The pattern of self-sacrifice runs deep in our collective subconscious veins. It’s been greatly enforced in the last 2000 years by the myth of the sacrifice of Christ. According to that myth, a human should aim to be ‘good’. To be good, one has to be like Christ, willing to sacrifice for the wellbeing of others. That myth is culturally very hard to avoid, even for unreligious folks like me. With so many families, friends and people around acting it out, the pattern sinks into our being, most often unconsciously.
What happens when the self-sacrifice myth sinks in?
Through family and cultural osmosis, it’s easy to create an identity around being a good person by actually becoming self-sacrificial, i.e. a victim. Once that happens, we start looking for ways to serve other people’s wellbeing at the expense of our own. This can play out in our personal lives. For example, as soon as there’s a person in front of us, we get so busy with them feeling good that we forget about our own needs and desires. It can also play out in our professional lives. For example, not asking for higher pay because in order to be considered ‘good’, we feel we need to work as hard as possible for as little money as possible.
Since self-sacrifice requires a win-lose mentality, whenever we get into that pattern we don’t emerge from it happy that we helped someone. We emerge bitter because we forgot ourselves in the process. We see ourselves as losers in the game, because our identity as ‘good’ people depends on seeing ourselves that way. It’s kinda noble to lose in sacrifice for others.
You might be able to tell I am speaking from experience. Years ago, I discovered this pattern within myself in my results from the Young’s Schemas psychological assessment. Since then I’ve been going through layers of it, because like all other patterns it has its own life and structure. It has its ways of unfolding independently in different contexts in ways that go underneath our radar. Recently, it came up once again in a group I had co-created and I decided to look at it deeper. What I discovered this time, however, was different and much more powerful than anything I’ve seen before.
Enter the inner predator…
The inner predator is an aspect of our psyche that is concerned with our physical and psychological survival and going after whatever it takes to ensure that. Wherever you have self-sacrifice/goodness/victimhood, on the other side you’ll find a perpetrator/badness/predator that remains unseen and unacknowledged.
Psychologist Carl Jung spoke at length about the shadow, those parts of ourselves that the ego rejects and the ways they find ways to express in our lives unconsciously. They tend to create pain for ourselves and others until they are seen and integrated. He saw this shadow work as a main practice in our path to wholeness – a journey of accepting all parts of ourselves. He believed it is only this way we can accept them in others and the world around us and come to balance and eventually, awakening.
There’s lots of talk in spirituality about transcending the ego/conscious mind. Meditative experiences are a wonderful and extremely useful way to work towards that. But if we really want to step into greater wholeness and consciousness, we need to ‘befriend’ our rejected pieces before we can transcend them. This is why the path to healing the self-sacrifice pattern passes through (although not ending at) integrating the predator.
What if self-sacrifice doesn’t exist?
One of the first things that blew my mind when I created a space for myself to befriend my inner predator, was the realisation that there is no such thing as self-sacrifice. It’s actually a mental construct – the moment you start considering you might be a predator, you will see that every single thing you do, you do it for yourself. For example, you might be thinking you are doing it for someone else, but in fact you are serving your own desire to feel like you are a good person. Which is often connected to your needs for belonging, for love, for acceptance, for validation.
So the only difference is consciousness – are you conscious you are doing this for yourself? Or do you tell yourself a story you are doing it for the other, at your own expense? In the former case, you bring an open energy to your relationships – people can feel you are speaking the truth and are willing to trust and work with you. In the latter case, your energy is closed and unintentionally, you deceive yourself and others, creating mistrust and pain for both sides.
How can you bring the predator into consciousness and integrate it?
The first step is about recognising the predator’s useful service to your being. It can help to look at nature for that, ask her to tell you about it. What she might answer is that the predator is really not that bad after all. She’ll show you the majority of living beings are predators, feeding off one another in a very direct and physical manner. Even if like me you are a vegetarian, this applies to you – those plants die for you to eat them. She’ll also show you how it manifests energetically – how our ideas, thoughts, emotions, energies are constantly hunting on one another. For example, if you stop to think about it, you might find, like myself, that you are really a prey to Facebook. It has a dedicated team of folks building up the most sophisticated strategies to keep you hooked on your phone. If that’s not hunting, I don’t know what is!
If you are still around after this last sentence, you will probably see that what the predator’s useful service is to help you survive and be well by going after what it wants. That’s often also what you want, but sometimes is not, because you are not that part (that’s why it’s a part, not a whole). You will also probably see that it’s really OK to have such a part, even if it takes some time to sink in. Nature said it’s OK because she made us this way.
