I was bullied a lot in elementary school. I felt like a victim. My home life was bad, school was no better. But in third grade I learned a new way to look at things.
It was a day like any other. The usual suspects were bullying me for something on the playground. When we got back inside, I ran to Ms. Reed.
"Nicole and Lisa were calling me names and making fun of me," I tattled, expecting her to take my side and reprimand them. But instead she said,
"Oh? And what was your part in it? Did you encourage them by overreacting and getting upset?"
I stopped in my tracks. What was my part? It had never occurred to me to think of this other perspective. I mean, yes I had gotten upset. I always got upset. But did that encourage them? You mean, maybe they teased me because I reacted so strongly to it?
"Umm... Yes?" I answered.
"Well, maybe you shouldn't encourage them and they'll stop," she offered. This was blowing my mind. It meant I had some control over the things that happened to me. Maybe I wasn't just a victim after all.
I began to use this method of regaining power in my life. Throughout the day, every day, I'd question, what was my part? so that I could see situations from a different angle. I stopped feeling like a victim of my own life. I began considering all angles instead of just my own selfish point of view.
I began to question my part in my anger towards my parents. My father's explosive anger - well, I felt sorry for myself instead of not taking it personally. His anger had nothing to do with me. I expected him to be something he wasn’t.
My mother's drinking. That also had nothing to do with me. She was sick. I had heard that before, but never considered it from an alternative perspective. She didn't drink because she hated me. She drank because she hated herself. If I could see her as a sick person I could start feeling empathy for her instead of hate. Oftentimes my part had been feeling like a victim. But now I could see myself as a strong person in unfortunate circumstances.
I had to be careful not to fall down the rabbit hole into victimization with this tactic. For example, I had to be careful not to think things like, I should just stay out of Mom's way so as not to piss her off and make her drink more. Or my part was being in the way of dad's swinging fist when he was angry. No. I could never take the perspective of a victim. I had to look honestly at situations. I had to look directly at the truth.
When I finally sobered up in 2011 and was introduced to the steps I learned that I had been doing a fourth step all along. What was my part? Maybe Ms. Reed had been sober. Or maybe just wise. Either way I am grateful for the lesson she taught me and my ability to accept it. I am able to see my part in things as soon as they happen and, as a result, I rarely see myself as a victim.