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No: You're Not A Powerless Victim

By Dr. Linda Sapadin

No, you're not helpless. No, you're not powerless. No, you're not a victim!

Sure there are some aspects of your life that you're not in control of. You didn't expect to get a serious illness, a financial reversal, a divorce, a kid on drugs. Other situations are less serious but can be just as frustrating. You hate your job; you're fighting with your spouse; your kids are mouthing off. In short: life has not turned out the way you expected it to. So what are you going to do about it? Be miserable? Give up? Sink into a depression? Spiral downward?

Or, are you going to figure out where your power lies. Maybe you need to brace yourself for chemo, begin family therapy, seek out the services of a headhunter. You're not locked up in jail. But, it may be that you're in the wrong marriage, wrong career, wrong approach to parenting. Reflect on the matter. Pinpoint the problem. Then make a decision as to how you'll continue to grow your future.

If, in contrast, you keep yourself in the helpless position of "I'm screwed; I have no choice," you reinforce an ineffectual mind-set. If you don't modify that now, what makes you think it'll be any easier as time goes on?

So, let's start being proactive right now.

Think of a situation in which you view yourself as a victim. If you're thinking about skipping this exercise by saying, "This is dumb" or "I can't do this," you're actually enacting the victim position. So instead of whining, do it!

As you reflect on this situation, see if you can discover where your power lies. The answer may not come to you right away but stay with it. In every situation, you've got power. Don't believe me? Listen to Viktor Frankel, a World War II concentration camp survivor:

"The one thing you can't take away from me is the way I choose to respond to what you do to me."

Just because you can't do everything doesn't mean you can't do anything. As much as you want to, you can't snap your fingers and make it all better. You can't close your eyes, click your heels and go home again. You can't make other people change; hell, you can't even make yourself change. All true, but so what?

Finish this sentence: "I don't know how to deal with the issue I'm facing but one thing I do know is ..."

Take the time to complete this sentence and you'll be on the road to discovering where your power lies.

Linda Sapadin, Ph.D. is a psychologist in private practice who specializes in helping people enrich their lives, enhance their relationships and overcome self-defeating patterns of behavior. For more information about her work, contact her by email

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