I recently read a tale by Donna Zajonc about twin boys on a farm. They walked into a barn with their grandfather. One boy started complaining about the awful smell of manure and how he would end up with it all over his shoes. The smell was making him nauseous and he really was not happy that his grandfather had brought him into the barn. The other twin was incredibly excited, shouting that if there was so much manure in the shed, there must be a pony somewhere. And he ran off in excitement to find the pony, imagining what a great time they would have together.
The first boy saw himself as a victim of the smell and the manure. All his thoughts revolved around the negative part of his story. The second focussed his energy on possibilities and what he wanted to happen. He was imagining a great outcome and this energised him and helped him take action towards this imagined pony.
With which twin do you identify?
The good news is that victims can change. Once you recognise that this is a pattern you run, you have a choice and can decide to run a different pattern. A victim is a recognised psychological type in the Karpmann Drama Triangle (also known as the Dreaded Drama Triangle, or DDT). Someone who sees themselves at the mercy of circumstance, unable to change the situation and often living from one crisis to another - crises which are never their fault, always beyond their control. Think, for example, of a colleague who always complains about their job. Nothing is ever right, nobody understands them and they really hate their role.
Once you recognise this pattern their are steps you can take to get out of the pattern, to leave the DDT and to become instead, part of the Empowerment Dynamic.
The main element of victimhood is a focus on problems, on what is happening that is undesirable and unwanted. (In the story above, for example, the first twin only focusses on the manure and the smell and how it makes him feel). To move from the drama triangle and become part of the empowerment dynamic means a switch from the role of victim to one of creator. This means a move from being problem focussed to outcome oriented. (Yes, it's back to the benefits of goal setting!)
Take another example of John a banker who is always complaining about this job. Nothing is ever right, nobody understands him, his colleagues are inefficient and all in all he hates his job but he is well paid and feels trapped their because of his generous salary. This is a real victim mentality. In order to change and become the creator of his story, John needs to decide to take responsibility for his situation and focus not on how much he hates his job but on the solution: what he wants to experience in life instead. He can decide to stay in his job while focussing on the elements of his role which he can change and influence for the better. He can decide that he will look for another job and see what options are available to him. Perhaps there will be other well paying roles out there or he can explore his values and decide job satisfaction is actually more important the renumeration? The difference is that he chooses to take responsibility and focusses on what he wants instead rather than the difficulties he faces.
The next time you catch yourself moaning about a situation you find yourself in, choose to stop! Instead, ask yourself what you would rather have - and decide on the steps you need to take to get to that better outcome.
This is where a coach can be really helpful. A coach can give clarity around what exactly you want - so many of us know what we DON'T want but can struggle to form a clear picture of the alternative. Your coach can then help you plan how to get to your chosen goal and keep you accountable along the way.
Where in life are you a victim? What can you do to become the creator?