I play the victim role as well as anyone. I still do. The most difficult step is to recognize that I am actually in the role.
Abuse as the Baseline
I was truly a victim, but I didn’t know it at the time. I was raised in an abusive household and living that life seemed normal because it was all that I knew. It was only through extensive counseling that I gradually realized I was still taking on the victim role and playing it very well.
In May of 2002, I was in a terrible emotional state. I could barely get through the day; it tremendous effort. I was still an excellent, technically competent surgeon; however, internally, I was not having much enjoyment. Most surgeons, including myself, love performing surgery. It is interesting, challenging, and satisfying to help bring a patient back to health. However, I was continuing to experience severe burnout. I had pursued every avenue possible with a vengeance. This turned me into an anxious wreck. I didn’t really know how to turn it around and could not find the answer to my problems.
Mother’s Day 2002
I was in Oakland, CA on Mother’s day weekend of 2002. My daughter was with my girlfriend (now wife) and me, and the three of us were washing the car on a beautiful sunny day. It should have been one of those special times in life where I should have been happy being with my future family. It wasn’t. I was in mental agony. For some reason, in the middle of washing the car that day, it dawned on me that I was tired of all of this internal unrest. I also realized that I was looking for an outside source to solve my problem. I suddenly clearly saw how much I was in the victim role. At that moment I made a simple decision to not be a victim anymore.
There is No Answer
It took another year before I really pulled out of my tailspin, but my life took a basic turn that weekend. I had been looking for some answer that would change my life.I realized that there was no single answer to my problems and I knew I was going to have to solve my own issues.
I returned to doing the writing exercises in David Burns’ book Feeling Good”, and re-committed to understanding anger. His book had already had a major effect but I had given it up. I didn’t realize it before, but by not pursuing a resource that I knew was powerful I really was choosing to remain a victim. I also did not know about the concept of developing alternative neurological pathways. It had caught my attention that the author pointed out that cognitive restructuring was effective in relieving anxiety 85% of the time using just the book.
I have found out that I am and continue to be very creative both in remaining a victim and in hiding it from myself and others. It is my strongest commitment to myself and family to work on first recognizing and then coming out of this role.