Declaring yourself as a non-victim!
There is no such thing as a well-adjusted slave.
You need never be a victim again. Ever! But in order to function as a non-victim, you must take a hard look at yourself, and learn to recognize the numerous situations in which your strings are being pulled by others. Your anti-victimization stance will involve a great deal more than simply memorizing some assertive techniques and then taking a few risks when other people conspire to manipulate or control your behavior. You probably have already noticed that Earth seems to be a planet on which virtually all the human residents make regular attempts to control each other. And they have evolved unique institutions which are highly accomplished at this regulation.
But if you are one of those being governed against your will or better judgment, you are a victim. It is quite possible to avoid life’s victim traps without having to resort to victimizing behavior yourself. To do this, you can begin to redefine what you expect for yourself during your brief visit on this planet. You can start, I recommend, by expecting to be a non-victim, and by looking more carefully at how you behave as a victim.
WHAT IS A VICTIM?
You are being victimized whenever you find yourself out of control of your life. The key word is CONTROL. If you are not pulling the strings, then you are being manipulated by someone or something else. You can be victimized in an endless number of ways. A victim as described here is not “first of all” someone who is taken advantage of through criminal activity. You can be robbed or swindled in much more damaging ways when you give up your emotional and behavioral controls in the course of everyday life, through forces of habit.
Victims are first of all people who run their lives according to the dictates of others. They find themselves doing things they really would rather not do, or being manipulated into activities loaded with unnecessary personal sacrifice that breeds hidden resentment. To be victimized, as I use the word here, means to be governed and checked by forces outside yourself; and while these forces are unquestionably ubiquitous in our culture, YOU CAN RARELY BE VICTIMIZED UNLESS YOU ALLOW IT TO HAPPEN. Yes, people victimize themselves in numerous ways, throughout the everyday business of running their lives. Victims almost always operate from weakness. They let themselves be dominated, pushed around, because they often feel they are not smart enough or strong enough to be in charge of their lives. So, they hand their own strings over to someone “smarter” or “stronger,” rather than take the risks involved in being self-assertive. You are a victim when your life is not working for you. If you are behaving in self- defeating ways, if you are miserable, out of sorts, hurt, anxious, afraid to be yourself, or in other similar states which immobilize you, if you aren’t functioning in a self-enhancing manner, or if you feel as if you are being manipulated by forces outside of yourself, then you are a victim—and it is my contention that your own victimization is never worth defending. If you agree, then you will be asking: What about relief from victimization? What about freedom?
WHAT IS FREEDOM?
No one is handed freedom on a platter. You must make your own freedom. If someone hands it to you, it is not freedom at all, but the alms of a benefactor who will invariably ask a price of you in return. Freedom means you are unobstructed in ruling your own life as you choose. Anything less is a form of slavery. If you cannot be unrestrained in making choices, in living as you dictate, in doing as you please with your body (provided your pleasure does not interfere with anyone else’s freedom), then you are without the command I am talking about, and in essence you are being victimized.
To be free does not mean denying your responsibilities to your loved ones and your fellow man. Indeed, it includes the freedom to make choices to be responsible. But nowhere is it dictated that you must be what others want you to be when their wishes conflict with what you want for yourself. You can be responsible and free. Most of the people who will try to tell you that you cannot, who will label your push for freedom “selfish,” will turn out to have measures of authority over your life and will really be protesting your threat to the holds you have allowed them to have on you. If they can help you feel selfish, they’ve contributed to your feeling guilty, and immobilized you again. The ancient philosopher Epictetus wrote of freedom in this line from his Discourses: “No man is free who is not master of himself.” Reread that quote carefully. If you are not the master of yourself, then by this definition you are not free. You do not have to be overtly powerful and exert influence over others to be free, nor is it necessary to intimidate others, nor to try to bully people into submission in order to prove your own mastery.
The freest people in the world are those who have senses of inner peace about themselves: They simply refuse to be swayed by the whims of others and are quietly effective at running their own lives. These people enjoy freedom from role definitions in which they must behave in certain ways because they are parents, employees, Americans, or even adults; they enjoy freedom to breathe whatever air they choose, in whatever location, without worrying about how everyone else feels about their choices. They are responsible people, but they are not enslaved by other people’s selfish interpretations of what responsibility is. Freedom is something you must insist upon. As you read through this book, you will become aware of what at first may appear to be meaningless trifles of victimization imposed by others, but which are really efforts to seize your strings and to pull you in some direction that will end your freedom, however briefly or however subtly. You choose freedom for yourself when you begin to develop a whole system of non-victim attitudes and behaviors in virtually every moment of your life. In fact, liberation, rather than slavery to circumstances, will become an internal habit when you practice freedom-commanding behavior.
