I used to play the role of victim. I didn’t feel like anything was within my control. Over the past decade I’ve learned that, because of my trauma, I’ve always had a strong tendency to try to control everything and everyone that enters my sphere of existence. It’s when things don’t work out the way I want them to that causes feelings of victimization. But I’ve learned that I don’t need to feel victimized. I’ve learned that I don’t always need to be in control.
I read somewhere, long ago, that it’s good practice to envision life as a river. The more I fight against where the river is taking me, and the more I struggle to free myself from the current, the greater my chance is of drowning. However, if I choose to relax and go with the flow, I have options. I can see up ahead. I can navigate around rocks and fallen limbs. I can choose which branch in the river to take. But, to do this, I must stop struggling and give myself to the river.
When my life seems chaotic, out-of-sync with the Universe, it’s usually because I’m choosing to struggle against the current. I’m trying to impose my will upon situations and people. There will be times when I don’t like a situation or what people say or do, but I don’t need to let these things set me off-balance. I have a choice. I can choose to get upset, frustrated, even angry or I can choose to step back and calmly say to myself, “It is what it is.” This has become one of my mantras because it can be applied to all areas of my life.
Surrender isn’t easy. But it’s necessary if I want my life to go smoothly. If I allow myself to surrender to what is instead of trying to force things to be the way I want them to be, I’ll be able to address situations and my encounters with people from a place of personal power.
I don’t always succeed at this. I still, at times, get pissed off when people don’t behave the way that I think they should. I still get stressed out over trivial things. I still try to control people and situations. My PTSD still gets triggered. But, more and more, I’m getting better at taking a breath, relaxing, and accepting what is.
Another of my mantras (I don’t remember where I read this) is, “Notice without judgment. Accept. Let go.” This is sometimes difficult for me. But when I’m able to do this, I place myself in alignment with the Universe and invite serenity into my life.
For me, surrender and acceptance are two sides of the same coin. This was never more obvious to me than when I was learning how to come to terms with my past trauma and the resulting PTSD I experience. I also had to come to terms with having bipolar disorder.
I used to fight against these illnesses. I used to hate it whenever I would become symptomatic. I would become full of self-pity. I’d lament to myself and my therapist “Why me?” When I did this, I allowed myself to become trapped in the mode of the victim.
It took years of therapy for me to come to a gentle understanding and acceptance that these things are part of who I am, but I also understood that I don’t have to let them define me. I had to accept and surrender to the fact that I will probably always be challenged with my symptoms to some degree. But I learned to stop struggling. When I did this, I freed myself from my illnesses’ hold on me. I was able to stop seeing myself as damaged and inferior. I started to feel better about myself. I stopped being a victim.
I recently got angry at myself when my PTSD got triggered with overwhelming intensity. I was thrust back to being eight years old and in the middle of all my abuse. I was sent into a tailspin of flashbacks. I was overcome with fear. I felt extremely vulnerable. My hypervigilance felt like more than I could handle.
My first impulse was to berate myself for not being able to effectively deal with the situation. It took several hours for me to calm down and return to the present moment; my breathing and grounding tools weren’t working for me. They weren’t working for me because I was fighting against what was happening. I realized that I needed to stop the struggle. I needed to be kind, gentle, and patient with myself. It was only when I stopped fighting my symptoms that I was able to relax into the moment. I let go of my self-directed anger. I allowed myself to be vulnerable. I embraced what was happening to me. When I did this, my symptoms subsided.
This experience was a reminder to me that when I accept and surrender to whatever is happening in the present moment, I will be able to deal with it from a place of personal power. My strength lies in letting go of whatever I am trying to control.
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