You Are Not A Victim; You Are Making A Choice

Often I hear from clients who are in painful situations that they are not ready to leave. They feel powerless but they are not. And this is what I show them. They are in the situation because something they value in the situation outweighs the pain of the situation. When I point this out they find what it is that they value and they feel empowered. They realize that nothing is being done to them; they are at choice.

Here are some examples. (These are generic and not from any client’s specific story):

Bob’s boss, Teri, finds reasons to blame Bob for things that go wrong even when Bob is not responsible. Bob has examined his own behavior in each situation and taken responsibility where it is appropriate. But he’s also learned from other employees who have worked for Teri longer than Bob has that Teri always finds a scapegoat. And now it is Bob. Bob is unhappy and feels powerless. But he doesn’t leave because he needs the income and he has no other job prospects. When it is pointed out to him that he chooses to stay because his desire for the income outweighs the pain of staying Bob feels better. Whenever he is tempted to feel like a victim he reminds himself that he is making a choice and why he is making that choice. This make him feel empowered and he finds he is able to push back in a charge-neutral way when Teri blames him for mistakes that are not his. This has made his job less stressful.

Janelle’s Aunt Betty is a bitter, complaining woman who is never satisfied and never grateful. Betty is elderly and needs a lot of assistance around the home and with errand-running and doctor visits. Janelle is the one in the family who has the time to take care of Betty but she resents this. Betty is very hard to be around. When asked why she takes care of Betty, Janelle thinks about it and says it is because family is important to her. She also does not want to have any regrets when Betty is gone. She wants to be able to look at herself as a “good niece”. It is pointed out to Janelle that she takes care of Betty for herself. After recognizing this, when she is tempted to feel like a victim, Janelle is able to remind herself, “I am doing this for myself. I am doing this because family, no matter how obnoxious, is important to me. I am doing this so that I don’t have regrets later.” She has shifted to feeling empowered about taking care of Betty. Feeling empowered she has also found compassion for Betty, who Janelle now realizes is just a frightened old lady. She still does not enjoy taking care of Betty but she no longer feels powerless.

Krista is unhappy in her marriage to Mark. He is selfish and distant and has no interest in learning and growing to make their marriage better. When asked why she stays she says that if she leaves him her income will be enough to live on but her lifestyle will be greatly reduced. Wavering between staying and leaving has been a very close thing. Until now maintaining her lifestyle only just outweighed the pain of staying in the relationship. When she sees that staying is her choice based on her values she realizes she is not a victim. She comes to the realization that her fear of a lifestyle change is really not greater than the pain of staying in a dead-end relationship. She feels empowered to make the choice to leave.

In any situation in which you are unhappy you are always at choice. The power is yours. You stay because the pain (fear and/or practical considerations) of leaving outweighs the pain of staying. Be honest with yourself. Find what it is that you value more than what you would gain by leaving. Then you will understand your choice, accept it, and feel empowered. Or you will find that what you thought you valued is not really worth more than what you expect to gain by leaving the situation and you will be empowered to act.


(By the way, you can apply this to the question, “Why do I keep going back to ego?” You go back because you think it has something of value for you. You are not a victim of the ego; you are the one making the choice. When you learn that Truth is more valuable you will stop choosing ego.)

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Comments

nicci said…
wow. clarity. choice. relief. thank you. endless Love.
hannah said…
Liz, you told me (on your blog 'the correct use of denial') that while i remained feeling responsible for others, i would take their pain personally. i have been really trying to bring that (feeling responsible for easing pain) to truth a lot, as not only taran but most of my close family and friends now seem to be in some form of very painful crisis. over the last year it has actually become kind of surreal.

and then reading the following

"They are in the situation because something they value in the situation outweighs the pain of the situation. When I point this out they find what it is that they value and they feel empowered. They realize that nothing is being done to them; they are at choice."

i felt guilty, and i realise it is because i must value pain, a lot. and i get that that is the same as valuing the ego, as you say in the last paragraph here. pain keeps the ego 'serious and real'. i do feel like a victim, of my own choice, a victim of my own mind. and i understand that an awareness of truth is the only way to shift from this belief/guilt to inner peace.

what im wondering is, how do i find the feeling of empowerment in that situation? i mean.. i have felt more and more motivated to meditate on/with truth much more often. is that empowerment, even though im basically still feeling increased turmoil rather than greater peace?

