I can be hurt by someone then recoil into a ‘poor me’ vortex that can go on for days, months or yes (I’m very ashamed to admit) years. Instead of stepping back and looking at what has really gone on, I play the victim. I am the one who has been hurt. I am the one that something awful has been done to.
The truth is yes, sometimes I am technically the ‘victim’. I have been going about my business like any other day when WHAM! I’m hit with someone else’s toxic fall out. And it’s normal that I should feel hurt, angry and upset in that situation. After all, I haven’t done anything to deserve it. I was just minding my own business, doing my best. Right?
But with the benefit of hindsight (which is always valuable but can take a long time to kick in), I am getting a little better at seeing those incidents more objectively.
The truth is yes, some people may have got of the bed that morning and thought, ‘Today my goal is to completely destroy Lucy’s self-esteem and faith in the goodness of love and humankind.’
That might be true. Or maybe not.
Perhaps I did something consciously or unconsciously to piss them off and they simply responded to that behaviour.
That could be true.
Or perhaps they deliberately caused me pain because their own pain was so great, they didn’t know what else to do. They didn’t know how to let their pain out in a healthy way so they scatter-gunned it all over me because I just happened to be there – wrong place for me, right time for them.
When I think about it, I’m sure I’ve been just as guilty of this behaviour because like everyone else walking around on the planet, I am human not perfect.
However, when this situation arises we often direct our pain at those who are closest to us. And the last people we ever want to hurt receive the sometimes crushing emotional blows we dish out.
The fall-out can be devastating. Relationships end over this kind of stuff. Families stop talking to each other, friends walk away, and wars on small and global scales begin because of this situation.
It’s also when we start playing the victim. We can let that story, that situation full of pain, become our only story in life. It can become a turning point that we revisit again and again, shaping and molding the restrictions we put on our emotional development. We might say, ‘Well this person did this, so I’m not going to trust people again.’
‘That person hurt me so badly that I can never forgive them.’
We might take it further and think, ‘That person said X and Y and maybe they’re right. Maybe I’m not worth more.’
And so our story goes on and we sit in that swirling pain, wallow in it, justifying why what has happened to us is awful and how we deserved better.
You know what, sometimes I have definitely deserved better. I haven’t asked someone to tear my soul to ribbons. I’ve been doing my best and the pain thrown my way by a stranger or someone I care about has been devastating. Sometimes it’s even undone me for a while.
But in my finer moments, when I can remove my poor, bruised and battered heart and ego out of the way, I realise I can play the victim and let those moments define me, or I can go another way.
I can choose to grow from them. I can look at the situation and ask myself, what role did I play in creating that? How did my response affect the outcome? What was really going on for that person in that moment? How much pain were they in and was I just collateral damage?
Once I start to consider these things I can, eventually, make some peace with the situation and let it go a little. I can stop playing the victim and instead empower myself to move forward and grow.
I’m not saying it’s easy. I think it takes a lot to release emotional pain fully and perhaps I will carry fragments of those moments with me forever. But I don’t want to play the victim forever. I want to transform that pain into something that takes me forward. I have a choice in the matter.
More importantly, I want to come to a place more easily of forgiving those who may cause the pain. And it’s amazing how empowering that feeling of forgiveness can be. You can look at that person and think, ‘You know what. Your behaviour was crap and the pain you caused was awful. And I still feel angry and upset sometimes. But I understand where you were at when it happened and I know most of it had nothing whatsoever to do with me. So I forgive you and myself (because I’m sure I did/said stuff that wasn’t great either) and I send you love anyway.’
And surely that is the most empowering thing of all. It’s certainly much better than playing the victim.