Dear reader, thank you for accompanying me on the journey through addiction.
We are almost done, and I hope that this series has shown you a path through some of your addictive tendencies and perhaps the advice within has left you with useful tools you can use in your own life.
This week, we will discuss the addiction to victimhood. There are three possibilities you could fall into: a victim, a former victim in active recovery, and someone who has encountered someone with a victim-mindset in someone you love.
Regardless of where you are on your journey, rest assured, we can all recover from the pain of victimhood, and the captivating power that this addiction can temporarily provide.
Much in the way I did not consciously enjoy my former addiction to pain, I also did not enjoy feeling like the victim.
In fact, the idea of being a victim incites immediate anger in me, and it’s not just towards those who had a dynamic with me where I felt like a victim. Anger is easier than pain for me to express.
Whenever I felt victimized, there was always pain under my anger.
That’s where I want to keep the focus of this blog: Anger is easy, but it's not the primary emotion. Pain is.
During this reflection, I’m going to do my best to put myself back into the pain of my experience, and stay out of the anger.
The state of chronic pain was ever accompanied by depression that life was happening to me, rather than happening because of me.
I was frustrated.
I was angry.
I blamed everyone but myself.
In fact, speaking about how I was addicted to victimhood still makes me angry because I can see now where I let it happen. Due to the slow onset of chronic pain in my body, I was unconsciously making decisions that made me feel like more of a victim. Decisions regarding the people I allowed close, and the lack of boundaries I had which continually fed that victimhood inside me.
Victims often have a common dichotomy of things and life happening to them, rather than happening because of them. When I say “happening to” rather than “happening because of, ” I speak of the difference between the mode of the perpetual victim: life is happening to them versus the mode of a highly accountable person: life is happening because of them.
Therefore, victims do not assume any responsibility for their own lives and are rarely active in creating or enacting change. Victims will stay stuck. Trapped.
Take a moment to reflect on your own life.
Can you recall a time when things felt like they were out of your control and happening to you?
Are you going through a time like that right now?
Can you recall a time when your actions had an impact on the outcome of a situation?
Before diving into my story, it’s important to note the difference between temporarily feeling like a victim and long-term bathing in victim energy.
All of us have been victims at some point, and those experiences enable us to feel feelings that come normally and healthily. In fact, we must give those feelings attention to heal them and move on. This temporary and growth-oriented energy is not the type of energy this blog is referencing.
This blog is referencing when those of us, myself included, could not or would not move out of those feelings. In fact, we embraced those feelings and leaned into them until being a victim became part of our identity. This blog speaks to the victimhood thoughts and feelings that we choose to dive into and come to accept and embrace over time.
I admit, my least favorite part of the grief process is identifying and healing the feelings of being a victim, yet necessary to heal emotional, and sometimes physical pain.
When someone attacks you or hurts you, it can be healthy to see yourself as the victim. By seeing that this is a normal, and even instinctive reaction, you can liberate yourself from that feeling dragging you down and making you a permanent victim. . We must spend time there before we can be released.
As with all negative emotions, the deeper we allow the emotion to permeate our minds and subsequently feel and experience it, the quicker it leaves our physical bodies. However, if we pause at the negative emotion and do not allow ourselves to fully feel and experience it, then the emotion becomes dangerous and potentially toxic. If we pause long term, we give our tragedies the potential to define us rather than strengthen us.
Now, this is where I have struggled. This blog has taken quite a while and the biggest reason is because while I was writing, I came to the realization that I have not fully healed from my addiction to victimhood. I still have a wound and not a scar.
While I do not actively see myself as a victim, the shame and vulnerability I feel having been a victim still lingers. Although I now hold myself accountable and have moved past the trapping victimhood energy into the life I currently lead where I am happy and pursuing my dreams, I still feel stuck in talking about victimhood in my life.
Some of this blog will be Katie lite™ because I need more time to process and heal. I will, therefore, share more about victimhood at a later time, once I can write about this with focus and intention.
As I transitioned during my time in victimhood, I removed toxic people from my home, got a divorce, and started to slowly limp into my own power. Sadly, I came out shaky and still wearing my victimhood badge with dubious honor.
Common thoughts for that came with said victimhood badge included:
They had done awful things to me.
They had taken so much from me.
They were terrible people.
How could they do that to me?
Why had they done that to me?
What had I done to deserve that?
I never really found out who they was, since the “they” changed depending on the context and situation.
All I knew was that nothing was ever my fault.
The pity party continued for years. When I ran out of victim energy, I refueled myself with massive amounts of rage regarding the unfairness of my life.
A lot was going on during this time of my life. I still hadn’t had time to heal after getting the divorce and everyone the hell out of my house. During this time, I also lost two friends to suicide.
Frighteningly, my initial response to their death was grief, rapidly followed by envy.
For hours at a time, I would fantasize about how peaceful death would feel. At that time, it was almost impossible to believe things would get better.
Talk about loving being a victim. There’s no bigger victim than a corpse.
At the time, I was just too tired and beaten down to summon the energy to try.
Woe was me, indeed.
Looking back, I am beyond grateful that I didn’t have the strength to end things. At the time, I could barely get out of bed between the pain levels, fatigue inducing meds, and my crippling mental state.
Life is amazing now, and no part of me wants to die.
