When I read Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way years ago, a small quote in the margin caught my attention:
- Take your life into your own hands, and what happens? A terrible thing: no one to blame. – Erica Jong.
I didn’t know if I liked the quote. It haunted me. But to this day, I remember it word for word like a pledge of allegiance. For young Georgi, not being able to blame anyone was seriously difficult. I had a long history of blaming my mother. I was a terrific victim of a list of unrequited loves. Sure, I never actually told them that I loved them, but didn’t they get all my hints? Couldn’t they read body language?
Poor, poor me.
Eleanor Roosevelt said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” In my life, I consented all the time. I thought my mom hurt me. I thought the guys I liked could hurt me. I thought the graduate school system hurt me. I thought my partner hurt me… because he said I wasn’t exercising at my peak heart rate. Seriously!
How does it feel to think other people can hurt you just by speaking words? Crappy. Disempowered. Sad. Tired. Powerless to change.
So, I am taking my life into my own hands. I am learning how powerful brains are, and it is our thoughts that hurt us, not circumstances or other people’s opinions. It is the stories we tell ourselves about our circumstances or the stories we tell about other people that hurt.
The true story is that no one really has the power to hurt you or me with their words or actions unless they have a lethal weapon. No one. How does that feel? Incredible. Empowered. Courageous. Catalytic.
My friends, here lies the terrible truth: I really hurt me. I chose to be a victim. I chose to believe that other people could bring me down. They don’t have that much power. I do.
And guess what? That is great. Because if there’s one person I can change, it’s me. I am becoming the kind of person that doesn’t want to hurt myself anymore.
We can tell different stories about our past. We can tell new stories about our future. We can cast new characters into our stories or describe old characters in a different way. We can think new thoughts that feel so much better. We can be like Teflon, and other people’s words just won’t stick.
So Erica Jong, I beg to differ. Having no one to blame… not so terrible after all.