Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Victim Conversation

On the heels of my last post, the same person I was talking about posted something that she felt validated what she believed about people being a victim. She said nothing specific to me, but just that she had noticed the whole "victim" thing, in general with others lately. I visited the link, and I don't know what I think, exactly. I was thinking about it on and off as I did other things, and now I am sitting down to think "out loud."

One of the things the author suggests is a "victim" speaking is, ""I enjoy personal growth, but my husband thinks all that stuff is nonsense and doesn't like me to participate in it." When I look at that statement, in and of itself I do not believe it to be a victim-like statement. It seems more to me like a statement of the fact of the situation.  Now, if the person chose not to do something that they enjoyed because of that "fact" it might be a bit different, but even then, I don't think it a victim makes.

I really don't want to get hooked on the bits and pieces I disagree with, among them the fact that the whole piece ends with a PS that is about selling a product. Of course the whole discussion is going to be geared in the direction the person writing it wants people to go in. If you agree with all of this, and you have this problem, then spend your money with me.

In and of itself, if what is said is helpful, I am all for it.

However a few things bother me. One is that when someone is labelled a victim by another person who is assessing them, it has a very negative tone and connotation. Another piece is that there is something "wrong" about someone choosing certain actions that seem to sound like s/he is a victim.  What if something is "right" about it? What if in the process of being how a person is being, they learn something from it? What if in some way there is something to be gotten from how things are turning out?

Up until now I don't think I have really talked much about the relationship I had with someone I lived with. It is not something that I talk about much because it is one of those things I know I will be judged for. In addition, it is in some ways like a whole other lifetime ago. It was certainly a whole other me ago. I also want to be careful how I talk about it given what I could say.

When I was growing up there were things that happened in my family that I said would never happen to me. Well. Never say never.

When I was in my young 20s, I met someone long distance that I thought I fell in love with. Things happened very quickly. We spoke for the first time around Thanksgiving, and by the beginning of the following May I had declined an opportunity at a possible promotion, quit my job and was moving 800 miles to go live with him. I had gone to visit a few times, and spent 2 weeks of vacation there while I moved my stuff and looked for work.

There were countless numbers of signs that what I was doing was not a good idea. I was already giving things up in the name of the relationship. The one thing that propelled me forward - despite my concerns - was that I knew that I had to do it. I knew that if I didn't, I would always wonder "what if?" and I didn't want to have that. As a result, I never once regretted my choice. As another result, I was miserable for most of the time we were together.

He was verbally abusive with me. And more than once we had a physical altercation. My first Thanksgiving there we got into something, and he slapped me across the face. We were supposed to go to his parents house, and we were going. He gave me no choice. Externally no one could see anything, but the inner part of my lip was bruised and swollen.

I know. I should have left right then. But I had moved to be with him. I really didn't have a place I could go home to, plus, I loved him.

There is so much of the specifics I don't really remember, but there is a lot that I do. One birthday he gave me a box of condoms and a xxx film. If we had sex enough to go through the box during the month, I would get some undetermined something. If I remember correctly, the box had at least 1 for every day of the month. I didn't really like how it seemed he was trying to manipulate me. In the end, I don't know what the "reward" would have been, as it didn't happen.

One Christmas he wanted to buy me lingerie. I did not want him to. I told him explicitly not to, several times. On Christmas Eve he had 4 boxes for me. I open the first one, and what was inside? A bra and panties and a gift card for a local restaurant. No. He didn't. He couldn't have. But I tried to be thankful. I went to open box number 2, which looked on the outside the same as box number 1; it couldn't be what was in 1, it couldn't be what I told him not to get me. But...you guessed it. It was exactly not the right choice.

We got into an argument at that point, so the last two boxes remain wrapped until the next day. At the time I really hoped that he didn't do what I was afraid he did, and I opened them trying not to create any more arguments. But to my disappointment, it was 2 more sets of every-freaking-thing.

He was pissed at me. He went through so much to pick them, and had spent a great deal of money. He seemed to be quite proud of himself. I was supposed to be grateful. But, and it's a BIG BUT, I told him not to do what he did, adamantly and frequently. The fact that he did it, and not only 1 time, but 4, made me not very happy. In the grand scheme of things, I suppose what I believed were bad gifts weren't the worst thing in and of themselves, but it was indicative of the level of disfunction we had between us.

I have even wondered on more than one occasion recently if part of the decline of my interest in Christmas has to do with the last Christmas we were together. Things were way over at that point, but he was unwilling to fully let go. We had to have sex under the Christmas tree. I remember looking up at the tree and lights and being miserable because I felt trapped and didn't feel like I could say no.

