Have you ever stepped back and reflected on the tone and quality of the conversations you find yourself engaging in with coworkers, friends or family members? It is amazing how much time and effort goes into talking about what’s wrong with this or what we don’t like about that. It is all-too-easy for us to reinforce and collude with each other in such “isn’t it awful” discussions. We have come to call this phenomenon the “Kinship of Victimhood.”
Here’s one example. A while ago, David was on a commuter jet flight into Chicago’s O’Hare airport. He was sitting in the second row. In the first row was a pilot from another airline and a flight attendant from yet another, both of whom were “catching a ride.” The two flight attendants and pilot entered into a 20-minute conversation that moved from one story of complaint to another, as they “compared notes” on their opinions and stories of gate agents and air traffic controllers and the state of the industry.
David listened with an ear of compassion, as you can only imagine the stress and strain of being an employee in the airline industry these days. Their conversation certainly served as a great example of the Kinship of Victimhood. One definition of kinship is “relationship through common characteristics or a common origin.”
Let’s face it; we have all participated in such conversations. They abound. Pick a subject: the weather; politics; the economy; global climate change; world affairs. The list is endless.
This kinship does serve a purpose. It is a way of connecting; a way of relating; and many times a way of coping. We see the positive side of the Kinship of Victimhood when we read or hear about neighbors coming together in times of disaster or threat.
The “shadow” of this kinship is that it often reinforces Victimhood – as a role and way of being – by heightening the focus on the victimization we experience. These ways of reacting perpetuate a problem-focused Victim Orientation.
As a Creator, we are called to move our conversations beyond the Kinship of Victimhood. We do so by focusing our attention on what we want to create and/or how we choose to respond to the situations in which we find ourselves.
The next time you hear others voicing their experience of victimhood, notice the seductive nature of the kinship. Rather than being pulled in, choose to buffer yourself and choose to build more resourceful and empowered kinships.