The whole Victim concept (yes, this calls for capitalization) is a tricky one.
It’s tricky because it’s hard to acknowledge. No one wants to own that they’re being a Victim, the agent of their own suffering.
That and–Victims get a bad rap. Anger? We just try to avoid it. Sadness? There’s compassion for what someone’s gone through.
But acting like a Victim?–ugh! Quit feeling sorry for yourself! Get over it, already, you sad sack! Do you think you have it worse than everyone else? Puh-leeze.
Here’s why seeing clearly, acknowledging, and understanding your own inner Victim is so important–it’s this huge gateway to forgiveness.
I held on to anger towards my mother for years.The story is not really very sordid–I was angry because when I was a kid, she’d been so angry. I grew up with periods of shame, rage, or blame that overshadowed the good, and I framed my personal Story about who I was from that place of “I’m the kid with the screwed up childhood.” I had a whole identity from it (which I didn’t realize). For instance, there was a time in my life where I felt like I’d made a true friend only when she knew the story of how my mother and I didn’t get along; then, I thought, that friend “knew me” because she knew what I’d “gone through.”
Then, at a certain point, that went to its polar opposite, and I’d say to myself, “I’m supposed to be “powerful,” aren’t I? Get over it, Kate! You didn’t have it so bad. Your mother brought shame, rage, and blame to the scene because of the shame, rage, and blame that she experienced. Don’t you get that?”
So I would take a deep breath and decide that yes, that was it–I was OVER IT.
Then my mother would say something and I’d have a serious over-reaction to it, and the things I’d say to her or about her when I was upset were all still from that same Victim place.
Maybe these words really resonate with you, so let me condense things a bit and cut to the chase–I waffled back and forth between these spaces for years and years. Years. But I just kept plugging away at it. I sort of designed “forgiving my mother” as my issue that I brought to every single workshop and therapy session and coaching session I attended.
I began to understand my Victim Story, which was, in its simplest form, this: She messed me up.
Oh, wait–did I say “messed”? I’ll revise that–in my fullest moments of anger, I would have said it more like, “She fucked me up.”
Now, hopefully that statement gives you some insight into this picture–into the hurt I was experiencing, the sense of hopelessness around it, the anger, the rage.
If my Story was that someone else had “fucked me up,” can you see the powerlessness that I felt, in that?
I can tell you the very moment when I first released around this. I had just finished a workshop and I was driving home, moving slowly in heavy traffic. I wasn’t even thinking about my mother. Then, a little whisper from the Universe came in, simple and clear:
“How she treated you is irrelevant.”
Again: “How she treated you is irrelevant.”
Zip zap zoom–an A-ha! moment flooded me.
My thoughts were: “How my mother treated me is irrelevant. I decide who I am. I decide whether or not I carry on the legacy of that pain. I decide whether or not I rage or shame or blame. She was always simply doing the best she could with what she had–and in fact–she’s not even that PERSON anymore! Even I can see that! Why am I holding onto it, then? It’s totally irrelevant to who I am, because I decide who I am! Even if she hadn’t shifted a lot of her behaviors, it wouldn’t matter–because I decide who I am! In fact, my childhood was..it was hard, but–there were so many good things about it! How did I not see that, before? What have I been doing? It’s so simple! I DECIDE WHO I AM!”
And the moment was actually full of…joy! I was smiling, and crying, my heart swelling with gratitude for this moment, this beautiful moment when I realized…I decide who I am! No one else can decide that for me! I’m not a Victim of my past, or of another person! Oh, my, god!
I started testing this out over the next few months. I would notice that first of all, I really liked my mother. I wanted to call her. I missed her. I liked hanging out on the phone with her. I wasn’t judging her opinions, even if I disagreed.
Occasionally I’d feel triggered, though never to the level I’d felt, before. I’d ask myself, “Have you forgiven her? Really? Is this frustration in the moment, or frustration in the past?”
Zip Zap Zoom–either it was easy to link it to a past trigger and I could just go, “Eh, that’s old. I decide who I am,” and let it go, or I’d recognize that the issue wasn’t her–it was hunger, or being tired, or feeling stressed. No need to build into that Story that she’s this certain way and because of her, I’m limited!
So–I recognized that I wasn’t anyone else’s Victim.
Here’s the other piece, though–and it’s such a good piece…I’m not a Victim of myself, either.It occurred to me while watching Brene Brown’s lecture on shame that the places where I hold shame are the places where I haven’t forgiven myself for something, I’ve constructed an identity out of that experience (like “I am bad”), and I’m Victimizing myself by holding onto it.
Deep breath: This is not about just flipping some cognitive switch.
It’s about getting–really getting–that just because I’ve “always been” the type of person who did XYZ, doesn’t mean that that’s how I will choose to be in this moment.
I choose who I am. I decide. Other experiences and people don’t define me. I do.
My choices from the past needn’t define who I say I am, either.
You decide who you are–you say who you will be in this life. Not your past, or the shitty circumstances, or the people.
Are you living as an expression of that truth?