Being an Emotional Victim

Dr. Margaret Paul

 

This article discusses being a victim vs. being in personal power. We are being victims anytime we give another person the power to define our worth.“Whenever we choose to find our happiness and safety through others, then we have to try to control them to give us what we want. Then, when they don’t come through for us in the way we hoped they would, we feel victimized by their choices.”

None of us like to think of ourselves as victims. The term “victim” brings to me a pathetic image of a person who is powerless. Therefore, it comes as a shock to most of us to realize how often we allow ourselves to be emotional victims.

We are being victims anytime we give another person the power to define our worth. We are being victims anytime we make approval, sex, things, a substance, or an activity responsible for our feelings of happiness and lovability. We are being victims anytime we blame another for our feelings of fear, anger, hurt, alone-ness, jealousy, disappointment, and so on. Whenever we choose to define ourselves externally, we are handing away power to others and we then feel controlled by their choices. When we choose to define ourselves internally through our connection with God, we move into personal power and personal responsibility.

We always have two choices: we can try to find our happiness, peace, safety, security, lovability and worth through people, things, activities, and substances; or we can feel joyful, peaceful, safe, secure, lovable and worthy through connection with God – taking loving care of ourselves and loving others.

Whenever we choose to find our happiness and safety through others, then we have to try to control them to give us what we want. Then, when they don’t come through for us in the way we hoped they would, we feel victimized by their choices.

Here is an example: Don and Joyce are in a continual power struggle over how to handle their children. Joyce tends to be authoritarian while Don is fairly permissive. When Joyce gets frustrated with Don’s parenting, she generally yells at him about his permissiveness. Don often listens to Joyce rant and rave at him. Sometimes she goes on for over an hour and he just listens. Then, when he tries to talk with her, she refuses to listen. Don then feels victimized, complaining about how Joyce yells at him and refuses to listen to him.

When I asked Don in a session why he sits and listens to Joyce, he stated that he hoped if he listened to her she would listen to him. I asked if she ever does listen during these conflicts, and he answered “No.” “Why do you need her to listen to you?” “I want to explain to her why I did what I did with the children.” “Why do you need to explain it to her?” “So she won’t be mad at me.”

Don allows himself to be yelled at by Joyce as his way of trying to control Joyce, hoping to get her to approve of him. Then he feels victimized by her yelling, blaming her for being such an angry, controlling person.

If Don were willing to take responsibility for approving of himself through his connection with God, he would not listen to Joyce when she was yelling at him. Instead, he would set a boundary against being yelled at, stating that he would listen to her only when she spoke to him with respect and only when she was open to learning with him. But as long as she has to approve of him for him to feel secure or worthy, he will not set this boundary. Until Don opens to God for his security and worth, instead of handing this job to Joyce, he will be a victim of her unloving behavior.

Taking responsibility for our own feelings of worth and lovability instead of giving that job to others moves us out of being victims and into personal power.

“Our greatest glory is not in never failing but in rising up every time we fail.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

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