Perhaps the best way to achieve freedom in your life is to remember this guideline: Never place TOTAL reliance in anyone other than yourself when it comes to guiding your own life. Or, as Emerson said in Self-Reliance, “Nothing can bring you peace but yourself.” In working with clients for many years, I have often heard the following kinds of laments: “But she promised me that she would come through, and she let me down.” “I knew I should not have let him handle this matter, especially when it meant nothing to him and everything to me.” “They let me down again. When will I ever learn?” These are the mournful regrets of clients who have allowed others to victimize them in one way or another, and consequently to encroach on their own freedom. All this talk about freedom is not to imply that you should in any way isolate yourself from others. On the contrary, non-victims are most often people who love having fun with others. They carry themselves in uplifted, gregarious manners, and they are more secure in their relationships because they refuse to let their lives be run by manipulators. They do not need surliness or argumentative stances, because they have learned to feel from within that “this is my life, I experience it alone, and my time here on Earth is very limited. I cannot be owned by anyone else. I must be ever alert for any efforts to take away my right to be myself. If you love me, you love me for what I am, not for what you want me to be.” But how can such “healthy freedom” be pulled out of a past full of victim habits cultivated by the very victimizing tendencies of your society and your past?
GETTING OUT OF YOUR VICTIM HABITS
As a child you were often victimized simply by virtue of your stature within your family. Your strings were being pulled constantly, and while you complained privately, you also knew there was very little you could do to take control. You knew you couldn’t support yourself, and that if you didn’t go along with the program outlined by the big people in your life, there were very few acceptable alternatives available to you. All you had to do was try running away from home for twenty minutes to see how helpless you were on your own. So, you went along, and you learned to accept your reality. In fact, having others dictate to you was a very sensible arrangement, since you really were incapable of carrying out any alternate “fantasies.” And while you worked at attaining some independence, you were often content to let others do your thinking and life-directing for you. As an adult, you may still be carrying many left-over habits from childhood, which made some practical sense then, but which set you up as an easy victim now. You may find yourself bulldozed by a “big person,” and may have become so accustomed to taking it that you still let it happen, simply out of habit. Getting out of your victim traps involves, above all, developing new habits. Healthy habits are learned in the same way as unhealthy ones, through practice— after you have become aware of what you are going to practice. While you don’t always have to have your own way in everything you do, you can at least expect not to be upset, immobilized, or anxious about anything that goes on in your life. By choosing to eradicate your internal upsets, you’ll eliminate one big victim habit which is always self-imposed. Eliminating victim traps in which you are held and controlled by others, or in which you are unnecessarily frustrated about the way your decisions are turning out, involves a four-part program of (1) learning how to size up your life situations, (2) developing a strong set of non-victim expectations and attitudes, (3) becoming aware of the most prevalent kinds of victimization in your life and in our culture, and (4) creating a set of principles which will guide you to detailed strategies for acting out a philosophy of life based on the unalterable notion that you are not going to become a victim. Numbers 1, 2 and 3 are briefly explored in this opening chapter. Number 4 is dealt with in the remaining chapters, which present successive guidelines for taking on your new non-victim stance.
