My husband and I have been living with a situation for the past 6 months that has us feeling powerless. While I am not going to speak for him here, we do partner on this issue, which at least helps each of us to feel less alone.
As for myself, I have always been an independent, pro-active person. When I begin to feel stuck in some way, I allow myself to feel the pressure, anxiety, sadness for a while (my rule of thumb is to keep it to 24 hours if possible) because it’s important to face our reality. Then I get into “fix it mode”. My mind turns to “what can I do to move forward?”
This is where the Serenity Prayer can really be helpful to remind me that I need to do what I can, accept what I can’t change, and learn to be at peace with where I am, knowing there’s a lesson for me there – whether I see it yet or not.
When I was studying psychology, I learned the term “locus of control”. Those of us with an internal locus of control take personal responsibility for our attitudes, actions and outcomes. We know that as adults, we have to be accountable for ourselves and our behavior. Those with an external locus of control basically feel others and environmental factors control their lives. They believe they have few, if any choices, and can fall into the “victim” trap.
Years ago, it became apparent to me that, even though there are a variety of issues clients present, much of the time it comes down to one. People tend to live their lives for others. To please parents, bosses or spouses (which usually starts as pleasing parents & is just transferred to whoever is wielding power in their lives currently). This stems from that external locus of control; the belief that something or someone outside of myself is in control, encouraging the victim mindset. The scary part is that it can continue to the point where a person takes little to no responsibility for anything that happens in their life, leading to the blame game.
We are all victimized at some points in our lives. But whether we remain a victim, is up to each of us.
There are various ways to be a victim: operating from being stuck in the past, being stuck in family or institutional values without questioning whether they fit us; being intimidated or bullied by others or even by organizations. It all stems from a mindset of weakness.
Weakness comes from doing and saying what others expect of us, or doing what makes others feel good. Strength is operating from integrity and truth (our own truth).
Many of us are stuck in values that have been forced on us by family or other institutions (the work place, the medical system, the educational system, bureaucracies such as government organizations, religions, etc). We can even be victims of our own thoughts. We are the product of the choices we make in our lives. When we’re stuck, we ask “Why me?” instead of “What’s the lesson for me here?”
Some don’t make the choice to avoid remaining the victim. They allow themselves to be manipulated by others, family, bosses, friends . . . Being a victim can become a habit – it develops from a belief that we have to fit in. Some don’t even recognize there might be a different choice. But we can choose to teach others how to interact with us by the behavior and attitudes we accept.
We came to this life on purpose. Living an empowered, healthy emotional life is in important part of life on earth. Allowing the victim role to take us over can undermine our strength and our ability to live out that purpose.
We each have to take responsibility for every situation in which we find ourselves. Even when others put us into these situations, if we are truly honest with ourselves, we often are responsible for being in a place (physically or emotionally) where we are at risk of being taken advantage of at that moment. Therein lies one of the lessons.
Sometimes there aren’t a lot of choices. There are times we are victimized that we could not have avoided. Please do not misinterpret this blog to mean that others who sometimes harm us are not responsible for their actions. However, there is always at least one option, other than remaining the victim. That is to eventually be able to look at it differently; to accept the situation for what it is, and (once we have done what we can) to allow things to play out as they will. As humans, most of us can’t see into the future. But if we approach what seems like an unbearable circumstance from a place of acceptance and love, things often fall into place in a much smoother, more positive way.
We didn’t come to this life to live it for anyone else. We came to learn our own lessons, through our own choices and our own consequences.