allowing yourself to be a victim

As an empath with a very high level of self-consciousness and a near hyper-awareness of the world around me – with all its energies – I spent a great deal of my childhood feeling sad for myself. There were always reasons, many of which I fervently reported on in pages upon pages of my giant, collage-covered, hard-back diaries that I stated at an early age. Although my home life was postcard-perfect, and I was blessed with loving parents who offered me the best of everything, especially nourishing love, it was as if I was carrying another world inside me. I would journal that so-and-so doesn’t want to be my friend, the boy I am in love with doesn’t like me, I wasn’t given the role I wished for in the school play because the girl who got it is prettier than me, I’m terrible at maths and my teacher thinks I’m an idiot… and so the list of my demises went on, replete with melancholy to depressive analysis regarding my terrible luck, and how lacking I was in so many areas. Mind you, at the same time my sadness was an energizing force for my creativity – I retreated into a world like all the depressive, alcoholic writers I’d read about – Ernest Hemingway, F.Scott Fitzgerald, Sylvia Plath, Dorothy Parker – and spent my days writing poetry, plays, stories and later even jazz songs.

At university, I began to blossom – meeting more like-minded friends, despite our pretty enormous in some cases differences in culture and upbringing, I felt more empowered and upbeat. I experienced my first love, fortunately, a man with a gentle soul who showered me with kindness and affection, and through our sexual relations, I grew more into my womanly self. But the sense of victimhood continued to lurk in my depths.

When I started working as a journalist in the city during my early ’20s my self-confidence went up one more notch; I was quickly and quite easily given good positions with a rewarding pay and felt esteemed by both my employers and my colleagues. I had money and no real responsibilities and enjoyed carefree years during which beyond my work which I loved my main concern was hitting the town and discovering myself anew. Perhaps because I felt so carefree, yet still aware that despite a happy-go-lucky lifestyle there was a lot of unresolved stuff inside me, it was around then that I started to be drawn in earnest to searching deeper within myself. I started reading books on psychology, self-help, spirituality, esotericism and the healing arts and started practising yoga. And then I fell in love again, entering an intense relationship that I knew from day one would be nothing like the rosy-tinted-focus first love I’d experienced a few years before. For several years my sense of victimhood started rearing its ugly head – although often not without reason  – yet, I did not actually believe that my ongoing insecurities and feelings of self-pity or that things were not going as I wanted was my way of playing the victim. That was something others did, like a friend of mine who was always, but always complaining about something going wrong – there was literally drama after drama occurring in his life and he was never happy, and I became so fed up with his repertoire that I started to avoid him, as I realised he was perversely enjoying the dramas and I, as his friend had to pay for it by hearing every tragic (and depressing) detail every time we met.

As I started delving deeper into the healing arts, what I kept getting from teachers, healers, therapists and writers in various renditions was the message put so perfectly by Eleanor Roosevelt when she said, “no one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” That you are only a victim if you see yourself that way. It made perfect sense, and as it gradually crystallized in my mind I felt freer and stronger. Shakti Gawain was writing about Creative Visualization – how we can visualize what we want, and then “The Secret” came out bringing to the west the mystical truths (and a barrage of other books, healing systems, films and businesses) about the Law of Attraction. That too made perfect sense – I realised that I had been a natural manifester as a child and teenager – making a lot of my technicolour daydreams come true without trying at all, and now I comprehended that this was actually a formula. I saw that had been attracting situations and feelings because that was what I had been dwelling on, visualising, literally creating and drawing the energy of into my life. Just as the shamans ascertain that we dream our world into being, I was both dreaming (there were a lot of great things going on too!) and nightmaring my world into being.

My perspective on myself and life overall started to shift dramatically. I started to see how almost everything – from the thorny interaction I had with the rude taxi driver or the bright mood I woke up with or the job I got offered or the accident I had were all my creation, and thus my responsibility. That everything I was experiencing came from within, from my subconscious programming, from the fears, traumas, dreams and desires that resided deep inside, and basically from how pure the intent was when I was subconsciously setting it and catalyzing it into actuality. So I began to actively work on resolving the conflicts within – the ones between carefree spontaneity and dull calculation, fear and love, pleasure and pain, self-confidence and shame. It was – and still is – an endless process, but every little step is movement in the right direction.