SIZING UP YOUR LIFE SITUATIONS
Sizing up any potentially victimizing situation before you decide what to do about it is crucial to becoming a non-victim. Whenever you are about to enter into a social interaction, you must have your eyes wide open, so you can avoid being done in even before a possible drama of victimization has begun to unfold on you. Sizing up your situation means being alert and developing a new kind of intelligence which just naturally keeps you from being abused. It means assessing the needs of the people with whom you will be dealing and anticipating what course of action will be best for you in attaining your own objectives—one of which should be getting along with people who are willing to respect where you stand. Before you even open your mouth or approach someone in a situation in which you could become a victim, you can forecast the kinds of victimizing behavior you might encounter. Effective “sizing-up” is crucial if you are to avoid circumstances which trap you into self-forfeiting actions. For example, George is returning a defective pair of pants to the department store. He sizes up the clerk as surly and harassed. George is interested only in getting his money back, and not in an unpleasant encounter with a tired or angry salesperson. He knows that once he has had an unpleasant or, worse yet, unsuccessful encounter with the salesperson, he will find it much harder to persuade the manager, since he won’t want to overrule the clerk, whose job is stubbornly to enforce the store’s “no returns” policy. The clerk in turn may be a prime victim himself who has done nothing but enforce the company line on a policy he is paid to uphold. So, George simply goes straight to the boss, whose job it is to make exceptions to policy if he absolutely must. George may end up asking loudly if it is the store’s policy to victimize its customers, but if he plays his cards right, in all likelihood he will get his money back, and never have to resort to any crass behavior. The final chapter of this book deals with many typical everyday circumstances like this, and presents both victim and non-victim approaches to dealing with them. Sizing up life situations means not only keeping your eyes open, but also having a set of plans and carefully carrying them out. If your initial plan, Plan A, fails, then you should be dispassionately able to shift into Plan B, Plan C, etc. In the case above, should the manager refuse to cooperate in refunding George’s money, then he can shift into Plan B, which might involve talking to the owner, or writing a letter to the management echelons, or perhaps raising his voice (without becoming immobilized by anger), or faking extreme anger, or crying out loud, or staging a nervous breakdown right in the store, or pleading, or anything else. Whatever your plan, you never invest your own self-worth in its ultimate success or failure. You simply shift gears when necessary, without becoming emotionally tied up. George’s goal is simply to get his refund. Yours might be to obtain your tickets or have your steak cooked the way you want it. Whatever the goal, it is just something you want to accomplish, and whether you fail or succeed on a given day is no indicator of your own worth or happiness as a person. Sizing up life experiences will be easier if you keep a sharp ear cocked for your own use of words and phrases, either in your private thoughts or in your speech, which almost always warn that you are asking to be victimized. Here are some of the more common ones you will have to trade in for better thoughts if you are serious about removing yourself from the victim column.
• know I’m going to lose. This kind of mind-set will almost always guarantee you a place on anybody’s tally sheet of available victims. If you decide to believe that you’ll “win” what you deserve, you won’t tolerate the thought of losing.
• I get upset whenever I have to confront someone. If you expect to be upset, then you will seldom disappoint yourself. Change this to, “I refuse to let someone else cause my upset, and I’m not going to upset myself.”
• The little guy never has a chance. You are not a little guy unless you believe you are. This kind of thinking shows you have put yourself on the losing side against the person you have made into a big guy. Go into every situation expecting to attain your goals.
• I’ll show those bastards that they can’t dump on me. This may sound tough, but with this kind of attitude you will almost always lose. Your goal is not to show anyone anything, but to get whatever concrete benefit a victimizer is trying to do you out of. When you make your goal to “show them,” you are already letting them control you. (See Chapter Five on being quietly effective.)
• I hope they won’t get mad at me for asking. Your concern about them “getting mad” shows you are once again under their control. Once people know you are intimidated by their anger, they will use it to victimize you whenever it will work.
• They’ll probably think I’m stupid if I tell them what I did. Here you have made someone else’s opinion of you more important than your opinion of yourself. If you can be manipulated by others because they know you don’t want to be thought of as stupid, they’ll almost always give you the “you’re stupid” look to victimize you.
• I’m afraid I’ll hurt their feelings if I do what I want. This is another tack that will almost always end up with you carrying the dirty end of the stick. If others know they can manipulate you by having their feelings hurt, that is precisely what they will do whenever you get out of line or declare your own independence. Ninety-five per cent of hurt feelings are strategy on the “hurtee’s” part. People will use their hurt feelings over and over on you if you are gullible enough to buy it. Only victims run their lives on the premise that they must always watch out for others’ getting hurt feelings. This is not a license to be obstinately inconsiderate, but simply a basic understanding that people generally stop having hurt feelings when they realize that those feelings can no longer be used to manipulate you.
• I can’t handle this alone: I’ll get someone who isn’t afraid to do it for me. Reactions like this will teach you nothing and will positively hamper you in building your non-victim personality. If you let others fight your battles for you, you’ll just get better at evading your own fights and reinforce your fear of being yourself. Moreover, when other people who are good at victimizing find you are afraid to confront your own challenges yourself, they’ll simply bypass your “big brother” the next time and impose on you again and again.
• They really shouldn’t do this, it’s not fair. Here you are judging things by the way you would like the world to be, rather than the way it is. People simply will act in unfair ways, and you’re not liking it, or even complaining about it, will do nothing to stop them. Forget your moralistic assessments about what they shouldn’t be doing, and instead say, “They are doing this, and I am going to confront it in the following ways to make sure they won’t get away with it now and don’t try it again.”
