Throughout this article, which focuses on the effects of strained relationships and our responses to them, the reader is invited to challenge thoughts shared, and encouraged to contact the author to contest any assertion. Thanks in advance for your interest.
What does “victim” really mean? While it is sometimes natural to self-define as a victim of circumstance, holding on to that mindset interferes with personal healing. Take time to regain perspective after having been “wronged” in a situation, then move on. Victim status exudes a sense of powerlessness. The deeper message is avoidance – specifically, of responsibility. The “powerless one” has no control, thus, isn’t held responsible for the situation. This dissolves self-expectation to facilitate change in the present circumstance.
We are defined not by what happens to us, but by how we handle what happens to us. The words “move on” do not negate pain. Nor do they suggest impact by natural disaster or tragic life events offers no right to feel temporarily paralyzed, victimized, and/or rendered helpless. It means get through, and rise above.
Searching for Strength
During self-reflection, the following questions may help: Do I generally “move on” with grace, or with resistance? Do I feel emotionally able to handle what life throws at me, or helpless at the mercy of the unknown? Am I eager to offer and accept guidance and/or assistance, or mostly just offer or accept? Am I always the “facilitator” of lives and relationships of others, or able to emotionally open myself to meaningful relationships of my own? Do I shine blinding light of awakening into the eyes of those around me (as if the “wise sage”) or gently reflect to others and self-reflect to facilitate healthy, respectful growth? Do I bully myself or others? How would my ‘inner circle’ answer these about me?
Those questions help define one’s rhythm in life. A decision to self-reflect is as deliberate as the decision not to. Whether or not you felt the bird of circumstance poop on your protective hat, be clear, those around you see it. Your choice to (or not to) reflect, acknowledge, and then deal (or not) with truth are part of your personal journey. Friends gravitate toward and away from you because of and in spite of that bird splattered hat. You attract and repel in accordance with the vibration you exude.
Where Problems Arise
Problems arise when people fail to recognize we each have a sacred journey and may rightfully exclude another from the “inner circle.” This reality may be terribly painful. Let’s take, for example, two sisters who were best friends growing up. Linda became a nurse; Robin, a homemaker, with health issues exacerbated by apples. When Linda invites Robin to her home for a dinner party, it is expected that at least part of the menu will include food Robin may comfortably eat. We often share love through food. What would happen if Linda prepared a main meal, three side dishes and dessert all with Robin in mind, but Robin brought an apple pie and decided to eat a big piece instead of the non-apple dessert prepared by Linda? How might Linda feel? What might Linda say?
This scenario illustrates mixed vibrations resulting in confusion and frustration, unless carefully and gently addressed. Clearly, Linda put effort into considering Robin’s health; however, what message did Robin receive? What did Robin convey by bringing and eating the “wrong” food? Did Robin recognize Linda’s effort? Consider Linda’s concern for Robin, who seems to disregard self-care by choosing inflammatory food. Do you suppose it would be easy for Linda to have a lighthearted conversation about fashion or a new book if her concerns about Robin were not addressed? Without clarification, confusion from mixed messages may strain the relationship.
Both sisters desire close friendship. Figuratively speaking, Robin chooses to wear the hat with bird poop. Linda needs to show concern and love for Robin, but finds it difficult to ignore the issue of the hat. If Robin states, “I want to be close friends and welcome your advice,” might Linda feel invited to guide Robin to a mirror? Could Linda rightfully expect a heartfelt conversation and deep connection? What if, once at the mirror, Robin keeps her eyes closed, then avoids discussion about the hat? Frustration on both parts would result. This pattern might go on for decades before one or both elect to avoid each other at future events and/or cut each other out of the inner circle.
This is common in families. If there is a “helping” professional in the family – such as mental health, nursing, police, or medical, and a palpable issue at hand falls within the realm of their expertise, it may be difficult for that family member to relax until the issue is addressed and resolved. Additionally, people in a helping profession often need to help loved ones before they feel able to invest in a close, emotionally vulnerable relationship with the one who, from their perspective, suffers. Without resolution, that helping professional family member might need to draw personal, self-protective boundaries precluding willingness to nourish a connection deeper than “acquaintance” – as it may be too painful for that person to emotionally invest in one who “refuses help.” Why? Behavior perceived as self-destructive suggests: “Don’t trust me. I don’t trust myself.”
Let the Healing Begin
How does healing begin? Healing begins with the recognition that we each have a purpose and sacred journey. This means family members with relationship and/or health issues have every right to maintain life choices without seeking resolution. Though the professional might only be able to see “a dysfunctional marriage,” the reality may be a husband who doesn’t want to “fix” the marital relationship because he truly loves his job, without need for the “lovey-dovey” rhythm his well- meaning parent or sibling would choose for him. Perhaps a wife deeply identifies with her job, with no desire to raise children (or, in later years, retire), as she would feel lost without her title. None of anyone’s business. This is their journey.
Where does healing begin? Healing begins within you, with recognition that every human has a purpose and sacred journey. Specifically, knowing that your purpose is to heal only yourself, not others, is where healing begins. Further, people who appear to be actively avoiding self-reflection might be meeting a greater need unbeknownst to the observer. In order to keep that mission secure, people may draw self-protective boundaries to keep “mirrors” out. Your healing begins when you honor that choice, recognizing it is not about your preferences for others, it is about their preferences for themselves. You have that right as well, for your own self.
Whether you avoid self-reflection or observe something that seems “off” in a loved one, own your personal choices, because those are the only ones for which you are responsible. You are not the victim in any family relationship scenario. You control your decisions along your own sacred journey. Mind, body, and spirit are intricately intertwined. Where there is life, there is hope. Where there is balance, there is wellness, and when responsibility is accepted, the journey is powerful and successful.
Dr. Nancy Iankowitz is a board-certified family nurse practitioner and Director of Holistic and Integrative Healing LLC. She is also host of “Marcy’s World” on Pawling Public Radio. Email your questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, call (917) 716-6802, or visit www.driankowitz.com online.