At any given time you are either being a Victim or being Responsible.
Which one you choose will determine the quality of your life. When you choose to be a Victim, you will create a safe life that is actually full of suffering. When you choose to be Responsible, you create an unsafe life that is abundant in freedom. Let’s explore what I mean by this in more detail.
WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A VICTIM
Essentially, being a victim is defined by believing in an external locus of control. In simpler terms, you believe that the power in a situation is outside of yourself, making you powerless.
There are different forms this Victim mentality can take.
Blame occurs when you try to place cause-and-effect fault for a situation that you associate pain with.
When you blame external situations for your pain, you are being a Victim. You think that the reason you hurt inside is because of something outside of you, despite how impossible this clearly is when you look at it rationally. How can a feeling inside you, generated by your own brain through your own nervous system, be anything other than your own creation?
This used to rule my social life. I was totally “unsuccessful” with women, and instead of asking “What is it I’m doing that contributes to this situation?” I just blamed women for not appreciating what an awesome guy I was. Did this blame help this situation? The answer: not even a little bit. I kept me trapped in unhelpful behaviour and made me feel bitter and resentful toward women.
Even when you blame “yourself”, you’ve externalised the pain. You’ve created a separate fictional entity named “Yourself” and blamed that entity. Even though it sounds like you’re taking responsibility, you’re not, because you have claimed powerlessness over yourself. You have made the rather bizarre claim that you cannot control yourself.
You see this in war, such as Israel vs Palestine, where each side blame each other for their own internal feelings of loss, grief and hatred, built up over years of harmful behaviour both ways. Despite the clear evidence that it is their own hatred which hurts them most, they each see the pain as being caused externally by their “enemies”. If they chose to love their enemies, it would probably only take a few generations’ worth of time to end the conflict.
You see this in third wave feminism, where feminists blame men for their own internal feelings of frustration, fear and hopelessness. Yet it’s clearly demonstrated by women like Hillary Clinton that oppression only exists inside the mind and can be overcome with persistent courage and action, like a slave running away from her master. The slave may not get away successfully, but through the attempt to try run away she is psychologically free; which is the only freedom that can truly exist.
You see this in sporting games, where the referees are blamed by the losing team’s supporters for their own internal feeling of disappointment at the loss. Had their team scored enough points to thoroughly win the match, the referee would probably be commended for his fairness.
In all of these situations you can see a theme: lack of responsibility for internal emotions.
The warring nations will not deal with their own hatred and make peace. The feminists will not deal with their own fear and push forward with progress. The team’s supporters refuse to accept that it is their own expectations of a win that hurt them.
And they all suffer as a result, unable to make progress or enjoy life because their energy is wasted on the completely pointless and irrational act of blaming.
2) Seeking External Rewards
When you seek external rewards and achievements for your pleasure, you are being a Victim. If you’re only happy with a “win”, and you feel like life is worse when you do not succeed or get what you want, then you have obviously surrended your quality of your life to an external force.
I was a big sucker for this one. I lived on achievements, and fell into dark holes of despair when I lost or deemed myself to have failed. I missed out on the rich experience of life because I only lived for the small and ultimately unsatisfactory windows of achievement.
In the end, I never truly won. Each success was short-lived because it simply revealed the next win to be achieved. If I got a promotion, I immediately saw the next promotion opportunity. If a girl gave me her phone number, I now felt a new pressure to get her on a date. If I made a lot of money, I only saw potential to make even more money.
Seeking something outside of yourself for reward, such as money, achievement or approval, simply shows you feel incomplete inside. This is a Victim feeling.
A confident person needs nothing externally beyond what is required for survival (which is very little). Confident people still seek to achieve new things, but not for the reason of winning. They do it for the love of the game.
3) Fateful Entitlement
When you decide that you are powerless to fate, you are being a Victim. Fateful Victims also often believe the Universe “owes” them a “good” life, and become disappointed when reality does not deliver what they have demanded. And of course, these demands are made rather passively.
If you passively wait for life to unfold because you’ve decided it’s beyond your ability to influence, you create a life that is indeed fateful. You’ve resigned yourself to tolerate whatever abuse the Universe will throw your way.
You can see this in people who get angry when other people don’t do “what they should do.” Expecting life to be fair – and then becoming upset when it isn’t – is a clear warning sign of Victim mentality.
Many of us were raised to believe that the Universe should be somehow balanced, according to our human perception of fairness. Perhaps the myth that we’re all made in God’s image led us to believe that somehow the Universe would conform with human ideals. And not just any human ideals, of course, but YOUR subjective ideals specifically.
What you think is unfair will be fair to someone else. What you think is fair is devastatingly unfair to others. Your belief that the Universe will obey your specific needs and wants shows an unimaginably ridiculous level of entitlement.
As famous blogger and writer Johnny B. Truant once said: “The Universe doesn’t give a flying fuck about you.”
Any time you are disappointed, it shows you believe reality has let you down. Yet this is impossible. Reality can never let you down, because reality is the baseline, the foundation, the source. It is neutral, always.
The only thing that can create disappointment is your unwillingness to accept reality.