These are just a few very common kinds of self-victimizing thoughts that will lead you down the path of personal ruin. By sizing yourself and your culture up, you can (1) anticipate effectively, (2) eliminate self-doubts, (3) implement plans A, B, C, etc., (4) steadfastly refuse to be upset or immobilized at the progress you are making, and (5) persevere until you have emerged with what you were seeking. Be assured that you will be well on your way to eliminating at least seventy-five per cent of your victimization by adopting this strategy, and for the rest of the time, when you simply cannot attain your goals, you can learn from your behavior and get on with avoiding impossible circumstances in the future. At no time do you have to be hurt, depressed, or anxious when things don’t go the way you would prefer, because that is the ultimate victim-reaction.
Generally speaking, you will become what you expect to become, and you will become a non- victim only when you stop expecting to be victimized. To do this you must begin to develop an attitude of expecting to be happy, healthy, fully functioning, and not abused, based on your real capabilities, and not on some ideal of your potential foisted on you by victimizing people or institutions. A good start is to consider four broad and critical areas in which you may have been taught to underestimate your capabilities.
YOUR PHYSICAL CAPABILITIES If you as an adult with good judgment can truly expect to be able to accomplish something with or through your body, virtually nothing can stand in your way; and in extreme situations, your body may reveal capabilities that verge on the “superhuman.” Dr. Michael Phillips, writing in Your Hidden Powers, tells of an “elderly lady who was travelling with her son across the state by car. At one point in a fairly remote desert region, the car ran into difficulties and the son jacked it up and crawled underneath. The jack slipped and the car fell and pinioned him to the hot tarmac. The woman could see that unless it was removed from his chest, her son would suffocate within minutes.” The woman had no time for expectations of not being strong, or failing, and as Dr. Phillips tells it, “Almost without a moment’s thought, she grabbed the bumper and held the car up long enough for him to crawl out. As soon as he was clear of the vehicle, her sudden strength disappeared, and she dropped the car back on the road. To have achieved such a feat meant that for at least ten full seconds she had lifted several hundred pounds; no small feat for a woman of less than 125 pounds.” There are countless stories of such accomplishments. But the key to understanding them is that you can perform seemingly superhuman tasks when you expect to, or when you don’t stop to believe that you can’t do it. You can avoid being victimized by your attitudes or expectations about your own physical health. It is possible to work at not expecting to have colds, influenza, high blood pressure, backaches, headaches, allergies, rashes, cramps, and even more serious illnesses such as heart disease, ulcers, and arthritis. Or you can say right now, as you read these paragraphs, that I am wrong, and you simply cannot help it. And my response to you is, What are you defending? Why should you go on defending those things as only natural, when as a result your own defense system will make you ill or immobilized? What are your payoffs in defending such an attitude? Just begin to think that if you stopped expecting ill health in your life, if you began seriously to change your expectations, maybe, just maybe, some of it would go away. And if it doesn’t work for you, then all you’ll have is exactly what you have now— sickness, headaches, colds, etc. As a very wise man once said, “Instead of biting off my finger, look to where it’s pointing.” Your own attitudes can become the greatest medicine in the world, if you learn to make them work for you, rather than in the self-defeating fashion that is so typical in our culture. Dr. Franz Alexander, writing in Psychosomatic Medicine, Its Principles and Application, talks about the power of the mind: “The fact that the mind rules the body is, in spite of its neglect by biology and medicine, the most fundamental fact which we know about the process of life.”
