#29 Overcoming Adversity by Choosing Not to Be a Victim
Hint: It's a choice but not always easy to see.
Dear Lovely You,
we all go through tough times.
If we allow ourselves to love, at some point we are going to lose someone and that hurts.
The alternative (ie: choosing not to love) is a pretty bleak option.
Love is the very essence of life.
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That year that we lost my son and brother we also lost a very good friend and my uncle.
Three separate road crashes and four most beloved people gone very suddenly.
But I was determined not to be a victim. I can’t bear pity or sympathy. I didn’t want to be that mother who lost a child in a car crash but I was.
I wasn't going to let what had happened ruin my life. This was a decision. A choice.
The Crown Prosecution Service were taking the drivers who caused their deaths to court for causing death by dangerous driving. We had no say in it at all except to write what they called ‘Victim Witness Statements.’
Even the word 'victim' got my hackles up. I was not going to be defined by what had happened. I wrote the truth about the impact on myself and my family but I just wanted it over because nothing was going to bring them back. However, the constant delays consumed us and fuelled our anger.
But life doesn't stop when someone dies.
In our case we still had children to care for and like everyone else bills to pay.
I reminded myself, it could have been worse. On both the occasions of my son and brother's deaths their brothers were there at the time. We could have lost them too. There are people in the world who have been through much worse through wars, having loved ones disappear and not knowing what happened to them, loved ones who've been raped or murdered and so on. I can always imagine worse scenarios.
But Karen you've said it's important to honour our grief and even to wallow sometimes.
That’s true and… there's a big difference between honouring your grief and feeling your emotions and feeding them.
Are you feeding the victim in you?
Feeding the victim part of ourselves comes out of a sense of need. A need to be right. A need for justice. A need to blame and a deep inner need for recognition. To be seen. To have our pain witnessed. And a need to vent our anger.
It can also be linked to needs not having been met as children that are getting triggered by the traumatic event we now find ourselves in.
Needs that can only - as adults - be met by us.
And there’s a need for some kind of resolution but that also has to come from within us. It’s never going to come from outside of us. Ever.
For most people it takes time to cycle around grief again and again. Experimenting with not grieving and living more comes later. For a lot of people, it’s not easy especially when the loss seems to have been caused by someone else or is perceived to have happened too soon.
When we finally do get to a point that we have been able to allow our emotions to move through us and come to a place of acceptance and peace we may not even notice until sometime after it’s happened.
It all comes down to the choices we make.
I avoid pity parties with others. On rare occasions I have an internal pity party of my own. But I never allow others to feed the victim in me.
You see the victim wants to be seen. The victim wants recognition. The victim wants her or his story to be worse than anyone else's.
Our internal victims want company.
It's like a competition to see whose life is worst. Who deserves the most sympathy and who can get the most attention.
It creates drama and gees us up and stimulates stress hormones which remind us we are alive. Afterall it’s better to feel something than nothing sometimes. It can make us forget the needs of others as we become obsessed with ourselves and getting attention.
In this state, poor me defines us and attracts other victims into our lives.
There’s an old saying, misery craves misery and I think it’s true.
In the personal development world we are told you become like the people you hang out with the most, so it’s important to choose who you hang out with carefully.
Don’t let the victim in you be the Controller.
I feel it, very occasionally still, the tug to be a victim. But it doesn’t last long because I don’t want to live my life like that and I don’t let it be the Controller.
The unconscious thoughts that used to swim around my mind went something like this. This terrible thing happened to me, so I deserve special treatment. If I tell them this, they will feel sorry for me. Because I've been through this and you haven't, you couldn't possibly understand. And on and on…
And even after fifteen years I still haven’t been able to completely forgive the man who caused my brother’s death even though I know I am only hurting myself. he’s dead now too.
Big emotional trauma is the emotional Ace card in our society, a learned response and a societal problem that we have been conditioned into and many (though not by all means all) people buy into it. Just look at social media or your local newspaper or news station for evidence.
It's part of our ego. In a sense it's trying to keep us safe and give us some kind of false purpose but really it's afraid that we don't matter and our ego wants to matter.
It will perpetuate feelings of sorrow. It will remember and re-remember events over and over again. It rehearses the images of what happened in our minds and even what it's going to say to people for the best impact. It depresses itself.
The victim and the ego play together. Maybe they are one and the same thing?
