There are true victims in the world, then there are chronic complainers who keep themselves in a victimized state closing the door to progress, healing and growth.
It could have started in childhood or sprung up when they were older, but those who have a victim mentality know one thing for sure: Nothing ever works out for them.
This belief system keeps them in a rut and prevents them from seeing options that could be right in front of them.
Are you or someone you know a self-perpetuating victim?
(The following is a loose transcript of episode 57)
When this article is published, I’ll be in Vermont enjoying some recreation time with someone very close to me. It’s something I’ve been looking forward to for a long time.
Having a long-term goal makes the journey more meaningful and fills you with a purpose.
This article is about the victim mentality. The people who have this mentality are what I call Self-Perpetuating Victims. They are heavily focused on all the bad that happened and is happening right now instead of focusing on something good now and in the future.
My trip to Vermont is in a few days as of this writing and it has driven and motivated me every day. I often stop and imagine what it will be like to have some time off with someone I love. I am in a place that no matter what else is going on in the world, this trip is something I can look forward to.
Self-perpetuating victims on the other hand don’t look forward to things. They commit to unhappiness in the moment. They have no long-term plans and don’t think about how to make their lives better, they’re only focused on how bad things are.
Have you ever heard the term, “What you think about, you bring about”?
It’s not a term you’ll hear me use often because it’s too closely tied to positive thinking. When you’re told to “think positively” it’s too easy to forget that you might have some repressed emotions to deal with first. The positive thinking will sit on top and cover your negative emotions causing them to stay repressed.
I believe a positive stream of thoughts can be highly beneficial but only after you’ve processed and released the deeper-rooted stuff below. Self-perpetuating victims however have a negative stream of thoughts. Their thoughts are very inwardly focused on all the bad that has happened and will happen. What this does is recycle bad thoughts over and over again. There’s nothing ever new in their patterns so they just watch the reruns of the pain and misery they went through.
There are real victims in the world who are looking toward the future to change their lives for the better, then there are those who are stuck in a loop repeating bad decisions, and chronically complaining about how bad their life is.
The intention of this article is to help you determine who deserves your sympathy as opposed to those who deserves your tough love.
There are people who suffer and are the victims of quite heinous acts of violence and abuse, then there are those who wallow in self-pity from the endless chain of terrible situations that they put themselves in.
There’s a key differentiation between victims of other people’s behavior and victims of self-initiated behavior. A true victim does not cause the event to happen to themselves. But a personal with a victim mentality (the self-perpetuating victim) lit the fuse long before the event occurred causing a chain of events that led to their suffering.
The self-perpetuating victim fulfills their own destiny by setting things in motion that will cause problems for them in the future.
For this type of person, it seems the situation is the cause of the problem. But in reality it’s the orchestration of events that led up to that situation that caused the problems they are having.
It sounds a little complex at first but you probably get where I’m going with this. And I bet you know someone who plays the self-perpetuating victim. Or maybe you’ve even done this yourself. Either way it’s important to recognize who the actual victims are and just who is causing their suffering over and over again.
I want to share with you something that happened to me very recently that involved my stepfather. My stepfather is an extremely toxic individual and has brought much dysfunction into my and my family’s life. If you listen to my show you’ve probably heard me talk about him from time to time.
He has the ability to bring deep hurt and powerful lessons to almost everyone he knows. And quite frankly, he needs to exist so that those who meet him will learn and grow from what he brings to the world. He has been a huge influence in my life in many ways. From the early days of abuse and neglect to later on when I became a self-perpetuating victim myself, taking with me all the survival techniques and coping mechanisms I learned during childhood in order to feel safe in the world.
When I started questioning my own beliefs and where they came from, I realized a lot of lessons derived from his unintentional teachings. These revelations allowed me to become aware of my own dysfunction and start healing from the inside out. And once healing started within, I could share my healing with others and help them heal as well.
This is what happens when you start to heal: You usually want to share how to heal with others. It’s that built-in compassion we all have but sometimes don’t know how to access. If you want to access compassion, start your own healing first and compassion will show up as if it were always there.
