By Dr. Steve
Click Here to Return to
the Table of Contents
Shifting from Victim
girl who cant dance says the band cant keep time.
Taking responsibility for our emotional and spiritual well-being requires
that we let go of the past by taking ownership of the here-and-now.
few years ago, I went to a party with a good friend of mine, Beverly. It was quite cold
that evening so Beverly wore her full length fake fur coat.
this coat is the biggest, furriest thing that you have ever seen. When we arrived at the
party, our host took Beverlys coat and put it in the spare bedroom. As the evening
wore on, Beverly came up to me and told me that she was ready to leave. Next, she went
upstairs to get her coat out of the spare bedroom.
few moments later, I heard the loudest, shrillest, shriek I had ever heard. I recognized
immediately that it was Beverly who had begun to scream hysterically.
naturally I went running up the steps to see what had happened. There I saw Beverly, her
body trembling, her hands glued to the sides of her head, screaming at the top of her
wasnt until I was able to help her calm down that I could even understand what she
was trying to say.
see, Beverly was deathly afraid of dogs. She had been her whole life. When she was three
years old, while sitting in her stroller one day, she was viciously attacked by a huge
dog. She received over one-hundred stitches and was obviously very traumatized by the
evidently when Beverly went into the dark bedroom, she saw this huge pile of fur laying on
the bed and immediately assumed it was a dog. She became overwhelmed with fear and anxiety
and bolted from the room.
didnt want to upset Beverly any more than she already was, but, I was somewhat
confused. You see, I knew that the people who had given the party didnt have a dog.
So I spent a considerable amount of time trying to assure her that there wasnt a dog
in the room.
funny thing was, the more I tried to convince her that there wasnt a dog in the
room, the angrier she got with me. In trying to be helpful, it seemed I was making matters
finally convinced her to come with me into the room so that I could show her that there
was nothing to be frightened about.
finally agreed. We slowly crept up to the doorway and peaked into the room. Sure enough,
there on the bed sat this big furry, lumpy creature. Now I was really puzzled.
cautiously stepped into the room, fumbling around in the dark, searching for a light
All the while Beverly was peeking over my shoulder, nervously clinging to my back.
Finally, I found the switch. After the light came on, we both began to laugh
uncontrollably. For when the light came on in the room, what do you imagine we saw laying
on the bed? Thats right! It wasnt a dog at all. It was Beverlys very own
fur coats, transforming our mindset? The connection? As I said earlier, transforming our
mindset is a giant step towards personal empowerment. Just as Beverly discovered, we can
be brought to our knees with fear, not by what we encounter in our life, but by our
perception of what we encounter in our life. If we want to reclaim our personal power, we
need to be able to tell the difference between the dogs and the fur coats that we
encounter on our path.
another way to think about that. If the dog represents our past and the fur coat
symbolizes the here-and-now, we need to start to distinguish between what is the
here-and-now and what is the past leaking into the here-and-now.
can see from Beverlys experience that when we become more clear about what we are
reacting to--either the present or the past leaking into the present--we can more clearly
assess what is happening to us in the moment. The value of this is simple to understand.
Our fears dont have to overtake how we react to any situation when we are grounded
in the moment, for we are clean about what is happening with us in the moment.
only need to discover how the past colors our perceptions of the present. You can think of
how that may be true for you, cant you? Something may be happening to us now, but
that circumstance may become supercharged with the past leaking into the moment. Just like
Beverlys strong reaction when she thought her coat was a dog.
she thought that her coat was a dog, it was all over for her, because the trauma she
experienced at the age of three immediately colored how safe she was feeling in the
present moment. Once Beverly was able to shed some light on the here-and-now, she was able
to see that her misperception of the coat was the cause of her fear. Then she was able to
laugh it off, feeling silly for her overreaction.
transforming what we see with our minds eye, we can empower ourselves to live a life
in the present that is clean and unencumbered. In order to transform what we see with our
mind, we need to learn how to clean the lenses through which we view the world.
the lenses through which we view the world. Does that mean that we have to accept the
notion that our way is not the only way to see the world? In a word, yes.
see, we have one thing that is always intruding on our perception of the present moment.
