A woman complained to me (Dr. Cloud) about a coworker who would always interrupt her while she was trying to get her job done. She acted as if her tendency to be behind in her work was her coworker's fault.
"Why do you talk to her?" I asked.
"What do you mean?" she replied.
"When she comes in and interrupts, why do you get into a conversation with her?"
"Well, I have to. She is standing there talking."
"Why don't you just tell her that you have work to do, or close your door and put up a 'Do Not Disturb' sign?"
The woman looked at me with a blank stare. To have choices and to have control of her own behavior was a concept that hadn't occurred to her. She felt that if something happened "to her," then that was the way it had to be. There was nothing she could do to change it.
When I suggested that she had many choices, she quizzed me about them. I gave her five or six suggestions, from talking to the woman about the problem, to talking to a supervisor, to asking to be moved to another area. This was a totally new way of thinking for her; she had never learned that she was free to make choices in relationships and in life.
Have you ever been in a relationship with a "victim"? Victims feel as if they have no choices in life. Life is something that happens to them, and whatever comes their way is their lot.
Joe was such a victim. His company was imposing some new policies that he found difficult to handle, and he was very depressed about the changes.
"What are you going to do about it?" I asked him.
"What do you mean, do about it?" Joe asked.
"I mean what are you going to do about your being stuck in something you don't like?"
He just looked at me. It took a long time before he realized that he could choose to get his resume out to some other firms and not be a victim to the fifty-hour workweek he hated.
Adults and children raised with good boundaries learn that they are not only responsible for their lives, but also free to live their lives any way they choose, as long as they take responsibility for their choices. For the responsible adult, the sky is the limit.
We live in a society of people-pleasers and victims. People today act as if they have no choices in life and that everything should be done for them. If it's not, they can't do it themselves or make changes. This presents a big opportunity for the future: If you learn to take control of your own life, you will be so far ahead of everyone else that success in life is all but guaranteed!