So back to the story…
My stepfather emailed my mom to ask to borrow some money. In his message he asked for money from both my mom and me for some reason (he never sent an email to me directly). I told my mom to ignore him. .Since my mom wants nothing to do with him anyway, she told him “Sorry, we don’t have any money to lend you.”
And that was that.
He never replied to the email she sent him but did end up sending an email to another family member and told her that we (my mom and I) ‘ruined his life because we wouldn’t lend him money’.
We “ruined his life”. Wow!
Even though you probably don’t know my stepfather, judging from that short sentence can you guess if my stepfather is a real victim or a self-perpetuating victim?
This kind of response is a manipulation technique. He contacted another family member in hopes that they would feel compassion for his situation and turn members of the family against each other to cater to his ultimate plan.
I don’t think he’s actually that clever to devise such a plan, I just think he’s learned to do what works. The problem is this type of manipulation might have worked had he still lived near the rest of the family because of how many members of my family feared standing up to him.
In other words, when he was here enmeshed with the family and their activities, he had influence. Now that he’s far away, he has very little influence over them. So he attempted to use the same strategies that once worked, but is now getting turned down left and right.
He is slowly learning that in order to get his way he will either need to straighten up and be accountable for his own life, or move back to an environment (close to family) where he had some level of control. I use the word “control” very loosely because even though he didn’t necessarily control anyone, everyone around him still felt controlled. They didn’t want to say “no” to him but they were just fearful enough to give him what he wanted.
Then when he moved away from the family to live in another state, he lost any control he had. And the longer he’s been gone the more the family has learned what it’s like to not be around such a destructive influence. I really believe my entire family is getting a sense of empowerment and strength back because of his absence from their lives.
His attempt to turn us against each other had failed and will continue to fail, because he’s no longer an influence in our lives. And as far as him needing money all we have to do is look at his priorities. He currently makes more money than a lot of people I know, including my family, but spends a good portion of it on alcohol, cigarettes, and internet scams so it’s difficult to have any type of compassion for someone who simply won’t take responsibility for his life and always manipulates to get his way.
If you haven’t guessed: He is a self-perpetuating victim.
In general, a victim is one who is the target, intended or otherwise of an accident or purposeful attack.
A “self-perpetuating” victim is one who created the circumstances for that accident or purposeful attack to take place.
There’s a fine line between the two here because one could easily say that someone “asked” for an attack, for example, if they wandered into the wrong neighborhood at night and got mugged. But not everyone knows the history of every neighborhood nor the crime rate. And if your car broke down in the middle of nowhere you could be the one walking into an unfamiliar neighborhood and become a victim yourself from an attack or something else.
However if you drove through this same neighborhood every day and your car was acting up, then one day it broke down and you were attacked, would you still consider yourself a helpless victim? Or would you take responsibility for not taking your car into the mechanic when you had the chance?
Is that a trick question?
That scenario may sound a tad unfair but let’s just explore it for a moment. Let’s say that you decided to get your car fixed before driving through that neighborhood. Your car probably wouldn’t have broken down and you wouldn’t have gotten attacked. You would have set yourself up to succeed in a way.
However if you decided not to get your car fixed and you did get attacked, you could probably pinpoint the moment the chain of events began that led to the attack. When did the chain start? Did it start at the point where you decided not to bring your car to a mechanic? Or did it start when your car broke down?
Depending on your answer you will either be empowered or not. If you were attacked it doesn’t mean the attackers aren’t to blame but looking at this particular scenario it does reveal a level of responsibility you need to take for your actions (or inactions) in what happened.
These issues are tough to talk about because no one deserves to be victimized but there is a level of responsibility we must take for our own actions because we are sometimes at cause for what happens to us, at least indirectly.
Being the victim of something we set in motion long ago is different than walking down the street and a girder falling on your head. Unless you were the careless worker who welded that girder into place 6 months ago thinking it was “good enough” (that would be quite ironic wouldn’t it?) or if you knew it was a construction zone and the signs told you to stay out but you decided to go in anyway.
There are real victims in the world then there are those that blame the world for their problems even though they themselves are creating their own misery.
