Sam doesn't realize it, but a victim is lurking inside him. Though he wears a sunny disposition outside, inside, the perky 52-year-old father is resigned to three ideas:
1. "It's too late in my life to go back to college like I always wanted to. I'd look ridiculous, and who has the time for that?"
2. "My ex-wife is to blame for my financial problems and my children's disrespectful behavior."
3. "No matter what I do—no matter how hard I work or how much inner work I do on myself—things are not ever going to change for me."
Quite a life sentence he's given himself: hopelessness and weakness, twin offspring of the same poisonous origin known as "Trigger Thoughts" and "Victimhood."
When we operate from a victim mentality, we give the power to create our own life to someone else, and then we moan about how controlling the other is. To avoid taking responsibility, we create (and protect at all costs!) the dangerous illusion that we are always right. We blame others for our circumstances and remain stuck in a silent "poor me," that keeps us small.
It is not to say that we can always control what happens to us; some people's behavior is abusive, hurricanes, or other natural disasters occur, and companies downsize.
We can, however, always control how we respond and our thoughts. We can refuse to accept abusive behavior, leaving a relationship, if necessary. We can recognize that others can only have control if we let them. We can see the banquet of choices before us and choose what appeals to us, even if that means going back to college at age 52. More importantly, we can control our victim mentality by watching our trigger thoughts.
Here are a few clues to help you recognize when you're carrying around a victim mentality and robbing yourself of your power:
• Your first response to a setback is to blame someone else for what has happened.
• You often find yourself beginning thoughts with phrases like "I can't…" or "I'm no good at…" or "I've never been able to." You believe that nothing you do ever works out.
• Conversations with friends and family are often about how hard your life is.
• When friends offer advice, you usually counter it with a "Yes, but…" since they can't know how painful your situation truly is.
• You're always so busy with work and the things you need to do to survive that you don't make time to do things you want to do for yourself.
• You think that other people usually cause you to feel the way you do, that you'd be more centered if it weren't for them.
• You're convinced that if you weren't tied down to all these obligations, or if only you had enough support, you could indeed do some of the things you always think about doing.
• When angry, you usually begin sentences with "You" instead of "I."
It's your choice. You can choose to stay small and powerless or step up to meet your most outstanding self—warts and all—and live the life you want. Which will it be?
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