First 30 Days Blog

07 jun

We Are not Victims

MonicaGomezFebruary 14, 1998. A woman gives birth to her son, Tomas. At the moment of birth, the baby is diagnosed with Down’s Syndrome. A real shock for the mother. As you can imagine, nobody wants to have a disabled child. The baby´s father cannot cope with this reality and leaves. The woman is an only child, and has the support of her parents but when the baby is only 20 days old, this lady´s mother is diagnosed with pancreas cancer.

What’s this I’m telling you? Is it the plot of a new soap opera? Not at all. I’m telling you a moment in my own life. That woman I am talking about is me. In less than a month, I lost my husband, I lost my job (I had to quit) and was alone with a Downs child and a Mum with cancer. Do you think I felt like a victim? Of course, you bet I did!

Some years before, in a Personal Growth Seminar, I had learned that we’re never victims. The idea was that we always create, cause or permit whatever happens to us. Now, what had I done to create this crisis in my life? We could split hairs and say that I hadn’t wanted to have genetic tests done during the pregnancy because I was not ready to abort in case of problems, so in a way I had allowed this child to be born with a disability. OK, we could say that.
However, what had I done as regards my Mum´s cancer? In that case, I could find no explanation of how I had permitted that to happen to me. I felt a real victim.

Let’s have a look at other examples, at a bigger scale. What did the Jewish people do for the holocaust to happen? What did the people who died in the World Trade Center do to deserve that horrible death? Or their families, for that matter. What did African kids do to be born with AIDS?

Some people who believe in reincarnation, find comfort believing that the answer to all this is that they bring karma from past lives. Maybe. Who knows? Maybe my situation was karma, but I didn’t feel any comfort!

Yesterday I saw on TV a survivor of the atomic bombs of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. This Japanese man was saying something that really surprised me. He stated that Japan had been responsible for the bombing attacks, because the U.S. had been urging to end the war and the Japanese leaders refused. He believed that in that way, the Japanese had caused the tragedies. That is, he thought that even though the use of the atomic bomb was not justified at all, there existed a part of responsibility from the part of Japan. He concluded his speech saying that both the American and Japanese governments should express their regret publicly for the atrocities they had caused.

All this confirmed in me that we’re not really victims. But let’s leave aside these drastic cases and come back to my humble story. There was a moment when I realized that I could choose how to react, how to face whatever was happening to me. What was I going to do with this situation that life was bringing me? It was my choice.

I remembered Christopher Reeve, the former Superman who suffered an accident and was paralyzed. Here’s what he wrote about his own tragedy:
“It’s not about what happened to you, but whatever you do with what happened. A true test for a human being is what you do after the catastrophe. It’s what you do with it. This is not a road I’d have picked but a lot of times things get picked for you. Either I give in, or I say, ‘All right, let’s make the best out of this.’”

So, what could I do with my situation? I could really get depressed. Of course. I remember my own therapist telling me that any other person in my situation would spend their days crying in bed. Well, I felt I couldn’t even “afford the luxury” of doing that, as I had a baby and a sick mum to look after, which reinforced my feeling of being a victim.

All this went on until I started becoming aware that I had a choice. I could give up or I could try to survive. I had no idea how to, but it was a question of ATTITUDE. It was like choosing between dying or staying alive.

The film Castaway shows this very clearly when Tom Hanks’ character says, “Keep breathing. You never know what the tide might bring in tomorrow.”

Another example is that of Viktor Frankl, a psychologist whose whole family died in the holocaust. He was part of that as well, and in the worst moments of suffering, he tried to make sense of what he was going through. He said, “you can deprive me of everything, even of my dignity, but the only thing that can’t be taken away from me is my capacity of choosing the attitude with which I’m going to face the things that happen to me.” He stated, “that which doesn’t kill me, makes me stronger.”

The point that I´d like to make clear is that you can choose how to react, you have the power to choose your own attitude toward your predicaments. You can’t choose what happens to you, but nobody can deprive you of your free will to choose your own attitude. You can despair and give up (even commit suicide!) or—while you go through your pain—you can go on breathing and open up to that  magic door that appears when you give your intention to survive, move forward and try to make the best of it.

To conclude with my experience, those who know me know that that magical door opened up and took me along ways I would never have even imagined: exactly five years after my crisis, I got married to a wonderful man who adopted Tomas and with whom we adventured out of our native Argentina, in search of a better future in Italy. If I had given in, I would never be telling you this story right now!

So, remember: we’re not really victims. Whenever we have to undergo a tragedy, we have the great power and the wonderful freedom to choose how we’re going to deal with that.

Bear it in mind. It’s up to you. You’re always the master of your life!

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Posted by Monica Gomez on June 7th, 2010 in New Directions, Personal Stories, Relationships, Things We Love | 0 comments

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