Avoiding Pity City and the Victimitis Virus
by Jim Clemmer
"Oh, the holiness of always being the injured party. The historically oppressed can find not only sanctity but safety in the state of victimization. When access to a better life has been denied often enough, and successfully enough, one can use the rejection as an excuse to cease all efforts." -- Maya Angelou, American author, Singin' and Swingin' and Gettin' Merry Like Christmas
A thirty-eight year old man was at his parent's home for Sunday dinner. He mournfully turned the discussion to his many problems, "I've just left my third failed marriage, I can't hold onto a job, I'm in debt up to my ears and will have to declare personal bankruptcy," he whimpered. "Where did you go wrong?"
Blaming others for our difficulties is the easy way out. That's why it's so popular. A job applicant put this statement on his resume, "The company made me a scapegoat, just like my three previous employers." In How to Save Your Own Life, author Erica Jong writes, "No one to blame!... That was why most people led lives they hated, with people they hated... How wonderful to have someone to blame! How wonderful to live with one's nemesis! You may be miserable, but you feel forever in the right. You may be fragmented, but you feel absolved of all the blame for it. Take your life in your own hands, and what happens? A terrible thing: no one to blame." Rolling Stone journalist, P. J. O'Rourke, adds, "One of the annoying things about believing in free will and individual responsibility is the difficulty of finding somebody to blame your problems on. And when you do find somebody, it's remarkable how often his picture turns up on your driver's license."
Turn on any daytime talk show and you'll find endless examples of people blaming everybody and everything for the way their lives have turned out. A little channel surfing could lead to the conclusion that we're living on the Planet of the Aches. As long as these sad souls are playing the blame game and embracing their victim role, they are stuck in that rut. It can too easily become a rut that's really a grave with the ends knocked out. Regular viewers of these misery-series soon end up feeling as helpless and hopeless as the continual parade of victims.
As key players in the whine industry, these shows reflect — and help to spread — the deadliest disease in society today — the Victimitis Virus. The Victimitis Virus is the poor-little-me-syndrome. It's a state of hopelessness and powerlessness to do anything about my problems. It's running from personal responsibilities with excuses like "it's not my job," "I was just following orders," "I am too old to change," or "the dog ate my homework" (that's also the title of a great book on personal responsibility by Vincent Barry). It's the most contagious and destructive infection ever seen on this earth. The Victimitis Virus is usually found along with the Pessimism Plague. Both kill, mutilate, and destroy millions of lives every year. They are also the only lethal diseases that can be transmitted with no physical contact at all. They are often spread through one-on-one, group, or mass communications.
Symptoms of the Victimitis Virus include bouts of doubt and discouragement diarrhea, constant vomiting of cynicism and snide remarks, pains in the neck (or lower regions) from suspicion and distrust, hopelessness headaches, waves of nausea from pessimism and put downs, and frequent cramps from its-beyond-my-(or our) control language. This "victim-speak" often includes statements like "he/she makes me so mad I can't control myself," "that's just the way I am," "there's nothing we can do," "they won't allow that," "I have to," "I am no good at," "the system won't let us," and so on. We can all add to the list from our personal favorites.
It's very easy for entire groups to become infected with the Victimitis Virus and the Pessimism Plague. Many meetings or family gatherings then turn into "primal scream therapy" or "blame storming" sessions around why a deadline was missed, results are down, or a family member behaved so poorly. The entire group can end up moving into Pity City throwing many Pity Parties with whiny Pity Puppies scampering about barking blame in all directions.
Jim Clemmer may be contacted at http://www.jimclemmer.com
Jim Clemmer is an internationally acclaimed keynote speaker, workshop/retreat leader, and management team developer on leadership, change, customer focus, culture, teams, and personal growth. His web site is http://www.jimclemmer.com