Squashing the Victim Mentality
One of the things I've come to realize is how much of my past perception has been from a victim mentality, not a victory mentality.
Perhaps at one time early on, I thought I could win...but as more and more time and circumstance piled on, that part was buried. And in its place came a pull-up-your-bootstraps mentality. Just survive. Just expect the worst. Manage the pain. Pretend you're fine.
While pulling up your bootstraps might SEEM active, it really just fostered victimization.
I would use key words/phrases like this: "Seriously? Something hard again?" "I can't catch a break." "Nothing can change." "Might as well accept it."
And as I pulled up the bootstraps higher and higher, I rolled over and died in my poor-poor-pitiful-me mind.
In his article called "Trauma's Impact on Learning," William Steele says this: "At some point, trauma victims must begin or have help to think differently about what they experienced, how they view themselves and the world. For many trauma victims, increased arousal keeps them frozen, thinking as a "victim"--powerless, hopeless, under constant threat."
Whoa. Almost like he read my mind.
Maybe you too?
While I was in counseling, I kept referring to Job. Because as I rehashed my past, things just kept surfacing. Things that I'd concluded were my lot in life. "I feel like Job," I would say. Those thoughts came so frequently that I relented and re-read Job.
And God used it in a mighty way.
First to deal with my emotions. Second to deal with my pride.
Today we'll touch on emotions.
Emotions aren't in and of themselves bad. God never reprimanded Job for expressing his emotions during his ordeal. The Psalms are another example of this idea. Emotions are part of the human experience. If you don't know sad, you don't know happy. If you don't know anger, you don't know peace. And so on.
But the problem lies in where the emotions are centered. If they are centered anywhere besides Christ, they can't be trusted at all. "The human heart is the most deceitful of all things,Who really knows how bad it is?" (Jer 17:9)
And before I started counseling, I couldn't see that my emotions weren't centered on Christ. They were all settled on circumstances and flowed out of my distrust of the Lord. I blamed Him for everything. As long as circumstances were OK, then my faith was, too. But as soon as things got rocky, my faith did, too.
That's where a trauma therapy technique called EMDR came into play. I'm not going to try to explain the science behind EMDR...but feel free to google it if you're interested. At first I was a little apprehensive. It seemed SO.Stinking.Weird. But after prayer and advice from godly sources, I felt like it would be OK.
I did several sessions, but the most memorable was all centered around feeling alone.
As a child, I cried a lot. I would stomp off. Slam doors. And then go to my room and cry so hard that my eyes would hurt. My mom...bless her!...would often follow me and try to soothe me. I think that's why I acted out sometimes...just to have her comfort me. (Of course, that's not the only time I was comforted. Also, by no means am I saying that I didn't have happy moments as a child...I totally did!!!)
But every time my therapist asked me to think of a picture of myself as a child, that's what I would come up with. Me, sitting alone, crying.
I know there's a lot that could be analyzed with that, and I've had the courage to go there in the last couple years. But at the root of ALL of it was the feeling that God did all that to me. That He caused everything to go wrong. That He wasn't really good, because so much of what happened to me wasn't good.
And during one powerful EMDR session, God healed that image. It's not something I have shared details of very often, as it seems so personal. But He switched something for me...gave me a gift of a NEW image. One that showed Jesus, sitting beside crying me, and he was also weeping.
Writing that, tears are still surfacing. All that time, I felt alone. All that time I thought God didn't care. That He didn't see me. That He was the source of all my pain. And even as my faith grew, that trust piece didn't change.
But in that session, God taught me about Jehovah Shammah...The Lord is THERE.
And He cared about my hurting spirit. It was comforting to realize that before I really knew Him, HE KNEW ME. That while He didn't stop people from making sinful choices (He gives us ALL the freedom to choose), He wept with my hurts.
Since that day, my thought-processes have changed.
Again, that aligns with research: "Interventions must help trauma victims become trauma survivors by helping them to change their thought processes," says Steele.
A miracle. A gift. It wasn't the end of the healing process, but it was the end of being a 10 on the "disturbed" scale. (From zero to 10, how disturbing is this memory?) In fact, it went to zero. So long to THAT victim mentality.
Praise God from whom all blessings flow!