I’m talking about, for example, the person who chooses not to pay taxes or show up for court dates, or the person who speeds in school zones. These same people blame the IRS when they want their money, and blame the police when they get arrested. “Why aren’t they out there arresting the ‘real’ bad guys!?”
There are people who consistently deceive or rip others off then get angry when they themselves get ripped off. For example my dad (I hate to pick on him because he’s passed on but it’s a perfect analogy). Many years ago I remember getting a phone call out of the blue about from someone that lived in the next town over from me. They asked if my father was available and I told them I hadn’t seen him in a while. Then I asked how they got my number and why they were using it to call him. They said they were clients of his and he started a construction job at their house. They paid him up front but disappeared on them and was never seen again.
I was immediately shocked and embarrassed. I didn’t think my dad ever did that, but apparently he was leaving people high and dry. At this time, I had no contact with my father, but I did everything I could to locate his new number and address and give it to these people. They sounded very kind, and weren’t even that angry. It was more like they got the feeling they just got ripped off, so they were even embarrassed to call me!
I felt for them, and I don’t know if they ever got a hold of my father, but it made me think back to all the times my dad would complain about how everyone “screwed him over” all the time. He would say things like, “Don’t the police have anything better to do than to catch speeders? It’s ridiculous! They just sit out there giving tickets.”
I asked him, did you get caught for speeding? He said “Yes. It’s so stupid. There are people getting raped and mugged right now, and they pull me over for speeding.”
I then asked, “Were you speeding?” And he replied, “That’s not the point! They’re a bunch of idiots and should be out catching the real criminals.”
Now I know there are a few of you agreeing his comments right now, but think about my question to him. What I really asked is, “Did you break the law?” and since he did, but did not want to be accountable for his actions, he became a self-perpetuating victim. If anything, he should be upset with himself.
And, it’s possible he was upset with himself, but was taking it out on those who enforce the law. But my point is, my dad created a scenario that led him to own his victimhood. Instead of taking accountability for his actions and accepting that he broke the law and got what was expected, he chose to gripe, complain and whine over how the system is corrupt.
My father created scenarios like this all the time. The people that called me looking for him, his former clients, may have eventually sought a lawyer. And, when they found him, he would probably have blamed the court system, or his former clients. Nothing was ever his fault, it was always someone else’s.
He died a poor man. Again, I say this with all due respect to my father. I rekindled our relationship before he died. But I do remember him complaining about all the nurses that were helping him. He seemed to get more aggravated with people the closer he got to passing.
This showed me that as he aged, he took how he perceived the world with him right up until his dying day. How we perceive the world can change as we get older, unless we believe we are a victim to the world.
Believing you are a victim stops your growth. It prevents you from moving into a new space of learning. When you get into this place of self-perpetuating victimhood, you create a downward spiral of “bad luck”, and that momentum usually brings more bad luck into your life.
When you think the world owes you, or that it is against you, you close the door to growth and progress. It’s self-imposed bad karma. It’s a belief system that will limit you, and keep you impoverished in many ways.
A self-perpetuating victim is one who feels they’ve given enough to others, and now want a return on their investments. They want the world to repay them for all their years of service.
But when this mentality takes you over, it stops you from seeking other ways to give. It prevents you from finding the joy in giving, and furthermore, keeps you from ever seeing any returns except ones that will make you feel even more victimized.
When you think you are owed anything, you slow down and wait for the world to respond. It is a place of waiting, and being upset until you get what you want. There is no movement in being a self-proclaimed victim.
There is a time when you are a real victim, don’t get me wrong. When someone sucker punches you, it’s likely you never saw it coming. But think of something that you were a victim to, and think about how you may have perpetrated that event.
If you were a child, you did nothing to perpetrate it, because you weren’t old enough to understand what was happening. In my opinion, nothing is your fault when you are a child, which is why we have caretakers. We all learn how to be adults when we’re children, but we shouldn’t be expected to act like adults.
