“What poison is to food, self pity is to life.”~ Oliver C. Wilson
“Self-pity is our worst enemy and if we yield to it, we can never do anything wise in this world.” ~ Helen Keller
What does it mean to victimize yourself? And why would anyone in his or her right mind do such a thing? Unfortunately, people do it all the time and don’t even know they are doing it.
When you experience a negative event in your life, it can be very tempting to dwell on it in your thoughts or tell the story over and over days, months, and even many years later. Each time you do this, you are emotionally right back in the situation. Maybe it was someone who physically hurt you, a tragedy, or emotional pain from the past that you tend to revisit time and again. When you rehash old wounds by telling the story over and over, you reopen them, causing emotional pain. Humans are the only animals on earth that allow themselves to repetitively suffer over and over by the same event. By focusing on when you felt victimized, you are playing the role of the victim once again. This is emotional abuse that you inflict on yourself.
The first time you may be a victim, but the second time you are a volunteer. This is often said about physical abuse when referring to the people who return to harmful situations again and again. When we play the victim, by repeating stories of our perceived victimization we are reinforcing a victim attitude in ourselves. Being a victim will convince you that you are powerless, that life is beyond your control. This is not true. You are only a victim if you believe that you are. You cannot always choose what happens to you in life, but you can choose how to respond to life. Do not play a victim. Take your power back.
If you find yourself caught up in self-pity, immediately bring your awareness back to the present moment. Focus your attention on your physical sensations. Take a deep breath. Actively switch your attention away from thoughts of the past. If you have been in a habit of dwelling on past negative situations, you have not made peace with those situations or the people involved. Until you resolve the issues, they will continue to haunt you. The first step is to stop repetitively verbalizing your past pain to other people.
How do you make peace with your past? It all starts with intent. Begin with the intent that you can and will be able to live a happy life even though some things happened in the past that you wish did not happen. There are many processes for accepting the past and letting the emotions finally flow through you and leave. One of the best I’ve used is journaling. You can get it all out on paper. Write the things that you might never say to anyone else. Then burn it.
Another method is to tell it to God. Pray for peace of mind and the strength to let it go. Or tell it to your dog, cat, plant, or a candle. Get it all out one final time. Allow yourself to feel the emotions, cry, yell, jump up and down, and release the anger, pain, and sadness. Allow the emotions to fully emerge and to finally release themselves from your mind and body.
Then, let it go. Repeat it no more. If it comes across your mind, immediately switch your train of thought and don’t ride that train. Eventually the train will come by less and less, and eventually it won’t even pass by. By focusing less on the past pain, you will be taking its emotional fuel away. This will allow you to recover enough personal power to work on acceptance and forgiveness as time goes on.
Watch what you say about yourself. When you repeat stories of being a victim, express self-pity, or talk down about yourself, you are giving away your personal power and playing the role of the unworthy victim again and again. Remember lesson #12: You are the narrator of your life story.
Be aware of how you talk about yourself. Words can either be empowering or victimizing.
Become aware of how you feel when you repeat stories of victimization. Avoid retelling any story that makes you feel upset or weak. Also, avoid encouraging others to tell their stories of victimization. Avoid saying self-effacing comments, such as, “I’m not good enough, smart enough, or attractive enough.” Don’t victimize yourself!
If there are issues that are emotionally unresolved, please take whatever action is necessary to release the resentment and anger. Don’t be afraid to seek professional help, such as a counselor, a psychologist, group counseling, or spiritual guidance. It is time to resolve any issues that make you feel like a victim so you can move forward into a life of joy and peace.