"Look at what you bring to the world, not what you lack." - Miranda Kate

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

How to Avoid Being in 'Victim Mode'

Image of sun lit clouds and moon in a blue sky with text: Remember, you have a choice. Do more than survive - thrive!
Do you ever feel like you don't have a choice in the things you do?

When things don’t work out, do you feel like it's not your fault?

Do you ever feel like everything works against you?

Then you might be in 'victim mode'.

“By not accepting responsibility for our personal circumstances, we greatly reduce our power to change them.”- Steve Maraboli 

‘Being in victim  mode’ meaning thinking in such a way that that you feel the world is against you, and that if things don’t work out it’s always due to someone or something else; external factors are responsible and you have no power to change them. It can also be when you feel choices are made for you, and you feel you have no say in your life, or elements of your life.

There are genuine times when things aren’t in our control and we are abused in some way and we are an honest victim, but this blog post doesn’t relate to that. I am talking about when we don’t recover from those events or moments, and we stay in them - even wallow in them, using them as an excuse not to move forward and do the things we want and need to do for ourselves.

We might attach a certain meaning to an event or situation that has traumatised us, and never allow ourselves to move on from it. Our view on the world then becomes tainted; we look at everything in our lives from this damaged perspective, validating our inability to move on by this event or situation, using it as a crutch or excuse.

“In challenging circumstances we can either choose to be a survivor or we can choose to be a victim. Considering that they both take the same amount of effort, the choice you make will determine your path forward.” – Mary Holloway

It can be tricky to recognise this mindset. It can creep up and display itself in many forms, such as procrastination, fear, negativity, anxiety and depression. It can vary in its degrees when it shows up and can completely shut a person down.

I have been living a long time in a foreign country. I struggled with settling here. I felt that the decision to come here wasn’t mine, and that I had no choice if I wanted to be with my partner. I told myself that I had to move countries and particularly settle in this small village if I wanted to be with them. And once here I felt I had no power to change anything in my life and fulfil my needs. I felt I was duty bound to attend social events and family functions. I felt it was expected of me to fulfil everyone else’s desires, to make them happy, and whenever I felt angry about it (which was often) I blamed them: I blamed them for my choices, my sacrifices (as I saw them), and my unhappiness.

It took me several years in therapy to realise that I DID have power in my life, that I did have choices, and that I was responsible for them. That I didn’t have to go to any of those events - that I could say no.

“By saying yes to when you need to say no, you cripple the most important relationship in your life: the relationship between you and you.” – Nea Joy

I realised that I had been the one who had talked myself into coming here; I had been the one telling myself that I would lose my partner if I didn’t; that their happiness was more important than mine; that if I kept on giving up everything I held dear, eventually I would be appreciated for it, and loved for it.

It coloured my view on the entire situation and place. I became chronically unhappy and unpleasant to be around, which in turn made me start to dislike myself. I would feel anger because I believed someone else had made me come here and put me through this. And then turn I would feel guilty about expressing that anger, and I would then turn that anger on myself. I built resent towards my partner, and self-loathing towards myself for putting myself in this situation - a vicious circle of negative feelings.

It was only when I started to be honest with myself about my feelings and about the choices I had made that I started to be able to change them. I started to think about what I wanted, and what I didn’t want. And I started to make defined choices and changes. I took my power back. I listened to how I felt – inside – and started to move forward by acknowledging and accepting how I felt.

“You can’t change what you don’t acknowledge.” - Dr.Phil

By acknowledging my part in ‘letting’ these things happen to me, going along with them even though I knew I didn’t want to, I reduced the feelings of anger and frustration. I was able to feel I had power to make choices and decisions again.

I still find myself in this mindset from time to time, particularly when I have let the Negative Internal Dialogue get the better of me. But the steps I now take are:

  • Hearing that dialogue and recognising it as destructive;
  • Identifying what is creating it – am I doing something I don’t want to? What’s making me feel bad?
  • Countering the dialogue with the truth of the situation;
  • Reminding myself what I can do to help myself by going through the choices I have;
  • Focusing on what I can do and take action.

Taking action is the key to imprinting a new thought process and showing yourself you are capable, and dispelling the negative voices that might say otherwise.

“The path to success is to take massive determined action.” - Tony Robbins

This applies to both large steps in your life, and small steps. It could be just calling someone, meeting up with them, or arranging to do something you want to do. Or it could be getting a job, or setting up a business. Whatever it is, if it confirms the power we have, it helps us feel that we are living and thriving, not just surviving.  

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