Thursday, February 28, 2008

Victim Mentality

This entry comes from my interest in the political primary and my obsessive media junkie nature. I listen to Air America, as well as C-Span and Democracy Now, oh and Kieth Olbermann too. Well, as I think about it the list goes on and on, hence "junkie".

I am very interested in the tone that the primary has taken in the last few weeks. Hillary and Barack are sparring much more, which is to be expected in the rundown to picking the presumptive candidate. What is more interesting to me is the tone that has emerged from supporters I listen to making calls, particularly on Sam Seders show. Sam and Marc Maron are calling these supporters Clintonista's. People will call in with vigilante zeal, trying to defame Barack by talking about his Muslim roots, or his involvement with less than ethical donors. They seem to be incapable of conversation, speaking over the host and not answering the hosts questions. It sound as if they are robots who have been turned on who have to get the message out. They accuse the host, Sam in this instance, of trashing Hillary, when I know that that has not happened (I am a junkie , remember and I listen every day he is on air). It seems they need to be right at any cost.

So this got me to thinking and it took me back to the time when I used to lead groups of men who had been arrested for domestic violence. My sense of them was that for the most part, they were unskilled in relationship and took the lazy mans approach and pushed and shoved rather than reasoned with their partner. Of course there were some men who came into the group that literally made the hair stand up on the back of my neck. These men were truly dangerous sociopaths who really did not belong in group, they belonged in jail.

As part of my training I attended seminars which focused on "the victim". The seminars were lead by women who very much reminded me of the "Clintonistas" I listen to on Air America. These women were scary. They had taken on a vigilante zeal with regard to the abuser. In fact, as I listened, I started to feel at least oppressed and at times abused. When I challenged one women with a question she responded with attack and character assasination. This did not feel so good to me. I did not like this woman and I did not feel that she was good for the woman's rights movement she was a part of.

Here is how I explain this to myself. It requires understanding the dynamic as a paradigm. The paradigm is "Victim/Perpetrator". In this paradigm you can only be one or the other. A woman is victimized and in order for her to take charge in her life within the paradigm she must then take on the role of the perpetrator. This is a false kind of empowerment which only perpetuates the problem. Both roles in the paradigm lack autonomy and compassion. Both lack true "power". The power in the paradigm is power over, rather than power to be.

Back to the political scene. Now that Clinton is the underdog in the race, some supporters feel that it is their mission to save her and make her the top dog in any way possible. This really is like a fight where spit and feathers fly. Attacks can be unfair and specious. It does not matter because now Barack has become the bad guy who has power over Hillary and that is just wrong. This is a very authoritarian paradigm as you might well imagine.

Now a little bit about Buddhism and the above drama. My reaction to the "spit and feathers" is sorrow. If I was inside the paradigm, my reaction would be anger and outrage. But I choose not to be inside that paradigm. I choose compassion over power over. The only way one can become enlightened is to change the paradigm of victim/perpetrator. We must always consider the 10 Virtues as we communicate. If we are not virtuous in our communication, then we generate bad karma which will have a consequence to us in the very long run of life after life. All beings deserve to be treated with respect and kindness even when they are inside the victim/perpetrator paradigm. We do not enable them to offend, but most importantly we do not offend in kind. We practice loving kindness in a skilled way. I actually see Barack doing this in response to Hillary's attacks. He seems to hold himself above the fray. He defends his positions with dignity when he disagrees. He does not waver in his positions and when he is in agreement, he is very concilliatory, which some perceive as weakness. I see Barack as being strong like Ghandi was strong or like Martin Luther King was strong.

Could it be that those who perceive weakness are inside the victim/perpetrator paradigm?

A wonderful example of strength, skill and compassion comes from the Dalai Lama. When asked how a well publicized meeting with George W. Bush went, the Dalai Lama's reply was, "he had wonderful cookies"...........

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A question from a myspace friend.....

"I've been under a slight conflict within myself about how much we have not only the right, but the obligation to KNOW what we want in our lives, and ask for it, regardless of all the people we may upset. I seem to constantly work my life around what other people want, and what works for them, and what they believe. I don't seem to do things i want, or that i love because i feel selfish a lot of the time. I'm feeling a little stuck in a big decision i've gotta make pretty soon, and im struggling between choosing an experience i want in my life, and choosing the "right" path, according to my dad. I feel if i go ahead and finally make a stand, in a sense, and do what i want, even if it may seem impractical, or immature for someone at my particular point in time, that i will anger my dad very much, and he will be so upset with me that he will either try to stop me, or just stop speaking to me altogether. Ive never been close to my dad, and actually wanted to distance myself from him because he's a very negative energy in my life, and many others, so as harsh as it may sound, it wouldnt be too big a consequence, but i was wondering whether you would do a blog on this predicament every person comes across in their life. Those times where you are at a crossroads, and almost always it is a choice of, "should i do what i really want, or should i do what this person wants me to do?". We so often surrender the things we truly want in our lives, for which we are entitled to, but dont believe it, because of what other people want."

My response.....

This is a good question and it requires some definitions. First, how do you define selfish. A simple test for selfishness is to look at motivation. Will your decision harm others or self. Is this decision based on your own as well as others highest good. Is the other person being considerate of your well being or just trying to be in control. It is interesting that you say you have never been close to your dad but are threatened by him not speaking with you.

I work with so many clients who made life decisions based on their parents wishes rather than their own. They end up with empty lives and with resentment toward themselves and their parents for not following their path regardless of how impractical it is. What if all the actors and artists of the world abandoned their talent because those two endeavors are impractical in our culture. Life would be a little grayer if this was the case. We would have more of a stepford world than the interesting, messy, tumultuous world that we have.

Safety and practicality are not always the highest ideal to follow. What if Mother Theresa or Gandhi had opted for practicality. We all need to decide what is most important for us. I have always been motivated by security and I have been very fortunate to forge out a life which has provided for that security and I have a modicum of "my way". I work out of my home, I am self employed, and I get paid very well per hour. This enables me to work part time since I don't have a huge need to be "rich".

The essence of the issue here is that it is important to know yourself. And then to honor yourself. Remember that failure in any endeavor can cause suffering, but it is not necessarily a bad thing. Failure, if utilized properly can guide us to further success. It also helps to purify karma. It is important not to be attached to success...this can lead to procrastination or even paralysis.

You indicate that your patten is to work around others in your life to please them. This is classic codependency and it indicates that you might have an "external locus of control". In psychological terms this is not healthy. A good metaphor for external locus of control is someone who gets a flat tire and calls suicide prevention rather than the tow truck. Your case is of course much more subtle but who are you if you define yourself by others approval. If you succeed at that then you are not even in your own body. You will be amazed that when you do what is in your heart, others will love and admire your for it. Those who depend on you to please them will either drift away or reduce their own dependency on you. You will begin to find yourself amongst other kind, independent, creative people. People pleasing actually harms others by fostering the illusion that they are in some kind of control. Control is a poison. It is a creation of the ego and it is delusion.

So be kind, compassionate, bold, brave and courageous in your quest. Remember to be guided by ethics...then how can you go wrong....Hope this helps....

my grandbaby Iris