The problem, as I see it, is people who have been trained to be dependent, passive, and subordinate do not think in terms of independence, dominance and action orientation. I hear "victim-talk" instead of "initiator-talk". 

Victim vocabulary:

victim, fatality, loser, prey, stooge, dupe, sucker, fool, fall guy, chump, patsy, sap, sacrificial lamb, burnt offering, scapegoat; whining, crying, pleading, begging, complaining, blaming, yelling, imploring, finding fault, condemning, denouncing, bellyaching, rebuking, admonishing.

Initiator vocabulary:  

name problem, describe, analyze, inspect, check, scrutinize, investigate, vet, test, monitor, survey, study, look over, peruse, scan, explore, probe, assess, appraise, review, audit, check out, give something the once-over, remember, recall, recollect; finger, diagnose, recognize or distinguish (especially something considered worthy of attention).

identify  goal, recognize, single out, pick out, spot, point out, pinpoint, put one's finger on, put a name to, name, know; discern, distinguish; determine, examine, establish, ascertain, make out, define.

explore options, imagine, create, envisage, visualize, picture, see in the mind's eye, dream up, think up/of, conjure up, conceive, conceptualize, delve (into), dig (into), inquire (into), investigate, look (into), explore, examine, probe, research, inspect, sift, study, view, browse, scan, check, discover, hunt, probe, prospect, search, reconnoiter, scout, reveal, unearth; fathom, plumb.

develop plans, plan, organize, arrange, work out, design, outline, map out, prepare, schedule, formulate, frame, devise, concoct, hatch, coordinate, budget, allocate resources, act, move, undertake, maneuver, endeavor, effort, exert, conduct, legal action, prosecute, litigate.

evaluate outcomes, appraise, assess, guesstimate, rate, set, valuate, value, adjudge, deem, judge; ascertain, determine, discover, discern, learn, decide, settle; analyze, assay, survey, test. 

It is relatively easy to turn victim-talk into initiator-talk.

1. Name the problem.

2. Identify the goal. 

3. Explore the options. 

4. Develop action plans. Plan A, B, C. 

5. Evaluate outcome. 

If what I do solves the problem, then go on to the next thing that needs attending. If I do NOT solve the problem, then try Plan B, and C, etc. 

Remember, you can't change other people, only yourself, not all problems have solutions, there are some things over which you have no control and no predictability, and what is, is. To change what is requires thought and action. 

Thinking in terms of action requires the use of action vocabulary. 

Praexis: thought + action = change 

Thought without action is just so much daydreaming. 

Action without thought is just so much chaos. 

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Comment by Nancy Madore on June 5, 2014 at 8:40pm

Great post!

Comment by Joan Denoo on June 2, 2014 at 3:37pm

Daniel, I began my search for understanding how people remain caught in environments that are not healthy. My mother and aunt and both grandmothers were my models for being a woman. All were unhappy in their marriages, all were battered, my mother and aunt tried divorce and remarried the same man or other batterers. Why was it so hard for them to have a happier, healthier life?  

The patterns of my mother and aunt and both grandmothers were to tell others the latest bad thing that happened to them. They were angry, frustrated, unfulfilled women who were smart and creative in their individual ways. How do I build a better life for me? 

I ran across Neurolinguistic program at Whitworth, researching for my master's degree. We did some exercises in class, take a recent unpleasant event in our lives, describe the event in non-judgmental terms, i.e. "My father walked toward me with his hand in a fist pulling back to hit me in the face. I was sitting in a swivel chair, lifted both feet and pushed as hard as I could with my feet on his chest and he flew backwards, laid on the floor, unconscious. The chair upon which I sat broke at the swivel point. When he came to consciousness, I stood over him and told him if he ever hit me I would sue him for everything he had." 

The next part of the exercise was to remember the most recent time I had been threatened physically, what did I do and say? i.e. "I begged my husband not to hit me and I was hit."

Something had changed in my thinking between the time that I begged and the time I rebelled. The easiest way I can describe it is to say I had created boundaries across which I would allow no one. I knew I didn't deserve to be hit. I knew my decisions were sound and well thought out. I had self-respect and I had a vision of how I wanted my life to be different. 

Those exercises can be expressed by my thinking and my actions. They reflected a change in how I perceived myself in the world. So, I began a long experiment on changing my words before I changed my behavior. It worked. Now I describe what I don't like about politics, religion, economics in descriptive terms. Then I imagine my preferred future and speak in thinking and action terms. 

I know you have had very big challenges to overcome, Daniel, and I perceive you as being a very gentle man with courage and vision. Those are the attributes it takes to make positive change in the world, as you so powerfully do. 

Comment by Joan Denoo on June 2, 2014 at 2:26pm

Luara, thank you for your response. I do understand the concept of blaming the victim and know how hurtful and unproductive that is. 

What I am saying is that being a victim is a learned behavior, as is bullying. If a woman lives with an abuser and complains about it by whining and crying, nothing changes. She has to either use the legal process and take action to press charges of assault, leave the home, or he leave the home. None of these actions solves the problem of being a victim. Many women have serial abusers for husbands and boyfriends. It is their victim mentally that attracts the brutish men. 

I spent my professional career working with battered women and children ... and yes, with men who were battered. With training, the one with a victim mentality can learn how to assert oneself, set boundaries and limits, know legal rights and responsibilities, how to think critically, make decisions, find resources, think in terms of personal and children's safety and mental health.