ah, ok, that question still stands, but i just realised im having a tantrum! because being at choice, rather than being a victim, does not necessarily mean that any 0f the choices regarding the 'thing/situation' around which i am choosing, will be something my ego actually enjoys. its like.. realising im not a victim, and then choosing the lesser of two 'evils'.
will said…
Hannah,
It's just a voice in your head. It's not you. If it was you, you would have shut it up long ago.
will said…
When you come off alcohol or drugs the mind starts racing. It is so loud and persistent it feels like a hurricane in your head. You feel you may go mad if it doesn't stop. Most people relapse. 12 Step in it's way tells you to step back and look at it. If your lucky you see it for what it is. Just a voice in your head.
will said…
To Add: When you look at the voice you see it is independent of you. There is you and there is the voice. That's when it loses its power over you, at least temporarily.
Anna Poulin said…
Hello, I'm Anna just turned 68... I retired from teaching 3 yrs ago this January. y home is paid off my car is paid off. I was so happy to be free to work at my dream job.. Doula, childbirth educator, health coach..and to pick up on my social life with friends, starting painting, joined three book clubs/spiritual meetings.. especially ACIM.. bought a new bike because I was increasing my bicycle participation in organized rides.. joined an acting group for original plays... ALL of this I have had to give up in order to save my daughter and grandson who is a year now.. so beautiful is he.. and I love them both very much as I should love everyone but not there yet... MY POINT is it is very difficult not to feel like a victim of circumstances that I DID NOT CREATE.. the baby's father is a heroin addict..on Feb 2, 2015 my daughter could no longer stay with this man which she believed would stop using drugs BECAUSE he would convince her he would.. when she WOKE up and saw that he just lied.. she called me to come to Maryland from Houston to help her move ASAP back home.. I also involved my sister from Puerto Rico... she quit her job, gave up her apt., all the furniture ready to be moved.. and the father of the baby rather his well off parents interfered and helped him and paid for all expenses for a lawyer to keep my daughter from leaving the state of Maryland.. I am here because with out me she would sink and possibly lose the baby to the father's family... Yes I chose to stay because I my choice to help my daughter who is alone here and has no family to help her... I chose to be here for them... but it is not a choice I wanted... it was a choice I forced upon myself.. because it was the right thing to do in this "illusion" for now... knowing that does not keep me from having bouts of sadness, and anger not at my daughter or grandson.. never.. but at the situation generated by the baby's father and parents... I have been almost at a point of anger of acting very unkindly and not at all loving.. those thoughts come into my mind and so very tempting to act out on them...but I don't I keep struggling, painfully at times with letting go of the ego thoughts only for them to bounce right back in... cause the situation is not getting better the worse is yet to come ... my daughter's lawyer failed her and this man is getting overnighters with this baby that is still is breastfeeding at the tender age of 15 months... we are struggling to find a way to stop this everyday.. she gets not rest.. I therefore can not get rest either... the father 30 yrs old is working his program to stay clean but he has been a hard core user since 8th grade...in fact, the only saving grace we have is that he relapse... and boy do I wish for that all the time... It would be great to sleep on a bed again.. I been on a couch since March.. no privacy, only one bedroom, no washer and dryer, no full size refrigerator... yes other humans are in worse conditions.. but I worked hard and long to have these things and now they just sit in a house I can't live in because of this situation... So what do I do... NOTHING... I am here and that's that.. all I can do is hope that my decision maker keeps struggling to choose the Holy Spirit... but believe me it feels like just my nose is poking out of the water so deep... Anna
ACIM Mentor said…
Hannah, I doubt you value pain, unless you are a masochist! Or perhaps you feel it is required because you are guilty? You may value you it in that way. But most likely you value something that causes pain in the hopes that one day it will not cause pain anymore.

For a long time I had to accept that I was making a choice that was painful even though I was not able to make the other choice yet. But at least I felt empowered and was not adding to the pain with a story of victimhood. I accepted that I was in a process with no quick fix and that in time I would find my way out of pain. And I did.
ACIM Mentor said…
Anna, as I pointed out in the example of the woman in the bad marriage sometimes the choices are close things. One choice is not much better than the other but you are still at choice. You value something more than the other thing and you make a choice. Sometimes it helps to think of the alternative: "If I made the other choice instead how would I feel about myself?" That's where you find your motivation.

Staying in thoughts about how unhappy you are is also a choice. Now you can make another choice: Ask the Holy Spirit to help you look at your situation differently. Then keep an open mind and see what comes...
hannah said…
liz, thank you. the last paragraph is clear. oh, laugh, and so is the first now. i think! oh, no its not..

when you say

"For a long time I had to accept that I was making a choice that was painful even though I was not able to make the other choice yet."

is that like.. you were unable to make the other choice, because you were still too attached to the self, and didnt have enough of an awareness of truth as true yet to allow for releasing that attachment? because i think thats what i was feeling guilty about when i read that line. im attached to myself, i value.. me, this life, despite the fear, shame, hatred and pain i still experience as me?
ACIM Mentor said…
Hannah, I was unable to make the other choice because guilt was still real to me. In time, as the Truth became more and more real to me, I was able to look at and undo the core guilt.

