“We are not victims. We are not the product of our pasts. We are the products of our choices.
We are response-able meaning we can choose our responses.
The power to choose is a reflection of our independent will.”
Steven Covey – Primary Greatness
Victims? I have struggled all my life not to be or feel a victim. I have chronic pain, and spend a lot of energy refusing to let it be my identity. And 30 years ago when my body collapsed on me, I recognized that this was partially caused by my very stressful childhood. Dwelling on this was not healing.
Finally, I said to myself, “You have a choice. You can blame someone else or you can look at what it was in you that enabled this to happen. Because that you can change.” This sounds like “blame the victim,” but it put the power back into my hands. I didn't blame myself or negate what was done to me, but I could see where my reaction amplified it and what in me made me a target. So I was able to start the long journey up into wellness.
I started with anything I did that weakened me: how I talked to myself, how I reacted to stress. You name it, I had very bad reactions. Take my tendency to react to crisis by running in all directions like a headless chicken. Why? I discovered to make a smoke screen that would stop any other demands on me. So yes, I am with Steven Covey on this one.
But we are products of our pasts, subliminally. Kids start out knowing nothing. We have to decode life and weave it into a coherent narrative. We learn what is safe and what hurts us. We also, by osmosis, learn the values of our culture.
I certainly learned that girls were less valued than boys. I learned many 60s survival skills: not appearing more intelligent than my boyfriend, for example. Sounds crazy today, but not back in Mad Men days. And many of my beliefs were deep down inside, buried. I didn't know I had them – except sometimes they come up near the surface, so I can grab them and say, “of course, this comes from way back.” A huge wave of relief as I take that filter out of my vision. I never knew that I was interpreting my life through a lens distorted when I was five. I just thought “this is what life is.”
So, Steven Covey, yes we do have choices, but only if we understand that what we believe is the truth on which we base our choices is often only the survival interpretation of a child.