In recent blogs I have confessed that I’ve become very concerned about the condition of our current culture, which has led me to become more active politically. It’s really nothing new for me. I’ve always had the mindset of an activist. Even as a secretary 20+ years ago, when I saw injustice, I did what I could to stand up for those being victimized.
I’ve never been very good at just feeling sorry for myself. 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 whenever possible) because I believe it’s important to face our reality in order to change it. Then I channel it 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, as a therapist, 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, which can lead to the blame game – and becomes a vicious cycle of negativity.
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; and even just not wanting to “make waves” or be confrontational because we have been conditioned to believe we don’t have the right. And often those in the power position in our lives are good at manipulating and gaslighting us. I call it “crazy-making,” because they keep projecting onto us what they, themselves are – making us believe we are the problem, so eventually we are unable to defend our own actions. Those who are good at manipulation have a radar that zeroes in on those they can abuse. The radar works both ways. People who have been abused are naturally attracted to abusers until they understand they are worth more. 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 – your own truth (not to be confused with “alternative facts.” We’ll address that in another blog).
This weakness mindset is taught to us. 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. 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 an 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. But please do not misinterpret this to mean that others who sometimes harm us are not responsible for their actions.
Sometimes there aren’t a lot of choices. There are times we are victimized that we could not have avoided. However, there is always at least one option, other than remaining the victim. That is to be able to look at it differently; to accept the situation for what it is. And (once we have done what we can) we can allow things to play out as they will.
This brings us back to what is going on these days. We live in a time where isolationists who are threatened by inclusion and globalization have gained power. My belief is that those who are hanging onto “the way things were” by their fingernails were also victimized and bullied; and this is their way of fighting back. But they misunderstand the need for personal power as power over others, and it mushrooms from there. This is why those of us who understand every citizen deserves the right to live their lives according to their own choices must do whatever it takes to keep that in our society. So we might be seen as a bunch of angry, “nasty” women (and men). One of the primary roots of anger is the feeling that something is unfair. We are channeling that anger into a force never before seen by uniting because we have the vision of a world full of equity, peace and compassion.
We need to acknowledge the bullies and abusers of the world. They have played an immense role here that has allowed us the opportunity to reach deep into ourselves and find the power that is there. We are not fighting them. We are choosing not to remain victims. And when we have done what we can, we will have moved the world – not back to where it was, but forward to something we only previously could have imagined. We need to understand that we may not see it immediately. But we can feel peace and pride, knowing that we played an important role in making the world one we all deserve. We didn’t come to this life to live it for anyone else. We came to live and learn for ourselves. That’s living from integrity.
If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.