Tag Archives: victim mentality

Maybe that is what forgiveness will mean to me.

As we go through this process, Mindless talks a lot about the pervasive self-pity he held onto, almost like a security blanket. He talks about how he blamed G-d, parents, me, bosses, essentially everyone but himself for his problems. Oh, I see it, but not just in him. I see it in me. Not to the degree that Mindless discusses. I have fought thinking that way all of my life because I did not want to repeat my parents mistakes. I did a post about “the victim mentality” recently. Here’s the thing, I think I’ve done it in some ways without even realizing it.

I have a hard time saying no. I get upset with myself for not saying no when I do not want to do something. I put myself in the victim role by agreeing to do things I don’t want to do. For example, volunteering at my child’s school, I was asked to take the lead on a project I just really did not have the time, patience or desire to lead. The commitment grew, expectations grew, and my time and devotion to the project grew. Not because I wanted to do the project, but because I didn’t say no to it and therefore felt committed to see it through to the best of my abilities. Yet, I spent too much time being angry at myself for not saying no. This put me in the victim role. The thing is, I had a choice, I have a choice.

There are other examples of similar situations. I tell myself “I must” or “I should.” If I do get up the nerve to say no, I feel I must explain myself. Beyond some polite, “I just cannot take that on right now,” I don’t need to list off the reasons why. From now on instead of telling myself “I should” or “I must,” I think I will phrase it as “I choose to.” Perhaps this will help me to face that these are my choices.

In another way too, I think I adopted this victim mentality more than I realized. When I think of my past, before Mindless was even a part of my life, I think of all the things I went through as a child. I convinced myself that because of what I had survived, I had paid my dues and therefore would not face such deep difficulties in my future. Also, I held on to those memories almost as an award of distinction and honor, saying to myself “Look at what I survived.” I defined myself by wearing this label of “I survived, I overcame, blah, blah, blah. . .”. The problem with this thinking was and is twofold.

First, you never know what the future holds. Just because you’ve survived difficult things in the past doesn’t mean that your future will be free of difficulties. It just doesn’t work like that. Second, I am no longer that child, she does not need to define me anymore. I can be who I am in the present and the future and I don’t need to wear some label of the past (good or bad). Yes, it will always be a part of what made me into who I am today. Yes, I have learned many useful lessons along the way. But, those experiences are not the totality of who I am today. That would give the past way too much power over me still. I choose to not give it that power. I choose! One day, I will choose the same for what has happened between Mindless and me. I am not there yet, but I do see it as a choice to be made when I am ready. Maybe that is what forgiveness will mean to me. Hmmm?

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A victim mentality

I too have some major FOO issues, don’t we all?

My mother was addicted to prescription painkillers and other drugs. She was mentally ill and, after years of drug abuse, physically ill too. My father, though a very hard worker, took jobs where he would have part ownership in the company, was his own boss, and/or was always on commission, never with any benefits. The “dream jobs” never worked out. Food stamps, government and family bailouts were our way of life. We were evicted from our homes left and right, running from bill collectors and scamming the system along the way because, in my parents words, “We have no choice if we want to have a place to live and to put food on the table.” They spent money on things they wanted the minute it came in, under the premise, “We deserve, we deserve, we deserve.” Then, lo and behold, when it was time to pay rent, utilities or buy food there was nothing left. My parents were always the victims, never responsible for their own choices or their own lives. There is a lot more to this story, but that is the basic frame of reference. Both my parents are dead and it is my extended family that is the more meaningful relationship to me now.

I put myself through college with no help from family. When I met MC he was this organized, disciplined, ambitious, intelligent, witty, well-spoken, and very handsome guy who was interested in me. He talks about not thinking he is good-looking. Honestly, I always thought that was just false modesty. He truly belongs on the cover of GQ magazine. But, I digress. I was shocked and happy to have found someone who was everything I thought I wanted in a partner and who wanted me just as much. I thought he was so different from my family, someone I could count on and someone who believed as I did about personal responsibility, working toward shared goals, while learning and exploring together along the way. I thought our connection was so deep and I didn’t want to lose that connection. When I thought I might because I was afraid to go as fast as he wanted to go, I decided to jump in and take my chances. It turns out things just are never that easy.

