Don’t get me wrong, you may have experienced horrible things – bullying, chronic illness, violence and complete and utter tragedies. In those times it’s completely normal and natural to feel like you are a victim, that the world is against you, that you have no friends and no support. You are human if you are reading this so remember you are working with a brain that is designed to have a negative bias. Survival matters and is our brain’s primary goal. So when you are the brunt of attack of course you are going to retreat and metaphorically lick your wounds.
There are times you have been a victim perhaps as well – and in no way am I negating or minimizing those experiences at school, home or work. But in our animal sports world – you have control and you have power. Sometimes seeing that is difficult and sometimes using it is even harder.
When you are down it is completely reasonable to pull up the drawbridge, pull the covers over your head and feel sorry for yourself. If you can kick into Tend and Befriend mode that would be awesome and likely helpful both to you and those around you – who I will sincerely hope are busy activating their own tend and befriend response and supporting you. If you need to take time and space and make changes to recover? I’ll stand right behind you and support you.
That said …
DO NOT PLAY A VICTIM CARD
When things go wrong, instead
- Review the events, what happened? What was your role in the occurance? I do not mean assign fault or blame. That’s not helpful. But instead think through the events. How can you advocate for yourself or your partnership better? Maybe parking further away, or getting a corner spot to crate out of will help limit comments made. It’s GOOD to collect information if we are going to use it.
- If you made a mistake, and humans make plenty of errors, it’s ok to apologize in fact it may help you more than others. Now if you are going to apologize and own something – practice. Apologies are really easy to get wrong – “I’m sorry you feel that way” is not an apology. Nor is “I am sorry you were upset.”
- If the people who caused you this hurt are toxic you likely want to take steps towards cutting them out of your life or at least minimizing their impact on you. Let’s discuss this one a little more with an example. If you are trialling in a sport that has some very competitive and very critical people running the venue and attending the events you have some tough choices to make. Do you want to stay in that sport? Do you want to attend at that venue? Can you find a way to build your resilience for that situation to help you navigate your (understandable and expected) stress on trial day? Can you build an automatic comment bank for any unwanted or unkind comments that find you? (“That’s interesting” is one of my personal favs).
Feeling like a victim doesn’t help you. It doesn’t tend to change the situation and it most certainly doesn’t make you feel better. If you find yourself falling into the victim trap – there are answers. Let’s look at the process. If you have felt like a victim often in life it’s OK. That belief is very likely rooted in past events, trauma and pain. It’s a learned behaviour – and the ‘nice’ thing about learning? We can unlearn. Distress, anxiety and pain do not have to be your fuel.
Life is challenging enough without feeling like you need to blame anyone (self or other). Bad things will keep happening as you move through life – but so will good things. And, perhaps mostly importantly for our purposes here, we can create change – both in thinking and happening – at least in some quarters.
YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE A VICTIM
Let’s say you’ve ended up with a dog that feels harder than you expected. Perhaps it’s reactive, or fearful, or ill. It’s distressing you, it’s disrupting life and things feel very out of balance. What are the options? Move the dog out of your family in some way. Accept the situation. Change the situation. All are hard. All feel unfair (why should you have to do so MUCH work when so many people have perfect dogs – at least in social media land). The thing is feeling victimized in this kind of situation does not help you move forward. It does not change what has happened or what will happen and it does not make you feel better.
Sometimes things just are. Sometimes life sucks. Life is not fair. When we fall into a trap we tend to
- blame other people (of whatever species)
- get caught in rumination and wallowing
- stop looking for solutions
- not believe there are answers to the challenges thrown at us
If you nodded at any of the traps above decide RIGHT NOW to do ONE thing to change your thinking. Identify an issue, look for a solution, reflect on your role in this state (without blame – you are not singularly responsible for it I promise) and pick one thing you CAN and WILL do today to start the process of change. A tiny little slice is all it takes to start the ball rolling. So stop the wallow and do something.
Another example. You love dressage and have worked hard to be the best dressage rider you can be – but your horse simply can’t carry themselves as well as you would like to do as well as you know you could at a show. You have options. Sell your horse, retire your horse, change to another sport that suits their physical ability better, work on perfecting foundation movements that don’t need as much from your steed, attend clinics instead of shows, find another partner to show, get a vet out to do a full work up and see if you can support your horse better, you get the drift. There are options. Seeing them can feel very difficult and the options aren’t always easy, pleasant or possible in the moment – but there are possibilities. Look for them. Test them. Experiement. How small a change can you make?
You can do it. Surround yourself with people who know that – lean on them. Lean on your animal friends. Don’t be afraid to dream, and keep on learning. You control your thoughts – they don’t control you. Thinking is habit – and changing habit is HARD but so very worth it.