Before any viable expression of personal empowerment can happen, getting clear about an attachment to being a victim is critical. An old definition of the word victim is an animal killed and offered as a sacrifice. We can say that we are victimized when we are violated or sacrificed for some over-riding reason. Violations can come from an external force enacted by a perpetrator, natural disaster, disease or the death of a loved one. Before exploring how we can best cope with being victimized by external forces, I want to suggest that a parent's loss of a child is often experienced as such a rip in the natural order, that it may not be possible to get to the other side of feeling victimized. Moving on will likely be burdened by the weight of the child's unlived life.
Being mindful about what constitutes good protection from predators is a valuable tool for diminishing the likelihood of being victimized. We won't be able to completely escape being victimized by predatory behavior. However, we can take measures that help to avoid unnecessary harm. Here are some tools that can help empower us:
• First of all, accepting that there are predators and peacemakers. We all have some of each within us, and at times, the predatory proclivity is dominant. The key is to learn to trust our instincts and intuitions as they alert us to possible danger.
• Developing good boundaries. This means saying "no" to anyone or thing that feels invasive or potentially harmful. Letting go of analysis, moralizing and justifying is a component of employing good boundaries. It often means delivering the boundary as non-shameful as possible and not taking responsibility for how the boundary is received. Typically, recipients of boundaries are not thrilled about getting a boundary. It is just the way of boundaries.
• Paying attention to anyway we may remain naïve or excessively idealistic. As we are able to accept life as wonderful and also dangerous, our idealism transforms into a measure of realism.
• Deconstructing a child's belief system. There is nothing to be gained by believing that bad things should not happen to us because we're good people.
• Interrupt any entitlement for sympathy and attention we have ascribed to our misfortune. Substituting deservedness for support and attention in lieu of victim-entitlement.
• Interrupt the tendency to describe any regrettable situation as only unfortunate. One way to do this is to ask, "What is life asking of me?" It maybe important to feel and express feelings of anger, disgust and sadness before the above question can authentically be asked.
Interrupting Self-imposed Victimization
In order to interrupt self-imposed victimization, we need to raise consciousness about any unnecessary suffering or powerlessness we bring on ourselves. Resentment, feelings of overwhelm, denying personal limits, anxiety, depression and excessive passivity are all possible indicators of self-imposed victimization. Fortunately, there are a number of useful interventions:
• Separate your essential goodness from unnecessary self-sacrifice. It doesn't take much religion to attach being a good person to unneeded sacrifice. "The more I sacrifice, the better person I am." First of all, it can be helpful to expand your definition of being a good person, which might include: take responsibility for your own life and happiness, diminish using manipulation and seduction, treat yourself and others with compassion and become more mindful and less reactionary. Secondly, you can replace excessive sacrifice with adequate discernment, allowing you to distinguish necessary sacrifice from unnecessary sacrifice. Discernment is founded on the ability to consider your own needs from the needs of others, determining which appear to be most immediate and deserving of your attention. The nuances of different situations may not immediately lead to a compelling decision. You may need to pause, remaining curious about extenuating circumstances.
• Owning entitlement without unnecessary sacrifice. It is critical to be deserving of love and attention without having to sacrifice in order to be entitled to such offerings. It is sometimes appealing to live in self-loathing, sacrificing feeling good about ourselves so someone else will hopefully do it for us. It means being willing to be responsible for your own self-worth and deserving of love from others.
• Interrupt defining yourself as incompetent. You may be prone to deciding you have no real skills in order to get others to take care of you. Reclaiming your strengths and ability to learn can significantly inhibit self-imposed victimization.
• Become willing to live life on life's terms. One way to translate self-imposed victimizations is "Life is too big for me." When we live life on life's terms, we are willing to take action that is in our control and let go of what is out of our control. We can say that life is asking us to learn to distinguish what we can control and what we can't. Life is essentially too big for everyone. That is why we need only focus on that which is in our control.
Because life is a perilous journey, we will inevitably feel victimized by some predator, a natural disaster or some loss. It is very easy to collapse into defeat and isolation, as our lives lose meaning and purpose. The hope is while feeling betrayed by life, we find the strength to ask for help. In the midst of the slings and arrows coming at us, we can protest our misfortune, and a welcome the company of a fellow traveler. Although we have been overcome by some nemesis, we may be able to feel empowered, as those who join us know the sting of defeat, and have not turned against themselves or against life. Rather, they have remained curious about moving from feeling victimized to renewing their kinship with life, determined to grieve their losses, and at least allow for the glowing ember of receiving some kindness. From there, believing in life once again is possible.