WHAT IT MEANS TO BE RESPONSIBLE
Responsible people are – at their core – grateful to simply be alive. They understand, at some deep level, that the odds of even having a life are so ridiculously microscopic that it’s an incredible gift just to wake up each day. Responsible people know the truth, that they are entitled to nothing, so they work hard to earn their keep, appreciate their rewards and gracefully accept their defeats.
Being Responsible manifests in a number of key ways:
1) Leadership in Problem Solving
When you try to solve your issues by focusing on what you can influence, and when you accept these challenges or upsets as a natural part of life, you are Responsible. A Responsible person understands that sometimes the Universe is going to fuck you; that’s just part of the payment for being alive. Sometimes it may even happen frequently, or more than you can handle.
And those who are truly enlightened understand “problems” at an even deeper level:
First, problems are a gift. Pleasure does not grow you or make you stronger, only pain can do that. Without problems you became weak, docile and fragile. You become spoiled. However, if you face and overcome the right amount of problems, you become an unflappably Responsible beast.
Second, that all problems are actually fictional; there is no such thing as a problem, it is merely a label humans give to a neutral event. What you consider a problem is likely considered nothing by many people in the world. All problems are simply your subjective disagreement with reality.
Responsible people love problems and welcome all challenges. They move on quickly from celebrating success to eagerly tackle the next failure.
Victims complain about problems, while Responsible people actually seek to create and embrace problems as a source of growth.
2) Living by Values
When you seek to live in a way that makes you proud of yourself, you are being Responsible.
Victims live for external rewards, while Responsible people understand the truth: there’s no such thing as an external reward.
Responsible people know that things like money, validation, achievements and approval are not real rewards. They are simply triggers for internal sensations of reward; emotional reactions that we enjoy. All rewards are internal.
Living by values is a shortcut to internal rewards. Rather than going the long way around, like having to make lots of money before feeling rewarded, you can go straight to those rewarding feelings of security and satisfaction that you usually get from money by instead trying to live by your values, like determination, courage and resourcefulness.
No external success is required for Responsible value-based people to enjoy life, yet they are frequently successful by common standards. Why? Because living by values means stepping up and going for it, without attachment to safety; taking risks for the sake of risk-taking, the thrill of the fight.
Those who take risks get rewards. Victims who sit back passively only get the small scraps and morsels the Universe deigns to occasionally throw their way.
WHY DO WE CHOOSE TO BE VICTIMS?
Because we allow ourselves to be guided by fear toward the illusion of safety.
As I mentioned earlier, choosing between the path of Victim vs Responsibility is really about deciding between Safety vs Freedom.
Safety and freedom cannot coexist. At any given moment you can only have one or the other.
Prison is safe, in that there is structure, predictability, guidelines and rules. However, there is a complete absence of freedom – you can only do what you want within the restrictions.
Release from prison is unsafe, because you have no structure or rules any more, and must decide things for yourself. But the possibilities in release are endless; it is complete and terrifying freedom.
Victims would rather feel safe than the exhilarating fear of freedom.
Yet are Victims really safe?
When you choose to stay at a job that you don’t really like, by trying to convince yourself that you do like it or that you “need” the money, you will feel like it’s a safe choice. Yet redundancy is waiting for you just around the corner. No one is safe from redundancy or a business collapsing. You are completely exposed to your career being taken away from you at all times. There is no safety there.
When you choose to stay in a less-than-thrilling or even abusive relationship, because it feels safe to “have” someone, you are willfully ignoring the obvious fact that they could die or otherwise leave you at any second. No relationship has any guarantee whatsoever, not even for a single second. The wedding vows we grow up hearing about are always a total lie. You cannot promise or be promised eternal love. No safety there either.
When you choose to stay at home and complain about an issue on Facebook, rather than get actively involved in solving it, you might feel protected. Yet your frustration will grow, as being a spectator only provides temporary satisfaction. And when you see others heroically make real changes, you will be forced to face your own pathetic contribution by comparison. Is this what you call a safe method?
When you avoid taking what you perceive to be risks, you think you are safe. When you avoid owning everything about your life, from your beliefs to your feelings to your external situation, you feel justified in your powerlessness. Yet you are 100% delusional, and setting yourself up for a life of complete suffering.
Becoming Responsible is fucking hard.
Responsibility means that no one else can be blamed for the way you feel, even when they do something nasty. It means that when you get fucked over, no one else can be relied on to solve the problem for you. It means that you will never have a “fair” life.
But it also means absolute freedom and power.
When you choose to quit the job you hate, even though you don’t know where your next paycheck will come from, you are transformed into a powerful being.
When you cut harmful people out of your life, even though they provided for you in some way, and willingly face life alone with your values, you get to immediately experience the warm glow of integrity. This is a feeling that can’t be faked through attaining money, sex or achievements.
When you feel offended and ask yourself “Why did I react this way?” instead of asking the other person to apologise, you begin to travel down a path toward freedom from offense forever.
Every single decision you make is either from a place of being a Victim or being Responsible. Once you choose, you make it true. At any given moment you can ask yourself “If I was Responsible, what would I do in this situation?” and act on that answer.
Choose wisely. Your quality of life depends on it.
For more on this, check out my video on complaining:
Excellent post. I have read this twice now. Much truth here. I especially like the part about problems being labels we place on neutral events. I’d never thought of it that way but you are right.