The other day I got upset over something silly that triggered difficult feelings with deep roots from my past.
In short, someone I love made a reasonable request that, for various reasons, I didn’t want to honor, partly because I felt this person wasn’t taking my feelings into account. But I had no good reason to suspect this.
I thought this because it’s a pattern for me.
For most of my young life, I believed my needs wouldn’t be met if I didn’t push and fight for them.
I saw everything as a battle—it was everyone else against me. Though I’ve learned to see others as on my side, and know that I’m on theirs, I still worry that people aren’t looking out for me at times.
In the aftermath of this recent altercation, I talked through my feelings with my boyfriend.
I told him I understood my emotional response, and I knew where it came from—when I first felt this way and why, and how it’s been a pattern in my life.
Then I posed a question: In recognizing where and how I learned this behavior, am I blaming people and circumstances from my past, or merely being self-aware? What, exactly, is the difference?
I think it’s an important question to ask, because we’ve all been wronged before.
We do ourselves a disservice if we sit around blaming other people for our maladaptive reactions and behaviors; but sometimes we’re better able to change when we understand how we developed in response to former relationships and prior events.
I’ve spent a lot of time learning to let go of victim stories, which is a big part of why I don’t write about some of the most painful events of my life. Still, for better or for worse, they shaped who I am.
When I allow myself to look back and acknowledge wrong-doing, I reinforce to myself that I did not deserve to be mistreated, and that it’s not my fault that I struggle in certain ways as a result.
I know, however, that it is my responsibility to change my responses and behaviors. And that, right there, is the difference between self-awareness and self-victimization.
Self-awareness allows us to understand what’s going on in our heads—and why; self-victimization prevents us from accepting that we’re responsible for it…
Read more: Lori Deschene, Tiny Buddha