excuse. Many predators (especially men who cannot accept or integrate a victim role) cannot accept the pain of their own history that they cut off their feelings and lose connection and empathy with their victims. They feel entitled to do want what they want and to do anything they have do to get it because they are trapped within the relationship of victim/predator.

Victims on the other hand are stuck within their victim role. Like the predator, there really is no genetic DNA that predestines and predisposes one to a victim role. So the assumption is that it is also learned from a life experience. This experience does not need to be dramatic or traumatic to convince a person (usually a child) that they are unworthy, helpless, and hopeless. Once an individual accepts that victimization is not just what happened to them but is who they are in their identity, they set a life course of being on the receiving end of more violence, abuse, exploitation, and manipulation. They too are trapped within the relationship of victim/predator.

There is a reciprocal relationship between victims and predators. They know each other. Predators often find their prey through their fear. If one sees themselves as a predator (though they seldom would use such an honest label) then by definition they must find and relate to prey or victims. Victims, whether they know it or not, are often drawn to predators (bad guys). Some say this is an unconscious attempt to recreate and resolve a history of victimization. It usually ends up just repeating and reinforcing the dysfunctional relationship patterns. I often think it is just out of identification and habit. We do tend (all of us) to find people who balance (not complete) us in this reciprocal pattern.

The hard part is to become aware and to admit we are a victim or predator. We have to be willing to take an honest look are our lives. I do not advocate just asking ourselves because both victims and predators tend to be self-deceptive and justify why we are the way we are. Therefore just look at your life and believe what your life has manifested. Then seek out help in discovering, disclosing, and disengaging the beliefs and fantasies that justify being a victim or predator. Please remember, both these roles are learned and therefore they are changeable.

This is hard work. But it's not as hard as staying a victim or predator for the rest of your life. Changing who we believe we are in the inside is a temporary inconvenience that brings long term benefits, rewards, happiness, and peace of mind. You are well worth the investment.

In the talk I gave many found it hard to believe that the roles of victim or predator are learned and changeable. We live in a society that often consciously and unconsciously facilitates, promotes, and gives tacit implied permission to these roles in all their many disguises.

My recommendation is the next time you are asked if you are a sheep or a wolf, remember your training and this article. Look them straight in the eyes and say, a sheepdog. (We'll talk more about this later.)

Breathe in, the fear of the victim
Breathe out, the anger of the predator
Mindfully, be neither

Thanks for listening, for the opportunity to be of service, and for sharing the journey. Now get back to training. KWATZ!Lynn Seiser (b. 1950 Pontiac, Michigan), Ph.D. has been a perpetual student of martial arts, CQC/H2H, FMA/JKD, and other fighting systems for 40 years. He currently holds the rank of Sandan (3rd degree Black Belt) in Tenshinkai Aikido under Sensei Dang Thong Phong at the Westminster Aikikai Dojo in Southern California. He is the co-author, with Phong Sensei, of Aikido Basics (2003), Advanced Aikido (2006), and Aikido Weapons Techniques (2006) for Tuttle Publishing. His martial art articles have appeared in Black Belt Magazine, Aikido Today Magazine, and Martial Arts and Combat Sports Magazine. He is the founder of Aiki-Solutions and IdentityTherapy and is an internationally respected psychotherapist in the clinical treatment of offenders and victims of violence, trauma, abuse, and addiction. He currently lives in Marietta, GA and trains at Roswell Budokan.

05-19-2010, 01:07 PM
Recommended reading for anyone interested in the psychology of human predators, particularly those that are psychopathic:


05-19-2010, 01:56 PM
Thanks for the additional resource.
Always looking for new material.

05-20-2010, 11:50 PM
If sheep and wolf were the only choices, it would be hard to blame anyone for choosing the way of the wolf. Fortunately, there are other choices... ;)

05-21-2010, 04:56 PM
If sheep and wolf were the only choices, it would be hard to blame anyone for choosing the way of the wolf. Fortunately, there are other choices... ;)
I think that's next month's coumn.
You always have been a step ahead of me.

05-21-2010, 08:35 PM
You always have been a step ahead of me.Not even... More like pedaling my big butt off just to keep up... :D