It wasn't until I almost died one night from a gas leak that I finally said, "ENOUGH." It had been about 5 years in total, and it had involved me moving back to NY after leaving him, only to have him follow me. It involved me leaving him more than once. It involved jealousy, possessiveness, verbal abuse, physical intimidation, and all kinds of things that I was more than happy to point my finger at him in blame. It was all his fault. Of course it was. If only HE had been different.

It took a few years, but there came a point that I was on the phone with him, crying and apologizing for how*I* had been. I saw clearly in that moment that if I had perhaps been different, and perhaps cared more about how he felt, rather than having the attitude that he should get over it, maybe things would have been different. I still kind of doubt it, but at least I saw the part where I had responsibility in the matter, and I was saddened when I realized that maybe things could have been different - if I had been different.

Back then, I was indeed a victim. Back then, all I tried to do was tolerate the situation or somehow make things work. I was very unhappy and had stopped talking to many who I had complained to for the years I was with him. I knew their tolerance level for the same complaint over and over and over had more or less been maxed out. After a while I didn't even feel like I could be honest about what was going on. I was also embarrassed by the fact that I was staying, and the fact that I had done so much to be with him, only to fail.

It took a lot for me to finally get away from the relationship. After feeling like I could have almost died, I finally took action in spite of the fear I felt. I went and got an eviction notice. Since only my name was on the lease, the only way I could get him out was to evict him - with him still living with me. Talk about being afraid. I was afraid of his temper, of what he might do, but I had nothing else I could do at that point. I had to do what I had to do.

What I didn't know at the time was that he was working on getting his own place. He probably just didn't want to give me the satisfaction of knowing it. I had already left him twice without telling him, so I think he was determined to do the same with me. He left one day when I was at work.

Why do I tell you these things? One is to share them. I have felt for a while that I needed to talk about this situation in greater detail, and two because the whole recent conversation about being a victim is raising all kinds of things in me.

The part of me that wants to always consider what someone says is at odds with what I believe to be what truly is. Was I in denial about being a "victim" back then? Probably. I am not even sure I remember anyone even using that term. So either it was used and I conveniently forgot it, or people stayed away from it.

I tend to think that if one is to be labelled a "victim" it should only come when they sit back, complain, and do nothing about what is going on in their life. Having said that, I am no fan of the word, period. Sometimes there really may not be much, if anything, a person can do to alter a situation. There may be what seem to be - to them - at the time - valid reasons that things can't change. Just because someone figures out they're a victim doesn't mean that there is any magic that is going to happen. How many people know how to lose weight, but don't?

Knowing that there is a label to be had I think often can be unhelpful. For some, maybe it helps. But I think for others, it only succeeds in making a person feel badly about themselves. In cases like that I think it only has the potential to make things worse. "I am a bad person." "What's wrong with me?" "Why can't I control myself?" Even without remembering the use of the "victim" label, I still had many questions about myself, my life and my choices, and despite counseling, did not know what the hell to do.

I think another part of being a victim is the idea that someone or something else is to blame. There is a question of responsibility in the matter. It seems that that is a big thing. I think that is a big thing - in general. I think few people take responsibility for their lives and choices and perspectives these days.

I can't say that I am perfect when it comes to any of the things that I talk about, but what I can see is that not once have I "blamed" anyone for my current situation. I have looked at and wondered why things are as they are. I have questioned things. I have done things. I have sought to "figure" things out, but not once have I blamed my situation on another's lack of action. I have wondered what it is about my situation that has my situation be the way it is.

Prior to my diagnosis, things were looking up. Within a year I would have had my credit cards paid off. I was looking toward living on my own, and moving forward. Things were looking pretty good.

And then. BAM! Not so good.

People who believe that we create every facet of our life are quick to point out that my life has to be of my own making. They are quick to point out that I must be creating my reality by what I say. I have wondered how I could say I need help without saying I need help. How could I convey the extreme need that I have, without conveying it? If I act like everything is fine - but it's not - how do people know to help?

I can't say that I disagree. Not exactly. But the thing is is that there was a time in my life when I whole-heartedly wanted things, put myself into them, emotionally, spiritually, physically. I imagined them on every level, and I did what I think you are "supposed" to do - and nothing. It didn't happen. Then there was a time that I picked a car I thought I wanted and hung it up on the wall. I took it down when I moved, thinking to myself "oh well." I think I even threw the paper out. I am not sure, but I think the car I have now (with the exception of the color) was that car.

