I attended a workshop some years ago by a New Age motivational speaker who was encouraging participants to approach every issue or dilemma in their lives from a “what if” perspective.
One woman asked, “What happens when your innocence is stolen?” and the speaker quickly replied, “What if your innocence can’t be stolen?”
Instantly, my therapist instinct threw out red flags and I looked over at my friend, only to see the horror I was feeling reflected on her face. We knew what this woman was asking and the response was, at best, inadequate. At worst, it was harmful.
That circumstance and others have given me pause when it comes to some New Age teachers and the messages they spread. While I truly believe that the only way to achieve true freedom is to take full responsibility for one’s life, there are ways in which to approach this from a more compassionate, understanding view.
To tell people that they “created” their circumstance or “attracted” their negative situation only goes so far.
A child cannot invite or create sexual violence being perpetrated against him or her, and as we in the mental health field know, such instances carry lifelong consequences. A person does not attract or create sickness (unless they are engaging in harmful behaviors), but often, the onus is placed upon them.
If only they could think higher vibes, then maybe they wouldn’t have illness. While there is some truth to taking responsibility for our choices that may lead us down negative paths, there is also the factor of chance.
Sometimes, people living completely aligned lives, who eat healthily and exercise regularly, get cancer. They didn’t invite it in or attract it into their lives.
Sometimes, babies are born sick. They didn’t do anything to create it. Neither did their parents.
Sometimes, people encounter tragedy and trauma and it’s simply because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.
For those folks who struggle with toxic shame and fears that they did something to deserve it, the last thing they need to hear is blame, or to be told that somehow, their thoughts created their situation. What they truly need is compassion and to know that sometimes, sh*t happens, no matter how great you are or how many positive thoughts you think.
Where they can assume personal responsibility is in how they view the circumstance and whether they choose to overcome the situation or remain a victim to it.
You see, you can be victimized without being a victim. A victim is an identity that one adopts and can often be the reason you don’t progress in life, but with the right support, you can learn to master whatever circumstance you find yourself in and learn to overcome it.
It doesn’t choose to afflict those who deserve it or attract it by their thoughts and feelings. Bad people can have great success and good people can struggle. To oversimplify a complex human condition by reducing it to “think better thoughts,” does a disservice to humanity.
Instead, may we all work together to “change the things we can, accept the things we can’t and have the wisdom to know the difference.” (Serenity Prayer)
Author: Lisa Vallejos
Image: Chris Barbalis/Unsplash
Editor: Lieselle Davidson
Copy Editor: Nicole Cameron
Social Editor: Danielle Beutell