Weekend Musings – There Are Victims And Then There Are Victims

“A benchmark of emotional management and responsibility is the realization that our past can no longer be blamed for our actions in the present.“
Doc Childe and Howard Martin

Every day I work with people who are victims, real or imagined. They grew up in a bad home, someone has rejected them, the white man has dragged them down, people have taken advantage of them, they have been abused, raped, abandoned, the list is endless. There is no shortage of people to blame.

Usually the client or person I am talking to has legitimate issues. They are dealing with things that most people can barely imagine. They are trying, the best they know how, to find some anchor in a life that has been beyond their control. Many patients I have spoken with have gone through horror stories and are endeavouring to move forward. They are the reason I get up in the morning and go to work excited. They are my heroes.

Others are looking for something to pin their pain on. They cannot see any personal responsibility, they will not own their own complicity. They sit and we talk and it is always someone else’s fault. Often they have legitimate complaints but they wear their victimization like a crown and filter everything through with a pre-disposed diagnosis. This week I met with a young man who told me that the reason he could not pass in school was because generations ago people oppressed him. I reminded him that he was not in fact alive a couple hundred years ago and though he has had to suffer historic abuse and that has undoubtedly profoundly affected his life, perhaps the reasons he is failing in school have more to do with the fact that he is skipping and spending his considerable income on crack. He called me a bigot.

I come from generations of alcoholics and the pragmatically poor. My dad was an orphan whose father fell from a skyscraper during his last week of work before going to a new job. His mother died when he was 12. He completed grade 9 in school. He had no social safety net, no social worker looking out for him, no strong family to provide for him, no one to blame. So he didn’t.

Years later my father would stand before the Governor General of Canada and receive the military equivalent of the Order of Canada, our highest civilian honor. He had, in fact, finally finished his high school equivalency in his forties. He had worked his butt off to make something of a shunted life. He is my son’s hero. Wednesday he will be our guest blogger.

Every now and again I will have occasion to feel sorry for myself. Maybe things aren’t going smoothly or my friends have nicer houses or boats. Sometimes I wish I had a family with money and a house on a lake. But then I remember how fortunate I am to come from a heritage that simply would not give up.

As i sit here writing this it just hit me, I have never heard my dad complain about his lot in life. Ever.

“People spend too much time finding other people to blame, too much energy finding excuses for not being what they are capable of being, and not enough energy putting themselves on the line, growing out of the past, and getting on with their lives.”
J. Michael Straczynski


13 thoughts on “Weekend Musings – There Are Victims And Then There Are Victims

  1. Most of your postings I like and connect to them. This one was like a kick, but a good one (if that’s possible, which in my world I see it as one, like a kick that if it didn’t happen, that train would have killed you.) It’s seeing, or reading, experiences like this that make things more encouraging for trying to move on and past things and to look at the past as just that, the past. Thank you.

  2. I never wanted the label…I didn’t want to be “victim”…I fought hard to not accept it…I pretended, I ignored, I hurt myself…I was determined not to let it bother me. And then, as I got sicker, my trusted pastor began to show me that life was meant to be lived…and, as I began intensive treatment for the eating disorder, all of the past came to the surface. I still didn’t want to be victim. But, I accept that I was victimized…by the people who should have loved me the most. This next stage of healing moves from victim and then survivor–into living freely. Apparently, radical acceptance was part of it….and that is different than just pretending it didn’t happen–or, it didn’t really bother me. I had to accept the ‘victim’ aspect in order to truly accept the trauma…because healing is on the other side.

  3. Scott,
    Having been both kinds of victim I can appreciate what you have said here. One thing I can say is that it took a long time of me thinking I was moving forward and not being the victim before I began recognizing and realizing what I was doing. I alienated a lot of people and lost important relationships in the process.

    What a great character your dad has and raised you with.

    Be well,

  4. Hi Scott,

    I’m looking forward to reading your dad’s post! About your post, I have had clients tell me that they haven’t been able to recover from addiction, or stay clean, because: 1) their counselor is not a recovering addict, therefore they can’t connect or relate to them. 2) they do not get enough food (in-patient/residential treatment). 3) they do not believe in AA, NA, etc. and the Big Book, the 12 Steps, and so on…4) they don’t believe in God. 5) their mom was also an alcoholic, etc…6) (you name it)…It is not until they take responsibility for their decisions and actions, that they start making progress. But, it is very human to blame others for everything that happens to us…I think we all do it to a certain extent, and the ones that don’t verbalize it still express it in other unhealthy ways. Nice post.

  5. How does one know if they are just looking for something to pin their pain on? How does one know if they are not taking any personal responsibility? How does one begin to take personal responsibility when it feels so completely like it is someone else’s fault?

  6. I think sometimes people don’t realize everyone has suffered. No one has a unique claim to it. Suffering is part of the human condition. So, if I say I haven’t accomplished this or that because of what I have suffered, I am not alone in that. We have all been held back by something.

  7. Perhaps the young man blaming his problems on the past needs to deal with his crack use first. Isn’t it rather difficult to do any therapy with someone actively using a substance like crack? Most with drug habits are not able/willing to admit any responsibility. Can he see an addictions counselor?

  8. I agree, but I find that there is a fine line between victimhood and learning about how our past impacts our current thought processes. I have had to work for several years to understand how the past unconsciously impacts my thought patterns in a negative fashion, which has then allowed me to have strategies to counter those negative thought patterns.

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