Changing your Victim Story:
“My dad was an alcoholic and my mom was never there for me.”

"Thrust of Imagination" by Mimi Stuart
Live the Life you Desire

We take specific events from our childhood and create a story around them. However, our interpretation of what happened is partly a work of fiction as we view events through our own limited lens. Notice how different siblings experience their parents and upbringings in vastly different ways.

Our childhood experiences can affect us in a variety of ways. When we repeat the same dead stories to ourselves and others, we trap ourselves into being victims of our past. By living our past forward, we avoid taking responsibility for our future.

Once we grow up, we have the choice to let go of the stories we cling to. Psychologist Dr. James Hillman suggests that the soul wants fiction that heals, and that we should take our personal history literarily rather than literally. This means seeing the depth and mythological proportion of the underlying forces that move the people and actions in our story.

For example, rather than thinking of yourself as a victim of your parents’ dysfunctions, you could think of yourself as someone who has found inner strength, unknown capabilities, and a desire to seek new dreams. You could view your experience of pain and hardship as the way in which you found those strengths and dreams you never knew you had.

Instead of locking yourself into the limits of your past, you can use your creative imagination to look at your life through a new prism. When you change your own stories about your past, you create an opportunity to direct your future. By becoming one who has successfully overcome past challenges, you invite inner strength and vitality and can find your soul’s purpose.

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Reference: Dr. James Hillman’s “Revisioning Psychology.”

Reference: The Landmark Forum.

Resentment: Read “Resentment.”

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7 thoughts on “Changing your Victim Story:
“My dad was an alcoholic and my mom was never there for me.”

  1. Chrystine

    Like many things – easier said than done. It’s the re-write I’m having difficulty with. From my earliest memories I was not welcome in my family other than to fill the niche of scapegoat. My father could often be heard to say that children should be seen and not heard. I obliged him by not being seen either. I left home at 14. My mother, I never understood – still don’t. On one hand she seemed to be as much a victim of my father as my siblings and I but there were also as many times that she seemed to be the pillar beneath him. Either way neither she nor my father were trusted parental figures. For some reason I was handed the blame for everything from the crab grass that took over one part of the lawn to a miscarriage my mother had before I was born. I appreciate that my siblings all went through their own private hell with our parents but that didn’t prevent them from using me as a garbage can for anything they needed to displace as well. In the end, I resigned myself to being orphaned. I’m 58 now. My father is dead my mother still living. One sibling has taken on the caretaker roll, one the victim roll and one the judgement roll. I have no interest in any of that. The few times I’ve had contact with them in the years since has only served to enlighten me that they are comfortable in their rolls and are, at their cores, unchanged. So back to how to re-write my history. Or even if I should. I can not create a caring, loving, safe, family in my mind. That never existed for me so I wouldn’t even know where to begin. The best I have been able to do is simply accept that I was born to and in the middle of people that had no business having children and be thankful that I’m no longer caught in that net. Their parental responsibilities ended at putting a roof over our heads and food on the table and even that wasn’t without daily reminders of what we owed them for it. I admit, that for years I felt like a victim. More accurately, I felt cheated. Everything in your being tells you that you should be glad to be alive. To learn to grow, to prosper, to be happy. The only thing I was taught was that those who should protect you, nurture you, teach you, encourage you, want you… not only don’t – they don’t want to. How do you re-write that into something positive? I had cancer a few years ago and had to ask my mother for a SMALL loan while off work for a year. Given our families past this was no small thing for me to have to do. Upon the advice of ‘the caretaker’ sibling she denied me my request and simply told me “you’re a survivor – you’ll manage” I took this as proof that my decision to be orphaned was a wise one. I almost wish my parents had been drunks or addicts. At least then you could squarely point the finger at a definable cause. As it is. I have no idea what it was about me as an infant that prompted my parents actions/inaction’s. Maybe my head was pointed or something, Either way – life is too short to worry about the likes of them. But it has left it’s mark.

    1. Alison Post author

      It does sound as though you did the right thing by leaving a household where you were often blamed inappropriately and where you did not feel protected, nurtured, or loved.

      Changing your victim story is not about changing your history or pretending bad things didn’t happen. It’s more about focusing on the strengths you developed through growing and standing up for yourself through hardships. It sounds to me as though you did become independent and strong, and that you learned to thrive away from the ease of staying within a dysfunctional dynamic. I’m sure it was not easy, and yet you developed a stronger sense of self by leaving. Think about the positive characteristics you developed in contrast to how you would have been if you had stayed.

      Good luck.

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