Part of my shock over everything I found out was to see just how much of this “victim” mentality MC had for his whole life. I knew it was his mom’s way of living and I thought, like me, he learned from his parents bad example. Wrong! Perhaps I was afraid to see just how deep and pervasive it was within him. Part of addressing all of this is addressing this victim mentality for him, and addressing how and why I picked a partner that, in fact, was far more like my parents than I ever realized. I do understand the victim mentality. I have faced it within myself when younger and after d-day. I don’t want to live that way.

For many years before d-day, I told myself that all the bad stuff brought me to where I am now and so, I wouldn’t change any of it. “Look what I made it through and how far I’ve come.” But, after d-day, when I saw where “I am now” was not actually a true picture of my life, I sunk down into that victim state. And, frankly, I think I needed to do that as part of the grieving process. I fight with it still. Rationally, I know that staying the victim is a very unhealthy path. I can see my parents’, MC’s and his mom’s example to see just how far off-track one can go with that kind of thinking. I want to survive. Even more than that, I want to thrive. I want MC to thrive. I want our children to thrive. I want our marriage to thrive. I want our family to thrive. Still, I fight the victim mentality, but I am working on it.  Seeing MC facing that demon has been a helpful step on that journey.

Don’t be a victim

One attitude I had prior to D-day that led me to a lot of trouble was the tendency to always paint myself as a victim.  This was a self-centered and childish tendency to see the world as all about me.  It also hurt me, by giving me an excuse not to try to improve myself and my lot, physically, mentally, emotionally, morally, as a husband, and as a father.  It led me to blame others, including God or fate, for my happiness or lack thereof, rather than work toward happiness. Ultimately, it led me to cheat, lie, lead a double-life, and lose all touch with my wife, kids, and what really matters to me in life.

For example, my mentally-ill mother taught me that some people are just born more athletic or stronger and others are born smarter and more academic. She taught me to believe that if you were not born with those natural abilities, there was nothing you could ever do about it.  Untrue.  In both sports and academics, despite some genetic inheritance, most of what leads to success is dedication, motivation, practice, an open-minded quest for knowledge, discipline, and persistence.  No Olympian just lazed his way to victory on the back of genetic gifts without hard work.  No inventor ever just visualized a new technique or device without building on years of study and thought.  But, I subconsciously bought into my mother’s excuses and blaming fate.  I essentially told myself I was not a natural athlete.  So, I set myself years behind physically by failing to try.  I essentially told myself I was naturally smart.  So, I set myself behind academically by failing to work, assuming academic success would just appear due to my natural intelligence.  Crap.

Here’s another example. As an adolescent I told myself some guys just naturally get girls and others don’t.  Never mind about hygiene, confidence, humor and approachability, taking care of yourself, being patient, and enjoying socializing without insisting it end in sexual conquest.  I thought some guys just go to a club with a bad attitude and only thinking of sexual conquest and invariably go home with a girl. I never considered that maybe they put a whole lot more effort into it than that.  I never considered that maybe they weren’t at the club only for an obsessive quest to get laid.  So, I got very angry at myself and at God or fate when I sought to get laid and failed, without having the right preparation and the right attitude.  And, I gave up quickly and easily.

The common theme here is that I didn’t see myself as an actor choosing my destiny and being responsible for my success or failure.  I saw my successes and failures as gifts or curses from God or fate.  I got angry instead of getting a plan.  I was the victim, not the person responsible for my happiness or lack thereof.

As the victim, I didn’t think about the pain I would cause others by cheating and lying.  I thought, woe is me, I deserve more sex and self-validation, even if I have to be evil to get it.  As the victim, I wallowed in self-pity, believing my pain, real or imagined, was more important than the consequences I was inflicting on my wife and others.

The only good news out of this is that I have learned one measure of my progress in R and self-healing.  Do I want to be the victim?  Am I tempted by self-pity?  If so, I’m not working on R, I’m working against it.  Do I want to take responsibility to help myself and my wife?  If so, I’m at least headed in the right direction.

If I wallow around in victimhood, blaming old partners, parents, ailments, or whatever for my condition, there is no way I can help my BW.  If I do that, my wife could do a whole lot better without me.

When I talk to God now, I’m also talking to myself.  God, give me the strength to take responsibility for my life and to make the best of it, for me and for my loved ones.