Are you a victim? Chances are you have been victimized at least once in your life if not many times. None of us can really escape that. Some have had to endure extreme conditions or circumstances, and have been the victim of horrendous situations.
In my work I have talked to many people who have been severely abused, neglected, or who have been traumatized by great losses both personally and financially. Some have grown up in the worst of conditions enduring poverty, chaos, terrible abuse, and chronic stress. Some have been the victims of crimes, or of war, or of great deceit and betrayal.
There is no end to stories of victimization. None of us can really know what others have experienced or felt during those situations.
Victimization, especially in the extreme or over long periods of time, does require for most a significant period of recuperation and work on overcoming its effects. That time should be taken and understood.
The problem occurs when victimization becomes the whole of one’s identity. When it takes over and becomes the theme of your life. When seeing yourself as a “victim” is the daily mantra and the approach to everything your do.
Being a Victim versus Victimization
Being victimized is different than being a victim. A person who is victimized is still first and foremost that same person. It is a person who has had an experience or a series of experiences, and who is likely changed as a result of these experiences, yet is not reduced down to only those experiences.
A victim becomes the experience and stays there. He begins to see all of his life through this narrow window. He attributes his feelings, thoughts, and experiences going forward to his reaction to the original victimization event. He talks about it, thinks about it, and holds on to it almost like a badge of identity. Strangely, it becomes his point of reference for his life.
This is what we need to fight against, because taking on a lifetime role as a victim is caving into the original assault and staying there. Forever. It closes your life down, reduces it, and shuts the door on further development and progress.
Signs That You Have Accepted the Victim Role
- You have daily or regular thoughts about the ways in which you have been mistreated or victimized
- You feel unable to succeed at anything because of your history of victimization
- You are unable to sustain relationships because of your past experiences
- You tend to blame others or circumstances for your inability to move forward, get things done, or make positive changes in your life
- You see yourself as damaged, permanently
- You have a negative tape of thoughts running through your mind daily, many of them focused on resentment for what you didn’t get growing up, or what happened to you that you feel has halted your life
- You tend to have continued experiences of being victimized by other people
If any of those things apply, then consider some of the next steps to help you move out of the victim role.
Being a perpetual victim can really use up your entire life, leaving you with great unhappiness, a lack of fulfillment, and tremendous regret. Don’t let that happen to you! Try these things.
(1) Seek Help
If there are experiences that you haven’t dealt with, or that keep coming up in your mind and you replay them over and over, seek some therapy.
I don’t believe in suppression meaning that pretending feelings aren’t there won’t make them go away. When you do seek therapy, make sure that you are using it to move forward, not to stay stuck. You want to identify, acknowledge, grieve if necessary, and then let go and move forward. You don’t want to rehash, rehash, rehash and stay stuck.
(2) Change your Mindset
See yourself as a person who has had experiences, but not as the experiences themselves. Experiences don’t define us. What we do with them and how we react to them defines us.
Where you are right now is not where you were. You have every opportunity to be what you want right now. It may not seem that way, but it is. You are not helpless, and shedding helplessness is a huge and necessary step.
(3) Take Responsibility
Shedding helplessness is part one. Taking responsibility is part two. Regardless to what happens to any of us, no one can be responsible for our path other than we ourselves.
Once childhood has receded and you are in that adult world, you are responsible for your life. There is simply no getting around that. If you take hold of that idea and work with it, you harness great power to steer your own ship and make your life what you wish it to be.
If you refuse to take charge, than life will serve you up whatever comes your way. Refusing to take charge is actually making a decision to give it up, and the results are never good. It’s like stumbling through a dark room full of furniture without a flashlight. Turn on the flashlight!
(4) Write it Out
Make a list of many experiences in your life that you think have shaped you. Write about what has had a positive impact on you as well as citing those experiences that were negative.
In truth, negative experiences often contain the seeds for movement forward and progress. This is certainly true of failure. Ask any really successful person and they will likely tell you that they learned more from their failures than their successes.
Use the material of your history to create something better.
(5) Be Kind and Firm
Be kind to yourself meaning don’t be harsh if you struggle with emotional issues or past events or traumas. No doubt these have been difficult for you, and you have a right to react.
At the same time, be firm with yourself. Allow yourself to have reactive feelings, but don’t allow yourself to stay there. If someone I love betrays me, I may be very upset, hurt, sad, angry and all of the above. I may have a good cry. It may take some time to get over it. But then I can use that experience in some way to deepen my understanding of life, or to recognize certain behavior patterns, or to choose different friends or partners, or to use whatever other lesson was tucked into that experience to make my life better.
(6) See Negative Experiences as Opportunities
Experiences are to be used for growth, not to give up and stop growing. In our never ending pursuit of happiness, many of us have grown up with the mistaken belief that life should be easy and happy.
When something happens that creates difficulty, challenge, or even heartbreak, we are often surprised and we begin resisting it. We lament it. How could that happen to me? Why is that happening to me? Why is not a bad question if we have some part in what happened, and it is always good to figure that out. But it is not good to resist.
It is better to accept, learn, grow, and keep going. Turn the negative, or the victimization, into something you can learn and grow from. Affirm your resilience. Deepen your understanding. Make changes. Set up new boundaries if need be. Choose better partners. Take charge.
This is a touchy subject, but one that affects everyone. I’m interested in your thoughts. Please share!