But. I took the concept of rejecting victimhood a little too far. When I heard of other’s misfortunes, of course I felt empathy for them, and hope for them to reclaim their health and happiness again, but a stern little voice inside me, in the disguise of wise, said exactly what I was constantly saying to myself. It interpreted the incident that had put them in a state of victimhood as something that they had not yet worked out, and thus it was manifesting in that painful, or unpleasant or somehow debilitating form. Broke a leg? Maybe you actually needed a break from your workaholic life or overdemanding family, or maybe you’re feeling you can’t move forward in life. Cancer? There must be so much unresolved sadness or anger that has been eating away from you and that you have not been letting yourself heal, release and clear. Earache? There must be something you’ve heard or don’t want to hear that has caused you pain. There was always that thought in me – just like I was over-interpreting everything since childhood in my over-conscious and analytical state I was now doing that with regards to health and life when it came to anything I did or that happened to me that was surprising or noteworthy in either a positive or negative way. This was the message I – and dare I say we – are now being bombarded with by the New Age movement and our commercial society at large, from self-help gurus to advertisers, in a world that is increasingly pushing us to live as isolated individuals. “You can do it for yourself. It’s all up to you. If you buy our product you will look/ smell/feel powerful while doing it yourself, you strong, self-sufficient MF!”

The essential message out there is that suffering does not make you a victim, nor does it make you a perpetrator toward yourself, but it does all come down to your personal responsibility and power. Being a victim is equated with being weak and completely unable to help yourself. It also means that you have to ask others for help, which you need to survive, which is a weakness.

There is some valuable truth in these concepts, but fanaticism will fail anyone. Yet it wasn’t until recently when I experienced not one but a handful of life’s greatest stresses that I developed a fresh outlook. A wonderful spiritual teacher to whom I was relating my overwhelming problems at the time said I had been very “stoical”, and that this was a strength but that it wasn’t necessarily good for me. The word stoical brought to my mind my father and other strong men I have known, and I felt the word was transfused with a male energy, serving as a paradigm for survival that had infiltrated my being: stoicism = strength. This was the first step toward me having a huge realization regarding victimhood.

The second and final one came when I was having a Coactive© Coaching session during which the coach asked me how things were going in my life. In an as non-complaining or pathetic voice as I could muster, I listed all the challenges that I was facing at the time. There was a silence as she regarded me with surprise and compassion. I felt uncomfortable because after naming all the things I’d been facing I had started to feel quite deeply sorry for myself. “I don’t want to sound like a victim,” I finally said in the spirit of honesty, “but it’s been bloody hard!” She looked at me and gently smiled. “Well, what’s wrong with being a victim?” she asked. “And what does it mean to you to be a victim?” Momentarily I was stunned. I thought hard but could only come up with my well-structured schpiel, the carefully constructed belief system I had been so staunchly living by for so many years. “Well, being a victim means that I’m not taking responsibility for yourself!” I said, “it means I am not in control of myself or my life! That I’m a bit pathetic. Or that I’m blaming other people or circumstances for my own incapability to cope…” There, that was a thorough enough definition, I thought, of the atrocity known as ‘being a victim’. “And what does ‘not coping’ mean?” she asked. What an obvious question, yet so very difficult to answer for some funny reason. “Well,” I began, “as I said, spiralling out of control of my own life, feeling a mess, and basically feeling sorry for myself!” And then she said something that was one of the biggest lessons I have ever learned so far, the lesson to which I have dedicated this article: “But those are things that you are actually experiencing right now. Painful, difficult things. Life-changing things. And you are suffering a lot…Anyone would, it’s normal! There is nothing wrong with being a victim, or letting yourself feel sorry for yourself.”

As she said that, something inside my heart opened, like the door in a dark house swinging open and letting in the sea breeze and blazing sunshine. As Rumi wrote, “wound is the place through which the light enters”. By acknowledging my wounds and letting myself feel heartfelt self-compassion, I could finally allow it to heal. Yes, I suddenly thought, I can permit myself to feel my bottomless sadness; to feel sorry for myself. I have been through, and I am going through a lot of turbulence and pain. It hurts. It simply is. I am a victim of my circumstances, why they were created is a different story that can be explored through time.

