Last week I responded to a reader’s question about how to handle feelings of betrayal by family members resulting from lies and other hurtful behavior that occurred in the past. The reader wanted to know how to keep those feelings of betrayal from spoiling the upcoming holidays yet again.
My Answer: Part 2
Part of the problem with feeling betrayed is that you can’t “unring the bell” and erase the behavior. Another big challenge when it involves a family member, is that you can’t just stop being related to that person and thereby avoid them altogether!
Between wishing you could erase it, struggling to let go of all the judgments you have about it, and having to see that person on a regular basis it’s easy to fall into a habit of quietly reliving and resenting the event. The problem is, staying stuck in the past like that reinforces a view of yourself as being an angry, disempowered victim, instead of an empowered adult, living in the present and peaceful about the past, with their self-esteem fully intact.
Feeling like a victim will keep you from enjoying the your time with everyone, not just the person whose actions led to your feeling that way.
If you’ve already started practicing the skills I outlined in last week’s article of identifying your beliefs and letting go of the “why” of the original betrayal, you are already on the road to having a better holiday. If you’re also stuck in a feeling victimization, use the following 5 steps to begin to change what has become your habit of feeling powerless and victimized into a habit of feeling at peace.
5 Steps to Overcoming a Victim Mindset
- Name It. Identify the behavior that is triggering your feelings of victimization: anger, outrage, hurt, helplessness, powerlessness, etc. Simply state what the behavior is in a clear, direct and simple way. Do not embellish with feelings or explanations of why you the behavior is bad or wrong. It may also be helpful to write down your description of the behavior.
- Look To The Past For Clues. When else in your life did you experience this same kind of behavior? By whom? Acknowledge your history, and your feelings that you had in the past. Remember as many details as you can, and how you handled it. Notice what’s similar about how you are reacting today. Simply notice…and breathe. Write down these memories and thoughts.
- Listen Deeply For Your Underlying Beliefs. What is the conclusion or decision about yourself, the other person and/or life, that keeps you stuck in the rut of powerlessness, helplessness and rage? Remember that your beliefs determine how you feel. When you draw conclusions, they become your beliefs.For example, the child of a father who is emotionally absent for his family may come to the conclusion that the reason the father is emotionally absent is that they, the child, are not lovable. If the father leaves, they take that as further proof of not being worthwhile. That conclusion, often carried for a lifetime, can have a significant and detrimental impact on all of that person’s relationships going forward.
- Set Your Sights On Your Goal. What is Your Desired Outcome? This has been my favorite question for years, and it is imperative to ask and answer it in order to make changes going forward. Remember, to work as an effective change catalyst, a Desired Outcome must fit 2 basic requirements. It must be:a) stated in terms of what you want, NOT what you don’t want, and
b) something over which you have controlThis means if you want your mother or father, or boss or anyone else to stop doing something, to stop being demanding or demeaning, take a breath and STOP! Remind yourself that you cannot stop anyone from doing anything, but you CAN decide to make your needs and feelings known. Communicating is something over which you DO have control.So, when you are feeling powerless and helpless, what is it that you really want? Do you want to stand up for yourself? Do you want to express your opinion? Do you want to make your needs or feelings known?
- Brainstorm New Alternative Beliefs. IF the conclusions you wrote down in #3 were NOT true, what would you do differently in these moments of upset, betrayal, deceit, lying, etc.? This step allows you to fantasize for a moment… What if you really were empowered, lovable, capable and worthwhile? Write down what you wish you would or could do if you weren’t stuck? What would you do if you knew you could not fail?
This question is one that opens up a host of issues that we address in the TBYL Group Program. Letting go of old beliefs and habits starts, as you did with a willingness to explore behaviors that no longer feel good to you and are no longer helpful or productive in your life.
The steps I’ve outlined here are the beginning ones to open up to new possibilities for handling emotionally charged situations, and stepping out of old beliefs and habits that keep us feeling stuck. And truthfully, whenever people feel powerless anger, frustration or even rage tend to be close behind.
Need additional ideas for dealing with challenging family members during the holidays? For a more “HEARTFELT” holiday, be sure to also read my 4-part article series on healing and renewing the most important relationships in our lives. Set yourself up for success and greater peace of mind by walking through the questions and exercises NOW…instead of realizing later that you could have used some new coping and communication strategies!
Please reach out for one-on-one support if you want to explore this issue further. While changing old beliefs is necessary to grow and evolve in our lives, getting support through these life transitions makes the journey much easier. Just email me at Loren@BeingWellWithin.com, or call me at (201) 486-6720.