It's easy to feel like a victim when divorcing.
But you don't have to…
I asked certified Divorce Coach, Karen McMahon, to help me with this month's
blog post in order to help many of my clients who have been the victim
of emotional or verbal abuse during their marriage. How can someone stop
being the victim? Karen summed it up for me, that being victimized is
a mind set. You can't change the abuser, but you can change yourself
and your own actions. This made me thing of Aretha Franklin's song,
"Respect," which teaches us to demand respect from others. "All
I'm askin' is for a little respect when you come home….R-E-S-P-E-C-T
find out what it means to me…..I get tired, Keep on tryin',
You're runnin' out of foolin', And I aint lyin'…When
you come home….respect, or you might walk in and find out I'm
gone….." Sometimes the answer, as the song goes, is that it
is up to you to walk away from someone who does not respect you, and only
allow non-toxic people into your life who are kind, compassionate and
respectful. Read on to learn how to shift out of the victim mentality.
A victim is an injured party, casualty; fatality or loser. When we see
ourselves as a victim, we seem to be the target or focus of another's
hurtful actions. We are having something done to us. As such, the only
way out seems to involve stopping the other party from their malicious
behavior. This can be discouraging as it takes great pains to try to control
others; especially those we feel are victimizing us. It also, ironically,
requires us to be controlling and manipulative ourselves.
When I was going through my divorce, I knew my husband was controlling.
He was also emotionally and verbally abusive. My only option was to fight
back either through my angry reactions or through carefully planning my
every action to avoid his hostile temper. I got quite good at twisting
myself into a pretzel, but in the process, I lost myself. I no longer
knew what I thought or felt; my first thought in every circumstance was
"how is he going to react and what can I do to soothe his reaction?"
It is an exhausting, convoluted way to navigate life. You find yourself
bending and twisting in the hopes of avoiding your spouse's emotional
explosion. Sometimes after doing all that, you still have the angry emotions
of the other to deal with, and at times, feeling like the victim. 'How
come he/she keeps doing this to me?'
I am only using abuse as an example because it was my reality. Yours may
be betrayal, abandonment, narcissism, addictions or many other troubles.
If you are a victim, the process is the same.
What if there was a better way? What if it required you to take personal
responsibility for your part in the dance? My first reaction was, 'how
can this be my fault???!!" He is the abusive one, not me! It wasn't
until I began to see my part in our dynamic and to focus on changing my
behavior that I was able to shift my energy and take control of the uncontrollable
situation I had been living in.
As a victim, we see everyone as doing something to us. We are at the epicenter;
in other words, everyone's action must be about us. When we shift
to a higher level of energy, we begin to see other possibilities. The
first shift up is to "full out conflict." It actually feels
worse sometimes, but it is a step in the right direction. Conflict energy
can be internal as in worry, fear, guilt, or shame; or external, as in
fighting, acting out, or inappropriate behavior, etc.
The next shift up involves looking at your circumstances differently, 'reframing'
the way you see things. This level isthe gateway out of the negative emotions
and energy of being a victim or always feeling angry. When we can "reframe,"
and see our circumstances from another point of view, we begin to free
ourselves from the pain that we have been living in. It is a three-step process.
First, we look at our perspective. In the case of verbal abuse, instead
of focusing on his/her behavior, which isunacceptable, I focus on my behavior,
which is equally unacceptable. Why do I allow him/her to speak to me that
way? My first thought is, 'I can't do anything about what he/she
says!" This is true. However, what do you have control over? In this
situation, the word is Boundaries. How have I set and stood firmly in
Funny how my first thought goes to…"If I did that, he would
get REALLY furious…that's why I don't!" And so the
catch 22 continues. YOU must be bold enough to set and stand by your boundaries,
regardless of the other's reaction. In doing this you begin to FREE
yourself from the prison that you have created.
When I first stood up to my ex, I was shaking in my shoes. Stating that
I was going to open my own bank account was scary. Then I told him I was
separating the auto insurance. Then I began to walk out while he was berating
me instead of standing there and taking it. Each time I felt the sky was
going to fall in on me. Each time I survived and felt stronger than ever.
Yes, he did get really angry. But it became a situation of all bark and
no bite…not much of a bite anyway. As I created boundaries and
stood my ground, he became smaller and less scary.
The other amazing thing that happens over time is you begin to find your
thoughts, voice and ultimately authenticity. That newfound self-appreciation
leads to self-confidence and self-esteem that strengthens your ability
to stand in your own power.
The second part is your anger toward your soon to be ex. Here is the challenging
part. It is called forgiveness andit IS A PROCESS! A good place to start
is with detachment. If you are not ready to forgive your significant other,
then begin to detach. What he or she does is based on their own history
and the way they navigate the world. It is not personal to you (I know
this is hard!). In fact you will find that they act the same with others
as well. You may even begin noticing that they can only act that way to
those that allow them to do so. They may have other relationships with
strong boundaries that don't allow for such behavior OR they may 'lose'
others who set boundaries and choose to walk away from them.
The cornerstone of this type of inner work is this…
What you Think affects, what you Feel and what you Feel affects how you Act.
Think differently, ie. change your perspective and you will feel differently,
less the victim (better). Feel better and you will act in a way that benefits
you. You will begin to act from a higher energy level, more empowered,
with more self-esteem.
As you change the steps that you have danced with your spouse, he/she will
have no choice but to change theirs as well. The trick is to keep the
focus on you. You are not changing your steps to control him/her. You
are changing your steps to control your actions in a way that serves you better.
The concept is simple, but the practice is not easy. I had a therapist
and life coach that helped me through. When everything was murky, they
helped me gain clarity. When I was afraid or ashamed of being afraid,
they helped me to understand where my fear was coming from and how to
overcome it. When I was stuck and didn't know what to do, they helped
me create baby action steps to move forward. Having someone who doesn't
tell you what you should do, but rather helps you figure out what is best
for you and how to get there is priceless during divorce.
My ex never changed, not at all. But I got off the roller coaster and could
watch him do his thing, with both of my feet firmly planted on the ground.
I then was able to teach my children the same thing. As long as my focus
was on myself, or teaching them to keep it on themselves, the lessons
were learned and things changed because we changed.
Today I am a healthier, happier more self-confident person and my children
are learning emotional maturity, setting boundaries and speaking their
truth (Say what you mean, but don't say it mean). The self-esteem
and self-confidence that comes from being honest and authentic to yourself
I have taken my greatest struggle and pain and turned it into my purpose
as I help men and women like yourself overcome their fears and navigate
their divorce in a way that forever transforms them and their lives in
a positive, fulfilling way.
To learn more about shifting out of victim mentality,
listen to my interview interview on Divorce Source Radio with Steve Peck
To read more about the
Think / Feel / Act strategy,
Karen McMahon, CPC, ACC, ELI-MP,
Certified Divorce Coach & Master Energy Practitione is the founder of
KM Life Coaching and co-author of Navigating Your Divorce: A Guide to the Legal, Financial and Emotional Basics, a free e-book. Karen's passion is to help men and women going through
the divorce process navigate the difficulties while focusing on personal
growth and embracing the positive opportunities of the future.