Friday, April 11, 2014

The Fallacy in the Term Victim Mentality

Recently, I've come across the term "victim mentality" again and it always sits crossways with what I know to be true.  The term is used to describe how people deal with life's problems in a nonproductive way - that their thinking is faulty in seeing the center of control outside of themselves.  In taking it a step further, the solution is to help this person by pointing out their victim mentality statements and guide them back into accepting full responsibility for their life choices.

So, let's switch it up a bit and discuss this philosophy again.  Let's say I was born without a thumb.  Let's say there was no support for that handicap throughout my childhood - that parents and teachers around me just refused to notice my missing appendage and continued on as if I looked the same as every other child.  Essentially, this is what the experience is for a child within an abuse situation.  Very rarely are these situations detected and resolved quickly.  They go on for years and most of the people around the situation are unaware.  The child is aware, even if they do not have the maturity or even the words to talk about it.  But, they see the stark contrast, the outside world and the hidden world.  They believe these two spheres of reality exist simultaneously for everyone.  They work hard to achieve a life balance with these two conflicting realities. 

And so the child buckles down to overcome their issue.  They throw themselves into overcoming the problem.  Piano lessons?  Sure!  The child tries.  They find work-arounds and tricks so they can succeed in piano lessons.  They work hard to move up through the levels with their peers.  And they are successful in overcoming the handicap throughout the early stages.  But, at some level of piano playing, you need all ten digits.  Since the adults in this child's world are ignoring the fact of the missing thumb, the child creates negative thoughts about their inabilities and failure with piano scales.  They retreat from piano lessons in full despair.  Their absence is expected by those who can most obviously see, this is best for this child as it will only lead to more frustration and dissatisfaction.  Where is the locus on control at this point?  How does this child in teenage years approach his curiosity about mountain climbing?  What does he know or not know about himself that will help/hinder the exploration of mountains?  What about career choices?  What tools does this child have in his toolbox that will help him choose a way to make a living that provides satisfaction? 

Two carpenters of equal skill and experience have dreams of beginning their own business.  One has financial backing from an uncle that will cover his family's living expenses for the first two years while he builds his customer base.  The other has no financial backing except his own labor.  Most people would agree that these two situations are very different and require different questions and thoughts to reach the best decision.  Essentially, one of the carpenters has more tools in his toolbelt than the other; he has both thumbs.  The other is missing a critical element that will likely play an important role in his success no matter how hard he works.  He is missing a tool; the financial safety net; a thumb. 

The "victim mentality" in my mind is not a negative thought pattern that needs to be tackled in order to achieve success.  And those using the term, in my mind, have no direct experience with what it means.  It's a term developed by those who have not suffered abuse to describe an inconvenient fact about those who have suffered abuse.  Abuse is damage.  Damage doesn't go away much as we'd like to believe it will.  Brain cells, souls, hearts and physical bodies become less than they were before the abuse.  Although there is healing throughout the lifetime, the original damage leaves a footprint that can never be completely erased.  The type of violence and abuse we're talking about here most obviously, leaves a mark.  The nail that was pounded into the board in anger can be removed.  The nail hole remains forever.

Victim mentality thinking is realistic thinking for people who have been put into the position of needing to use it to survive.  And survive....we have.  Things you can only imagine humans could do to each other.  We're still here because our perpetrators didn't choose to kill us.  And over the years as we've held the choices for ourselves - we've chosen not to suicide out.

We need safe space as adults to come to terms with the fact that we have "missing thumbs" that were a factor throughout all our earlier attempts at success.  Some of us are content to not explore or push forward, knowing the full extent of the abuse damage and the limitations it has caused.  The term "self-care" refers to choosing the minimal responsibilities of daily life without dreaming or reaching for anything more.  Others choose to start again using the new knowledge to work towards heartfelt goals.

Helpful people point out that we are letting the handicap make our choices.  Truly, they do not understand.  Our reality fell outside of our locus of control decades ago.  Our reality was overlaid into our life story by others.  We are surviving and making the best of what was left after the events that were no fault of our own.  Survivor mentality.  Let's use the right word. 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Prairie is Burning Tonight

A renewal of the tall grass - the ritual of the spring burning. 

Even though my house is filled with smoke, I feel the dead around me being burned away - to make room for the new.  Within a few days this scene will be filled with bright green grass as far as the eye can see in any direction.  This is why we love the Flint Hills.  The Native peoples before us took such loving care of their mother earth.  I know she must miss their compassion and love. 

But, each spring, we get another chance to get it right.  A do-over.


It feels like I am also burning away another layer of old stuff this spring.  Changes are underfoot.  I am looking forward to a new peace within.