The question, “Are you a student or a victim?” has come out of my mouth many times over the last few years, perhaps as the result of seeing the differences, or the similarities, within so many people over the course of time.
The fact that I have been around for a while, and have interacted with so many folks over my years probably has no direct connection with this question, but add to that the fact that I study people – their intents, motives, personalities, honesty… or lack thereof, and their general receipt and discharge of words, has given me some insight into human behavior beyond that of those who just speak and listen and then talk again.
Two people may receive the same information, delivered exactly the same way, yet react to it quite differently. One person may hear, “You are making a big mistake!” and open his or her eyes in interest or even excitement, while the other person may cringe as if being stabbed (I may just stare with a poker face and wait for more information LOL).
If the words were delivered exactly the same, shouldn’t both people take it in the same way? Wouldn’t their reactions be equal? Well, they would be if our subjects were computers, but they are human. The human traits of understanding, cognition and emotion help to interpret the statement. Mix with that their life experiences, the nature vs. nurture question, and their state of mind at the time the statement was made, and they each may fall into “a victim” or “a student” category.
One person, for example, may have been raised in an environment where words were meant to hurt, while the other was reared in a more nurturing home where words were meant to motivate and to challenge more learning. Self-talk, that tiny voice inside our heads, may surely suggest to each a reaction of either pain or enlightenment.
A student will interpret direction and criticism as a tool for growth, often regardless of the intonation. He or she will internalize the statements as growth tools to be looked at in a positive way, almost regardless of the delivery style. The student will usually grow from the experience, or at the worst realize that he or she already has that information or realize that the information is being delivered with a less-than-altruistic intent.
A victim will equate these statements as a personal attack, or as a put-down. The victim will cower, wince or attack back in order to stop the onslaught. The victim will, generally, not grow from the “confrontation” and may actually dismiss the message as well as the messenger, or walk away from the whole experience.
“Are you a student or a victim?” has a big part to play in sobriety, especially in the beginning.
Entering a new world where people act and speak so different brings with it the gifts of uncertainty, frailty, confusion and nervousness, even to the hardest of drug addicts and alcoholics. Even the simplest directions can cause one to continue the journey, or retreat to that world which is so known and comfortable, even though they were dying there.
Are you a student or a victim? You will have to decide that answer. The choice will affect your life.
Dave Innis, CRC, is an independent certified recovery sober coach and companion. He works with recovering alcoholics and addicts globally, either in person, via Skype sessions, phone or email. Dave Innis began as a counselor in late 1994 and has worked in the field both in the southwest and eastern US. Dave operates in the US as well as globally, and lives in Chicopee, Ma. and will work with agencies upon request. Dave’s personal sobriety spans twenty-five years. http://www.daveinnis.com