The path to true freedom
If you brought some friends home and they watched you walk into your apartment and put your feet up on your sofa with your shoes on, they’d probably assume they could do the same, right?
Similarly, we train our friends, family and our lovers how to treat us by how we treat our selves. If you put yourself down, see yourself small, incapable, apologize for your wants and needs or self deprecate in any way— you give others permission to do the same.
When you say: “Oh I couldn’t do that, I’m not good enough, I don’t have the courage, I’m not deserving, I don’t have what it takes,” etc., –even if these statements are just silently in your head– others can ‘smell’ them in you. And if you happen to say them out loud, others get entranced by your words and follow your belief into seeing you accordingly.
If you tend to put yourself last, make your needs less important than others (even and especially out of ‘love’) then you’re teaching others to place your needs behind theirs and to see your desires as less important.
Even worse, for parents and leaders out there, you’re training your children and your admirers to imitate your behavior. As they grow and copy what they learned from you, they’ll start putting their own needs below others as they go forward in their life as well, and so the cycle of self-subordination continues.
Many women feel mistreated in their life— they feel their experience is unfair. This “hard-done-by” feeling comes from a deep-seated resentment that they aren’t getting what they want, and beneath that resentment is often the belief that the reason they don’t get what they want, is because of others.
This is a classic “victim mind-set” where you see yourself at the mercy of external circumstances, not as creatrix or cause in the matter. The problem is, the “t’was-them-not-me” stance posits causal power outside your self. It leaves you dependent and reliant on forces beyond your control. How convenient…
Now victims, in order to fulfill their namesake, must get mistreated, abused and hurt by someone or something. And that malevolent ‘bad’ force becomes the perpetrator – they need to have a perpetrator to keep them ‘oppressed’ to maintain their victim dance. Victims must also be incapable of saving themselves— they need to be rescued by another—again they’re dependent on forces outside themselves, alas.
Of course there are genuine victims out there –such as children who were molested or women who were raped. But for the most part in romantic relationships, I suggest you look for where you’re operating from a victim mind-set, and who or what you’re turning into the perpetrating villain. We are ALL operating as victims somewhere in our lives. Become a sleuth in your own life and find the secret V in you.
We also victimize ourselves unwittingly every time we tolerate behavior that makes us feel small, reduces self-esteem, diminishes our shimmer or violates our dignity. To tolerate is not a virtue, it enables a toxic pattern in both you and another. I do not recommend tolerating anything— rather, start expressing your feelings in real time. Every wound or wince (no matter how small) that you do not honor as real, sacred and worth noting, is an abandonment of your truth and a betrayal of your self. When we betray ourselves a hundred times a day (with every unexpressed need, suppressed frustration, stuffed emotion) we train others to betray both themselves and us. Victimization only breeds more victims.
Here’s the funny thing, it doesn’t matter if you find yourself in the role of perpetrator or victim, neither one is better than the other…they both amount to the same thing: irresponsibility. Each side is failing to see them self as causal and so they have no accountability for the results they experience. Angry attackers/ villains/ perpetrators all think they had to do or say whatever they did because of how the other acted, each one has a ‘valid story’ that explains their deed. They feel compelled and justified to act out in the fashion they do, the same way a victim feels compelled and justified to complain, feel sorry for themselves and seek rescue. Personally, I see a villain as just another brand of victim! No accident they both start with “V”. Neither position gives you any real power.
Here are some ways to check if you might be in the victim mind-set:
· You’re complaining about something and it’s a recurrent complaint
· You have the sense “the-world-is-against-me”
· You often feel misunderstood and alone around others
· You’re angry or resentful and secretly holding a grudge or plotting revenge
· You’re feeling helpless, attacked or abused and don’t know why
· You’re eager to tell others about how awful person X was to you
· You only ever tell your side of the story, never the villain’s
· You ensure all the details make you look innocent and the other look bad
· You find yourself called to exaggerate and embellish the truth in your favor
· You feel innocent yet need to keep proving to others that you are
· You get high off of others being appalled and commiserating with your pain
· You can see NO way you’re participating in or co-creating the “bad” results
· You’re very clear you’re NOT at fault
· You feel righteous, sorry for yourself, maybe even vindictive
· You’re hungry for an apology from the other
· You feel confused, frustrated, trapped, desperate or overwhelmed
· You cannot stand people who whine and feel derision for them
· Others tell you, you’re acting like a victim
It’s time to vanquish the victim mindset! Scan across all areas of your life and find the places where you’re unconsciously maintaining yourself or others as a victim or a villain. Remember, on the deepest level both amount to the same thing: not taking full responsibility for your life. Start recognizing that YOU co-create your life. We may not be able to control all the circumstances in our life but we can control how we respond to them. This ultimately is the deepest power we have as individuals, so it’s important we learn to wield it with finesse.
So now for the ultimate victim cure…it’s going to surprise you. The secret cure for victim-hood is to go into your body and heart and get present to what you deeply and authentically need to feel safe, loved, nourished, and then ask for that out loud. It sounds simple, but it takes immense courage. Interview your body and discover what it truly needs, listen carefully to what’s yearning to be heard, then tell your partner /friend/ family member this truth without making them wrong or blame (be sure to use “I” statements not “you” statements and don’t get stuck in the past). For example, your body might say to you: “I need to feel taken care of & safe”, so your job is to articulate this feeling-truth to yourself and then to go create the environment where you feel safe. Maybe go for a walk in the park and take some space away from a conflict, go get a massage, find something healthy to eat. Perhaps it leads you to make an open-hearted, undefended request from your partner: “I feel unsafe and I’d love a hug from you.”
However, when you make a request, remember that your partner is not obligated to fulfill it. If they do, great, see it a as gift. If they don’t, go and take care of yourself.
The cure to being a victim is to discover what you truly need and want and then to fight through all your fears and courageously share those sacred desires with those you love. Its the first step towards taking true responsibility for your life, and it’s the beginning of real freedom.