Robert Gilman is an internationally renowned pioneer in cultural sustainability and someone who most definitely qualifies as a cultural “change-agent.” For over 35 years, his work as a writer, researcher, activist and consultant has helped thousands of people and hundreds of communities around the world understand cultural transitions and implement practical innovations towards creating a humane and sustainable future. The founder of Context Institute and its award-winning journal “In Context,” Robert’s passion for ensuring a sustainable world is passed on through the Bright Future Now program.
Our guest this week on Pathways is Stewart Blackburn, author of The Skills of Pleasure: Crafting the Life You Want. He is a practicing modern shaman who uses pleasure as his primary healing modality, with both a local and online practice. Stewart is an Alaka’i, or senior teacher, of Aloha International, an organization promoting healing of all kinds throughout the world. He is a former professional chef with a Master’s Degree in Food Science. His passion is in helping people become connoisseurs of feelings, reclaiming their own joy and excitement for life.. He teaches Huna: Hawaiian Shamanism weekly, plus monthly workshops on aspects of an empowered life on the Big Island of Hawaii.
It’s easy to feel like a victim, especially these days, when the economy is bad and the world seems to have so many big problems. We can always come up with lots of ‘reasons’ to justify feeling like a victim. And, of course, for some people the reasons are legitimate — things they are born with or tragedies (karmic perhaps). It’s not easy, but even these can be overcome.
Most victim stories, however, are mostly just that — just stories … tales that serve as an excuse, or a subconscious strategy of pretending to be powerless … when really we had the power to create the problems through a series of bad decisions we made and possibly continue to make. These victimness temptations represent a personal development opportunity.
What are the payoffs for feeling like a victim? Well, for starters, you get to feel that you are right (about being wronged). Nobody wants to argue with a victim, because that would seem mean. Secondly, to the extent that you argue for being a victim, you gain a terrific excuse for not making progress towards the realization of your personal priorities. And, in addition, taking the victim stance entitles you to sympathy from others.
What should you do if you realize that you are stuck in your own victim story? First, look inside yourself to see if you can analyze exactly what your personal victim stories are. In particular, figure out how you are getting “payoffs” — hidden benefits like those mentioned above.
All too often, victim stories are a con game played by our ego in order to justify efforts to stay in control — of ourselves, of others, of a situation. Since the ego’s function is primarily to protect us, it makes total sense that it feels a need to be in control. The only problem is the ego He tends to go too far, sometimes even to the extent of inventing reasons for its empowerment over our decision-making.
This is the human predicament and challenge — to have a healthy ego that can defend us when necessary, but also to regulate it wisely from a higher, spiritual vantage point. In short, taking refuge in victims stories is a weak person’s form of not managing themselves very well.
It is important that we learn how to manage our egos, so that we do not get stuck in the trap of self-righteous victimhood, where we fool ourselves into believing that there is nothing we can do to improve our situation, while blame it on others or fate, etc.
Sometimes it is hard to resist the siren call of victimhood, because it feels good, a little bit good anyway… and sometimes we need some reassurance that our predicaments are not all our fault, and that we are not alone. Sympathy is not a terrible drug, but getting sympathy from others provides very temporary relief. Isn’t it better to face up to stories that we tell ourselves, feel the pain of this psychic surgery, and come out the other side free from habitual self-limiting thoughts?
Gail Straub, a leading authority on empowerment, discusses her book, Returning to My Mother’s House: Taking Back the Wisdom of the Feminine. She encourages other women to gain insight and wisdom into their relationships with their own mothers, and to restore the feminine. Gail is the co-director of the Empowerment Institute, a school for transformative leadership that trains people worldwide on engaged spirituality and the wisdom of the feminine.