It might be easy to believe that intelligence is the solution to confusion. And yet, our intelligence is the very thing that often holds us back, keeps us stuck. In fact, I like to say that intelligence people might have it worse! Sounds familiar? Strange? Read on…
The stories we weave
When we hear “I am not able to study because I don’t have a personal room”, “I am not happy because of my parents”, “I am not successful because of my parents” – we are quick to cite empowering examples where people made it despite hardships/challenges. And to point out the good we have. And if it goes too far, we might even say “Don’t act like a victim!!!”
But if it becomes “I am not able to do XYZ, because of my mother-in-law” or husband or wife….then we soften a little. “Ya, what can one do!!! …”
- “Mother in laws are evil after all. They just dote on their sons”
- “Women are like that only. They don’t understand how hard it is for husbands”
- “Husbands are like that only. The mom should have taught better”
The same thing is happening here: I am blaming someone else for not being able to do something in my life. The only difference is we AGREE on the narrative of helplessness: “What can one do!!”
In short, MY progress depends on someone ELSE doing something.
My progress depends on someone else doing something.
Is it a wonder then I am stuck?
Addressing victim narratives
In my coaching practice, this is relatively easier to address. Cos the so-called “villains” are clear.
To point out that:
- Our thoughts are more focused on “Who is to blame” rather than “How do I progress”?
- That even the blaming is based on arbitrary moral rules (“It is OK to blame in-laws. It is not OK to blame parents”)
- That refusing to move unless someone/something else changes is a CHOICE we make. We can choose to move ahead DESPITE reality. Not in resistance to it, but in cognizance of it.
- That this does not mean what they are doing is OK. but that I value my own progress over changing them.
- That it is not wrong to ‘hope’ that others will change. But to make it a precondition for our progress is self-sabotage.
The intelligent victims
Here is when addressing the problem becomes difficult. When we hear narratives like:
- “I am not able to do XYZ, cos of the patriarchal constructs that have been created in our society since 2000 years”
- “I am not able to do XYZ, cos of the cultural conditioning that percolates into Eastern cultures that discourages independence”
- “I am not able to do ABC, because male vulnerability is seen as taboo.”
- “Unless we create safe psychological spaces for women to manifest their true selves, and encourage male vulnerability – change won’t happen”
Highly intellectual, beautifully abstract. Where do you even begin?!
But the construct is the same: My progress depends on someone else doing something.
Just that the villains are abstract! ‘Patriarchy’, ‘culture’, ‘societal conditioning’, ‘lack of safe spaces’…
Since abstract beliefs harder to examine, they become part of our identity more easily. Fingering them, probing them often invites anger and more abstractions! “Are you saying patriarchy is OK???? Are you victim blaming??? Are you a covert male chauvinist?!”
Of course, we address this eventually. But the irony is how people capable of such abstract thinking, often(not always) sabotage their own progress. And make it much harder for themselves to move. And much harder for others to get through.
How they even ‘fight for a better world’ while donning the suit of a victim all along. And are constantly frustrated that ‘nothing changes!’. Reaffirming their beliefs even more.
It is important to see that the action is not the issue. The place where it springs from is.
So what can you do if you happen to be an HIV?
My invitation is whenever you find yourself stuck, try shifting your focus from “Who is rightly to blame?” to “Where does the onus of change lie?”
And to see that if that onus lies on someone other than you, then you have relinquished power. It does not matter whether your blame is justified or not.
If the onus of change lies on someone other than you, then you have relinquished power. It does not matter whether your blame is justified or not.
And then make a choice:
“Is moving ahead important enough to me to figure out how to move ahead regardless of whether they change?
Or would I rather wait until they change or until I change them?”