Empowerment and Victimization - The Power of Choice
By Robert Burney M.A
"As long as we look outside of Self - with a capital S - to find out who we are, to define ourselves and give us self-worth, we are setting ourselves up to be victims.
We were taught to look outside of ourselves - to people, places, and things; to money, property, and prestige - for fulfillment and happiness. It does not work, it is dysfunctional. We cannot fill the hole within with anything outside of Self.
You can get all the money, property, and prestige in the world, have everyone in the world adore you, but if you are not at peace within, if you don't Love and accept yourself, none of it will work to make you Truly happy.
When we look outside for self-definition and self-worth, we are giving power away and setting ourselves up to be victims. We are trained to be victims. We are taught to give our power away.
As just one small example of how pervasively we are trained to be victims, consider how often you have said, or heard someone say, "I have to go to work tomorrow." When we say "I have to" we are making a victim statement. To say, "I have to get up, and I have to go to work," is a lie. No one forces an adult to get up and go to work. The Truth is "I choose to get up and I choose to go to work today, because I choose to not have the consequences of not working." To say, "I choose," is not only the Truth, it is empowering and acknowledges an act of self-Love. When we "have to" do something we feel like a victim. And because we feel victimized, we will then be angry, and want to punish, whomever we see as forcing us to do something we do not want to do such as our family, or our boss, or society."
Codependence and recovery are both multi-leveled, multi-dimensional phenomena. It is very easy for me to write hundreds of pages about any single aspect of codependence and recovery what is very difficult and painful is to write a short column. No facet of this topic is linear and one-dimensional, so there is no simple answer to any one question - rather there are a multitude of answers to the same question, all of which are True on some level.
So in order to facilitate writing a short column on this month's topic, I am going to make a brief point about two dimensions of this phenomena in relationship to empowerment. These two dimensions are the horizontal and the vertical. In this context the horizontal is about being human and relating to other humans and our environment. The vertical is Spiritual - about our relationship to the God-Force. Codependence is at it's core a Spiritual disease and the only way out of it is through a Spiritual cure - so any recovery, any empowerment, depends upon Spiritual awakening.
Now that said, I will write this column about the other dimension.
On a horizontal level empowerment is about choices. Being victimized is about not having choices - about feeling trapped. In order to start becoming empowered in life it is absolutely vital to start owning our choices.
As children we were taught that it is shamefully bad to make mistakes - that we caused our parents great emotional pain if we were not perfect. So as adults most of us went to one extreme or the other - that is we tried to do it perfect according to the rules we were taught (get married, have a family and career, work hard and you will be rewarded, etc.) or we rebelled and broke the rules (and usually became conformists to the anti-establishment rules). Some of us tried going one way and then, when that didn't work, turned around and went the other.
By going to either extreme we were giving power away. We were not choosing our own path we were reacting to their path.
Integrating the Spiritual Truth (the vertical) of an unconditionally Loving God-Force into our process is vital in order to take the crippling toxic shame about being imperfect humans out of the equation. That toxic shame is what makes it so hard for us to own our right to make choices instead of just reacting to someone else set of rules.
Recovery from codependence is about balance and integration. Finding the balance of taking responsibility for our part in things while also holding others responsible for their part. The black and white perspective is never the truth. The truth in human interactions (the horizontal) is always somewhere in the gray area.
And we always have a choice. If someone sticks a gun in my face and says, "Your money or your life!" I have a choice. I may not like my choice but I have one. In life we often don't like our choices because we don't know what the outcome is going to be and we are terrified of doing it 'wrong.'
Even with life events that occur in a way that we seemingly don't have a choice over (being laid off work, the car breaking down, a flood, etc.) we still have a choice over how we respond to those events. We can choose to see things that feel like, and seem to be, tragic as opportunities for growth. We can choose to focus on the half of the glass that is full and be grateful for it or to focus on the half that is empty and be the victim of it. We have a choice about where we focus our minds.
In order to become empowered, to become the co-creator in our lives, and to stop giving power to the belief that we are the victim, it is absolutely necessary to own that we have choices. As in the quotation above: if we believe that we "have" to do something then we are buying into the belief that we are the victim and don't have the power to make choices. To say "I have to go to work" is a lie. "I have to go to work if I want to eat" may be the truth but then you are making a choice to eat. The more conscious we get about our choices, the more empowered we become.
We need to take the "have to"s out of our vocabulary. As long as we reacting to life unconsciously we do not have choices. In consciousness we always have a choice. We do not "have to" do anything.
Until we own that we have a choice, we haven't made one. In other words, if you do not believe that you have a choice to leave your job, or relationship, then you have not made a choice to stay in it. You can only Truly commit yourself to something if you are consciously choosing to do it. This includes the area that is probably the single hardest job in our society today, the area that it is almost impossible not to feel trapped in some of the time - being a single parent. A single parent has the choice of giving their children up for adoption, or abandoning them. That is a choice! If a single parent believes that he/she has no choice, then they will feel trapped and resentful and will end up taking it out on their children!
Empowerment is seeing reality as it really is, owning the choices you have, and making the best of it with the support of a Loving God-Force. There is incredible power in the simple words "I choose."