I want to highlight a stealth disease that's destroying millions of lives. It's contagious, and its toxic effects are spreading like the plague.
This disease is called Victimitus Infinitus (VI).
It's a silent happiness killer that moves so stealthily that sufferers don’t recognise its symptoms. It's a psychological and emotional disease that's wreaking havoc with our relationships and happiness.
The Victimitis Virus is a highly contagious virus: it can be spread easily from another to another and if left undetected it diminishes self-trust, causing us to disconnect from who we really are.
How can you tell if your life is permeated with the victim mentality? This article will decisively answer the question.
As a bit of background, this builds on a blog post I wrote for Income Diary where I challenge the reader with the question, are you living by default or design?
As I explained in the article when any of the six default settings (Approval, Blame, Conformity, Doubts, Excuses or Focus Splatter) are running our lives, our happiness is seriously diminished, with the way ahead seemingly muddled and contaminated with uncertainty.
Sarah, single again after a divorce is back in the dating game. When she goes out on a date, her main concern is how much the man likes her. She asks most of the questions so she can figure out what his preferences are so she can mould herself to his likes. If she says something that he seems to disagree with, she immediately changes her opinion. Sarah is the victim of the approval (people pleasing) default setting.
Erica loves spending time with friends, going out partying, and generally having a good time - even though her schoolwork is heading south. When she eventually gets poor grades, her parents ground her and take away her privileges. She firmly points the finger in the direction of the teachers for having it in for her from the first class. She rips up the family photo album to show how pissed off she is. Erica is victim to the blame default setting.
Dan is an ambitious young lawyer who has a garage filled with expensive toys and a penthouse flat with all the latest gadgets. In our first conversation, his dissatisfaction is revealed when he says, "I feel so overwhelmed these days. I don't know how to enjoy myself anymore", Dan is a victim of the conformity default setting. He has unconsciously bought into the mass market’s idea of what constitutes success and happiness.
Jane has just married Dave who she's always suspected is a compulsive spender. He confidently denies there is anything wrong but refuses to be transparent with his finances. He rationalises his spending with, "You only live once!" Worried, friends and family have shown their concern, but Jane tells them that Dave has a good heart and is very generous with what little he has. She focuses on his generous nature and shies away from bringing the matter to a head. Even though Dave’s money problems might sink her life savings, Jane is a victim of the doubt and fear default setting.
Pete is five stone overweight and has just found out he has diabetes. It’s a wake-up call, but his language is filled with ‘soon’, ‘later’ and ‘tomorrow’. The lack of appropriate action is damaging Pete's long-term health even more. Pete is a victim of the excuses default setting and as a consequence is at higher risk of potentially preventable complications.
Jon is a sales representative with many responsibilities. He is paid to find new business, look after existing clients, and take care of the admin. In a phone call with me, he expresses a major frustration he is having - he just can't seem to "stay on task" with his primary business activities. He says, ‘Colin, I get started, and it isn't long before I'm distracted and off task!’ He observes he quickly loses focus with interruptions, other people’s agendas, emails, phone calls, and the lure of Facebook and Youtube. Jon is the victim of the focus splatter default setting.
Before you read on, ask yourself, which one(s) are my Default Setting(s)?
First, each story is filled with negative emotions of fear, anger, frustration, pain, guilt, emptiness, helplessness, resentment, boredom, self-pity, disappointment, and dissatisfaction. Feelings of love, joy, abundance, happiness, trust, and confidence have all been diminished.
Second, none of these people realises they are working against their best interest! They are not stupid or bad people, but they have fallen foul to a stealth disease that's covertly influencing their perceptions and behaviour.
Their ineffective strategies are geared to meeting their short term needs: to avoid one more argument, to get through the day, to mask the pain, or to avoid rejection, etc. In the long run, these behaviours create more disconnection with themselves and the world.
These people are stuck in the same seamless replicating patterns, patterns that have not worked in the past, and which are making their lives miserable. They don't have a clue that what they truly need to build are happy and fulfilling lives, with meaningful relationships, and purposeful careers.
Third, they are ignorant of their own self-deception because of a deeply embedded seductive process, which is operating without their knowledge or consent. None of the six default settings come alone. They show up in our lives with two psychological heavyweights.
Their names are Denial and Delusion. When together, with a particular default setting, they become three interlocking dynamics which are highly potent and destructive, thus forming the root of victim mentality.
I call the three D's - Denial, Delusion and Default Settings the toxic trio. Trio because they are always working together preventing us from seeing the reality of things. Toxic because when they are in play, life is filled with toxic negative energy.
They result in an increase of harmful emotions: anger, fear, worry, resentment, frustration and pain. These three interlocking dynamics are inherent to our psychological makeup.
We've all got them, and because of their sneaky nature, you may read this article and not recognise them in yourself. By nature, they are easy to spot in others but hard to spot in ourselves.
Take Sue, a thirty-something, slender, dark-haired, attractive professional women working in investment banking. She's feeling frustrated, angry and anxious that she's not going to find the right man before her eggs dry up! She desires a deep and intimate relationship, but her latest boyfriend has just dumped her. ”Why are men such fucking wimps!", "Why are they so intimidated by my success?" She wants a man who's as passionate as her about being successful. I ask her how many hours she works a week. "It all depends if I'm travelling but around sixty." I reply that's not a lot of time to find Mr Right; she fires back in an agitated nasal tone, "I know my job is demanding, but it is what it is. He'll have to accept that!"
