The Victim Perspective - Unenforceable Rules

How can I be happy when my rules have been violated!

How can I be happy when my rules have been violated!

Perspective and Belief

1. Perspective: A 2-step mental process for gathering information about, and assigning meanings to the people, situations, events and circumstances we encounter.  

2. The Belief Behind the Victim Perspective: My feelings are the emotional consequences of the hands I'm dealt, the people, situations, events and circumstances in my life.

The Choices We Make Based On Belief

Preferring positive to negative feelings, most of us have established criteria that must be met in order for us to be happy. This is an example of the power of our beliefs; they lead us to take action. Our beliefs form the bases for our perspectives. We use our beliefs when assigning meanings to the people and situations we encounter.

People operating from the victim belief are convinced that the outside factors in their lives cause their feelings. It seems that most of us hold that belief. When we encounter factors that don’t meet our criteria for happiness, we think and act as if the ensuing unhappiness something that those factors did to us.  Maybe we should take a closer look at those criteria, our unenforceable rules.


The criteria we’ve established for our happiness or other positive feelings are what I refer to as our rules. These are the things we have decided must or must not happen in order for us to be happy. People or situations that don't meet our criteria for happiness have violated our rules. I want you to think about this. We have established demands and expectations that must be met in order for us to be happy. 

Most of us also have rules about how other people must or must not behave. Have you ever caught yourself thinking that you have every right to expect certain behavior? Are there certain types of behavior you believe you don’t have to put up with? If so, you can be pretty sure you’re talking about one of the rules you’re using to determine how you feel about, and respond to people and their behavior.


The Problems with Our Rules

As I see it there are two major problems associated with our rules: 

1. The first problem is the emotional attachments we have to them. Based on the belief that outside factors cause our feelings, we abdicate our roles in creating those feelings.

2. The second problem is that most of our rules apply to factors over which we have absolutely no control. 


Here’s something you can do to grasp the scope of this problem: 

Make a list of some of your favorite pet peeves, ones that you encounter often. You may have to think about this to get the process going, but when you hit your stride, you’ll be able to develop a rather lengthy list. And that’s my point. Most of us have long lists of rules, most of which are unenforceable.

I’m not suggesting that the hands we’re dealt don’t matter. What I am suggesting is that by clinging to our rules we sustain our emotional attachment to things over which we have no control. And that is a choice that compounds the negative impact of the inevitable setbacks we’ll encounter.


The alternatives to rules are preferences. And upgrading rules to preferences is how we transform emotional victimhood into emotional accountability.


More about Preferences in the next article.




Previous articles in the series can be found HERE

Happily Ever Afters Don't Just Happen


And another myth bites the dust, gone the way of Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny & Tooth Fairy. While those last 3 were relatively harmless for us as children, that first one—Happily Ever After—has left its mark on us as adults.

After repeated exposure to the same story line: hero gets into trouble and not only gets out of trouble, but lives how?, why Happily Ever After, many people develop and retain a deep-seated expectation that somewhere, somehow they’ll find their Happily Ever After job, spouse, or whatever. And armed with that delusion, they react to life’s inevitable setbacks as evidence that they should abandon the job (or spouse) that’s not “making them happy” and continue their frantic, but futile, search for the one that surely will.

As I mentioned during my presentation, this Happily Ever After phenomenon plays out as a multi-step cycle that looks like this: 

We looked at how this cycle plays out in the workplace by following a new employee from day one to a point 45 minutes to 6 weeks later.

People show up excited that first day, and that excitement is based in part on positive expectations. For some people (maybe most) the expectation is that this is their “Happily Ever After Job”. Sadly, that’s not the case.

Forty-five minutes to six weeks after showing up, the new begins to wear off, and as it does, so does that initial excitement. After some attempts at denial, they then move into the next step in the cycle, fear.

Fearing that once again they’ve failed to find a Happily Ever After Job, these people realize that their job situations aren’t changing, so the best they can do is create more comfortable feelings, and that’s what they do. They shift from fear to their old “friend”, anger.

Anger is a compelling alternative to fear because it offers them an opportunity to find the people and circumstances to blame for their unhappiness. Having determined that they are victims, they conclude that there’s nothing they can do about the job that’s “making them so unhappy”, so they just give up. Some of them spend their careers in that step, but some go looking for that ever elusive Happily Ever After Job.

And where do they look? Why, out there of course, And what do they look for? A job that will make them Happily Ever After. And when they find it they’re mighty excited—for 45 minutes to 6 Weeks—until the new wears off and the cycle plays out again.