We always talk about our inner child, and how important it is to care for it. Would I say to my son that he was acting like a victim because he simply grazed his knee and ended up having a big cry over it? Of course not, he needs to cry – it’s one of his ways of expressing and releasing emotions. It’s all about balance – neither is it helpful to overindulge in the concept that by taking responsibility for our self we cannot define our self as a victim, nor in the idea that victimhood is an OK state to be in on a general level. But to allow myself to say, ‘Poor me, I’m feeling so much confusion, instability, uncertainty – fuck! This is so hard and I don’t deserve this!’ is OK. And that’s when after years of not crying, I began to cry me a river. Tears would come over me unexpectedly; I wept while washing the dishes, walking on the street, talking on the phone, sitting at my computer. I kept remembering my first shamanic teacher who told me that crying is cathartic, natural and healthy, but as soon as one starts to think of things while crying, one must stop right there, because then it becomes a dramatic intellectual play in the mind, not the release of real emotion from the soul. All the sadness pouring out was making me a wreck. It had been so much easier when I wasn’t a victim!

But time heals the heart, as do long chats with the loving friends and family who like angels have been beside me every day just an email or phone call away, often reaching out to me, checking up on me. When you accept that you are a victim, you can reach out for help. I realized that it’s OK to accept help from others. Gradually the tears started to get less, and my sleep started to be deeper, and one day I found myself actually able to smile – not grimace – at myself in the mirror. Of course I – like you – am never going to stop being vulnerable in some way or other. Self-compassion, true self-compassion without the need to interpret, analyse, justify or explain the pain we are going through is so crucial. That’s the only way you can give yourself a real hug and say ‘I love you so much, you can be exactly as you are with me, and when you are ready, I will do my all to help you heal. And you will! When you are ready. First, let yourself be broken, and cry.’

working it out

Travelling

I have been venturing into a new realm – one that I have stood around and outside of for many years, but never officially entered to seek a place in for myself; it’s the World of Wellness. Honouring a feeling that has been alive in me since early childhood, I have decided to be true to my heart – by trying as best as I can to live my life by doing the things I love, things that will be meaningful to me and to others, things that can create a positive change in the world, rather than just prioritising the need to earn a buck or two.

It’s pretty hard – especially as I am currently out of a regular job, while living in a country where wealth and work are elusive and overtaxed, and I am thus not as able yet as I usually am to help support my family, and myself. Ever since I finished my MA some 20 years ago, I never stopped working. In journalism. I’ve always found ways to live life to the fullest – travelling, experiencing things that drew me, manifesting my passions in what I did, but always staying within a certain realm. My last job was prestigious, a position at a leading business that I had literally wished hard for several years earlier. It was practically handed to me on a silver platter – but I was living quite unhappily trying to live up to standards that made no real sense to me and in fact drained me of the creativity, adventure and purpose that have always felled me. It was no one’s fault, it was just not right for me. It was a perfect place for someone who needed that kind of placement, and that someone wasn’t me.

When that job ended quite suddenly, I was momentarily hurt and scared, but deep down somewhat thankful, because I would never have had the courage to leave a position like that during a financial crisis and as a mother.  Now I had the opportunity to try to start again, afresh, to seek ways to live life in a more meaningful way, more rewarding and true to who I am. In a way that could actually honour my being in this world, and my purpose here.

Working does not have to be one way or another – what working means, in essence, is applying one’s skills, education, expertise and abilities and time to a certain job at hand, to create a result and hopefully earn a rewarding pay. For me, working has always been something that requires focus, energy, commitment, loyalty, an innovative outlook, enthusiasm, playfulness, intelligence, seriousness and gall. Importantly, it can be done anywhere. I have never understood or been able to swallow the concept that work should be done in an office.

The way we work is changing and will continue to change – you don’t need to be a psychic or a genius to predict that, (just Google it!) It simply makes no sense to work in offices when you could be working anywhere and in any way you choose, keeping your freedom as an individual while meeting the commitments of your assignments or business perfectly well. Indeed, the freedom to work as we please infuses our efforts with a different vibrancy. More and more visionary business leaders are realizing this, and making changes accordingly, by offering more flexibility and personal reward to their employees and improving the environment and conditions within and around the workplace. Our society, through technology and ideology, inspires us to think and function as individuals who want their needs met, so paying the price by being part of a conformist mass to a professional system makes no sense.