YOUR MENTAL CAPABILITIES One of the most alarming research projects ever done in public education shows the danger of letting outside forces limit your expectations for learning achievement. In the 1960s a teacher was given a roster showing the actual I.Q. test scores of the students of one class, and for another class, a roster in which the I.Q. column had been filled in with the students’ locker numbers. The teacher assumed that the locker numbers were the actual I.Q.s of the students in the second class, and so did the students when the rosters were posted at the beginning of the semester. After a year it was discovered that in the first class the students with high actual I.Q. scores had performed better than those with low ones. But in the second class the students with higher locker numbers scored significantly higher than those with lower locker numbers! If you are told you are dumb and let yourself believe it, you will perform accordingly. You will be victimized through your own low expectations, and if you convince others as well, then you are in double jeopardy. There is a genius residing in you, and you can expect to let its brilliance surface, or you can think of yourself as unfortunately ill- equipped by nature in the whole gray-matter area. Once again, the emphasis is on what you expect from yourself. You can believe it’s going to be difficult to learn something new, and you’ll find yourself experiencing the difficulty you predicted. You can expect never to learn a foreign language, for instance, and sure enough, you won’t. But in fact, the storage capacity of your grapefruit-sized brain is staggering—conservatively estimated at ten billion units of information. If you want to find out what you do know, Michael Phillips suggests this little exercise. “Suppose that you sat down with paper and pencil to write out everything you remembered, including names of people you know or have heard about, experiences from childhood on, plots of books and films, descriptions of jobs you’ve held, your hobbies, and so on.” But you’d better have a lot of time for proving this point to yourself because, as Phillips goes on to say, “If you wrote 24 hours a day, you’d be at it for an estimated two thousand years.” Your built-in memory potential alone is phenomenal. You could train your mind, without much exercise, to remember all the phone numbers you use in a given year, to remember 100 names of strangers introduced at a party and recall them for months afterward, to describe in detail everything that happened to you in the past week, to catalog all the objects in a room after a five-minute visit, and to memorize any lengthy list of random facts. You are indeed a powerful person when it comes to using your brain and mental powers, but you may have a different set of expectations for yourself, which comes out in the following kinds of self- victimizing ways: “I’m really not very smart.” “I never could remember names, numbers, languages, or whatever.” “I’m not good at mathematics.” “I’m a slow reader.” “I never could figure out these puzzles.” All the above kinds of statements reflect an attitude that will keep you from achieving anything you might like to accomplish. If you traded those statements in for expressions of confidence and the belief that you can learn to do anything you choose, you would not end up the victim in a painful game of “one-downmanship” with yourself.
YOUR EMOTIONAL CAPABILITIES You have just as much of an inherent capacity for emotional genius as you do for physical and mental excellence. Once again, it all depends on what kind of expectations you have for yourself. If you expect to be depressed, anxious, afraid, angry, guilty, worried, or to suffer any of the other neurotic behaviors that I detailed in Your Erroneous Zones, then you will make these conditions regular parts of your life. You will justify them with self-sentences such as, “It’s only natural to be depressed,” or, “It’s only human to get angry.” But it is not only human; it is only neurotic to botch up your life with emotional trauma, and you can stop expecting these kinds of reactions from yourself. You don’t have to have these erroneous zones in your life if you begin to live minute to minute and challenge some of the claptrap that many psychological mental-health workers spout. You are what you choose for yourself, and if you stop expecting emotional upset and instability, you will begin to take on the characteristics of a fully functioning person.
YOUR SOCIAL CAPABILITIES If you see yourself as clumsy, gauche, inarticulate, fumbling, shy, introverted, and so on, you have unsocial expectations which will be followed by appropriately unsocial behavior. Similarly, if you categorize yourself as lower, middle, or upper class, then you will very likely adopt the lifestyle of one class, perhaps for an entire lifetime. If you expect that money will always be hard to come by, your attitude will often obscure any opportunity for changing your financial condition. You’ll be content to watch others improve theirs and call them lucky. If you expect you will not find a parking place if you drive into the city, then you will not really look for one, and sure enough, you’ll be able to say, “I told you we shouldn’t have come into the city tonight.” Your expectations for how you’ll function in your social structure will largely determine what your life will be like. Think rich if money is what you want for yourself. Begin to picture yourself as articulate, creative, or as anything else you want to be. Don’t be discouraged by a few initial letdowns; simply see them as learning experiences and get on with living. The worst thing that can happen to you for having a new set of social expectations is that you’ll stay where you are—and if you’re there already, why not expect to be someplace better?
SOME TYPICAL VICTIMIZERS
Once you have begun to adjust your expectations to fit your real capabilities, you will have to deal with victimizers who keep you from fulfilling them. While it is possible to allow yourself to be victimized by virtually anyone in any social setting, some elements in our culture tend to be particularly troublesome. The six categories of victimizers described below will be alluded to in examples throughout the remainder of this book, in much the same way as problems with them crop up in your own daily living.
