When I was younger I used to feel like a victim a lot of the time. No matter how many things were going well in my life, I could tell a story I felt bad about. I didn’t know at the time that I was indulging in a victim story. Even when my situation was comparatively easier than that of many people around me, I found a way to focus on the victim story and not take responsibility for my own choices.
I think everyone has done this at some point without realizing it. It doesn’t necessarily have to be something one does consistently. It can be a habit that creeps up, usually in times of stress and change. After all, periods of scary, risky change are the perfect time to dwell on old, familiar stories that relieve us of responsibility.
When I became conscious of this habit, I started to notice how my story changed throughout my life. Some victim stories got old and were abandoned as new ones and new situations were created. Even though I took responsibility and action in my life, I also experienced the conflict of having a sad story that I indulged in from time to time.
Getting Conscious About the Victim Story
The first time I ever thought about this in a conscious was when I was exposed to the idea that having a story is limiting. I was reading an article about dating and relationships, and the point of the article was that people often lack confidence in these areas because they have a story they tell themselves that keeps them stuck. Sometimes people don’t try new things and take risks because they have a story they tell themselves about who they are and what has happened to them in the past. They don’t think about how they can create a new story for themselves in the moment.
I’ve noticed over time that I feel like indulging in victim stories less and less. There is freedom in letting go of your story. The real strength happens when you let go and direct the course of what you have in the moment.
I recently caught an episode of Oprah’s Lifeclass on her channel Own with relationship expert Iyanla Vanzant. She was talking to a man who was a recovering from drug addiction and asked him why his life wasn’t exactly as he wanted it to be. As he proceeded to tell his story, she very compassionately explained that he had traded his drug addiction for an addiction to his story. After it was brought out into the open, Iyanla noticed this habit in several people who spoke after him. She pointed out that when they shared the horrible things they had been through, they chose to speak of those things from the point of view of a victim and not from a place of empowerment, even though both perspectives could be based on fact. Iyanla even remarked that one woman was so distraught telling her story that she wasn’t even feeling any excitement about the fact that she was sharing it with Oprah and millions of viewers!
Exploring Your Story for Empowerment
That being said, I do believe there is some value to looking at the story of your life. I like to look at waking life as similar to being in a dream. I once read (I think it was in Jung’s Synchronicity) that strange coincidences happening in a dream make sense since we have control of the outcome within the dream. For example, if you dream that a waiter in a restaurant correctly guesses what you would like to order, it is not so shocking because within the dream you are your desire and the waiter’s guess. Everything in the dream is connected to you. Synchronicities may happen in waking life, because everything is connected at a fundamental level far greater than we can perceive.
I like to look for interconnections in the story of my life and the lives of others. I think it’s important to see the overarching plot or themes of your life to get a bigger perspective.
I look for symbols, such as the archetypal roles of various key players in life (do several people fulfill a key role in your life at different times and all have the same name? Does a particular person always return to your life at the end of a cycle or transition?).
Can a specific situation symbolize a problem you’re having in a surrealistic way–the way you might interpret symbolic imagery in a dream or a novel?
Can you relate your specific challenge at the moment to a classic story of triumph, a fairy tale, spiritual teaching, or great classic?
If you approach your story this way rather than as a victim story, it can be helpful to get a better sense of who you are and what your journey is. The important thing to remember is to make sure that you are seeing yourself as a hero/heroine rather than a victim and derive empowerment from your story. There is no need to be attached to it. Our stories are always constantly changing with our perspectives and circumstances. We are always in a place of empowerment to create something new.
What do you think? Do you find viewing your life as a story more helpful or harmful? Leave a comment and share your perspective. :)
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