Damn you, Universe, for victimizing me!
July 11, 2009 8:33 PM   Subscribe

What is the "language of victimization"? I don't get it. More context to that behind the fold.

Recently, I've been grieving the loss of my 16-year old cat. To help me, a friend sent me this. In the fifth paragraph, the author (allegedly Deepak Chopra) wrote: "Having defined specifically the exact emotion you are experiencing, whether it is fear, anger, guilt, depression, or grief, express the origins of this feeling to yourself through writing or journaling. Be careful not to use the language of victimization."

What? So I can't play the victim while grieving my loss? You mean I can't blame the Universe and whatever horrible, evil higher power there might be that took her from me? What am I missing here? In this context, what does the 'language of victimization' really refer to or mean?
posted by LOLAttorney2009 to Writing & Language (13 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
So I can't play the victim while grieving my loss? You mean I can't blame the Universe and whatever horrible, evil higher power there might be that took her from me?

As I understand it, yeah, that's what it means. It's stressing that it's okay to be sad, or angry, or however else you feel, but it's not healthy to perceive that the world around you is intentionally setting out to make you feel badly. If you think in terms of an "evil higher power" taking her from you, then you're looking at the event as something purposely hostile towards you, rather than the sort of thing that happens in life but still sucks anyway.
posted by Nattie at 8:39 PM on July 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

Erm... just a side note: I don't actually blame anything (other than a possibly cancerous tumor and old age) for the cat's death. She was old; she'd had a good life; she died with some dignity left and before anything got painful for her.
posted by LOLAttorney2009 at 8:46 PM on July 11, 2009

I'm so sorry about the loss of your pet - it's the worst, and I know how sad it is. That said? Deepak Chopra is a lying huckster - if anything he said helped you, take it - but don't get stuck on the details.
posted by moxiedoll at 8:48 PM on July 11, 2009 [3 favorites]

This language of victimization phrase derives from postmodern criticism. It is often used in contexts of chauvinism/feminism, racism, and colonialism. I think the point Chopra is making is that this type of language denies you agency as a participant in your own grief. By creating an external source of victimization, you deny yourself the opportunity to accept the event and move on.
posted by dhartung at 8:54 PM on July 11, 2009

So sorry about your cat. I just lost my 18-year-old kitty, and I miss her like crazy, so I feel your pain.

I agree that I think what he's getting it is that you shouldn't feel persecuted by the universe, and that you shouldn't be doing a lot of "it's not fair -- why me" kind of thinking. But I think everyone has to deal with grief in a way that makes sense to him/her. This is probably why I'm not big on self-help books or advice on "how to grieve", for instance: this might work for Deepak, but not for everybody. (I also hate that "Rainbow Bridge" poem that everybody wanted me to read, but that's another story.)

Also, after reading the Chopra link, I don't really agree with any of it. I'm not mourning the loss of my cat because, supposedly, her death brings out a subconscious fear that I'm going to die. I'm mourning her loss because she's gone, I'll never see her again, and I miss her.
posted by OolooKitty at 8:56 PM on July 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

Can't remember which Chopra book it was, but he was talking about the "why me" attitude that people adopt to normal life experiences and the belief that we are somehow entitled to immunity from negative experiences and emotions which are part of the human experience. His viewpoint is "why not you".

I do kind of agree with his viewpoint that Westerners view the death of things and people they love as some kind of personal slight that they didn't "deserve" - and I believe it's that thinking he's challenging rather than the natural feelings of grief which follow a utterly inevitable (in the sense that every person/pet we love will eventually die, and many of them before ourselves) event.

And wow, 16 years. Bet you have some great stories to remember and share.
posted by Lolie at 8:59 PM on July 11, 2009

To the unconscious mind, there is a real threat that we are going to die with them. By going numb instead of grieving, your ego pretends that the loss isn’t agonizing, that the threat is not so grave as it actually is.

Ugh. I don't think that's accurate at all. For one thing, it's a bunch of Freudian nonsense. Also, the article asks people to dwell on their grief, while modern psychology tells us that the quickest way to avoid pain is to focus your mind something else. Avoiding grief seems kind of immoral, but it can't certainly be done if you want to. You just need to focus your mind on something else whenever you start to think about your poor cat.