Some say you come to this earth having chosen your parents so you can learn particular lessons, in most cases the most major ones. If that’s true, I have learned a great lesson from my father, a brilliant, highly intelligent, loving and intuitive man who dedicated himself to his job as a highly successful career diplomat, working even on Sundays, offering his all, only to be betrayed by the very system he gave himself to. The betrayal later led him into depression and a state of never being able to fully recover from the fact that he had been so maltreated by the system he had so staunchly believed in. As his daughter, I carried his suffering in my heart, because children do that – they take on their parents’ pain in order to feel close to them and to connect deeply with them, believing on some level that by suffering with them we are helping them carry their burden. I even went through many years of depression that came and went in my teens and until my early 30s, telling myself I was just like my father, until talking with a CBT therapist led me to understand that I could love my father and feel for him without having to actually take on his pain. So I decided to keep all the good stuff – his dedication, his focus, the seriousness with which he applied himself to his work, his wicked, delightfully surreal sense of humour about life – while also enjoying my very own perspective – that work is a part of existence, not life itself, that it is a way to offer as much as to gain – self discovery, money, ways to discover the world.

For years I have known I must honour my dreams and have faith in all of my abilities, talents and powers – as we all should, although we live in a world that encourages us to buy things because we deserve them, but at the same time slyly tells us that we are never going to be enough, or have enough. None of us is a one-trick pony; excellent accountants can sing, chefs can be masters at maths, lawyers can heal with their hands. I have now carved out a new path for myself, and I am praying and hoping that as I walk – sometimes imbued by fear and trepidation – other times with a confident stride – along it, I won’t be led to a stale pond, but to a sparkling beach with crystalline cobalt waters where I can throw my clothes off and dive in, playing like a dolphin.

I am on a new adventure, with this website as my snazzy new vehicle for driving from place to amazing place. I am actively, dedicatedly exploring, learning, and yes, even transforming every day. I have made so many wonderful acquaintances during the last few months, and I feel I can finally communicate with others as my true self. With most people now I find I can talk mainly on a heart level rather than a mind level because I am more true to my intent, I am not trying to be something I am not, perniciously guarding my every word and action, feeling I might get “caught out” for saying or doing the wrong thing. I am in a state of flow – regularly meeting charismatic, high-minded, big-hearted people who, through their work in wellness, sometimes change other’s lives in incredible, empowering ways. Usually they can achieve this great feat because they are good at reminding them that they can heal their self, and that the power to do so comes from within themselves, not from the outside.

I’ve been trying all kinds of interesting experiences in healing – sometimes through actual study in a workshop, other times just through hearing about various techniques, or just observing. Some of these therapeutic experiences and people shake me up or disturb me, perhaps because I am not ready for them or simply because they are just not right for me, while others make the following day, and the day after, and the day after that, infused with an ebullient new energy, a reviving awareness and heartwarming light, even if only in moments of change. I am learning every day, I am dreaming wildly, I am working delicately yet with absolute devotion, I am rediscovering the meaning of words like respect, communication, exchange, vision and success.

I have no idea where this is all taking me, but it’s exquisite, and every day I am thankful. This new way of life transpires in all areas of my being – in the way I am with my child, my partner, my friends, my self. I have a new sense of self-respect, and at the same time appreciation for life. Yet almost every day I am also visited by fat, persistent flies like dread, guilt and shame, that buzz around my head until I manage to swat them away with my intent, (as at least I’ve learned the trick – thoughts only make them stick harder). “What the hell are you doing?!” they ask. “Who do you think you are, trying to change your professional direction like that? Quit the magical thinking!”

MANIFESTO: I have absolute faith that Greece and the world have so much to be discovered in terms of holistic wellness, incredible locations where just visiting restores your faith in life, individuals who are improving lives in the best possible ways, healing methods  from the scientific to the surreal that are proving effective on many levels, businesses that can earn money and at the same time make the world a better place!

And I want to be part of that – to explore, discover, live, create and share it with anyone who will listen. So here’s to staying on track, and making it work. To live life in all my colours and seeing with my heart, and helping others do the same.