“They” will try to tell you the reason you’re not feeling or functioning optimally is because you’re being “immature.” 

They’ll tell you to “grow up.” 

They’ll tell you that everybody has pain and problems; that yours aren’t unique, and you can’t use your pain or problems to avoid your responsibilities. 

They’ll tell you people who are open about their pain and problems are “attention seeking.” 

They might even tell you that there is a “victim culture” that “celebrates” dysfunction— and that to be excessively in touch with your own pain, or to make recovering from your own pain the centerpiece of your life, is to buy into that “victim mindset.’ 

Yes. “They” will say a lot of things. Chances are MANY of the people reading this have heard versions of ALL of these things— and more. 

The truth is, we live in a culture that is very conflicted about vulnerability, pain, and recovery. 

Many people do not like the fact that anyone can struggle with emotional pain or behavioral dysfunction— so they pathologize it. They “other” it. 

They make believe that emotional pain or behavioral struggles are experienced by people who are somehow, in some way, flawed or otherwise “different” from them. 

It provides “them” with a sense of security. A sense of control. 

It’s an illusion— but it comforts “them,” so they perpetuate it. 

Central to this illusion is the idea that people who suffer— or, at least, people who are expressive about their suffering— somehow “buy into” that pain. 

I’m sure somewhere along the way you’ve been told a version of “you’re only a victim if you let yourself be a victim.” 

As if anyone wakes up in the morning and cheerfully decides to adopt a “victim mindset.” 

“Choose not to be a victim” is a powerful cultural belief— that has discouraged countless people from acknowledging the enormity of what happened to them and the depth of their pain. 

Denial f*cks up recovery something awful. 

I have never met anyone who has aspired to be a victim. 

I HAVE met many, many survivors who have invested ENORMOUS energy in denying and disowning their emotional pain precisely BECAUSE they don’t want to be one of ‘those people.”

It sets the recovery work back months, sometimes even years, if the first hill to climb is accepting that something that badly wounded us, badly wounded us. 

People are not motivated to work on something they fear they’ll be mocked or dismissed for admitting is even affecting them. 

It seems that lately it’s popular to mock and dismiss people who are expressive about their pain or vulnerability as wanting to be unrealistically “coddled.” 

I’ve even seen certain therapists describe the desire to be “coddled” as a widespread problem that is negatively affecting the culture. 

I don’t think the desire to be safely seen, heard, and even cared for, is pathological. 

I think if we deny and disown our wanting to be visible, important, and— God forbid!— held, physically and emotionally, we deny and disown an important piece of our humanity. 

I think if we shame our fellow humans for being expressive about their pain and open about their vulnerability, we erect walls that are really hard to take down later— walls that separate us from realistically meeting our needs and meaningfully connecting with each other. 

“They” are going to say a lot of things. 

It’s not always easy to tune “them” out. They are relentless and their influence in the culture is pervasive. 

We have to work hard to secure the territory inside our head and heart. 

And make no mistake: that is YOUR territory. 

And it IS worth defending. 

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