What have I done to deserve this?
Posted on 26th July 2017 at 07:30
It’s a sentiment we’ve all felt at times. And one we hear from clients from time to time, not to mention family and friends too(!). It’s underpinned by the feeling that they’ve been singled out for some special – and unwarranted – treatment. As though some higher force – whoever or whatever that may be – thinks they deserve particular punishment for some unspecified act or crime.
Perhaps it’s another person’s behaviour, an illness, society as a whole, government or something else completely different. Whatever the source, the message coming over loud and clear is that IT’S NOT FAIR AND they feel powerless to do anything about it. Just imagine a small child sulking and you get the picture.
While we would each like to think that we’re centre stage of our own little world, the truth is that we’re not. More often than not we’re playing a supporting role – or are one of the onlookers – in a much bigger play; one that has very little to do with us at all. The play that’s called “Life.”
In fact when we take a look at most of what happens in and around our lives, we find that much of it has absolutely nothing to do with us at all. It just is. In other words it’s not our responsibility and best left alone.
Despite this, the little monster we all have living in our heads (!) insists that if it’s happening in our lives then it must be to do with us. In other words, it’s personal. And once we’ve classified it as “personal” then we can only see it from our own subjective viewpoint. So any objectivity is lost. It’s little wonder that we then roll up our sleeves and wade in. With, all too often, predictable results.
While it may seem a radical concept, life doesn’t happen to us, life flows through and round us. It isn’t about struggle and endless tests to see if we’re “good enough”. Whatever that may be. Rather it’s all about the journey, the experiences and learning some new things along the way. Most of all, it’s about learning to be happy regardless of whatever’s happening in – or around – our lives.
The tendency to see everything that happens in our lives as personal, means it’s all too easy to slip into a passive “victim mode”. “Poor me, look what’s happened to me” AND how unfair it is.
Unfortunately, by going into victim mode, we spend much of our lives being powerless. Doing nothing. Going nowhere. What a waste of time. Not to mention our lives.
So what’s the alternative?
Well, as we’ve already mentioned above, much of what happens in our lives is nothing to do with us. It’s not our responsibility and outside our control. However this doesn’t mean that we’re powerless. While we may not be able to control the situation WE CAN CONTROL HOW WE REACT TO IT.
It’s a natural human tendency – one we learnt as a child – to classify everything that happens in our lives as “good” or “bad”. In fact it’s a crucial part of our survival strategy to be able to identify any threats around us. “These are my allies; those are my enemies.” “This will help me; that will hurt me.”
If you take a moment to observe those around you, you’ll quickly notice how most people only see a situation from their own – subjective – viewpoint. How it affects them, rather than looking at the bigger – more objective – picture.
This means that everything in their life becomes personal and happens TO them. “X happened TO ME.” “Y did this TO ME.” (and it’s not fair).
Now contrast this with a more objective viewpoint of life. In other words, by treating whatever happens as though you’re an onlooker. You’re watching a play on the stage or film at the cinema. You’re observing the situation as a whole rather than only focussing on how it affects you.
By moving to a more objective viewpoint, life happens THROUGH and AROUND you, rather than TO you. “X happened.” “Y did this.” (and isn’t that interesting).
By becoming more objective you no longer get sucked into a powerless victim mode. Instead, you see the bigger picture and become aware of how others – automatically – react to it, without being drawn into it yourself.
Even better, you now have the opportunity to make a conscious decision on what you’re going to do; rather than been sucked into a knee jerk victim response. Or non response.
You’ve given yourself the opportunity to see the situation for what it is without becoming a victim. This allows you to decide whether the situation really has anything to do with you or not.
Is it something you’re really responsible for – and so it’s down to you to deal with – or not? And, while we may not like to admit it, we all know – deep down – which category it comes into.
If it really is your responsibility is now the right time to deal with it? If the answer is yes, then deal with it.
But, perhaps, it isn’t. Other things may need to fall into place before you can do so, more research may be needed, other resources lined up, etc. In that case it’s simply a matter of sitting tight until the time is right to act. And, in the meantime, ACCEPTING the situation as it is. You may not like admitting it, but there’s nothing you can do about it at the moment. By doing so, you’ve just taken the pressure off yourself in the interim.
And what if it isn’t your responsibility?
Then, again, it’s all about ACCEPTING the situation AS IT IS. And this is regardless of how many good reasons you can come up with interfering (!). If it’s none of your business, leave it alone and get on with the things that really are your business.
Let’s take a quick look at a couple of simple examples to see how this approach works in practice.
How about the old favourite, a traffic jam on the way to work? The traditional subjective response would be “why does it always happen to me” accompanied by sky high blood pressure and a bad mood for much of the day.
But just stop and think about it for a moment. Are you responsible for the queue? Well, no.
So how about a more objective response? Accepting that you can’t do anything about it. Phew, that takes the pressure off.
Now let’s look at the bigger picture. The length of the queue, how long it’s going to take to get through it and any possible alternative routes. Perhaps there’s no alternative route, so you just have to sit it out. Ok, so is this a one off or is there something you can do to avoid a repetition in the future? Perhaps leaving home earlier or going another way?
The end result is that you’ve remained calm and objective, stayed in control and learnt how to avoid / minimise a repetition in the future. No longer was it deliberately sent to persecute you in some way, but is something you can learn from and part of life’s rich tapestry.
How about another scenario, one that we hear about all too regularly. The illness of a loved one.
Again, it’s all too easy to go into a highly subjective “why has this happened to me, it’s not fair that I’ve got to deal with this” victim mode.
But let’s stop and think about at it for a moment. Are you responsible for their illness? Again, the answer is no. It hasn’t been sent to persecute you or as some sort of punishment. It simply just is, whether you like it or not.
However much you’d like to change it, you can’t. You can either carry on being a victim or just accept it. While this may initially sound like defeat, it isn’t. It puts you back in the driving seat.
Once the situation can be viewed more objectively, then a more helpful response can be elicited to it. What you can do to help. What you are responsible for and what is down to others. Not only does it help you feel more in control but it helps your loved one too.
As soon as you start to view your life – and whatever happens in or round it – more objectively, life becomes much simpler. Not to mention less stressful. Trust us. Oh and did we mention how much time it saves by not getting involved in things that have nothing to do with you?
As always, the choice is yours.
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