Thursday, July 06, 2006

Victimhood ≠ Entitlement

I took 45 years to understand that seeing one's self as a victim and feeling a sense of entitlement to things that others do NOT take for granted go hand in hand. When you feel like a victim, you, of course, thirst for justice; to see the wrongs done you made right. And insofar as you feel wrongs have been done TO you--that they're not your fault--you expect others to right them. This is certainly the way I felt until only recently.

In my childhood, I suffered genuine, reasonably severe, and on-going physical and emotional abuse. It devastated me. When I became an adult, not only did I understand myself in the diminished ways for which I'd been trained, I also saw myself as a victim of circumstances beyond my control. And man, I was right. I was a victim. And as an adult, I had every right to be angry. However, having a right to be angry at the world did not give me a right to have the world address the wrongs done me.... Ouch. It took me a stint in rehab (to control bipolar disorder, which has been in remission for quite some time, now) to see that.

About a week ago, I was mentally surveying the challenges I'm currently facing in my life, especially in career and love, and I realized--with a start--that I have no more excuses for NOT facing them, as I've so often had, in the past. I realized that I am basically a happy man, at long last. I also realized that for the first time that I can remember, I DON'T feel that anybody owes me anything! I no longer expect to be able to sit by my phone to wait for other people to come begging for my presence. The plate isn't going to come to me. I have to step up to it. This was a somber realization, for sure, and utterly joyful. Solemnity and joy are not bad companions.

p.s. This post is not unrelated to the one below. Women have a right to be angry for having to fight against second class economic and social status. They have a right to see the injustices of sexism made right. But, that 'right' often seems to entail a sense of 'entitlement' to being taken care of by a man, in a way that a man could never expect to be taken care of by a woman (yes, I know: men find other ways to be taken care of by women, but to explicate that point here would be to misdirect the argument in a direction I'm not heading, in this post.) A funny paradox, isn't it?

It's a paradox that I've by no means found to be universal. But, I have found it in places I didn't expect, in my dating pool of thirty-to-forty something professionals and upper middle class divorcèes.

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