What kept me going was the connections I had with my best friend of almost 20 years and my coach, when I could afford her support. Without them, I’m not sure I would have survived.
Anger was my go-to as I mentioned at the start of this blog, and sometimes when I reflect on how far I divorced (haha) myself from my own identity and desires, I feel drawn back to anger. Anger felt like a safe place to hide my victimhood.
How dare they treat me like shit!
They had stolen from me!
Fuck them and the horses they rode in on. (No offense to the horses reading this, it’s not like you can control where you’re going.)
The deeper I allowed myself to sink into self pity, the less anger buoyed me. It started to feel as if I was drowning.
As I started to move away from the toxicity, I hadn’t yet resolved that feeling of being a victim.
So I shifted my focus: I didn’t yet understand how to let go of feeling like a victim, so I shed the feeling that I was another person’s victim. Then, I fully embraced being a victim to my own body.
I had a body that was frail, in constant pain, and begging me to change what I was doing; no matter what it was.
No one should have to endure what I was enduring became my mantra and unknowingly laid the framework for my focus on stress and pain management coaching.
Let’s return to the questions posted earlier in the blog. However, instead of leaning into the victim energy, let’s mix up the emphasis a little to focus on different parts of the sentence.
How could they do that to me?
Here’s the game changer: I had allowed it.
Who would allow that?
I allowed it because I was getting something out of remaining a victim.
Whenever we allow ourselves to become trapped in something like addiction, we get something out of the addictive exchange. For all of us, that changes.
This brought up more questions I wouldn’t have the strength to fully answer for years: what was I getting out of being a victim?
The strength needed an answer that didn’t come until the panic attack when my body was pain free for the first time. However, that’s a blog post in and of itself.
For me, victimhood gave me an excuse to stay stuck in the drama, continue to collect that Woe is me currency, and ultimately, use those things as the excuse to remain where I was, halt my growth and not improve my life.
So, in regards to what victimhood gave me, we have behaviors because we get something out of it.
Much in the way I had gotten something from staying in pain, I also got something out of being a victim.
Some of the common reasons we stay in the warm and familiar bath of victimhood are as discussed below.
It was easier for me to cry when pissed off than for me to allow sadness. My coach explained that most of us have a go-to or default emotion: pain or anger.
Anger was easier and kept me wound up. When I let the sadness in, I feared it would never leave. At that point in my life, I didn’t yet understand why it was important to feel what I was feeling and allow those feelings.
My balloon of indignation filled up whenever I shared the story of what had happened to me. Granted, I still left out accountability for myself.
When I started to run out of righteous indignation, I’d find a way to refuel by creating another dramatic situation or complaining to anyone who would listen. My go to thing to complain about was how awful my boyfriend was. Who doesn’t like to hear people complain about their domestic partner?
I had excuses for all solutions to my behavior while condemning theirs. Like the fact I stacked one asshole on top of the other to try to fix things.
As someone who felt unseen and unheard for most of my life, getting attention and sympathy from others was exactly what I wanted.
Friends would check in on me and see how things were going: Had my spouse left yet?
Then, after the divorce: what was going on with my boyfriend and his addictions?
I kept the drama going to retain the negative attention I was showered with due to the insanity of my life.
It was easier that way
It was vastly easier to stay in that energy than to examine my behavior or take accountability for my own actions.
As my health declined and pain levels rose, it became less and less comfortable to remain stagnant. Hating my body and feeling like its victim was shockingly an ineffective way to heal, yet felt so much easier in the moment.
Now, I may feel like a victim from time to time, but no longer allow myself to bathe or dwell there. For example, my cross country move last fall wreaked havoc on my body and created a six week long flare of pain. I won’t lie, I spent many nights feeling sorry for myself.
Then I got over it and kept going.
Was it easy? Hell no.
Moving on was probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. As you’d expect, moving on was also one of the best things I’ve ever done. Oftentimes, the most rewarding experiences are the hardest.
Healing is hard.
And I still have more healing to do on this front.
If I hadn’t been ready to let go of that victim energy when I was introduced to the system that allowed me to conquer my pain, I don’t think I would have been open to it.
The one thing that’s needed for that system to help you harness your mind’s power: you have to want it.
That’s not to say that I waved a magic wand and poof! I was no longer a victim.
Like most addictions I’ve spoken to in this series, it took some time. It took practice. It is still taking daily practice.
This blog has shown me that I need to continue to patiently, lovingly, and compassionately heal and help myself through victimhood. And, this blog revealed to me that my journey is not over, and that’s the irony: our journey is never over.
I have to be myself without judgement, allow myself to process the victimhood out of my body, and to towel myself off as I continue to dry off the droplets from my victimhood bath.
This was a tiring and tough blog post for me. It was hard to write and hard to read. I was sensitive during the review process. I am not completely healed from my victimhood wounds and need more time to help my wounds close out into scars.
Each time you reflect, I want you to remember to be the observer and not the judge. The purpose of this is not to sentence yourself for life. The purpose is to notice your actions and change your relationship to those actions without judgment.
So, again, I ask you:
What is an area that is still raw and real for you?
Do you feel like a victim often?
When was the last time you felt like a victim? What happened? Describe the event.
Who made you feel that way?
What did you allow to happen?
Don’t keep reading: I mean it. Reflect on and answer the questions above. If you find yourself reluctant to answer, ask yourself why.