“People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. Out of their fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar. ”
—Thich Nhat Hanh
In order to put the four practices of Unfear to work we have to first acknowledge the real—and look at how fear works. Since it’s fear that stops us, how can we understand it and address the reality of our human response to the unknown, to stress, and to change? Let’s start by looking at victimhood and the rewards of being the victim.
The Rewards of Victimhood
“One of the fundamental differences between the Victim Orientation and this one [Creator] is where you put your focus of attention . . . For victims, the focus is always on what they don’t want: the problems that seem constantly to multiply in their lives . . . Creators, on the other hand, place their focus on what they do want.” —David Emerald
When we are victimized and tell our story from the perspective of victimhood, we are reaching out for validation, comfort, and help. We all have moments when we feel victimized, whether it is a small thing (I missed the bus; I am doomed to a life of lateness) or a big thing (I was hit by the bus and lost my ability to walk). With both big and small things, we need a chance to process our feelings about the event and the result, and then we need to look at what happened in reality and move on to the future.
If we stay in the victim perspective, there are a number of things it does for us that keep us wanting more.
- Victims get help and sympathy, and deserve to be cared for.
- Victims are justified in feeling angry, helpless, and hopeless, and get to be “right” about their reality.
- Victims are powerful in their suffering.
- Victims do not have to take responsibility for their role in their victimization. It’s someone else’s fault.
Have you ever hung on to being wronged? Have you ever spoken to someone who plays the role of the eternal victim? Not only is this a sad state of affairs for them, but for you as the listener as well! Often the reward for victimhood can be attention, sympathy, or bonding over mutual sadness.
In organizations, we have patterns of victimhood or patterns of empowerment. Take some time and watch your own company patterns; you may be surprised.
Sometimes when we talk about our power, we are rejected by those who wish we would stay in a state of victimhood so they can take care of us, relate to us, or even keep us less powerful in order to feel superior.
To get rid of victimhood, we need to shift our sense of powerlessness to one of empowerment. If we go back to the attributes of resilience, we need to tap our positivity, pro-activity, and reframing in order to get out of a victim stance and into one of action.
Victim Thinking to Power Thinking
Write down a list of anything that you are unhappy with in your work. It could be a new strategy, a colleague you have trouble working with, a policy you don’t like, the hours you keep, anything at all.
To move out of the dis-empowered perspective, for each one of these items, think about your choices—are you willing to accept this reality and move on, or do you need to take action?
The final column is for any next steps. You’ve made the choice…now what are you going to do?
SCENARIO CHOICE (ACCEPTANCE OR ACTION) NEXT STEP