The strengths of the human predator
Once you embrace this part of yourself, it might be a good idea to get to know it better. In one of my shamanic journeys, it was a surprise to discover that the inner predator is not a lion or a tiger or a bear – it is a human being! It shares some common traits with other animals we associate with that word (eg. the human has a living body, likes to eat, sleep, mate, play, roar etc). However, there are some key distinctive qualities to the way a human hunts that by Nature’s design, work best for us. Once we embrace the predator, we can acknowledge and use those to our advantage:
1. Strategic intent
If you imagine yourself hungry and naked in a forest, what would you do to get some food? Maybe you’ll explore the area looking for what’s around and what might be the best spots for hunting/eating fruits. Maybe you’ll look for a river and decide to wait there until an animal comes to drink. Whatever it is, there will be a strategic intentionality to your approach. If we really want to honour our inner predator, we should acknowledge this is a part of its advantage. Not all animals have strategic intent. Humans do.
Ideally, you will not be alone in that forest. Humans hunt (and gather or plow for that matter) better together. For example, one will stand to signal when an animal is coming, another two will be waiting to chase it, another couple of folks will be blocking possible exits. Not all animals collaborate. Humans do.
3. Tool making
When you are in that forest, you will not be using your bare hands and nails to catch a deer, as a lion would. You’d create tools, spears, traps, ropes, bows etc. and you’d use them to catch what you are after. Long time ago there was this video in which Steve Jobs was explaining how when you compare the efficiency of the locomotive system of the human being to that of other animals, we are somewhere on the bottom of the list. If you put the person on a bicycle, however, we shoot up above all other beings. Tool making is one of our greatest advantages. Not all animals use tools. Humans do.
Last but not least, if you really are about to kill an animal, you will probably think about what’s a less painful way to get it. What’s a way that you can share, so you don’t need to get more than what you actually need. What’s a way you can keep the balance in the forest, so there’s more animals for your kids to be able to hunt in the future. All of those thoughts are a sign of consciousness, of considering the larger whole we are part of. We can use that awareness to create ethics, morals and values that help us keep the balance and harmony with our environment.
When we are distanced from the need to physically kill our food, when we are distanced from the inner predator, it will express itself in unconscious ways, causing harm to ourselves, to one another, to other beings and the planet. Nature didn’t make us in a way that we can live from photosynthesis! She made us in a way that we need to kill to live. Once we acknowledge that, we can do it consciously. We don’t know which other animals are conscious. Humans are. Or at least have the capacity to be so and that wouldn’t be there if it wasn’t critical to our survival.
These are the predator qualities I received in my inner work – perhaps when you dig into it, you will find more or different ones. What really matters is becoming conscious of and befriending the truth of our predator nature and the way it plays out in our lives.
Befriending your inner predator
If you’d like to get more practical with this, here is something you can do (besides roaring and hunting those damn mosquitos):
1. Take stock of how the predator has been expressing in your life so far, personally, professionally or both. Especially in those places where you felt like a victim! List them out, see what rejected needs you find below your victim patterns and explore what might be some steps to see and honour those needs.
2. Explore how you’d like it to show up from now on, bringing consciousness to a specific life area/challenge where you feel it’s been absent. You can do it for example by setting aside 15 minutes/day in this next month to reflect on, exercise, do practical things that are in line with that predatorial aspect, eg. in relation to a new project you are launching.
The exercises above will be especially useful to those of you who feel like they’ve been carrying the self-sacrifice pattern around. Even if you don’t see it in yourself, it might be worth double checking. I’d never know I had it in myself before taking that Schemas test some years ago. Whether you do it or not, I hope this piece has served you by reminding you about bringing consciousness to pieces you might be rejecting from yourself in your desire to be ‘good’. It has definitely served me to write it by giving me space to express, clarify my own thoughts and feel useful. Oh look, it’s a win-win. Thank you for sharing your precious attention and time with me!
About The Paradise Vlog
I believe we already are in paradise, regardless of where we are and what’s going on in our lives. I believe life is a journey towards becoming aware of this and enjoying as much of it as we can in the limited amount of time we have here. The ‘The Paradise Vlog’ youtube channel is the space where I share my process of shedding patterns and beliefs that obstruct our view in order to replace them with presence, joy and wonder. It’s also my invitation to you – an invitation to connect and journey together in creative ways, as we help each other see through to the greatest expression of ourselves. I also love creating spaces for growth-oriented people to connect to their soul power and life purpose. I do that in the form of coaching, shamanic work and online and offline workshops. Reach out if you feel curious to explore these topics with me.