There's no doubt there can be benefits to being a victim. It will get you attention and that feels more important than no attention.
Attention can masquerade as love.
Most of us act in some way that gets us what feels like love and it’s not always playing the victim (sometimes it can be with quite admiral seeming qualities like being the rescuer, helpful, reliable or caring one (sound familiar?) but it's conditional. It's conditional on us being a certain way.
It's also manipulative and controlling and makes us feel powerless or helpless and like we need someone else to fix us.
If we are constantly telling ourselves that the world is a bad, unfair, unsafe place our bodies feel that too and it’s hard over time for our bodies to keep functioning well when we’re feeding them with miserable, scary thoughts.
When we take responsibility for ourselves and how we feel everything changes. Life softens. We accept how we feel. We don’t blame others. We start to take healthy action to make our lives better and we start to feel better.
I couldn't change what had happened and I felt crap about it. To say I was devastated doesn't come close to what I was feeling at first and I needed time to grieve and to express my feelings safely.
I couldn't change how I was feeling at first and I needed to learn to accept those feelings. (That’s another story for another day).
I needed to focus on what's in my control and let go of the rest.
As I have worked through all this over the years I have become more aware.
I can notice that tug to be a victim still occasionally. The poor me inside. But I have to keep choosing not to be a victim over and over.
I can make better choices each and every time.
I can honour and have compassion for the victim but not let her rule.
I can notice my thoughts and choose whether to take notice of them or not.
I can notice my beliefs, decide if they are still useful beliefs or not. I can even change my beliefs if I choose.
I can choose what I project onto the world and into my internal world. Sometimes (maybe often at first) those choices are hard. It doesn't feel like we have a choice.
I have mini discussions with myself something like this…
Bad, painful things happened in my life?
Do they define me?
That's my choice and I say no. No, I really don’t want them to.
If I ruminate over what happened will I feel better or worse?
Worse. Always worse.
If I play the victim card, will I attract the sort of people into my life I want to be with and will that make me feel better?
No. And umm…. it is really unpleasant for my loved ones. Yuck!
If I keep wallowing in self-pity is it going to help my health?
If people know I have been through adverse experiences will they love me more?
No, though it might get me more attention that feels similar to love. Hmm…
And this little gem…
If I pretend to be brave but am really looking for attention will that help?
In the short term it might feel better but long term it will eat away at me. It's not authentic. I know the truth even if others don’t.
I know that it's ironic writing about this and knowing more people will see my story and may think I am looking for attention.
I am and I'm not.
I don't want sympathy.
I don't want you to feed the victim in me.
I don't want a pity party.
And I don’t need help. I’ve had oodles of that!
What I want is for us, me, you to recognise that the victim is a learned response, it's not healthy and it's fed by our thoughts and need for love.
It’s our responsibilty to recognise it and choose which direction we go.
Do you want to be a Victim or Victor?
Versatile or a vandal to your own life?
I hate the term survivor because I don’t want to survive I want to THRIVE!
But you don’t win by being a victim. You wreck your own life and those of your loved ones who hang around long enough to endure it.
Life deals some big blows at times but it’s not what happens to us but how we deal with it. The meanings we make out of what happened. Our perceptions.
Could you use your versatility to adapt to the new situation and come through it?
The human spirit is more resilient than you think
If we didn't receive the unconditional love we needed- the attachment we needed as children - our inner child will seek it in different ways.
Being a victim is one of those ways.
But there is a much better, healthier more vital way to live when we recognise what we are doing and CHOOSE not to.
It’s okay to fully feel, express safely and honour all the emotions that come along as a result of challenges, losses and traumas in our lives.
When we can set the victim part aside gently and love ourselves in the way we need to be loved, honour how we feel about the experiences we go through, then pick ourselves up and live, we find more freedom and grace to be our True Selves, have better relationships and better healthier lives.
From my True Self to Yours
PS. The Caveat to all I have said here is, sometimes our body chemistry is all up the shoot because of poor lifestyle choices, wonky belief systems, toxins or unresolved trauma trapped in our bodies and affecting how our bodily systems function. That can influence how we feel and the decisions we make as a result. But these issues to can be addressed with the right support.
PPS. If you have missed earlier letters about my losses and how they have liberated me have a look here:
And here to see why I am writing these letters:
Honouring Your True Self & Dear Steve are reader-supported publications. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.