I’ve talked with abuse survivors who took the blame for their part in the abuse they got as children. Let me let you off the hook right now! If you were abused as a child, you were a true victim, and none of it was your fault. A friend of mine calls true victims, “Innocents”, which is a term I like. As someone who is a victim beyond their control, they truly are an innocent.
As children, we look up to people to help us and guide us through life. When they say what’s right or wrong, we believe them. They help mold us into the people we become. Children are simply following the path laid before them.
You are not at fault for anything you did as a kid, no matter what you heard. You may have done some things you wish you hadn’t, but it was still a matter of how you were raised, not who you were born as.
What I’m talking about in this episode are those who know better, but don’t do better. Those who leave a small tip for good service at a restaurant, and expect good service the next time; Or those who spend $170 a month on cable and $100 on cigarettes but complain about the price of milk.
There are many times where we set ourselves up to be a victim… a victim of our own doing. But we can’t see it at the time it’s happening.
It’s funny, a couple weeks ago, a friend of mine asked me for money. This person asks a lot of people for money quite often, so I figured it was a matter of time before he asked me. I chose to respect my own boundaries and refused to lend him $5. Hey, I know, it’s only $5, but it’s also a door that, once opened, will be hard to close. In other words, he’ll continually ask for money if I don’t set the boundaries of our relationship here and now.
And just a few minutes later, I saw him with scratch tickets. So he asks people for money, and gambles it away. I’m not trying to sound judgmental, because anyone can do anything they want with their money; However, this person is always complaining about how broke he is, and can’t ever get ahead. Yet, all I have to do is look at his behavior and see that he continually perpetuates his own problems.
This type of victim mentality is infectious too. Once someone sucks you into how bad their life is, you either want to run away because you can’t stand being around them, or you get sucked into the drama and wallow in it with them.
Self-perpetuating victims believe they have no choice and no options. That is the first indication that they have closed off their own growth and development. If you believe you have no choice, then you close yourself off to any options that come your way. You brick the doorway, blocking all incoming and outgoing information.
The belief that you have absolutely no choice closes your mind. In reality, almost everyone has a choice, they just don’t like the choices they have.
When I ended up at a soup kitchen because I had no money, I could have wallowed in my victimhood and claimed to have no choice but to go to the soup kitchen. It simply wasn’t true, an alternative to that would be to live on the street, begging for change. That is a choice I could have made. There is almost always another choice, but we usually don’t want to face the worst case scenario.
A real victim will be in a situation where the choices aren’t apparent. And the circumstances will seem impossible to avoid, so they get hurt or worse. But a self-perpetuating victim will sometimes be presented with choices, but because they don’t want to consider them, they’ll remove those choices from their reality.
These types of people demand the attention and support of others, in hopes they wallow in pity with them. They get their fix from the attention they get, unfortunately. And, most of us are so compassionate, we listen and feel for them. And sometimes we give in and believe they truly are in a space of no options. Even when they know they have options, they want you to believe they have none. This helps their story, and puts them in the spotlight.
It’s a dysfunction, and the perfect excuse to stop progressing in life. And now that we have some sort of understanding of what a self-perpetuating victim is, let’s wrap this up with some ways to communicate with people like this.
There are real victims in the world. Or, like my friend calls them, “innocents”. They are the ones where they think they’re doing the right thing, and may even be cognizant and on the lookout for the dangers, but still fall prey to attacks or accidents.
These are the people who are driving along the highway but get slammed into by a drunk driver. They are the ones who believe they are getting an email from their aunt Barbara, but it turns out to be a virus and wipes their computer. They are the innocent ones who just ran into unfortunate situations.
Then there are those who set in motion an entire future of bad situations. They perpetuate the chain of events that lead to tragedy after tragedy, causing their own suffering without even realizing it.
It’s like the time in my youth when I used to steal from the store where I worked. I stole quite a bit, and never got caught. However, for some reason, my car kept getting broken into! It took four break-ins until I finally put two and two together. Whatever I do in the world does seem to come back to me in some way, shape or form.
I’m not saying there’s an absolute one to one ratio that everything you do is karmically reciprocated in some way, but do you think if you developed that belief system, it would actually improve your life somehow? Do you think that if you knew that everything you did came back to you in some way, you’d change anything you do now?