1. THE FAMILY At a recent lecture I asked all 800 people in the audience to list the five most common situations in which they felt victimized. I received 4000 examples of typical victim situations. Eighty-three per cent were connected with the victims’ families. Imagine, something like eighty-three per cent of your victimization may be due to your ineffectiveness in dealing with family members who end up controlling or manipulating you. And you must be doing the same to them! Typical family coercions cited were: being forced to visit relatives, to make phone calls, to chauffeur people around, to suffer nagging parents, children, in-laws, angry relatives, to pick up after everyone, generally to be a servant, not to be respected or appreciated by other family members, to spend time with ingrates, to have no privacy because of family expectations, and on and on. While the family unit is certainly the cornerstone of American social development, the main institution where values and attitudes are taught, it is also the institution in which the greatest hostility, anxiety, stress, and depression are learned and expressed. If you visit a mental institution and talk with the patients, you will find that virtually all of them have difficulty dealing with various members of their families. It is not neighbors, employers, teachers, or friends who disturbed people have difficulty handling to the point where they have to be hospitalized. It is almost always family members. Here is a brilliant little passage from Sheldon B. Kopp’s latest book, If You Meet The Buddha on The Road, Kill Him! The Pilgrimage of Psychotherapy Patients. It greatly upset the other members of Don Quixote’s family and his community to learn that he had chosen to believe in himself. They were contemptuous of his wish to follow his dream. They did not connect the inception of the Knight’s madness with the deadly drabness of his living amidst their pietisms. His prissy niece, his know-what’s-best-for-everyone housekeeper, his dull barber, and the pompous village- priest, all knew that it was his dangerous books that had filled Don Quixote’s failing mind with foolish ideas and so made him crazy. Kopp then goes on to draw an analogy between the aging Don Quixote and the influence of modern families on seriously disturbed people. Their household reminds me of the families from which young schizophrenics sometimes emerge. Such families often give the appearance of hyper-normal stability and moralistic goodness. What actually goes on is that they have developed an elaborately subtle system of cues to warn any member should he be about to do something spontaneous, something that would topple the precarious family balance and expose the hypocrisy of their over-controlled pseudo- stability. Your family can be an immensely rewarding part of your life, and it will be if you make it that way. But the other side of the coin can be a disaster. If you allow your family (or families) to pull your strings, they can pull so hard, sometimes in different directions, that they tear you apart. Being a non-victim will force you to apply the guidelines of this book most specifically to the immediate members of your family. Family members who feel they own you, whom you feel obliged to defend simply because of a blood relationship, or who feel that they have a RIGHT to tell you how to run your life because of their kinships, must be set straight. I am not encouraging insurrection within your family, but I strongly urge you to work hard at applying non-victim guidelines most strictly with those who will be the least receptive to your independence, that is, your relatives, be they your spouse, ex-spouse, children, parents, grandparents, in-laws of all descriptions, and relatives of every kind, from uncles and cousins to adopted family members. Your non-victim stance in life will be most seriously tested with this large group of relatives, and if you are victorious here, the rest will be a snap. Families are so tough because their members often feel they own each other, as though they’ve invested all their life’s savings in each other, like so many shares of stock—which allows them to employ GUILT when it comes to dealing with insubordinate members who are turning out to be “bad investments.” If you are allowing your family to victimize you, look closely to see if guilt isn’t being used to make you stay in line and be “the way the rest of them are.” Many examples of effective non-victim family behavior are given throughout this book. You must arm yourself with the resolve not to be owned if you are to teach your family how you want to be treated. Believe it or not, they will eventually get the message, begin to leave you alone, and most surprisingly, they’ll respect you for your declaration of independence. But first, dear friend, be warned that they will try every gimmick in their book to keep you as their victim.
2.THE JOB Beyond the coercions of your family, you are very likely to feel victimized by the constraints of your job. Employers and bosses often believe that people who work for them automatically give up their human rights and become chattel. So, you may well feel manipulated on the job and intimidated by supervisory personnel or institutional rules and regulations. You may hate your job itself and feel like a victim because you have to spend eight hours a day doing it. Perhaps you are forced to be away from loved ones because of your job commitments. Maybe you compromise yourself and behave in ways that you would not choose—if you could choose a different job. Perhaps you have trouble getting along with supervisors, or co-workers with whom you disagree. Excessive loyalty to your job—abdicating things like your personal freedom and family responsibilities for it—opens another huge avenue to victimization in job situations. If your job expectations are frustrated or deflated, if you feel victimized by your job and its responsibilities, take some time to ask yourself what you are doing in a job that abuses you as a person. A number of strong myths in the American ethic conspire to victimize you on the job. One is that you must stay at your job no matter what, that you could never get another one if you got fired. The very word makes it sound like you’ve been killed in some vengeful way. Another myth is that it is vocationally immature to change jobs regularly, let alone change careers. Watch out for these kinds of illogical beliefs. If you buy them, they can lead you straight into being a job victim. The gold watch at the end of a fifty- year career with one company is no compensation if you disliked yourself and your job for lo those many years. You are employable in hundreds of vocations. To be effective you cannot feel constrained by your present experience or training but must know that you can do a host of jobs, simply because you are a flexible, enthusiastic, and willing learner. (See Chapter 7 for a more complete treatment of job victimization.)
