Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Culture of Victimhood

I was watching "Meet the Robinsons" last weekend. It's an okay kids' movie, but there's one moment where the villain says: "I could take responsibility for my actions or blame you. I blame you."

We do ourselves a disservice when we dwell on the horrible things that have happened to us - and use them as excuses why we can't move forward. Or as an excuse for our behavior. Or try to enact elaborate schemes of revenge.

Let me explain what I mean, and what I'm not implying. I alluded to this post in my comments on Main Street Plaza.

First of all, I am not saying that a person shouldn't admit what happened, shouldn't talk about what has happened and deal with it in their own way.

Some life events and losses are devastating. There is just no getting around it. There are some things a person never recovers from. There are some things that a person remains angry, sad, frustrated, hurt about for their entire lives. And that's okay.

But - it's a sign of maturity when a person accepts responsibility for their own actions. At some point, you have to say "This happened to me. It s*cked. In fact, it REALLY s*cked." But you take ownership of your actions today. You choose to respond to what happened and to continue moving forward.

You commit to find meaning in your own life, in each day.

You commit to (the best of your ability) taking care of yourself and being healthy. To taking care of the people in your life that you are responsible for (where possible).

It's not about changing the world as we know it (although that would be great). For many of us, it's just a matter of putting one foot in front of the other.

Frankly, it's amazing (to me) that some people are still walking and talking. When you start reading about some of the struggles/losses/illnesses that some people have to put up with - it's inspiring.

As someone in my book club last week brought up - that's life. We all have difficult choices to make. We all have struggles and dreams - some dreams that might not come true. And some people seem to be born under a bad sign - just plain unlucky. And I'm just thinking of my own North American middle class privileged background. There are many who can do this and still are struggling for basic needs - food, shelter, clothing, etc.

That's just what I admire. When a person can accept what's happened, and still try to make something out of their life.

In our society, we seem to focus on the victim mentality. The popular media in particular cites events in a person's past as a harbinger of why something happened.

The news flash that no one discusses is that hundreds if not millions of people who suffer the same or similar trial and are able to accept it and don't commit crimes. They get an education. They keep their job. They vote. They raise their children.

The example I'll give is when parents' go through a messy divorce. The vast majority of adult children of divorce refuse to give up. They refuse to let that govern their life (even when their own parents made huge mistakes in the divorce). They go to therapy. They talk with friends. They work on it. And they are able to be productive members of society - they are able to have healthy, successful relationships.

Granted - each person, each event is unique and has its own set of circumstances.

Again - I don't think everyone is capable of this. But many are.

We can't get hung up on the causes for behavior - at some point we are all responsible for the adults we've become.


Anonymous said...

Great post. The thing I liked about "Meet The Robinson's" was that it makes fun of that whole victim mentality.

I mentioned in some writings about Mitt Romney that his whole lack of taking responsibility for mistakes and saying dumb things was one of the big reasons I couldn't get behind him. He was always finding other people to blame, nothing was ever his fault. He could never say "I screwed up. I own it. I apologize." That kind of behavior irritates the hell out of me.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post - I like your musings, Aerin.

Beautiful layout here. I'm sorry I haven't frequented more often. I'm adding you to my RSS reader.

Aerin said...

Thanks INTJ Mom. It does make fun of that mentality - that's why I wanted to bring it up. I hope it's clear (I think it is) from my post that I think it's okay to talk about what's happened (as a person is able to), to acknowledge and mourn it. There is just a point where you have to take a hard look and try to move forward.

Thanks Sideon - glad you like it!