Let's say you were watching a child play make-believe with her toys. Would you be angry with her? Would you think she should feel guilty? No. You would recognize this is the natural stage of childhood. This is how the HS sees your attachment to the self. It's not going to stand above you and tell you that you are wrong or stupid and that you should be punished for playing make believe. It's going to get on the floor and play with you until It has your trust and can help you "out grow" make-believe, as it were. There's no reason to feel guilty for your attachment to the self and its world.
Anna Poulin said…
OK that makes sense... I would feel much worse if I hadn't come... I wouldn't have enjoyed doing all of the things I mentioned I have left behind to come to help my daughter.. it still doesn't keep me from struggling to not wanting to hurt that man and his family... I do understand that I need to keep on seeking the HS to help me to see things differently... and keep an open mind...

what a lesson to learn.. but I need to.. I want to learn how to forgive... and get on the other side where I see the real world... IN time in good time.. I need to wait it out like you did... thank you
hannah said…
oh LIZ!!!!!!!! laughing out LOUD! oh... joy!

and also laughing an extra bit liz, because the description you have used here has clarified two more dreams, lucky for you i get it already :D

im noticing that the gap i perceive and feel between me and HS diminishes in my mind as guilt drops. ah, thankee x

hannah said…
will, thank you for the reminder and encouragement. i have a younger brother and sister both currently on an addiction recovery program called icebreakers, these are the sort of things that they come back from there having looked at. im going to pass what you said in the last two on, cos i feel inspired to do so, its clear and simple ;) and my own experience has been the same, when ever i stopped smoking pot all the thoughts and feelings id been running from came back with gusto.

but i dont get what you meant in your first comment will? if it was me, i would have shut it up long ago?
Deb Baczewski said…
The analogy of playing make believe has tremendous power of Kindness. Thank you for this gift.

Deb
will said…
Hannah,
I had just put on my counselor hat for a moment. Sometimes we get in emotional pain from all the mental activity. I guess I meant if the mind was you(or us)we would have some control over it, could turn it off and take a break. You are a very smart person Hannah which can be a disadvantage. Things like co-dependency is the ego on steroids. The mind becomes a bully and kind of throws you under the bus. ACIM is leading us towards the Holy Spirit showing us the ego is not us. With that we have freedom. "Stepping back" and looking at the mind is the poor mans ACIM. It gives you some space to take a break from the relentless chatter. Nice haircut by the way.
hannah said…
Deb - ikr, im still laughing at the relief and lightheartedness that analogy brings! so very kind.. theres not even a little whip cracking there!

Will - and liz actually. are you speaking of the personal self rather than mind? mind is where we do have choice? it is the chooser? so like.. turning chatter off and having a break is something we can choose, because mind is what chose the chatter in the first place? but the content of the chatterer we cant choose because it isnt us?? and thanks, by the way!

ACIM Mentor said…
Hannah, yes, you are the mind making the choice to listen to the ego's chatter or not. The chatterer is the ego and it is not you. It chooses what to say based on what it knows will hold your attention.
will said…
Hannah, for me it's best when you are doing this to keep it very simple. It's an easy thing to do. You're not turning the chatterer off, you are just listening to it. As soon as you listen you have stepped back.

The beauty of all this is you see right away the voice is "chattering" without your input or participation. And that is ACIM in a nutshell.
will said…
The whole point of what the Holy Spirit is doing, what ACIM is teaching, is that we are not the ego. When you listen to the "chattering" you see the voice, the ego, as separate from yourself. Instead of being the voice, being Will thinking, you are just looking at something separate from you. Like listening to the radio. You're no longer pretending you are a radio lol!
will said…
When you see the voice is separate from you, all the shame, all the guilt, all the beating yourself up, all of it comes from "thinking your the voice," you're the radio. KEEP IT SIMPLE.
will said…
We have all had the experience when we say to ourselves, "I wish I could stop thinking about this." Maybe you're thinking about a breakup or something. But you can't stop, it just keeps running on and on. That's because it's just a loudspeaker in your head. It doesn't have any controls, it just keeps running and running on its own. That's when you know that the loudspeaker is not you.
will said…
An interesting thing can happen when you realize this inner voice is not you. As you get comfortable with what is going on and you can step back from identifying with the voice you begin to realize the voice has its own agenda. It has a bad habit of saying things that are not always in a person's best interest. The possibilities are endless of what it may come up with. If you believe the voice is you, that it is your identity and you're feeling compelled to automatically do what it says, saying what it is telling you to say, it's not always a great thing. You are not aware that you can step back at any time and tell the voice (your mind) there's no way you are going to listen to it. When we identify with the voice, the mind, we are unaware of the real power we have. We don't have to be a puppet on a string to everything the voice says. If the voice tells us we should be judgemental or angry we just step back and ask it, "What's with you"? Endless fun with yourself­čśü
will said…
The mind in this case being the personal mind, the one in your head.
hannah said…
thank you both very much, will and liz xx

i get what you are saying now will, and it puts new meaning into the elvis song 'please dont drag that string around' which has been somewhat stuck in my head ;)
ES said…
Regarding the advice given in the various hypothetical "Should I stay or should I go?" scenarios above - who can not relate to something similar in their own lives? And no one lays it out better than Liz - anyone with half a brain, some insight and a dash of willingness can begin to apply those decision-making skills to those types of situations - and it still ain't easy.

But for what it's worth - and this is not a quibble - there is no comparison (for me) between those decisions and the decision to go with Truth or stay with the ego (brought up by Liz in the last paragraph). Going with Truth implies you know what you're gonna get, you've been there, you can imagine it easily. I suppose I'll just have to upgrade my willingness and my imagination in order to make the ultimate decision.

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