Many women born into families with submissive, dependent, subordinate values that are maintained and perpetuated by the institutions of family, church, education, and culture have to learn new values. I am not saying teach them how to run from a problem, or find another person upon whom they can depend. My job was to teach them how to see their reality, to make decisions about whether she wanted to continue with the status quo, or begins to think of options. 

The very first step is to say no to abuse. That is a horrid hurtle to cross. But it is the first step to healthy functioning. 

I also taught men who had been sentenced to jail time for anger management about how they thought about the criminal charges, who was responsible for the assaults, did they like living in the status quo, did they want to change their behaviors? Most of these men had a history of domestic violence and serial marriages. Almost without exception, the men named the woman as causing the assault. With discussions in groups and individually, the men came to realize assault originated in the one who assaulted. One odd experience I had over and over as new groups of men came into my classes, they had wet dream and would come to class complaining very angrily that the women were causing their ejaculations. That was one of the hardest hurdles I had as an instructor was to identify where their feelings originated. Some of the older inmates who came to my classes voluntarily were very helpful in confronting bullshit. 

One old man, probably in his 70s (that was old to me then), who was getting ready to get out of prison for murdering his wife, was one very good confronter at calling bullshit when he heard it. I didn't have to say anything. My responsibility for him was to teach him how to manage money, find an apartment, get a job, ride public transit, identify resources that he could access, etc. 

At the boys' ranch, where delinquent boys were placed by the courts, my responsibility for them was to teach them how to set boundaries, assert themselves, solve problems, resolve conflicts, values clarification, relaxation techniques, etc. 

My observation of these populations is that they came into the prison system or in my classroom at the colleges to learn new, more effective, efficient behaviors. In the process they had to learn how to read a situation, how to identify who owns the problem, how to relax, especially since most of them thought with their amygdala and not their cognitive brain. 

Emotional Intelligence - Stop Amygdala Hijackings

"'The human brain hasn't had a hardware upgrade in about 100,000 years.'

'most of us are still acting out of the ancient fight-or-flight response, and that upgrade is long-overdue.'

~ Daniel Goleman,  world-renowned emotional intelligence expert 


Amygdala = Emotional Skills, ancient fight-or-flight responses. 

Comment by Lorasaur on June 2, 2014 at 3:18am

I also saw the implicit victim/initiator dichotomy here.  People are victimized involuntarily, so being victimized doesn't mean not being an initiator. 
It's so easy for this kind of statement about thinking styles, to be taken as blaming the victim and to turn into blaming the victim. 

And actually, "whining or blaming or complaining" are human interactions that do not imply unnecessarily playing a victim role.  "Whining" is a derogatory term for saying that something is hurting you.  And describing people as "whining"  is often a way of blaming the victim. 

Comment by Joan Denoo on June 2, 2014 at 12:02am

Ruth, thank you. That is the distinction I am making. 

Čenek, When you hear someone whining or complaining or blaming, these are powerless means to an end. If a person wants to feel strong and act in an effective, efficient way, he or she would use words such as a description of a problem, perhaps describing size or scope, or undesirable effects. 

Let's take the example of climate change:

A. Describe the problem: 

Senator James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma, ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee is a stalwart believer that global warming is a “hoax”. He dismissed the “National Security and the Accelerating Risks of Climate Change Report, May 2014, CNA Military Advisory Board” as a publicity stunt.

B. Define the goal:

Senator Inhofe recognizes that global warming is real and puts his efforts into finding solutions. 

C. Explore options: 

1. Write Senator Inhofe a letter defining the need for cooperative action to address global warming. 

2. Encourage others who share a concern about global warming to write letters. 

3. Call Senator Inhofe's office and express concern. 

4. Contact my senators and encourage others to contact theirs. 




D. Develop action plans:

1. By the end of the week I will write a letter to Senator Inhofe, call his office, and write and call my senators. 

2. By the end of four weeks, I will have called five friends asking them to write and call Inhohofe and their senators. 



E. Evaluate Outcomes:

How am I doing? What more could I do? What else could I do? Do I really want to do this? 

This is just an example, but it gets one out of the victim role and into the active agent role. This is a good way to prevent feeling helpless, hopeless, depressed, and anxious. Any problem can be worked in this fashion. The problem may be that there are too many things to do and not enough time to do them ... oh my goodness, that is a common one. But working the problem using this process gives one the feeling of being in control of one's life.

Right now, my real-life problem is that I took a whole year off from doing chores around the house and garden. I didn't want to do them, nor did I have the energy to do them while I was fighting cancer. Now that I am cancer free, I have a lot of catching up to do. I am enjoying every minute of it and don't feel pressured to get it all done at once. My stress level is low, my pleasure of being able to do the tasks is high, and I am a happy camper.  

Comment by Ruth Anthony-Gardner on June 1, 2014 at 10:46pm

Čenek, you missed a distinction that Joan was making. She wasn't dividing people into two groups, she was dividing language into two types. It's called the person/behavior distinction. When we label a person, we put down the person as only that thing, implying no chance for change. When we put down a behavior such as using a particular term, we can simultaneously be putting up the person who did the behavior. It implies the person is capable of change, and that we all make mistakes.

It's the difference between, "You're stupid!" and "That was a stupid thing to do (you can do better)."

Comment by Čenek Sekavec on June 1, 2014 at 8:10pm

Joan, this is well thought. Language use both informs and illustrates what people think.

However I am concerned over the categorization of people into the victims and initiators. Just because someone is not an initiator does not mean they are a victim. Likewise a person who initiates does not necessarily victimize. 



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