Avoiding the victim trap
From time to time, we all seem trapped by seemingly unavoidable choices or unchangeable situations. These emotions can be very stressful and can trigger flare-ups.
If you often find yourself reflecting on what happened to you, for example saying, “there is no way out”, then give this exercise a try. It can help you find control in some of the most (seemingly) impossible situations.
Note – if you have been the victim of a traumatic event, then try to separate that situation from this particular exercise and look for professional services that address the specific situation you faced.
Exercise – Starting to own the situation
- Spend a few minutes writing down a specific situation where you have been feeling trapped and note why: perhaps it is something that someone said or just inconvenient circumstances.
- Knowing you cannot change the past, think about how it could be helpful to look at your circumstances in a new light – more positive and in control.
- Start by listing any ways that you have controlled the situation. What did you do right and what can you be proud of?
- Consider what positive outcomes or possibilities could come from this situation, whether it is a chance to reinvent yourself, change your priorities or learn and grow
- If you are feeling positive then continue the exercise. Otherwise take a break, go for a walk or change scenes. Try the exercise again later when you are feeling calm and thinking clearly
- Now, think back to a significant, positive life change – perhaps something unexpected at the time. In hindsight, you may see the situation clearly but try to remember some of the challenges and worries that you had along the way. What would you tell your past self now, knowing how things turned out?
- Imagine yourself 10 years in the future doing the same exercise. If your future self could say something to you, what would it be? How should you try to see your situation differently now?
Integrating the exercise
Don’t expect one exercise to solve your tough problems at once. Set a calendar reminder every day to think about the challenge until you make some progress. During this time, give the problem the attention it deserves but otherwise let it rest in the background.
The next time you feel trapped remember that there probably isn’t one perfect solution. Avoid becoming even more overwhelmed by trying to aim for perfection. Instead, make the best of your circumstances by adjusting your expectations and taking things one step at a time.
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