Sue is in denial about her 'work is everything' attitude. She deludes herself that her career is more important than a deep and lasting relationship. Lastly, she falls foul of the blame default setting pointing her finger at the men for being wimps. She sincerely believes she is the victim. Sue is unaware that she is in the firm grip of the Victim Virus which is keeping her apart from finding the man of her dreams.
The toxic trio are always working together, always keeping us from seeing the true reality of things. Not understanding these three powerful forces leads to the erosion of trust, happiness and life-satisfaction.
The toxic trio express themselves in the following ways:
The three D's are so deeply programmed that they feel like the Truth. They have a vicious, circular, self-supporting process which makes it so hard for each of us to spot and stop. The toxic trio are like a Teflon-plated sphere of truth that offers no corners or angles to grip onto.
When challenged, the sphere shifts position (often to another Default Setting - loss of approval shifts to blame for instance) and a new delusional version of reality is created.
More external pressure shifts the sphere again to another Default Setting, followed by more denial, another false reality and a shift of responsibility, etc. The ability of the toxic trio to shift shape and reconfigure themselves are boundless.
Once the unconscious cycle begins, we disconnect from who we really are, preventing our life from becoming satisfying, happy and fulfilling.
Focusing on the short-term gain encourages us to use denial and delusion to ignore both our emotions and the long-term consequences of our actions. The default settings help us to avoid results. When we are in hot pursuit of the immediate goal, we are not consciously aware that we are distorting reality, eroding trust and destroying our happiness.
If the toxic trio continues to spin its sphere, it ensures real issues are not addressed, and we are not held accountable so we remain stuck!
Levels of happiness and fulfilment decrease and relationships fall apart, or their full levels of satisfaction are compromised.
The colossal mistake we make is to believe that this strategy works. That living by default actually creates a deep level of fulfilment in our relationships and life, or in developing a compassionate relationship with ourselves. That finding the fastest way to self-gratification and evading accountability is in our best interests. That using distortion to avoid painful emotions actually works.
It so does NOT!
Let me give a simple formula for uncovering and stopping the toxic trio ruining your life. It consists of four simple questions that cut through the weeds and brambles in your mind’s garden that cover up the true shape of reality.
These questions will help you become aware of two things:
1. What your Defaults Settings are; and
2. That they are not the truth. They are not who you are.
By using these questions, you'll be able to see quickly if you are using the toxic trio against your own best interests. You can use them in any situation and any environment to get to the heart of what's happening.
Use these questions anytime you find yourself experiencing some level of pain, fear, anger and anxiety. If you can, take some time out now to ask yourself the following questions.
My clients often find they only have to ask the first question because it’s such a profound enquiry. They don't need to proceed to the next two questions, just completing the process with the last one.
If you can't ask the questions in the moment, find the time to deliberate over the trigger event. Take your time to explore your thoughts, motives and habits. Any amount of attention and energy you give to defeat the toxic trio will pay off handsomely in happiness and fulfilment.
These questions will help you find the thinking behind the suffering by moving yourself out of your Default Setting and into a place of Conscious Awareness.
Question 1: What essential facts or responsibilities am I denying?
The toxic trio loves to spin stories that omit what part we are playing in the drama. The pieces that make up the reality jigsaw may well be hidden but if you sit still long enough with this question, you will spot it.
Question 2: How am I creating a delusional reality to support the denial?
Remember when the toxic trio are playing the game of your life they will feel like the truth. But it’s nothing more than a clever distortion of reality. This question will take you deeper and bring you closer to the truth.
Question 3: What default setting am I using to shift the responsibility for my happiness?
The six default settings deflect responsibility, letting us off the hook. We don't have to change, but the world does! This question reveals the default setting culprit.
Question 4: If you knew you are 100% responsible, how would you handle (fill in your situation) differently?
This powerful question jumps us out of the default groove and allows our creativity to flow, finding ideas and solutions to our problem. It works because it assumes a "new knowing," a different reality, that does not contain the distorted reality created by Victim Virus.
These four questions build more self-awareness and self-awareness is the very foundation of the Victim Virus antidote. You can — and will — absolutely recover from Victimitus Infinitus provided you follow the doctor’s orders: use the four questions daily for best results.
We always have the power of choice, even when we don't like any of the choices, we still have some. Once we wake up to this fact we can begin to take control of our lives and reclaim our true nature.
This type of work isn't always easy, but what we do and how we choose to feel about ourselves has a profound impact on the quality and happiness of our lives.
I leave you with some words of wisdom by Byron Katie:
“As long as you think that the cause of your problem is “out there”—as long as you think that anyone or anything is responsible for your suffering—the situation is hopeless. It means that you are forever in the role of victim, that you’re suffering in paradise.”
Leave me a comment and let me know how the toxic trio has impacted your happiness. I'm still a big casualty of it, and at times I've said bye-bye to happiness because of it.
The first trigger - denial sure is a slippery customer.
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Science proves you can do it