A woman I only know from Facebook (ironically we connected through an online ministry for domestic violence victims and survivors) posted a very long commentary this past week titled ‘Curing Victimitis:’
Curing Victimitis by Michael Josephson, Character Counts
Watch your thoughts, they lead to attitudes
Watch your attitudes, they lead to words
Watch your words, they lead to actions
Watch your actions, they lead to habits
Watch your habits, they form your character
What your character, it determines your destiny
These words of unknown origin tell us that our silent and often subconscious choices shape our future. Every aspect of our lives, at home and at work, can be improved if we use our power to think, reflect, and make conscious choices about our thoughts, attitudes, words, actions, and habits. Instead, many of us think of ourselves as victims. We complain about our circumstances and what others did to us. Whatever psychological comfort there is in feeling powerless and blameless when things aren’t going right, victims lead unsatisfied lives in the end. We’re most vulnerable to victimitis when we’re under the influence of powerful emotions like fear, insecurity, anger, frustration, grief, and depression. These feelings can be so overwhelming that we believe our state of mind is inevitable. Our only hope is that they’ll go away on their own. Yet it’s during times of emotional tumult that using our power to choose our thoughts and attitudes is most important. We can’t make pain go away, but we can refuse to suffer. Even when we don’t like any of our choices, we do have some–once we realize we can take control. It isn’t easy, but what we do and how we choose to feel about ourselves can have a profound impact on the quality of our lives. Victims may get sympathy for awhile, but that isn’t nearly enough. Taking personal responsibly for our happiness and success can be scary, but the pay off is enormous. Although we can’t make our lives perfect, we can make them better–usually a lot better.
This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.
Earlier this summer my dad’s family met at a local park for their 2nd annual family reunion. It’s nice to see them and I do love them, but they are really strangers to me. I hadn’t seen most of then since I was 14 years old. It was only the rapid fire succession of funerals two years ago that brought us back together. It’s surprising how much hasn’t changed in 35 years. It’s shocking how much we’re all alike!
One difference was glaring though.
As we crested the center of the walking bridge and the other side came into view, my cousin, her oldest daughter, and I suddenly saw everyone else huddled on the ground. And, we ran.
The oldest daughter’s 3 year old had fallen face first onto the black top as she ran across the bridge with the older children. Her beautiful face was swollen and bloody, her lip smashed and her skin scraped. It was hard to tell exactly where the blood was coming from, there was so much of it.
Her nanny was holding her, and I assumed her mother would take her to comfort her. She didn’t. We all walked back to the area of our picnic as the nanny carried the little girl.
I ran for my car to retrieve a towel, wipes, and an ice pack. The nanny laid her on a blanket to better examine the injuries, and I handed my supplies to my cousin. She refused them. Her youngest daughter stood there indignantly and asked, “Can’t this wait?” All the while the nanny sharply but calmly commanded, “Self control, A. Self control.” She repeated it over and over. Then, they asked me to show them the property I thought I was going to get. There was never one expression of compassion shown to the bleeding little girl.
Last week another of my cousins complained about the problems in his love life to our uncle and me. This particular cousin is in his 40’s and is on every online dating site we know of. He’s out with a different woman every night yet claims he wants to settle down. He’s restless and unhappy.
While expressing dissatisfaction with the last couple of women, he said to me, “I know you’ve got a lot of stories, too. I KNOW your childhood wasn’t good either. But, we don’t sit around telling people, ‘I was abused. They did this to me, and they did that to me.’ We just go on.”
As he spoke, all I could think was that he hasn’t gone on. His life is a mess. My uncle’s daughter doesn’t want him around her father because of his ungodly behavior. (Though she closed an account belonging to my uncle and kept over $30,000 from it without telling my uncle. He only found out when his power bill payment bounced. ) He stole from a previous employer. He seems to endlessly contract one STD after another. Yet, all he wants is a good woman to love him.
He’s a bald teenager.
I think it would do him good to sit down and pull the scab of abuse and abandonment. It would be good for him to let go of my family’s mantra of self control because, in reality, his life is out of control. He’s keeping such a tight rein on his real issues that they’re spewing out in other places.
However, I’m sure he realizes that if he were to reach out and express himself in sincerity he’d receive no compassion.
In Curing Victimitis, Michael Josephson seems to indicate that silence regarding wounds received is a sign of character. My family clearly states it’s a sign of self control. Yet, character is defined as “strength and originality in a person’s nature….someone’s good qualities…..” Wouldn’t we say self control is exhibited by not taking money and goods that belong to other people? Or, by keeping your clothes on around total strangers you met online?
It’s hard. It does take strength to stand up and say:
I was molested.
I was beaten and choked.
I was abandoned.
I was raped.
I was robbed.
It takes a lot of strength to do that because the ones doing the raping and robbing don’t want us to tell and are going to put us down, humiliate us, and marginalize us for telling what they’ve done.
My personal experience with a particular nonprofit housing organization ended bitterly. The “family advocate” stalked me online, seeking out this blog without invitation or permission, only to use the information found here to try to hurt me with it. When the issues regarding her dishonesty and misrepresentation of facts and property lines could not be resolved, I withdrew my application. In strength and determination to find a better solution for my family, I chose to walk away. However, she refused to respect my concerns or my decision, telling lies about me and sending me the following email:
I felt this coming, so I’m not surprised. But after all the time and $ we’ve spent on your behalf, it’s upsetting that you would say you’ve been “misled” and not given choices. Even at this stage you have had more choices than most ….. partners, even to the choice of three lots! [That's a lie.] And how were you misled? I’m so sorry for the sake of your precious children. I know that you were abused by your mother, your husband, and recently mistreated by your son and his girlfriend. And now by us! I pray that some day you will find some measure of peace and satisfaction.
She exhibited no self control here as she mocked my history of abuse, just as she exhibited no self control when her curiosity overrode my right to privacy.
That mockery is a frightening risk a victim faces when ‘coming out.’ Will they think I brought it on myself and condemn me for my role in my own victimization? Will they hate my victim status? Will they rub salt in my wounds if I bare them?
The answer to all of those questions is: That is their problem! They need to turn the mirror on themselves. We have already exhibited self control by dragging our damaged bodies and psyches to school and work each day. We have exhibited our strength of character by surviving in spite of great adversity!
Also, not everyone can be divided into one of two categories, 1. Victim in need of validation and compassion. 2. Heartless abusers and enablers. There is a third category… those who do stand ready to greet the victim with understanding, love, and sensitivity. When we hide ourselves and mask our trauma with problematic behavior, like my male cousin, we also hide ourselves from other victims who need to know they’re not alone. We hide ourselves from those good Samaritans who would bind up our wounds. We hide ourselves from everything that will help us truly heal.
When they remove our right to feel grief and experience the sorrow of legitimately being a victim, they remove their duty to feel compassion for others. Their good deeds then become all about them and their own goodness–look what I do–rather than about a genuine concern for helping those who have been wronged or those who are disadvantaged.
How do I think you cure Victimitis? By condemning those wicked acts done in secret and expressing concern for the victims, allowing them time to grieve what they’ve suffered and lost, and helping them find the tools to move forward as a securely loved human being.
Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat:I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? Or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? Or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came into thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, in as much as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it into me.