The teachings show us that what you can’t own as yourself gets projected out onto others. People are so invested in defining what they “are” that they automatically hold themselves in opposition to what they believe they “are not.” This creates the magnetic repulsion required to hold the story of separation in place.
So, if you identify with being generous, you won’t see where you are selfish or greedy, but you will always see it in others and judge them for it. Likewise, if you pride yourself on being cautious, you won’t see your own recklessness. If you think you are unintelligent, you can’t see where you are intelligent. And even this: if you believe you are worthless, you won’t be able to witness your own brilliance.
Why do people seem to act as perpetrators? Simply because of the dynamic illustrated above. If they are to believe one thing about themselves, they must be repulsed by its opposite. In judging the opposite as wrong, they continue to hold their own identification as right. The focus is entirely on supporting the consciously held belief, and not really about the judgment that gets passed.
Here’s an example:
A father prides himself on being thrifty and good with money. When he hears that his daughter went out and purchased clothing on credit, he gets upset and proceeds to lecture her about her reckless use of credit and poor financial skills. The daughter, of course, feels victimized by her father. Even if she had made carefully thought-out plans for exactly how she would pay off her debt in a timely manner, she would still feel shame at having disappointed him. That shame would present itself through doubt and regret concerning her purchase, through a self-righteous attitude toward her father (like, he’s old and doesn’t understand how life is now, or he’s such a tightwad!), or a combination of both. It doesn’t matter how it presents in the girl, the foundation of it is the same pain. The only difference is that one way leaves her feeling her pain and the other works to repress the pain so she won’t feel her emotions so intensely. The girl sees her father as the bad guy. And the father has the same exact experience. Her financial choices were in opposition to something he identifies himself with. Therefore, she became a perpetrator to him when he found out about her credit card purchase. He experiences pain as he sees her as something “bad” or “wrong” because he is incapable of seeing her actions from outside of his own story.
Did the daughter intend to impose pain on her father when she bought the clothing? No. She most likely was oblivious to her father and his mindset when she fell in love with that outfit. From this vantage point, can we really say she is a perpetrator? Of course not. And, if the father was capable of seeing her actions as something unrelated to his beliefs, would he feel victimized by her? Not at all. So, where does the perpetrator exist for him? Only in his story of financial rights and wrongs. Did the father intend to impose pain on his daughter when he lectured her about money? Contrary to what the daughter would think, the answer is no. The father loves his daughter and wants the best for her. In his story, that best includes not racking up credit card debt. It is not dad’s heart that lectures the daughter, it is his fear. His fear about money and debt (taken on by his parents who lived through the Depression) gets projected out onto his daughter (seeing her as careless with money) and he reacts from that place. The reaction is automatic, based on his identification, which was learned. If the daughter could see that dad only reprimanded her because it brought his own fears to his doorstep, she wouldn’t see him as the bad guy, even if he did yell at her. Nor would she experience shame over her choice to buy the clothing, or a self-righteous attitude toward him. You see, she wouldn’t feel pain because she would know that it really wasn’t about her at all.
What holds it all in place for both of them? The identification with their stories; it is as simple as that. The pain experienced by each of them could not exist if the stories were not in place.
What is your pain? Your pain is the result of the attachment to what you believe about the story you have told yourself. When seen from beyond the story, what is witnessed is that none of it was ever true, nor will it ever be true.
You are not your pain. Now, drop the story.