we all feel like victims sometimes and it’s totally legit.
I was messing around on Pinterest a few days ago and came across an info-graphic about what it looks like when victims of child abuse move from feeling like victims to feeling like they are thriving. The info-graphic and the process intrigued me greatly. The journey of healing from any kind of abuse is tough, treacherous work that requires dedication, support, and resources.
The author, Barbara Whitfield, gave examples like this:
She gives many other examples, but looking at the entries and the progression of healing certainly gave me some insight into the process of moving from victim to thriver. Looking at the info-graphic made me realize that we’ve all been in a place where we feel like a victim. Who hasn’t felt confused and numb about something we feel we have no control over? I know that myself and many other women in the Sex Surge® have felt the victim-type emotions as we’ve learned to deal with it. And I think any one at mid-life who hasn’t grappled with some of these feelings, or stayed up late at night trying to figure them out, is a liar or a robot. We’ve all felt like our life, or some part of it, is total shit at some point or another.
So what moves people from victim to survivor to thriver? I think the first, and probably most important, step is just wanting to change. Elizabeth Gilbert famously wrote,
“I’ve never seen any life transformation that didn’t begin with the person in question finally getting tired of their own bullshit.”
She went on to clarify:
“…I’ve never seen any sincere transformation that didn’t start with somebody sitting down and being soberly, calmly, bravely honest with herself.”
And I think she’s right about this. The first step in moving onwards or fixing something in our life is the desire to do so, which often comes from being real sick of our own behavior in the given situation.
Now, this is not to say that victim’s of abuse are sick of their behavior in the abuse situation and so that’s what makes them change. This also does not pertain to people who are victims of oppression: sexism, racism, ageism, able-ism. It is nigh on impossible to simply say, “I’m done with being a victim of racism/sexism/ageism/able-ism” because people cannot simply crawl out from under those huge systems and not be affected by them anymore. No- what I’m talking about is the everyday type of feeling like a victim (which may or may not be due to abuse from others). The type where we don’t like our job, or we’re overwhelmed by our hormones, or we can’t figure out whether to stay or go in some relationship- the places where we feel like we just don’t know what to do.
There are many places where we can feel like a victim of the situation, but there are also ways we can begin to move out of that perspective and towards something more healing. It’s deciding to move from the perspective that our life or our situation is completely shitty to imagining that the shit might actually be something that we could grow from. That if we figure out how to heal from it, the shit becomes something more like fertilizer for a garden. And the first step is realizing we don’t want to be in the victim spot anymore.
The next step, and I think it is hidden inside the desire to move forward, is recognizing that we are resilient and we can do this- we can move forward. Yeah, we have the shit, but we also have the dream of a garden. And we may not have the exact tools we need- we’ve got a fork instead of a shovel, or a broken cup instead of a bucket- but we have ways to work with it. Our goal of thriving may take effort, it may take experimentation, it may take seeking help, guidance, or expertise, but we can take the steps that will get us from victim to survivor to thriver.
If you’re feeling like a victim in some part of your life, I’d encourage you to think about these questions:
Why do you feel like a victim in this situation? Usually we feel like a victim when we feel like we don’t have control over a situation or we’re overwhelmed. What makes you feel this way about the situation you want to change? Be as specific as possible.
When you’ve felt like this before, what helped you get to the point you thought you could do something about it? Did you vent to someone? Did you need space and time? Did it just take patience? Feeling like we can do something about our situation is the beginning of resilience.
If you can imagine yourself feeling like you’re thriving from this situation, what does that look like? What changes or gets solved so you can feel like you’re thriving? Be specific here, too.
What skills, knowledge, or resources do you have already that can help you with this issue? Where are the gaps in your skills, knowledge, or resources? How can you get some help with filling those gaps?
If you have a picture of what ‘thriving’ looks like for you in this situation and you have some skills or resources to start with, what’s one tiny step you can take that will move you in the direction of thriving?
Whatever you can do to get yourself to move forward is the key to thriving. If we stay where we are and keep doing the same old thing, we get what we’ve always gotten. It takes change to change our lives. But any step away from feeling like a victim is a step towards thriving.
I think one of things I realized from looking at this chart is that I’m really interested in helping women thrive wherever they are. To me, thriving is something that we can achieve even inside difficult circumstances. If we don’t have enough money, or we only have little support, or we’re crapped on by the systems of oppression, or we have disabilities, or the Sex Surge is giving us a hard time, or peri-menopause is driving us c-r-a-z-y. We can thrive in each of those situations. Sometimes it does mean moving through stuff that’s difficult, but it can be done. And it starts with wanting to thrive and realizing we have the capacity to do so. Because, if nothing else, mid-life shows us that we’ve lived through a lot, we know some shit, and we are stronger than we’ve ever been before.