We Take Things Personally All The Time.
Whether it’s cheating or a family dispute over inheritance…We’re wired to think that whenever conflict arises, we are on the recieving end of someone’s ill will.
This couldn’t be further away from the truth.
Conflict is usually the result of competing perceptions— different experiences of a single event. In reality, it’s very difficult to actually tell the victimizer from the victim because there’s no doubt that each one is the victim in their own version of events.
Old assumption: I am always the victim of others.
Reframe: Being the victim is a matter of perception.
Becoming The Victim
Isn’t it a little strange that you are always the victim of others? Don’t you think it’s a bit weird that this keeps happening over and over again… as if the planets had aligned to make your life a cautionary tale?
In most cases, victimhood is not something objective. It’s just our own unique narrative of an event in our past.
“My mother never acknowledged me as a kid, and that’s why I have a low self-esteem”
Most of us have a version of this story…the story of how we came to be messed up adults.
The events that marked your childhood may be objective —you may have objectively had an absent mother— but becoming the victim of your mother’s mistakes is entirely a matter of perception. Adopting victimhood as your identity is a personal choice.
Two siblings may grow up in the same abusive household…But that doesn’t mean they will share the same fate. The difference between overcoming abuse and repeating it, is that in the former you decided to learn from your parents mistakes instead of falling prey to them. In the latter, you become your parents mistakes, so you repeat them later in life.
Old assumption: Conflicts are objective experiences, so there is always a clear victimizer and an obvious victim.
Reframe: Past events may be objective…but victimhood is subjective. We are all victims in our own eyes most of the time.
The Walking Grievance
“Grievances serve no other purpose than to strengthen a false sense of self, to keep the ego in place” — Ekhart Tolle
According to Ekhart Tolle, grievances are the ‘‘accumulated baggage of old thought and emotion’’. This means that victimhood is rarely in the present, yet we hold on to it for the sake of validating our sense of identity.
We accumulate grievances and drag them along like a high-school kid with a backpack full of textbooks. It’s painful, and it weighs us down but we full-heartedly believe that we need them in order to pass the SATs.
In the Power of Now, Ekhart Tolle calls this a ‘walking grievance’, when you literally become the weight of your past conflicts. You become your resentment and you hold on to it because it validates your sense of self.
We become addicted to the feeling of victimhood, because it fuels our individuality.
The problem is that victimhood also debilitates us to the point where we are never in control of any situation. Life has a funny way of reflecting our believes back to us. Once a victim, always a victim and you will keep on meeting victimizers wherever you go.
We become victims of circumstances outside of our control… constantly swaying this way and that like leaves in the wind.
It’s an easy copout to blame our parents (and then our partners) for everything that goes wrong with our lives…but it completely denies us any agency in our lives.
No Longer The Victim— Overcoming Victimization
It requires honesty to see whether you still harbor grievances, whether there is someone in your life you have not completely forgiven, an “enemy.” If you do, become aware of the grievance both on the level of thought as well as emotion, that is to say, be aware of the thoughts that keep it alive, and feel the emotion that is the body’s response to those thoughts. Don’t try to let go of the grievance. Trying to let go, to forgive, does not work. Forgiveness happens naturally when you see that it has no purpose other than to strengthen a false sense of self, to keep the ego in place. The seeing is freeing. — Ekhart Tolle
To paraphrase Ekhart, getting rid of the victim mindset doesn’t require any active effort…all it really takes is to recognize it for what it is:
A subjective identity based on past grievances that we hold on to.
A victim is never in control because everything he or she experiences is a result of what others do to them.
But realizing that being a victim is a personal choice that we can banish at any point means that we get to sit in the drivers seat and hold the steering wheel.
Once we give up the grievances we take full ownership and responsibility for how our lives turn out. We get to decide how we want to live, and who we want to be.
Old assumption: My life is the result of circumstances outside of my control. Life happens to me.
Reframe: My fate is in my own hands, I happen to life.