Now, Chopra later says that you should "celebrate the release" by burning the letter or whatever. I guess that could be helpful.
posted by delmoi at 9:01 PM on July 11, 2009

I saw Deepak Chopra once--the place was packed with hundreds of people and he talked about the "space between thoughts". Wha......??? The space between thoughts??? (My friend and I started laughing so hard..we had to leave by a side door so we could laugh harder in the hall).

That said, I think he is asking you to be aware of victim mentality-- along the lines of "dammit, why did this happen to ME?! Everything bad happens to ME! This is a tragedy that MY cat succumbed! WHY MY Cat?!" etc etc. It is clear you aren't doing that.

My heart goes out to you. My old cat was so wonderful---I am sure yours was too. You have every right to grieve her loss. She was in your daily life...and it is sad when they aren't there any longer. I eventually got two kittens to replace my oldster. I love them to bits.

Hugs to you.
posted by naplesyellow at 9:07 PM on July 11, 2009

Not familiar with Chopra and can't commit on his usefulness or lack thereof, but I've found this quick take on the Book of Job (NSFW) to be a nice antidote to the temptations of wallowing in "Why me?" sentiment.

My condolences on the loss of your kitty. You and she were very fortunate to have had such a long and happy time together.
posted by fuse theorem at 9:34 PM on July 11, 2009

I can't specifically speak to the language of victimization, but Albert Ellis' Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) focuses on the cognitive approach to psychology. He identified some core beliefs that seem to create a lot of stress for a lot of people that would seem to be a language of self-victimization. They are basically the following:

1. I must do well, or very well.
2. I am a bad or worthless person when I act stupidly or weakly.
3. I must be approved or accepted by people I find important.
4. I need to be loved by someone who matters to me.
5. I am a bad or unlovable person if I get rejected.
6. People must treat me fairly and give me what I need.
7. People must live up to my expectations or it is terrible.
8. People who act immorally are globally bad people.
9. My life must have few major hassles or troubles.
10. I can't stand it when life is unfair.
11. I need a good deal of immediate gratification and have to feel miserable when I don't get it.

If you get a chance to check out his Guide to Rational Living you may find that it is well worth the read for information on self-defeating language.
posted by 517 at 9:38 PM on July 11, 2009 [18 favorites]

Deepak Chopra writes a sort of wildly alternating, unpredictable combination of solid wisdom and utter crap. (And the "space between thoughts" that naplesyellow describes laughing hysterically at is actually solid wisdom - read any down-to-earth book on Buddhist meditation...)

I'd say victimization has to do with building your identity around your loss. (If we're trading New Age writers, Eckhart Tolle is much better on this, I think, and much less full of crap generally.) It's so easy to turn a loss or an illness or an affliction into a crucial part of how you think about who you are, your self-identity. A righteousness enters into your suffering, and it becomes part of "your lot in life" rather than a random and eventually transient occurrence. We all know people like this. The result is that you end up with an ironic and counterproductive emotional investment in staying unhappy/ill/etc.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 5:00 AM on July 12, 2009 [2 favorites]

[A few comments removed. Let's please try to keep this from turning into an argument or zing-fest re: Chopra tastes, etc.]
posted by cortex at 8:46 AM on July 12, 2009

If you skim Deepak Chopra or anyone who has similar thoughts about spirituality, it can sound like mumbo jumbo. I'm in the midst of an Eckhart Tolle book and there have certainly been a few moments when I wished that there was a way to explain these amazing ideas so that they sound less New Age-y. Tolle points to one:

"There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so." - William Shakespeare, from Hamlet

Basically, it is not events that cause you suffering; it is wishing that things were different that causes you to suffer. The longer you hold on to the emotions, and resent having to feel them, the more you suffer. Chopra is not saying that you can't feel sad and he's not asking you to dwell on the emotions--it's actually the opposite. He's asking you to feel the emotions while you are having them, and once you have recognized them, let them go.
posted by Colonel_Chappy at 5:13 PM on July 12, 2009 [2 favorites]

« Older Math? Maths? Mathesises? Mathelesalizes?...   |   Is there a mini-church for me in Houston? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.