So what do I believe? I believe that there is more going on than we can know consciously. There are people who have the best mindsets and are in the best places, and still die of cancer, and still die in accidents, and still...just...die. It seems to me a cruel thing to have the quality of our life dependent on what we believe unconsciously, only not to be able to tap into it to be able to understand or alter it.

I think that the idea that we can control our life is a thing that is potentially created by the human mind in its need to control things. There are people who are constantly offering fixes for those things we can't seem to control, many times a nice little audio program for $297 or a $1995 seminar will tell you all the things that are wrong about you and how you are doing life and what you can do to fix them and yourself.

What if life is supposed to be exactly as it is? What if it is meant to occur the way that it does for a lesson to be learned for an experience to be had? Why do we have to make the things that aren't so lovely, so pretty, so amazing - so wrong? Why do we have to make people feel badly about the journey they are on?

Why couldn't we instead do things to help support another instead of sitting back and judging them? Often actions do speak louder than words. Maybe if we just listened without judgment a person can figure things out for themselves when the time is right. Badgering someone to change can't possibly be a good thing, and yet people do it sometimes for another's own good - not to mention that the change that seems to be necessary comes from another's perspective that may or may not fit the life of the person they're judging. Maybe there is no need for another person to change in the first place, at least not now, and maybe never.

I could be wrong, but I suspect very few, if any, people make a change because someone else tells them they need to. I suspect that when a change comes, it comes because it is time. A realization happens, because it's time.

Interestingly, in the midst of all of this victim talk, there was another post. It was about how important "negative emotions" are to life. If we were to walk around always trying to deny them because they create our reality, we would miss out on some incredible things. I even wrote a blog entry about this at some point, after I was in a very dark, negative place. On the other side was a great place to be, but I think the only reason I got there was because I was willing to go through what came up. I didn't escape it, or go around it; I went through it.

Maybe this whole conversation was orchestrated by the victim talk. Without it, I may not have written what I did at this time, or even ever. Maybe everything really is just as it is supposed to be, and if we do create our reality by the words we use and the beliefs we have, perhaps we are meant to create the mountains and the storms because once we overcome them, we are stronger for it. We are more of who we are meant to be because of it, and if we detoured around the places that make other people found uncomfortable, we could miss being who we were meant to be.

There are times I don't necessarily like where things are going and, if I could truly script my life, I would definitely create a different scenario. But if I did that, I would never have the things I don't like and I would miss a lot of the meat that has had me be who I am today. Given the choice between a life with misery and a life without, I imagine only the most evolved souls would choose the life with misery because they would see the value while the ones that weren't as evolved would only be eyeing the candy and what deliciousness they could get their hands on.

I am guessing there might be a way not to have misery as a tool for learning, but I suspect it could be one of two things, either it's in the more advanced human kit, or it's not a tool in the human kit at all. Maybe we have to be something other than human to have that experience.

I really don't know. Of course some will say they know, but  I have to wonder if there is anyone who can truly know. After all, if there was a one-sized-fits-all answer that made the world a better place along with the lives of those living in it, the world would be a better place by now, wouldn't it? What if there is nothing we can really do? What if life is just full of random coincidences we think are cause and effect in action?

It makes me wonder what makes a victim. Is a person a victim due to their circumstances, or due to their attitude about their circumstances? If we truly have no control, but think we do, then we are going to act a lot differently than we would if we felt we had no control at all - which is often is likely how a person labelled as a victim does feel.

This all leads me back to what I was saying previously about labels: they are more about those who do the labeling than those who are labeled. In the end, it would seem life is more about HOW we experience what we experience rather than WHAT we actually experience. But it seems we may at times have it in our minds that WHAT we experience tells us HOW we should experience it - especially when we are focused on others, and our judgments come into play.

Hmmm...My mind is whirling.

If I don't end this now, I don't know when I will.

So on that note: Later gator!

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  1. Wow, great article. A lot of heavy thinking you did there! I am sorry to hear about all of the challenges you have had in your life. However, I do agree all of us have our own crosses to bear an that is what makes us become who we are.

    As far as the word Victim is concerned. I believe that a person is a victim when they feel their words or actions are the cause of another persons behavior. Each person is 100% responsible for their own lives, their thoughts and their actions. We cannot give our responsibility over to another, or take responsibility away from someone.

  2. Cindy, thanks for your comment. Your definition works for me. Except...I am wondering if you mean "when they feel their words or actions are caused BY another person's behavior." ?