In this week’s Success Newsletter, I would like to discuss the link between playing the victim and refusing to forgive.
First a quick update:
*** Treating Bipolar Disorder – In a new series of video interviews that chronicle leaders and developments in the addiction recovery world presented by Milestones Ranch Malibu Treatment Center, I interview Dr. Paul Keck, Jr., President and CEO of Lindner Center of HOPE, for insights into Bipolar Disorder – medication, therapy and life skills management. Dr. Keck also addresses the tough question, “Why are there more people today than ever before being diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder?”
Watch what Dr.Keck says about the significance of working with the whole family when treating clients with Bipolar Disorder. http://youtu.be/59ek5JwuBl0
Now, let’s talk about the link between refusing to forgive and being a victim.
Has anyone ever taken advantage of you; cheated, betrayed, humiliated, wronged or hurt you in some way?
Every one of us has been wronged by someone at one time in our lives – or possibly many times.
And when someone does wrong you, what is the appropriate response?
Is it to hurt them back, to punish them or to seek revenge?
Is it to deny the event or action; to ignore it and pass over it?
Is it to immediately avoid feeling any pain and instantly forgive that person?
Is it to stay angry, bitter and malicious towards that person?
All of the above responses are extreme responses that fail to result in emotional freedom, inner peace, resolution or closure.
Recently, Karen, a client was relating to me a story of how her employer had apparently betrayed and taken advantage of her. She explained how she had taken up a contract with this employer and shortly into it, without explaining the reasons, he terminated the contract. He fulfilled the legal terms of the contract and he paid her dues and fees.
However, the early termination of the contract was painful and distressing to Karen because it resulted in large consequences beyond impacting her self-confidence and self-esteem – she would have to move residence and possibly relocate.
Her employer had fulfilled the legal terms of their contract but in her mind, he had not been ethical or at the very least, he had lacked compassion by not taking into account the impact that terminating the contract would have on her life.
Seeking a possible explanation for the early termination, Karen asked her employer to explain and he refused. Subsequently, she concluded that possibly he terminated the contract because he could not afford to continue to pay her. But even that potential explanation was not enough to set her free emotionally.
And as she spoke about this experience, the anger, bitterness and venom was most clear and evident; when I asked about forgiving this person, even if she would never do business again with him, she replied:
“He is not significant enough for me to forgive him.”
Karen, like most people, lacked insight into forgiveness – its meaning and significance.
Is forgiveness dependent on the quality of character of the other person?
What are the benefits of forgiving and not forgiving?
Is she justified for feeling angry, betrayed or wronged?
An experienced attorney will tell you that there are three sides to every story – yours, mine and the truth. And thus, there may be more information needed to complete the story.
Nonetheless, it is critical to understand that we are allowed to feel whatever we feel; denying feelings and emotions only creates more pain and often transforms into physical illness (the result of stress and other physical and biological changes triggered by our emotions and perspectives.) It is also critical to note that the human brain processes emotional pain as it does physical pain. In other words, our brain cannot fully tell the difference between a physical injury or pain and an emotional injury or pain; emotional pain feels real and has an impact on our body.
Thus, denying the event or ignoring her pain would only make Karen feel worse, and would result in repressed emotions which would eventually surface or would infect her other relationships.
The paradox is that it is critical to allow yourself to feel the full range of your emotions, (even the perceived negative emotions such as anger, guilt, shame, humiliation, desire for revenge, and so forth), but not to allow them to take root in you because they quickly infect you, your body, spirit, mind and your relationships.
Accordingly, the first step is to feel the emotions and the second step is to understand the many possible reasons the other person acted the way they did which helps you to release your emotions. Understanding and accepting the other person’s limitations and human fallibility does not imply allowing them to continue to treat you poorly nor does it imply denial of the severity of the event or subsequent action required on their part to heal the relationship or resolve the matter.
But it is crucial to understand:
Forgiveness sets the forgiver free before it sets free the person being forgiven.
The person that wronged us may not even be aware of our pain, may not care either way, or might not even be alive anymore to hear or receive our forgiveness.
In my article, “Why we refuse to forgive” I list some of the many, varied and surprising reasons we choose not to forgive. http://patrickwanis.com/blog/why-we-refuse-to-forgive/
Another reason not included in that list relates to Karen’s response and motivation: the power one gains from being a victim; the advantages and benefit of playing the victim.
When a person hurts us in any way, it is natural for us to feel powerless, and driven by ego, we might seek to regain that power – the feeling that we can no longer be controlled by the other person. One such way of feeling powerful is to play the victim.
It sounds contradictory, but, by being angry, blaming the other person, complaining, or justifying ourselves and our actions, we feel a sense of power. By playing the victim and blaming the other person, we generate attention for ourselves (interest, pity, empathy and so forth) but we also try to build ourselves up, compensate for our subconscious self-doubt, and we attempt to create significance and justification for our stance and actions (forcing our friends and colleagues to take sides and possibly test their loyalty to us.)
However, when we consciously choose to move out of victimhood and take responsibility for our lives and our next steps, we begin to feel truly powerful and in control.
And when Karen stated that her employer is “not significant enough” for her to forgive him, she was implying that the other person is not worthy or good enough for her to show compassion. Her harsh judgment of him, her lack of compassion for him, are direct reflections of the way she also treats herself – judging herself harshly, refusing to forgive herself or to be compassionate towards herself.
Again, it sounds contradictory, but all forgiveness begins with you – you need to learn to forgive, love and accept yourself first. You need to express compassion to yourself so that you can express it to others. “Love thy neighbor as thyself.”
And if you respond by saying that you are always forgiving towards others but not to yourself, take time to consider if you truly are forgiving to them or do you only do it to get their approval and acceptance. Do you really feel forgiveness towards them? Do you want and wish the best for them?
Finally, why is forgiveness so critical?
“Forgiveness is an acceptance of fault, and all that it means to be human. Forgiveness is the cornerstone of emotional healing.” – Narconon International – drug rehabilitation programs.
Are you important enough to forgive yourself and to experience real emotional healing?
Read more about forgiveness and victimhood here:
“Stopping the victim game”
“Victims never succeed”
“Why we refuse to forgive”
“Dealing with emotional vampires”
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I wish you the best and remind you “Believe in yourself -You deserve the best!”
Patrick Wanis Ph.D.
Celebrity Life Coach, Human Behavior & Relationship Expert & SRTT Therapist