When something awful happens in my life, sometimes the only comfort I find is in my self-identification as a victim. After nine years at a well-paying, prestigious job, I was terminated by a new department head. Some of my closest friends have abandoned me at times when I needed them the most. I have been tormented and bullied by executives who did not like me. Close family members have wounded and discarded me. I have been harassed, rejected, blamed and banished by all sorts of people and in all sorts of contexts. On those occasions, the temptation to throw and revel in an all-out Pity Party was too great to resist. At times, I have dragged those closest to me into my parties, drowning them in the over flow of my self-pity and resentment. At other times, I have turned it all inside, punishing myself with food binges and isolation.
Isn’t it strange? That I would take comfort in the idea of myself as a victim? But I do. Do not get me wrong: I have never worn the label, “Victim,” like a badge of honor, and I do not often call myself a victim. But I have played the role, and with relish. It is strangely comforting to go on and on about that thing that just happened to me, and how lousy it was, and how it made me feel. Maybe it is because being the victim makes someone else the perpetrator. Someone or some circumstance – not me – was at fault. I am blameless, innocent. Also, if I am innocent, I have no real responsibility in fixing the situation. The solution, like the problem, is outside of me. Someone else needs to do something about it. Until then, I have leave to wallow.
While I wallow, I am not making a decision about my next steps. I am not seeking wise counsel. I am not praying. I am not confronting my pain and letting it wash over me. I am not being introspective and honest with myself. I am not facing the role I might have played in bringing about what happened. I put all that productive, healing stuff on hold. I delay all the good, instructive material the event has to offer. I sit at my Pity Party with a pint of Ben & Jerry’s and maybe even an unwilling guest, and I hope for something, like peace, to crash it. Some peace comes eventually, but usually at the cost of a lot of time and tears, and words cast into the Universe that are loaded with negativity and angst.
I only recently woke up to the realization that I kind of like being a victim. But victimhood does not serve me. It is like that old, natty sweater you have owned for years. Though it is comfortable, it is stretched, thread bare and full of holes. So it is not really keeping you warm on those cold January nights. You are just holding on to it because … well, just because.
So, I am learning to skip the Pity Party. To give it up. It is difficult, but I can sit with the pain, however it came, and let it wash over me. I can be still and present with it. I can pray, and I can resolve to learn, maybe even to forgive. And when I have enough strength, I can get up and go about the business of recovering.