Knowing what’s “right” or “wrong” is hardwired into us. We just seem to know intrinsically that it’s not okay to to hurt other people, steal from them, or deceive them in any way. Yet, sometimes we do it. And, sometimes it comes back to bite us. I don’t know what’s happening out there, whether it’s Karma, God, Buddha, or any of a number of belief systems, but life is a whole lot easier when we’re being kind to others.
When we’re kind, it doesn’t mean that people will always be kind back, but at least we were kind. And that’s what we take with us through this journey in life. Our kindness to others defines our path, in my opinion. Sure, it’s nice for the people we’re kind to as well, but really, what we put into the world is how we program our reality.
And maybe that’s what all of this is about. Maybe it’s not Karma, God, or Buddha or anything else, but us. Maybe we are designed to be our own judger. Even if you believe in creationism, it can still work, because we could be designed to bring our own punishment as reciprocation to those we punish.
Wouldn’t that be an interesting perspective? In other words, if you do something you know is wrong, there’s a small part of you that stores it away in your subconscious mind. This part sits in the background and creates a moment for you later on, presenting you with a situation that makes it appear you are a victim. When in reality, it was brewing in your mind all along.
Bear with me, because I know this is a stretch for some of you, but when you think about something bad you did to someone else, do you still feel bad about that today? Things that we do to others that we don’t feel very good about seem to stick around, either as a reminder, or to help us make different decisions in the future. But they could also stick around to create a situation where we experience of punishment of some sort.
I know, it sounds so awful when I call it a punishment, and maybe it’s not that. But think about something you did to someone in your past that you wish you hadn’t. And when you think about it, can you think of anything that has happened in your life that almost seems like payback for that time?
It’s possible you come up with something right away. But it’s also possible that, because you’ve learned your lesson, you never had to be punished, or disciplined, or whatever you want to call it. What goes around didn’t have to come around because you actually learned from the experience.
This is how you can become the “innocent” once again. It’s when you learn from the experience so that it doesn’t continue to haunt you and create scenarios where you are a victim. This learning is a place of empowerment. When you learn from your ways, you gain wisdom and clarity.
Those who don’t learn, repeat bad behavior and repeatedly bring bad situations into their lives. The perpetuation of bad events may seem random and untimely, but when you look for the origination, you can usually find something that set things in motion.
I’m kind of going round and round with this topic, and I apologize about that, so let’s get into some practical steps we can take when dealing with a self-perpetuating victim.
- Realize that they’ve been doing this a long time, and you cannot change who they are.This is vital to understand. So many of us are just compassionate people, so we automatically want to help. But a perpetual victim gets his or her needs met a piece at a time. They get temporary fixes, and go right back to the same place they started. They could ask for a dollar, and you can give them a million, then in 6 months, they’ll ask you for a dollar again.They’ve latched on to the fact that they are a victim to the world, and there’s really nothing anyone can do about it. Good fortune always turns into bad luck for them.Once you accept that they have a victim mentality, and will always have one, you will at least have a firm perspective of what you are dealing with. It doesn’t mean that they actually will always have a victim mentality, but the first step in dealing with someone like this is to accept that they don’t want to change. They are actually meeting a need by having this mentality.
It’s called “Secondary Gain”, and it means that they exhibit a destructive behavior that benefits them somehow. And because they benefit, whether through the attention they get from others, or something else, they will continue to do this behavior until people stop responding to them. But even then, they may just move on and find others who will respond to them and meet their needs, starting the cycle all over again.
- Honor your own boundaries around them
When I said “no” to my friend when he asked for money, I made it clear to him that I would not be sucked into his problems. I wouldn’t be enabling him or giving him a quick fix. I didn’t say those words, I just said, “No”. Immediately afterward, I told him how much I value our friendship, and I never want to have any bad feelings between us.You know those bad feelings you get when someone still owes you money, right? It’s awkward, and you hate to bring it up every time, but if you don’t you’ll never get paid.I just choose to avoid that scenario altogether and say “no” up front. When you honor yourself, you will avoid getting involved in their drama. This keeps you at enough of a distance where you are not involved with their “victimness”.