3. PROFESSIONALS AND AUTHORITY FIGURES People with fancy titles or positions of authority make it easy for you to victimize yourself. Doctors, lawyers, professors, executives, politicians, show-business and sports personalities, etc., have achieved far too inflated a status in our culture. You may find yourself unnerved especially in the presence of “superpeople” who try to victimize you when you need their specialized services. Most patients find it very difficult to talk to doctors about their fees, so they just pay whatever they are billed and console themselves with feeling ripped off. Many face unnecessary surgery because they are too abashed to seek out second or third surgical opinions. The ugly victim-syndrome shows itself again. If you can’t talk to people about what they are charging you for services they are in business to provide, simply because you have elevated them so far above yourself that you cannot imagine their condescending to hear you, then you have set yourself up to be victimized every time you think about buying medical treatment, legal advice, education, etc. By conceding special titles like “doctor,” “professor” or “sir” to these people, you are constantly putting yourself in inferior positions. The only result is that you feel victimized, and may well be victimized, because you cannot deal with them on equal footings. To avoid the victim snares of authority figures, you have to begin seeing them simply as human beings, no more important than you, who perform tasks they have been highly trained for, and for which you are therefore paying very highly. Remember that if anyone ought to be elevated in importance it is the person being served, the one paying the freight. You cannot give any person more esteem than you give yourself and expect to be treated as an equal. If you are not treated as an equal, you are a victim who must look up, ask permission, wait in line, hope for some nice treatment from your supervisor, trust that you won’t be overcharged or done in by someone who won’t discuss his charges, or does so in a patronizingly hasty manner. But all of this happens because you let it happen. Professional or authority figures will respect you if you command their respect, while treating them with courtesy for their professionalism, but never reacting with awe for their “superhuman” status or allowing them to victimize you in any other way.
4. BUREAUCRACIES Institutional machinery is a giant victimizer in our country. Most institutions do not serve people very well but use them in highly depersonalized ways. Particularly abusive are government and non-profit monopolistic bureaucracies such as public Utilities. Institutions like these are complex, multitentacled monsters with endless forms, departments, red tape, and employees who don’t give a damn—or if they do, are as powerless as those they’re trying to serve. You know how involved it can be to attempt to renew a driver’s license or to spend a day in traffic court. You have probably gone through tax-assessment procedures that have taken months or years and involved endless levels of bureaucrats, only to find out you never had a chance in the first place. You know what it is like to have an obvious error in a phone or electric bill corrected. You know too well the vastness of the clumsy machinery involved in getting a computer to stop sending you threatening letters about a bill that never should have been sent. You may also have experienced the long, long lines at unemployment offices, the inconsiderate clerks and the mindless questions and the endless paperwork in quadruplicate, with very little emphasis on what you as a human being are going through. You have heard grizzly stories of people’s dealings with Social Security administrators or tax auditors. You know about our glorified court system, which takes years to adjudicate simple things like divorces, and how passionless the maze of people you deal with about a simple traffic violation can be. The bureaucracies of our world can be deadly for public citizens to handle. Yet they are run by public citizens, who for some reason adopt bureaucratic personalities once they sit behind their desks. You can adopt some strategies against the big victimizers built into bureaucracies, but bureaucracies themselves are exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, to change. You must really be observant to escape their gnashing jaws. The most effective strategy is avoidance whenever possible, that is, refusing even to participate in bureaucracies’ victimizing games. Understand that many people need attachments to institutions in order to feel important. Therefore, you never let yourself get angry. Look at all your dealings with these organizations as challenges which have nothing to do with you. Henry David Thoreau called for “simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand.” But the monsters our society has created in the name of serving the people are the furthest thing from simple. Our bureaucrats would not only scoff at a man who would live at a pond for two years, but would also send him letters and issue him notices about why he couldn’t stay, and insist that he buy fishing, hunting, occupancy, and water-use licenses.
