Most folks referred to Dr. Bob for evaluation come with some type of bad story. Not uncommonly they are dealing with debilitating physical illness, intrusive recollections of acute trauma such as armed robbery, or burnout from a long career involving high demands and minimal gratification. A frequently asked question is, “Why me?” Perhaps an existential question best left to philosophers or spiritual leaders rather than mental health practitioners. One of my goals in the course of a consultation is to help interviewees ask, “What can I do to make a difference in my situation?”
The point is to move people away from passive victimization and toward active re-involvement in improving their lives. For some they are encouraged to consider pursuing a job transfer with their long-term employer. For others reduction in reliance upon narcotic pain medication is needed. For those who do not see themselves returning to the workforce there are opportunities to volunteer and mentor persons who are even more wanting.
A few years ago my wife and I became victims of identity theft. A parcel containing copies of our bank records, tax returns, and financial statements was stolen before it could reach its intended source. After returning from vacation we learned that purchases had been made, applications for new credit cards had been accepted, and lines of credit had been approved. It took many months before all the banks and retailers involved became a part of the solution and not the problem.
I did not care for having to be labeled as a “victim” of identity theft after filing a report with the San Francisco Police Department. That turned out to be the only way of resolving numerous transactions that had occurred without our knowledge. That whole process gave me some appreciation for what the people that I see at times must feel when labeled by others as merely injured, disabled or victims. However, when we treat others with respect the victim role is lessened. Simply put, hope can take root when we see ourselves as empowered and not victimized.