- Ask “Why?”
I want to know what story the self-perpetuating victim believes about why things happen to them. I might ask a question like, “Why do you think this keeps happening to you?”They might respond, “I don’t know, I just have a lot of bad luck!” Or, they could give you the story that caused the problems in the first place.For instance, “Ever since I lost my job, it’s been nothing but an uphill battle.”It’s helpful to know their story, because after you find out what they believe is causing all of their “bad luck”, you can help them find a solution. What you’ll find more times than not however is that they’ll come up with another story.So you could say to them, “Great, what can I do to help you get another job?” and they could respond, “Oh, it won’t matter anyway. I’m so far in debt now, I’d have to make a lot more money than I could possibly imagine so why bother?”Self-perpetuating victims often have a “why bother?” attitude because they believe nothing will change, so they won’t try anything new.But after you ask “Why do you think this keeps happening to you?”, a good follow up question is, “Did it ever happen before that?” This will help them remember a time before their victimhood started, in hopes to help them get in touch with a time in their life that everything wasn’t so bad. Of course, if they’ve been a victim for as long as they can remember, it may take some therapy (well, therapy may be a good idea either way). Therapy may need to clean up some old belief systems that simply never changed their whole life. They could be walking around with the beliefs of a child. And if they were a victim as a child, it’s a lot harder to break them of those beliefs. However, the next item is a step in the right direction.
- Ask them “What is missing from your life?”
This is a powerful question because it helps them dig into what they believe they need to be happy and fulfilled. The first answer will usually be money, or love, or some big picture component. However, when they come up with an answer like that, just ask, “What else is missing from your life?” and that will cause them to dig further.It’s possible they don’t want to go any further because of pain or simply not wanting to answer your question. But if you can get them to answer that, and find out exactly what the missing components are in their life, you may find some revealing answers.Self-perpetuating victims spend a lot of time in their conscious mind, always worrying and thinking about how bad things are and how bad things are going to get. They probably don’t think about what they need to often, at least in the deepest sense of the word.Someone who says they need money, just wants a fix to a symptom, instead of working on the cause of the problem. If I asked, “What is missing from your life?” and they said, “Money, that’s all I need! I never have enough money.” I would follow it up with, “Why do you think that is?” trying to get them to look for the actual causes instead of just thinking about the symptoms.
A perpetual victim will say, “Every time I get money, I get a bill, or my car breaks down, or my dog needs to go to the vet…” or something like that. These can all be real problems, but many of us have these things happen to us and not all of us are always struggling. So I might dig further and ask a deeper question like, “Do you remember when your money problems started?”
This forces them to go even deeper and figure out the cause. When they figure out when things went wrong, that is the point they made the decision to be a victim. That is the moment they created a new belief system that “everything bad happens to me.” But now they have an opportunity to change things, and make different decisions. I’m not saying you have to be their therapist, but it’s handy to have some questions ready for people like this, if you want to keep them in your life as a friend or relative.
- Finally, ask “What is one thing you can change about your life now that will prevent this from happening again in the future?”By helping them identify one thing they can change about their life right now, it will take them out of overwhelm and into the moment, where they can make a choice to change something they do, to prevent this kind of thing from happening again.A perpetual victim however will say he’s tried everything and there’s nothing he can do.If that’s the case, then ask, “If there was something you could do, what would it be?” and allow any answer to come out of them.In other words, if he says, “I’d rob a bank!”, just laugh and say something like, “Alright, probably not a good idea, but at least you’re thinking outside the box! What else?” And they will come up with other things that may or may not be feasible, or legal. This gives them a chance to express what’s going on inside of them.
Let them express their emotions. Usually, when they tap into what they think is possible, they are tapping into what they need to heal themselves. It’s a deeper place they probably don’t visit, so it’s good that they are now taking a moment to connect with that part of themselves.When they think about what they can do to change their life, they have to connect with a part of themselves that needs to change. When that happens, they may identify some deep rooted negative emotions. When they connect with that, there’s a chance they’ll start seeing some type of positive future. It’s a slim chance, but there is a chance. And when there’s a chance, there’s a glimmer of possibility that wasn’t there before.
