Who’s Life Are You Living?

This blog was written prior to the news of Tony Robbins misrepresenting the #MeToo movement. I do not condone the way he conducted himself.  I want to make clear that while his underlying message is similar to some concepts in this blog, I strongly support the MeToo movement and believe it has been instrumental in advancing the process of women (and some men) finding their personal power to stand up to abuse and harassment. (In fact I have written other blogs about this very topic). I work daily with traumatized clients and I’m very aware that trying to bully someone into feeling better about themselves is counterproductive, at best.  I am open to any discussion once you’ve read this blog.  I appreciate all my readers and always attempt to take other perceptions into account when writing,

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During my adult life, I’ve encountered many situations that left me feeling powerless. I have always been an independent, pro-active person, so when I begin to feel stuck in some way, I allow myself to feel the pressure, anxiety, sadness for a while because I’ve learned that it’s important to feel things fully at the emotional level before moving on. My rule of thumb is to keep the pity party to 24 hours if possible because it’s just as important to face our reality. Then I get into what I call “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 feel more 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 attribute the outcomes of their circumstances to others and environmental factors. They usually believe they personally have few, if any choices, which can lead them to the *victim* trap easier than someone who lives with a more internal perspective. (That’s not to say those with an internal LOC don’t get caught in that web occasionally. None of us are totally independent of outside influences).

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 ourselves is in control, encouraging the victim mindset. For some, 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, and in order to feel a little better about themselves, they are pulled into 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. These things stem from a concept of NEEDING to be a part of a tribe.

If you’ve followed my blog for any time, you’ve probably seen me say that being vulnerable is a human condition and not weakness. Just as we’re all victimized at times, we’re also all vulnerable at times. We become weak when we continue doing and saying what others expect of us, or doing what makes others feel good, but it’s not really what we want for ourselves. 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 workplace, the medical system, the educational system, bureaucracies such as government organizations, religions, etc). This is one reason teenagers and young adults feel a lot of frustration when they are trying to develop their own set of values by which to live (Gospel According to Patti). They may feel constrained by the rules their parents, religion or social tribe has advocated, but they are still very connected to the safety of these affiliations, so it often becomes a difficult transition. 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. As I said, sometimes it develops from a belief that we have to fit in. Some don’t even recognize there might be a different choice. This is often when depression, anxiety and other issues arise. What I want those people to understand is that they do have choices, and one of those is to choose to teach others how to interact with them by the behavior and attitudes they accept – or decline to participate in.

We came to this life on purpose. Living an empowered, healthy emotional life is in 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.

Sometimes there aren’t a lot of choices. As I write this I’m acutely aware of the MeToo movement and the struggles women and men have had for centuries at the hand of those who have wielded more power. There are times we are victimized that could not have been avoided. Please do not misinterpret this blog to mean that others who sometimes harm us are not responsible for their actions. We can’t take responsibility for what they do to us. 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. This may take a lot of time and effort, because we have to work through the emotional effects on us before we can be more rational about the situation. But (once we have done what we can) we can then 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. How will we ever learn anything if we stay tucked away from the lessons?