Monday, April 3, 2017


I read this online: "It's sad how victimy and unempowered people choose to make themselves." And I wondered, "Who really chooses that?"

Now, I have an internal locus of control, and so I tend to see the world around me as being highly influenced by the choices that people make, and my own life as being the sum of the choices that I've made. And I do tend to perceive people as chasing victim status, for the perceived benefits that it brings. But that's different than selecting victimization and disempowerment as deliberate life choices. Rather, as I see it, those are, at best, the side effects of other choices that we make.

Even when people see themselves as victimized and disempowered, these are typically not deliberate choices. Rather they are the way people come to see the themselves based on their understanding of the world around them. For instance, my internal locus of control tends to stand between me and and an understanding of myself as lacking agency in my life. And while I, or someone else, can say that I choose to see myself as empowered, the fact of the matter is that I don't know where that internal locus of control comes from. Learning the concept when I was in college didn't enable to make a deliberate selection. Instead it allowed me to recognize and name a facet of my personality that was already present.

Behaviors such as learned helplessness or capture bonding, even though they may be classed as "survival strategies" are not choices in the sense that a person weighs all of the options before them and makes a conscious determination to be passive in the face of unrelenting adversity or to sympathize with the interests of someone who is harassing or abusing them. That is to say, they are not strategies selected based on their effectiveness. Instead they are imposed on a person by the circumstances they find themselves in.

On the other hand, I understand the logic behind seeing a person who understands themselves to be a victim or disempowered as having deliberately made that choice. It's an ego boost for people who understand themselves as victorious or empowered to claim that they could have taken another path, but through strength of character or force of will, made the "better" choice. It's part of building ourselves up by climbing over others, and it's a common facet of human nature.

Judging people who have been induced to see themselves as "victimy and unempowered" does nothing for them, despite what those who see judgment as an incentive to change might tell you. Understanding the aspects of their lives that lead them to perceive themselves as victimized and disempowered, however, could open the way to changing those things. And that has a much better chance of revealing a light at the end of the tunnel.

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