Everyone experiences the pain of others behaving from fear, dishonesty, and greed at one point or another. And, tragically, people of color and people of the LGBTQ community experience much more. But if you have experienced what you call "being taken advantage of or mistreated" more than what you can attribute to chance or cultural prejudice, you might find yourself angry and confused and making lists of injustices that sound like this: "family members who only care about themselves, getting cheated financially, very entitled employees, getting thrown under the bus by colleagues, & neighbors who are rude and thoughtless."
Not being able to control the world, you want some sense of empowerment, but focusing attention on lists like this are indications of blame and disempowerment. And even reading this sentence you might hear yourself saying: "But these things really happen! They do happen to me and it's not fair!"
Finding your power in seemingly powerless situations does not mean denying the validity of what has happened and the feelings and needs alive for you in that situation. Nor does it mean denying the behavior of others that didn't meet needs. It does mean reexamining those situations with the intention to compassionately look for your contribution. What is going on inside of you and in your behavior that helps to create these painful situations again and again?
The first place to look is unhealed wounding. It seems a common thing to deny the influence of unhealed wounding on everyday life. But when reactivity, anger, and mistrust, are the lens through which you make agreements and decisions; the results of those decisions are usually painful.
It's difficult to notice, because the kind of reactivity that comes from unhealed wounding is typically chronic and doesn't show up very often as big explosions or harsh words. But harsh words are not unfamiliar in your life if this chronic reactivity is running in the background. Chronic reactivity systematically prevents you from seeing a situation clearly. It creates a sort of perceptual bias that has you track only certain variables in a given situation while ignoring others.
For example, the type of reactivity that made the list of injustices above is likely fueled by some predictable core beliefs that help create perceptual bias such as: I will always be used, people will take advantage of me, my authentic self isn't welcome, my needs don't matter, or I am worthless. With these kinds of beliefs in the background there is a certain tenderness and vulnerability that is actively defended against. This means that upon meeting someone who genuinely offers compassion, caring, and tending to your needs, you might unconsciously move away from them to defend against feeling that tenderness. In the reverse, you might unconsciously move towards those who are more defended and distant to avoid the discomfort of your own vulnerability.
In addition, as others notice the anger in you, they may move away from you leaving you with people who unconsciously want to engage in old reactive dynamics as a tragic attempt for healing.
Lastly, this perceptual bias has you giving more attention to the offensive behaviors of others than to interactions of kindness, compassion, and generosity of others. As more attention is put on the perception that others don't care or are taking advantage of you, old wounding is triggered, and chronic reactivity is fueled; thus the tragic stuck cycle.
Before healing, the world is a place that betrays you. After healing, there are certain people who have betrayed you and that is in the past. Healing is a work of a lifetime and at the same time it is accessible here and now. Healing is, of course, infinitely complex , but there are some predictable variables that are key :
A therapist that offers a sense of security and subtle challenge and exploration of your inner world
A consistently supportive group environment
Consistent self care
A simple and balanced life that supports rest, meaningful engagement, and contemplation.
Keeping these things in mind, it is for you to find your next step and next step and next step...on your path to healing; being patient with change and at the same time expecting and embracing the discomfort and disorientation of true transformation.
Take a moment now to recall a moment you were complaining about something. In that situation, what would it have looked or sounded like for you to take responsibility for your part in creating that moment.