5.THE CLERKS OF THE WORLD If you have spent much time observing how our culture works, you will have noted that by their very job descriptions, many clerks (not all) exist to victimize you in uncountable ways. Often when you confront clerks with complaints, you are just wasting your breath. Clerks are there to see to it that you obey their companies’ policies, to enforce rules and regulations expressly intended to keep you from skirting the prescribed ways of doing things.
Most clerks have no vested interest in treating their clienteles fairly. A clerk who has sold you shoddy goods doesn’t really care if you get your money back, or if you shop somewhere else. Clerks are often doing their jobs if they can keep you from talking to someone who could help you, and besides, they are notorious for taking pleasure in using their companies’ “power” to put you down. Clerks love to say, “That’s our policy, I’m sorry.” “I’m really sorry, but you’ll have to send us a letter.” Or, “Stand in that line.” “Come back next week.” “Just plain go away.” Perhaps the best way to deal with the clerks of the world is always to remember these five words: A CLERK IS A JERK! No, not the person behind the role of clerk; he or she is intrinsically a wonderful, unique, important person, who becomes jerky when turned into a policy enforcer paid to victimize you. Avoid clerks, and deal with people who can be of service to you. If you tell the clerks at a large department store that you’ll never shop there again, do you really think they care? Of course not. They view their job as a take-home salary, and whether you like that store is of very little consequence to them. This is not a sour view at all—why should clerks care? Their very role demands that they not care, and they are paid to keep you from violating policies that would cost their employers money, time or effort. But you don’t have to deal with them, unless you enjoy being victimized.
There’s an old saying, it’s one of the secrets of the universe: I hear and I forget; I see and I remember; I do and I understand.
Compiled and edited by Sam Sadat based on the works of Dr. Wayne Dyer
Tips for avoiding victimization:
- Get all the should’ve, could’ve, and would’ve out of your life. All of that is just a reference to keep you from being effective today. They’re just blame assignors.
- The more you over explain the more you allow others to victimize you. the person doing the most talking is usually the one that’s wrong.
- Silently forgive all the people in your life who you feel victimized you in some way. That’s just such an important lesson to learn and such a powerful tool. As Mark Twain once said;
- Comparison trap is another way you can victimize yourself as well as others attempts to victimize you. Stop telling yourself that you have to be like others. This is one way that you give your strings to somebody else.
- Don’t ever compare your children with others. If you do it to them, they grow up doing it to themselves. Example: Why aren’t you more like brother, sister, etc.?
- Start using sentences that start with “you” instead of “I”. This is a very helpful technique. Starting a sentence with “you” will put the focus back where it belongs. If you start the sentence with “I” you get into a defensive posture where you have to defend yourself.
- Learn the art of the shrug. Instead of defending yourself, you can simply shrug at it and noy try to understand it. We live in a crazy world where everyone thinks they’re right. So, instead of arguing of defending yourself, just shrug and say to yourself they have a right to do what they want and move on.
- Being offended is a choice of being a victim. They’re people going around looking for reasons to be offended. You’re letting someone else’s behavior decide how you’re going to be emotionally. Choosing not to be offended is choosing not to be a victim. Being offended by others allows them to pull your strings by their words or behavior. Everything that you’re against weakens you. Everything that you’re for, empowers you. When they asked mother Treasa if she would march against the war in Vietnam in 1968, she said I won’t. But if you have a march for peace, I’ll be there.
- Arguing is not worth defending. Usually, the person who’s doing the most talking in an argument is wrong. I have a motto that if an argument lasts more than 10 minutes, they’re both wrong!
- Stop explaining yourself. If you continue it, you are allowing others to pull your strings.
- You get treated in life the way you teach people to treat you. Don’t blame them. Take responsibility. Just ask yourself: What have I done the allow them to treat me this way? All the strings that are being pulled by somebody else are really the things you’ve allowed up until now. Make a commitment to your own excellence or to your own non-victim status. You teach others how to treat you by action/behavior, not with words. One the ways people try to do this is by judging rather than accepting things as they are. So, when you judge somebody, you’re really allowing yourself to be victimized by the words, behavior, looks, etc. You allow them to control your emotions. Everything is as perfect as it’s supposed to be. There are no ugly people, pretty people, good, bad, etc. So, don’t judge. Judging others will not define them. It will only define you as a person who needs to judge.
Life Mentoring Forum. May 18, 2021