People with a victim mentality are basically chronic complainers. A chronic complainer is looking for an audience. Once they find someone who sympathizes, they get the attention they want. It feeds into their needs, and they’ll do even more complaining because it gives them a fix.
But people grow tired of chronic complainers. They back away and soon want nothing to do with them. A chronic complainer will wear you out, then soon you can’t take anymore and walk away. The chronic complainer needs their next fix, so they look for someone with compassion and start all over again.
Unfortunately, a victim mentality is a tough state to escape from, because self-perpetuating victims have plenty of references telling them that they are right. After all, just look at the news, it corroborates everything they’re saying! But, just like the chronic complainer, the news only highlights the bad stuff.
When someone only highlights the bad stuff, sometimes you have to remind them of the good stuff. This can be in the form of pointing out what’s good in their life, like what they’ve created in the world, whether it’s their children, or how they bring happiness into other people’s lives, or even how they’ve made a difference in some way.
They sometimes need to be reminded of how great they are, and that when they are contributing, they bring a lot of value to others. But when they are focused on everything bad that happens, they lose sight of how fortunate they are.
It’s an attitude of gratitude they’ve lost touch with. And sometimes little reminders of what there is to be grateful for can be what it takes to shake up their foundation a little, so that they step out of victimhood, and into a more positive place.
I talk about my stepfather a lot, I realize. It’s hard not to talk about someone who has affected your life so much, that you have to spend about 10 years healing from who you became in order to survive your childhood.
But almost all of my dysfunctional behavior came from learning to survive in an environment that presented the challenge of an abusive alcoholic. Unfortunately for my mom, she would protect us from his abuse by being the victim. She would sometimes put herself in harm’s way to protect her children, so I sometimes wonder how deep her wounds are.
Though I’ve talked about her marriage with her, she doesn’t like diving too deeply into her painful history. Once she accesses those painful emotions, she comes right back and changes the subject.
That’s okay. For the longest time, I would want her to share what she wouldn’t share, but I realized I was pushing her too much, so I completely let go of wanting to help her change. For the most part, she seems happy now. So my desire to dig deeper and pull out some painful history is really a selfish one, which is why I let it go.
Our desire to help others needs to be because of what they want, and not because we want to save them.
For a long time, I saw my mom as a victim. But knowing she doesn’t like visiting the past, but likes looking into the future, does make me feel better. Sure, there may be some deeply rooted pain in there, but if she spends the majority of her time enjoying the now and looking ahead, who am I to argue with that?
There are some therapists that think we all think too much anyway. I recently read an article by Lois Holzman in Psychology Today who says we spend way too much time looking for what causes things, instead of looking into what we can do for ourselves right now.
To an extent, I agree. If you spend the majority of your time asking “why” something is the way it is, you’ll sabotage your future because you’ll be obsessed with your past. However, sometimes finding the cause of something that happened is the best way to heal and learn from it.
And, when you dig down to the original event that caused the chain of events that created the problem, you can sometimes learn a great truth you may not have been aware of before. Knowing is closure and sometimes a quick path to healing.
So if you find yourself obsessing over the “why” of something, remember that what you are doing today is creating the new “why” of tomorrow. Everything you do in the now will affect your future. It’s okay to look for cause so that you can process and let things go, but don’t let an unanswered “why” hold you back from creating the future you want.
There is a difference between being the victim of something you did not create, and something you did. What are you creating in your life right now that you know is going sneak up on you one day and create a bad situation?
I used to be passive aggressive, and not say what I really meant. This always snuck up on me later. So I started honoring my boundaries and giving firm answers to people. This left no question in their mind what I meant. Start being firm in who you are and what you say, it will leave little room for interpretation, and will prevent you from perpetuating bad situations in your future.
You’re smart, so you know what’s going to sneak up on you later. Take care of things now, so they don’t linger and create havoc later. I know you can do this! I believe in you. Sometimes you just need to take some hard steps up front to make things easier later.
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