A discovery of how I keep myself bound

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The seemingly simple act of paying attention to what I’m actually doing (physically, mentally, and emotionally) can be one of the most powerful agents I know of for catalyzing change.

At the office where I used to work, my colleagues frequently commented on my good posture as I worked at my computer. They seemed to regard it as an indication of virtue or strong self-will on my part.

The truth is that once I had made the clear connection between poor posture at my computer and the shoulder pain that plagues me, every time I noticed that I was slumping in my chair, I instinctively sat up straighter. It had nothing to do with virtue, and everything to do with pain avoidance.

The key was simply noticing the connection between posture and pain and then paying attention to my posture as a means of avoiding the pain.

I’ve doing something similar recently with paying attention to what’s going on in my mind. Something prompted me recently to start noticing when I defined myself as a victim and the impact of my doing so.

At that point, I had no agenda of trying to change anything or fix anything. I just got the hint that I needed to pay attention, so I did.

What I noticed shocked me. First, I discovered was just how often I saw myself as a victim.

For example, we had about 5 inches of solid rain over the weekend, and a place where my sunroom meets the rest of the house sprouted a leak that left the untreated cedar in that area markedly discolored from the water. I felt like a victim of the weather, of the previous work done to seal that join, and of the prior homeowners that installed the sunroom to begin with.

I’ve even noticed that victim thinking showing up for things as small as not sleeping well or gas prices going up, not to mention how quickly I go to (and stay stuck in) thinking of myself as a victim over the big betrayals and traumas of life.

I discovered that I had somehow defined “normal” life as being happy and pleasant, and anything that interrupted that pleasantness or happiness made me feel like a victim because life wasn’t unfolding as it “should.” How crazy is that?

The prevalence and frequency with which I found myself thinking and feeling like a victim was a big enough surprise to me, but the bigger surprise came in noticing its impact.

As soon as I started defining myself as a victim, I discovered that this kept me stuck in feeling powerless and bound to whatever it was that had happened. In fact, the more strongly I identified with being a victim, the more strongly I integrated whatever had happened to me into my definition of myself, binding myself to it with the strongest chains.

I also noticed that the more I defined myself as a victim, the more I approached each new unwelcome situation from the powerless position as victim and the stronger those chains became. In essence, I discovered that the person victimizing me the most was me!

Just as I had done with noticing the connection between my posture and shoulder pain, making this connection between thinking of myself as a victim and how it keeps me stuck and miserable proved to be a powerful catalyst to start changing things.

To start with, my unconscious definition of “normal” life needs to shift. Now when I notice myself feeling like a victim over life’s little hassles and problems, it instinctively prompts me to remind myself that “normal” life really does include those things. I’m not being victimized when troubles arise; I’m just experiencing normal life in its full scope of being.

As I make that shift away from defining myself as a victim, I am simultaneously working on focusing solely on dealing with the problem to be solved instead of my usual obsession about things like its causes or deservedness or fairness.

I try to treat them more like the stones I receive from customers to do custom kintsugi repairs on. I don’t know (and don’t care) how or why the stone was broken. I have never spent time thinking about whether the stone or the owner deserved for the stone to break or whether it was fair that it broke.

I just focus on figuring out what it will take to repair the break, and then I take the steps required to do just that.

I’ve been reapplying that approach to those places where life tempts me to define myself as a victim and discovering how quickly that moves me out of stuck and powerless toward empowered movement. Every time without fail.

The shift is huge and immediate in these relatively small things that I’ve allowed to make me a “victim,” but it’s also creating longer term shifts even in those places where there’s brokenness in my life from truly having been victimized by some big betrayal or trauma or abuse.

As I practice shifting away from victim thinking in the smaller things, I am finding easier to stop defining myself as a victim in life’s bigger things. Even if I was a victim, I don’t have to define myself as one. I can choose to drop that definition, refuse to let what happened to me shape my self-identity, and focus only where and how I need to heal.

Just like with my posture and shoulders, just noticing and paying attention is creating big shifts. Now that I’m paying attention, I am seeing every time that victimhood starts to creep into my thinking so I can boot it right back off the stage.

It’s becoming as automatically as noticing when I’m slumping at the keyboard. I love it when just paying attention makes things begin to shift without effort!

Have you ever paid attention to your own victim thinking? How often do feel like a victim? How much do you define yourself as one?

What impact does defining yourself as a victim have on your life? Is that impact one you like?

If not, how might paying more attention to this affect things? Are you willing to give it a try?

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