By Robert Burney
"Learning discernment is vital - not just in terms of the choices we make about who to trust, but also in terms of our perspective, our attitudes. We learned about life as children and it is necessary to change the way we intellectually view life in order to stop being the victim of the old tapes. By looking at, becoming conscious of, our attitudes, definitions, and perspectives, we can start discerning what works for us and what does not work. We can then start making choices about whether our intellectual view of life is serving us - or if it is setting us up to be victims because we are expecting life to be something which it is not."
"I spent most of my life being the victim of my own thoughts, my own emotions, my own behaviors. I was consistently picking untrustworthy people to trust and unavailable people to love."
"If you have a problem with romantic relationships maybe it is because your fifteen-year-old is picking your mates for you."
One of the biggest areas in this culture that we are trained to relate to from a victim perspective is in relationship to romance. To paraphrase the quote from my book above: "it is necessary to change the way we intellectually view romance in order to stop being the victim of the old tapes."
We learned that romance was magical - that finding our prince or princess was a destination to reach where we would live happily ever after. We learn about "falling in love" as if it were a camouflaged hole in the sidewalk that we just happened to fall into. This is something that I addressed in my series on Healthy Relationship Behavior in an article I published here on suite101 in January of 2000. (The series that is now part of my E-book that is the number 1 best seller in the Suite Anthology program.)
"Love as we have been programmed to understand the concept, is one of the great victimizers in our culture - and one of the biggest excuses for unhealthy behavior.
Whenever someone I have been working with answers the question "Why do you stay?" - in a relationship that is abusive or with someone who is unavailable - with the line "because I love him/her," my response is "No, what is the real reason." Because the "love" is never the bottom line. The bottom line is always fear. Fear of being alone, of not being able to support self, of never having another relationship, of getting in a worse relationship, etc." - Healthy Relationships - Part 6, Romantic Love as a Concept
As I talked about in that article, it is vital for us to change our perspective of romantic love into one that is realistic. The attitudes, definitions, and beliefs that we hold on a subconscious and conscious level are what determine our perspectives and expectations - which in turn dictate our emotional reactions and our relationships.
It was vital for me in my codependency recovery to start learning how to take responsibility for my on emotions - and to realize that I had some power over them because I had the power to change the beliefs that were setting me up to have the unrealistic expectations that were causing me to see myself as a victim. (See Serenity and Expectations - intimately interrelated)
In order to start taking responsibility for my own emotions, it was necessary for me to start learning to have internal discernment so I could set an inner boundary between the emotional and mental components of my being. I needed to start recognizing that though I will sometimes feel like a victim in life, in romantic relationships, that did not mean I had to buy into the belief that I was a victim.
It is so empowering for us to start having a boundary between emotional and mental because of the way the internal dynamic of codependency works. The critical parent voice in our head that I spoke of in the last article beats up on us for our emotional wounds. The dynamic that is so devastating to us is when we are feeling like a victim and our own mind is telling us it is all our fault - is telling us what losers and failures we are. That is when we crash and burn - go into despair and depression - or when we turn all of our energy into trying to blame the other person.
In recovery I learned how to be able to own, and have compassion for, my own emotional wounds - the times I felt like a victim - at the same time I was shutting up the critical parent's shame and judgment in my mind and choosing to look for the silver lining. I would tell myself that this was an opportunity for growth and that the other person was a teacher who had come into my life to help me get in touch with wounds I needed to heal. I would ask myself how old I was feeling and recognize that the great majority of my emotional reaction was coming from old wounds that had been triggered.
As I said in the last article, it is vital to take our self worth out of the equation in romantic relationships - in all our relationship to the external. As we learn to take our self worth out of the romantic interaction dynamic, then we can also start taking responsibility for the feelings we are having. Another person does not have power over our feelings unless we give them that power. It is vital to become conscious enough to start recognizing how we are giving away power over our feelings by having unrealistic expectations and perspectives.
As children we were taught a toxic perspective of love and romance that caused us to see the other person as the savior who would fill the hole we feel inside of our self. I grew up feeling unlovable and believing that if I found my princess, she could help me feel like a prince instead of like an unlovable frog.
When I "fell in love" with a woman, it was not a conscious adult choice - it was an unconscious reaction to the wounding and dysfunctional programming of my childhood. As I discussed in my December article, it is dysfunctional to allow the wounded parts of us to choose our mates.
"The old way of allowing the romantic within and the desperately needy child and the magical thinking child and the wounded teenage horndog, etc., to dictate and control my relationships certainly did not work." - Setting Internal Boundaries in relationship to Romantic, Sexual Relationships
As the quote above from my book references, my fifteen year old was not capable of making discerning choices when it came to romance. Reacting unconsciously to old wounds, caused me to feel like a victim - either of my own unworthiness, or of the woman's inability to make me feel like a prince permanently. Falling in love feels magical, so it was possible for a woman to make me feel like a prince temporarily - but eventually she proves herself to be human and not a magical princess, and then I would feel like a victim because of my unconscious expectations.
It was vital for me to start owning that falling in love was a choice I was making - not some lightening strike that I was powerless over. As long as I was reacting unconsciously - not owning that I had some power over the beliefs I was empowering and therefore the feelings I was set up to experience because of the perspectives and expectations those beliefs created - then I was in my codependency and powerless to make choices. I was then doomed to end up blaming her for not being a magical princess and/or blaming myself for being such an ugly frog.
It was wonderfully empowering for me to start telling myself - and integrating into my perspective of romance - that I had a choice when it came to falling in love. Once I owned that I had that choice, I was able to stop "falling in love" with women who were completely unavailable to me. I was able to start taking responsibility for my feelings instead of feeling like a victim of what "she had done to me" because she had not lived up to my expectations.
The reality is that I have choices in life, and I need to take responsibility for the consequences of those choices. If I choose to get involved with someone romantically, the responsibility for any emotional reactions are mine - not the other persons. I may feel like the victim of her behavior, but I can tell myself the Truth - which is that I am responsible for the feelings because I was the one who choose to give her some power over my feelings.
Personal empowerment comes through owning that we have choices. Realizing that "falling in love" can be a conscious, discerning choice is a key to learning how to stop seeing ourselves as victims in romantic relationships.
In the Premier edition of my Joy2MeU Journal, I shared in the Newsletter about an experience I had on April 1st 1990. I refer to it as my April Fools Day Lesson about falling in love. I think that April Fools story is amusing and instructive and recently included it in the Joy2MeU Update Newsletter for April 2009.