What Story Are You Telling Yourself?

Written by Alena Gerst, LCSW
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We all have a victim story. Blame can be laid upon not only strangers, but frequently upon parents, partners, friends, teachers, coworkers, neighbors, and even the government for whatever situation brings discomfort.

As a therapist, many of the people I sit with have a story to tell. Often that story boils down to being victimized in some way. This is not to minimize victimhood, but to (first) acknowledge the story behind it, and (second) to find a way to overcome it.

Recently I took a class with Iyengar yoga teacher Tzahi Moskovitz, and he asked the students to notice the difference between position and action. In yoga, all too often we get caught up in whether or not we can attain a specific position:

“I can’t touch my toes, my hamstrings are too tight.”

“I can’t stand on my hands because I have weak wrists.”

“I can’t jump back to Chaturanga, I have bad knees.”

These types of statements do not serve the practitioner. Yes it is important to know your limitations. But the purpose is to prevent injury, and to find a place from which to work (action), rather than to feel badly that you can’t achieve something with your body (position).

The same principle holds true in life. Whatever obstacles you face, there is always some person, entity, or system to blame. The problem with this outlook is it puts you in a powerless position, rather than in a position of action. Ask yourself the following questions when you're feeling vulnerable or ineffective:

Where did this feeling originate?

When you pay careful attention, often you'll feel discomfort somewhere in your body when you tell yourself (or someone else) your victim story. From there, you can further examine when you first started feeling this sensation, and possibly pinpoint the source of your victimhood.

Who does this critical voice remind me of?

Bestselling author Louise Hay went so far as to say, “We are all victims of victims.” We can all recall words of discouragement in our lives, and many people have stories of physical and emotional abuse. No matter how terrible we know these experiences have been, many people can internalize this discouraging or abusive voice. Pinpointing where this voice originated can have a healing effect.

What specific actions can I take today to start feeling less like a victim?

Action originates with an impulse. Do you have an urge to move your body? Sign up for a class? Reach out to someone who seems to be doing what you want to do and ask them for information? Any of these or other actions can be the perfect antidote to counter your victim story.

Just like in yoga, it doesn't matter if some part of your body prevents you from achieving a position. The practice, and ultimately the achievement, lies in the action. As Marcus Aurelius says in his Meditations, “Reject your sense of injury and the injury itself disappears.”

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