Spirituality & Victim-Blaming: Exploring Our Desire for Control

This morning I listened to a talk on Radical Forgiveness. I was enjoying some of what the author was saying, but this part pissed me right off:

“When I first started to do this work, I was working with people who have cancer. It’s well known that people who tend to get that are people who have a hard time processing their feelings. They tend to repress them, and they have a hard time forgiving.”

Now, maybe I’m just oblivious to all those studies that have linked cancer to repressed feelings. Last I knew, anyone could get cancer and certain things put you at more risk. And repressed feelings happen for a whole lot of people, welcome to society. Why the need to take a good idea of radical forgiveness and make it somehow relate to a disease that many people fear? Many teachings by famous authors seem to take this route of turning otherwise mindful and loving practices into magic tricks that can help you avoid certain fates. I think it comes down to a built in desire for control, which we can become more aware of. When we are more aware of it, we can notice that moment when we start blaming victims out of our own fear and shift that into actual compassion.

Drawing Correlations is Natural

People seem to be natural experts at coming up with ways of understanding the world and drawing correlations between one thing and another to avoid suffering and danger. If awesome things happen the two times I wear a necklace in one month, it becomes a lucky necklace. If I have a bad day, maybe it’s because of the food I ate. I draw connections all the time for myself to search for control.

The way that some spiritual circles draw these correlations and connect them to huge topics like cancer, accidents, or other forms of suffering has irked me for some time because even though the intention is not to place blame, it shows up like a shadow whenever someone needs to prove that their particular magic trick is working. They can have their idea for how to avoid suffering, point to someone else in a less desirable position and say “See? What I’m doing is clearly working because I’m not over there right now.”

The quest for control leads us to blame no matter how you cut it. If you are manifesting your dreams and they are all coming true, and your friend is having a horrible year of lost jobs and broken relationships, then logic would have it that your friend should simply make a Dream Board or whatever and start manifesting like you are. Because if you are in control of your good life, your friend is in control of hers as well.

Lack of Correlation & Control = Scary

It’s rather scary to think that sometimes, shit happens and it’s unfair and there is absolutely no way of preventing it or finding a pattern. It’s much nicer to feel like there’s some control and a solid reason.  You are born into devastating poverty? It’s probably past life karma, or else you just haven’t read the freaking Law of Attraction enough times. You have cancer? Maybe you should try letting go of your trauma or avoiding GMOs. You have depression? Just start thinking positively, you’re attracting too much negativity, man.

Of course we all want to be healthy as long as possible. Of course it’s nice to think that if we have it good right now, there’s a reason for that and we can somehow prolong it. Of course it’s fun to feel like we can attract what we want. But in the end, the body breaks down, no matter how much you manifest health and well being. That’s a natural part of life, and it’s the one thing that we know for certain. We can have compassion and love for others much more effectively if we aren’t in a state of blaming them or holding them responsible for their suffering just so that we can feel in control of ours.

Day to Day, not Life or Death

It’s okay for an idea to be a great idea without it also being a way to escape certain types of suffering or death itself. Learning to forgive is awesome, but it doesn’t guarantee you a life without cancer. When you say those two things are correlated, you are making people responsible for the condition they are in. Being aware of your thoughts and intentions is cool, but it doesn’t mean that you can avoid relationship issues and accidents. Pretending those things are correlated is putting the responsibility of disasters onto the people who suffer through them. For your end of the correlation to work, ugly stuff has to happen on the other side.

Personally, when I implement an idea into the day to day, it’s a lot less stressful or fear-based than when it feels like life or death. If an idea is presented to me and instigates that desire to find causality and correlation in order to avoid certain types of disasters, I would like to be more aware of the blame that inherently arises as soon as I think I have that alluring kind of control. Because without that sense of control, I do have a lot more compassion and vulnerability towards life in general.

How about you, do you think that what that guy said is as infuriating as I do?

Do you feel like you control and are responsible for the things that happen to you? Do you feel the same about others?

Did you take some time to gaze at the sky today?


4 thoughts on “Spirituality & Victim-Blaming: Exploring Our Desire for Control

  1. I’ve missed you! And yes, just a bit infuriating! I think you’re right on as to our control issues and how that can manifest in spiritual circles. Last month I listened to someone praying for a family that has a ten-year-old daughter with terminal cancer asking that this family would search their hearts and find their sin – and even for the ten-year-old to find hers. Blarf. Toxic books. Toxic prayers. You know, the sky is much more fetching…and healing. Thanks for writing!

    • Wow. That is truly just about unbelievable. The sky is indeed healing, and hope itself is so powerful and we have so much capacity for love and healing and accessing the divine, it’s sad that sometimes the blame comes in. I want to write more, I think of you and will keep trying 🙂 thank you for being you and sharing the most powerful kinds of healing words and ideas!

  2. Great post Ms. Stuart. It’s nice to have the opportunity to read your words and opinions once more after your temporary hiatus. Hope the world is treating you well.
    In answer to your question, yes I do find what the man said kind of infuriating. Although on a professional level I believe everyone has a right to their prerogative, on a personal level, my father has cancer, and my grandfather had cancer. My father is no saint, and neither was my grandfather, but neither was/is the stereotype that the man in the quote above is generalising and although talking about feelings was/is not exactly part of their repertoire, they were/are able to comprehend and understand them when it counted/s.
    With regards to your second question, I really liked what you said about a lucky necklace being the opinion you bestow upon a product if good things happen whilst wearing it. I’m much the same way – there is a necklace I no longer wear because on three past occasions bad things have occurred, and there is another necklace I like to wear when I want good to happen because previously I have worn the product and experienced a happy occasion. I’m also a firm believer that if something good happens, a bad occurrence must inevitably occur to level out the universe, which could be my way of attempting to explain why heinous things on occasion transpire, although fails to explain when bad things happen unrelentingly without any good in sight.
    As for the sky question – I prefer to gaze up at a night sky – far more magical!

  3. I am not sure what spiritual circles you are talking about, but as a Christian I find that lots and lots of time when something bad happens to a person, people start asking what that person is or isn’t doing. For example, a person with their job may think that a person who was recently laid off isn’t being a good enough Christian. This idea makes me SICK and is completely against everything the Bible teaches. In the book of Job, God allows Satan to harm Job because God knows that Job will praise Him, and God wanted to reward Job with greater things than what Job currently had. Job had done nothing “wrong.” He was just living life in a fallen world full of destruction. However, when Job came down with sickness, all of his friends started asking him what sin he had in his life. They accused him of so many things, and Job just cried that he had no sin. He had forgiven those that needed forgiven, he had no secret sins, etc. It was out of Job’s control, and his friends were just being prideful. I hate that Christians get so prideful. The people that God uses the most are people that are found in the most scandalous situations. I mean, God created a whole people out of Abraham, and Abraham was a liar! Also, there is a prostitute in the generational line of Jesus Christ. I mean come on! Bad things happen, and people make poor choices, but I promise that no one ever got cancer because they couldn’t forgive. If we are to practice this Radical Forgiveness (which is also a Biblical Idea, but Christians today are very quick to forget that Jesus hung out with sinners… not perfect people), then we need to understand that we do not have the control. This world is not in our control, so we make the best out of the situations given to us.

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