You are 100% Responsible for Your Life Choices
Written By: Mark Smith
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My number one goal as a therapist is always the same – shift the paradigm of the person or persons sitting in front of me from a victim paradigm to a recovery, self-responsibility paradigm. Relationships are destroyed when one party takes on the victim role thus assigning the villain role to their partner. It is actually great news that we are 100% responsible for our adult lives. Nobody can take us down but our selves. The only person that we have any control at all over when it comes to fixing anything is ourselves.
In our culture, at times therapy goers are seen as weak, whining, blame-shifting, ungrateful people who get “relief” from some of their misery by dumping their load of venomous anger about their spouse, parents, children, boss, etc. at their therapist’s office. Actually, it has been my experience that this is how many people do begin their first session. They are hurting, and they believe and feel as if they have been victimized by someone or several someone’s in their adult lives. They soon discover that they are in fact not victims, but rather that their own unhealthy choices and their inability to set boundaries have caused the very situation that is causing them pain.
We believe that for many people, no doubt, most of us, that there was a time when we were truly victimized—in childhood. Children are so innocent and so powerless. If they are subjected to abuse or neglect, they cannot help but grow up and carry those wounds into their adult relationships. And by abuse and neglect I don’t necessarily mean alcoholism or sexual abuse, or parental abandonment, as prevalent as those issues are. Most of our work here centers around some of the more subtle forms of parental abuse and neglect: the workaholic, emotionally unavailable father; the emotionally needy, overly controlling mother; the rigid, shaming, authoritarian addictively religious family; or the passive, materialistic parents who were unable to set effective disciplinarian boundaries for their children, etc.
Our focus is on healing these childhood wounds. For most people that process begins when the protective psychological walls that they have built in order to better survive the pain of their childhood are broken down by some painful situation in an adult relationship. Psychological healing is not unlike physical healing. When you cut your finger, nature begins its healing work immediately by sending white blood cells to the scene. Nature is also constantly at work to help us heal our unresolved psychological issues. To help us unearth unhealed wounds from our childhood, we unconsciously are attracted to and choose to bring into our lives, individuals who have many of the very same unhealthy qualities that our parents did. We seek them out in order to help us to finish our emotional business from childhood.
So, an overly controlling, raging spouse can be seen as a therapeutic growth opportunity rather than as “the bad guy” by someone who grew up in an authoritarian, angry home. The way we re-create our childhood issues in our adult relationships is almost like “Déjà vu”—feeling like I’ve already done this once before. Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary defines “déjà vu” as “already seen”, and as “something overly or unpleasantly familiar”.
It is almost spooky, how many issues get repeated from one generation to the next. In explaining this somewhat irrational phenomenon, Hemfelt, Minirith and Meier wrote that “We all possess a primal need to recreate the familiar, the original family situation, even if the familiar, the situation, is destructive and painful.” Recovery is about finishing our business with previous generations, so that their influences deep within us do not continue to haunt us by causing unhealthy, addictive relationships and behavior in our adult lives.
Far from being victims, during their sessions, these psychologically open individuals have the refreshing innocence of real, precious, healing children as they wipe the tears from their eyes from week to week. They have the guts to re-experience the childhood pain that is still searing their insides.
Unfortunately, some people just aren’t ready to face their own issues. Their psychological walls are too thick. They are too shame-based and defensive. And many of them are too locked into positions of victims vs. persecutors, stuck on blaming their spouse/children/bosses, etc., to really look at themselves. It is sad to sit and watch such individuals engage in mortal combat with the world, as they stay locked in their prison of victimization. Unfortunately, we, or anyone else for that matter, can’t really be of much help with people who aren’t quite ready to give up their roles as victims in order to embrace self-responsibility. Until they understand their own responsibility in making the choices they have made that have directly resulted in their current problems, these unhappy people will drag their bitterness’s, their blame shifting, and their victim’s spirit around like a huge anchor—an anchor that slows down their abilities to learn from their mistakes and get on with their lives.
Don’t do that! See you next week.
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