What does it mean to be a victim? We have all felt imposed upon by the world, either by people, situations, or systems but is there value in victimhood? Does it empower or does it weaken? It seems that identification as a victim can do either, depending on the context. For those who have endured abuse, self identification as a victim is empowering and an important step toward recovery. It helps to remove the self blame or any feelings of having been complicit to the abuse. It is part of the process of becoming a survivor, but what about less overtly awful examples of imposition? Am I the victim because traffic is moving too slowly, lines are too long, or because life is just too hard? Victimhood then becomes detrimental because when we allow life to dictate how we feel, we give away our personal power. A person can also become addicted to playing the role of the victim and learn to view the world as imposing or rigged against them. We all know someone who finds a way to make themselves the victim in non-victimizing situations and use that world view to their advantage. Identification as a victim can often elicit sympathy and compassion from others, and can diminish the role of personal responsibility. So, I guess the role it plays depends on the plot of the story.
I recently read an article that explained that people with depression or anxiety will typically pay $1000-$2000 more each year for phone, cable, internet services because they just can’t bring themselves to navigate the web of deceit and ineptitude necessary in order to get better deals on those services. After recently trying to navigate that web myself, I must say I understand those findings. Over the past week, in an attempt to save about $480 over the next year on internet and cable, I have spent 246 minutes on the phone. I have been transferred and disconnected. I have repeated the same information dozens of times. I have needed to be present at my home for two unnecessary service visits. And, I have had to travel to a UPS store, a FedEx store and a Spectrum store to return equipment.
Did I have a choice? Sure! I could have chosen to keep paying $40 extra each month to avoid the hassle of switching from one company to the other. I could have chosen to accept inferior service in order to avoid the hassle of switching back to the original company, who now by the way, has found a way to offer a much better deal that was only possible because I left and came back. I could have canceled the services all together and found a way to live without the luxuries of cable and internet. But in this age of online banking, online shopping, online billing, email, social networking and Netflix (yes, in addition to cable…#notproud), that just wasn’t an option that would work for my family.
So, in the end, we will have the television and internet services necessary to continue to live the lifestyle we have grown accustomed to, and even somehow to believe that we need. We will end up saving $240 on these services over the next year. We have been given $300 in Visa gift cards and free NFL package for our troubles, but at what cost? About six hours (phone time, travel time, service visit time) of my life I’ll never get back? Stress, stress and more stress while navigating the convoluted web of customer service, sales, and technical support? As I consider whether or not it was all worth it, I’m left with the realization that each experience I have with any of the faceless giants (cable, phone, internet, insurance, government, etc) who rule this world, takes something more important than money from me. It takes my sanity, my soul and my peace. Thankfully I have enough of these things left to keep my mind right, but so many among us don’t. And those people will continue to be taken advantage of, overcharged and overlooked, by the faceless giants on whom we all depend.