There are going to be people who warn you against a “victim mindset.”
They’ll tell you not to “define” yourself by having been victimized by trauma.
They’ll tell you that to focus on your trauma every day is to stay “stuck” in it.
And they’ll VERY often tell you to “take responsibility” for your life.
For them, “taking responsibility” seems to mean NOT accepting, in any way, shape, or form, that you’ve ever been powerless— or that you are currently powerless over certain things.
Trauma survivors very often get lectured about this “victim mindset.”
If you acknowledge in public that you have survived trauma— even just the fact of it— you’ll very likely be told by SOMEONE to “quit playing the victim.”
Let me tell you something about trauma survivors: as a group, they are absolutely NOT inclined to “play the victim.”
One of the big tasks of recovery is to get REAL about how much control we DIDN’T have once upon a time— and how much control we DON’T have right now over certain symptoms and situations.
That’s not a “victim mindset.” That is reality.
We don’t acknowledge our LACK of control or our essential powerlessness over certain things, past and present, for the purpose of “wallowing” or “staying stuck.”
We acknowledge these things because if we’re going to get REAL about what we CAN influence and HOW we can influence them, we can’t be kidding ourselves about “taking responsibility” for things we aren’t or weren’t responsible for.
One of the things that keeps some trauma survivors stuck is a refusal to give up the fantasy that we can control everything, or that we were responsible for what happened to us.
As long as we hang on that that fantasy, we can’t design a realistic recovery— because we’re not dealing with reality.
Mind you: there are ABSOLUTELY some people out there who DON’T want you dealing with reality.
They WANT you feeling ashamed of your past experiences and your current symptoms— because you’re easier to control in that state.
If “they” can convince you that what happened to you then is your fault, and the symptoms you’re experiencing now are the result of you “not trying hard enough” to heal, they know you’re infinitely more vulnerable to sales pitches and compliant with behavioral requests.
The culture absolutely uses victim blaming to manipulate us emotionally and control us behaviorally.
The truth is, the past happened. And it affected us exactly how it affected us. We’re experiencing exactly what we’re experiencing.
Denying and disavowing what happened or what we’re experiencing isn’t “empowerment.”
Once we can straightforwardly accept that we are where we are, that we’re dealing with what we’re dealing with, that we can’t wave a magic wand called “personal responsibility” and suddenly be “in control” of overwhelming symptoms and memories…that’s when our REAL recovery can begin.
Step One of the Twelve Step recovery tradition is all about copping to our own powerlessness. It’s about admitting that we are struggling with EXACTLY what we are struggling with— that we don’t have the option of NOT struggling with it.
The reason why Step One IS Step One is, there really isn’t ANY recovery work that can be done in a state of denial.
The culture, and some people, WILL try to bully you into “accepting responsibility” for situations and symptoms that will only make you feel helpless and hopeless if you buy into that expectation.
Over time we CAN influence our symptoms, and we CAN change not the facts of our past, but our RELATIONSHIP with those facts.
But to do ANY of that we need to be crystal clear that identifying trauma recovery as the main project of your life ISN’T about “staying stuck.”
We commit to recovery precisely because we DON’T want to stay stuck— especially not the kind of “stuck” that is enabled by the fantasy that victimization is a “mindset,” rather than a fact that must be dealt with.