That one thing is our past. Our past colors everything we see. Our past colors the
judgments we make about the present. Ultimately, our past colors the way we relate to the
people and circumstances we encounter in our present.
work hard in our Relationship Bridge Building groups to develop the skills necessary to
separate the past from the present. What I tell the group members is that we need to clean
the mud off our windshields before we can start to have a relationship with people in the
here-and-now. Quite simply, we need to learn how to view the circumstances and people in
our lives through the lens of the here-and-now, aided by the understanding of how our past
can distort our perception of the present.
it is often this very tenet of personal growth that stops people dead in their tracks.
Surrendering how we view the world. Transforming how we think about who we are. Becoming
open to seeing ourselves in a new and different way. Letting go of the ways we insulate
ourselves from personal responsibility. Thats a slippery slope for anyone to take
on. Its a path that requires a lot of courage, a lot of patience, and a lot of hope
that the future is better served for being on such a path.
I ask people to do is challenge themselves to give up the ways they have insulated
themselves from one essential truism of life. That truism has been the death knell of many
persons attempts at stepping out of the shadows. The truism; we are ultimately responsible
for our emotional and spiritual well-being, a responsibility that can only be fulfilled by
being grounded in the here-and-now.
let that truism into our mind, body, and soul requires an important transformation to take
place. We need to let go of the number one defense we all rely upon, the number one way we
stay frozen in the past, enslaved to the emotional storm that leaks into the here-and-now.
The defense is quite simply, blame.
all recognize what blame is. It is displaced responsibility for our well-being. Blame is
an accusation that communicates we feel hurt, betrayed, abandoned, abused, and humiliated
by how we have been treated by others. But it leaves us stuck in the position of feeling
blame is an anchor that keeps us stuck in our perception of previous acts of betrayal. It
keeps us stuck for one very important reason. Blame is the conduit by which we give away
our personal power. Blame is the means by which we surrender our ability to make the
here-and-now different. Blame is the source of toxic emotions that corrodes our spirit
rather than empowers our journey.
way we liberate ourselves from the perceptions clouded by the past is to take ownership of
our thoughts, our feelings, and our actions. Another one of those simple things to say but
hard things to do.
thats the door we all have to walk through. We all have to develop a better
understanding of who we are, what stirs us up, what our reactions mean rather than what we
want them to mean.
all need to cultivate a clearer understanding of what the battles are that we are waging
with the world as well as what their significance is. Do you understand what long-held
wrongs you are trying to right with everyone who populates your here-and-now world? Can
you see how you hold people in your life hostage to past events?
clean in the present. Taking ownership. Letting go of the past. Does that give you a
direction? Does that give you a sense of how to empower yourself by transforming your
mindset? The transformation--I suppose it sounds something like this:
will surrender the mindset of a victim for the mindset of a person who takes ownership of
will surrender the blissfulness of ignorance for the emotional pain of self-awareness.
will surrender the ease of blame for the sweat and toil of taking responsibility for my
emotional and spiritual well-being.
will surrender the certitude of living in the past for the uncertainty of living in the
will surrender the emotional safety that comes from holding others responsible for my
well-being for the discomfort provoked by living a life of integrity and
the roadmap I use when I feel like my past has overtaken my present. Thats the
compass I use when I feel I have become disoriented because I have handed
responsibility to others for my well-being. Thats the yardstick I use when I feel I
have to measure whether I have strayed from where I want to be.
about giving it a try. Why not write down some criteria for yourself? What are ways that
you can measure whether your old mindset of blame, shifting responsibility, and not taking
ownership of the here-and-now appear in your life? What are the transformations that need
to take place within your mindset to insure that you are taking responsibility for the
is big. It should not just roll off the tip of your pen. Give yourself plenty of time. If
it feels like it is too overwhelming to do, do a little at a time. But whatever you do,
dont walk away from it. The rewards will be worth the blood, sweat, and tears.
none of that is helpful to you, then just remember this one last thought. If someone comes
up to you at a party and tells you that you cant dance, its time to stop
blaming the band. How about looking into taking some dance lessons?
chemical dependency and its toxic impact on family members. Raise your
children to choose to be alcohol and other drugs
free. Learn how
to in Dr. Frischs, Psy.D. Recovery book series.