It’s so easy when we have breast cancer and when we experience awful side effects to think of ourselves as victims of our circumstances.

While it absolutely sucks to get cancer and tolerate treatment, it’s how we think about it–and the actions we take–that can make the difference between feeling like helpless victims or empowered participants in the process. (It’s even true that we choose to be treated; technically this is up to us.)

There’s a construct in psychology called the drama (or victim) triangle that describes the victim situation perfectly. Fortunately, there’s also a positive alternative, which I’ll get to in a moment. First, here’s a little more information about the victim triangle:

An image of the Victim Triangle

First there’s the persecutor–the thing or person that causes us to feel victimized; in this case, breast cancer.

Next, there’s the victim (us) to whom breast cancer happens.

Finally, there’s a rescuer, who swoops in to help the victim–in our case, doctors and treatment.

You can see how disempowering this scenario is; it removes virtually all sense of personal agency from us.

If you ever feel a bit victim-y (and who with breast cancer doesn’t, at least a little bit sometimes?), here is a new way to think about things. It’s called The Empowerment Dynamic, or TED for short. Developed by consultant and author David Emerald, TED offers us the opportunity to choose our responses to life, regardless of the circumstances.

An image of The Empowerment Dynamic

In this scenario, the challenger take the place of the persecutor and is simply a fact or circumstance that offers the opportunity to respond to and learn from life’s experiences.

The victim becomes a creator who is aware they have the capacity to create outcomes and choose how to react to her challenges.

The coach takes over for the rescuer and offers the ability to learn from asking powerful questions without swooping in to fix things for us. The coach can be a friend, an actual coach, or even yourself, using the TED book or workbook.

I first discovered TED in 2018, the year of my metastatic breast cancer diagnosis. It resonated deeply with me because of my cancer but also because I’d learned some victim-y behavior from my family when I was young. As a result, I made 2019 my ‘year of creativity’ and made something – and posted it to Facebook – every day that year. Sometimes it was as simple as sharing a photo I took of a wildflower, but I did it.

It was life changing. My mindset shifted and I thought, felt, and behaved differently.

I went from occasionally feeling powerless and sorry for myself to feeling more focused on what I wanted to create, that I was dedicated to my continued growth as a person despite my diagnosis, and that I had the choice of how to think about and interpret what happened to me.

Instead of giving up and having little energy for positive action, I started taking more responsibility for making choices and then taking steps toward what I wanted to bring about in my life and in the world.

After my year of creativity, I even started a weekly newsletter and blog called “So now what?” to share what I’d learned with other people going through challenging circumstances. In 2022 I started writing for Surviving Breast Cancer as well.

The result has been more connection with awesome people, a sense of meaning and purpose, and a feeling of accomplishment.

I truly wish for you a minimum of feeling helpless in the face of your cancer and all that goes with it, and empowerment within your life. If you have any questions about evolving from a victim to a creator, please email me at kristen@kcarter.com. I’d be happy to help.

sea1

Do you need kind, compassionate support to bounce back from a negative experience? If so, then get in touch with me now, and let’s make the most of your precious time, energy and love. 

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Kristen Carter

Kristen Carter, Certified coach, author, and breast cancer survivor. More

Dealing With Survivor’s Guilt

Dealing With Survivor’s Guilt

Many of us with breast cancer become close friends with others that we meet in support groups, online forums, and through friends. Sadly, some of them pass away, leaving us with grief and, sometimes, survivor’s guilt. Survivor’s guilt is real and we all experience it...

Living Without Regrets

Living Without Regrets

“I wish I’d lived a life true to myself rather than the one others expected of me.” That was the number-one regret expressed by dying people cared for by Australian palliative nurse Bronnie Ware, who worked with hospice patients for almost ten years and who wrote...

Dealing With Breast Cancer-related Weight Gain

Dealing With Breast Cancer-related Weight Gain

As if having breast cancer isn’t bad enough, many women find that they put on unwanted pounds due to the specific treatment they’re on and/or feeling too tired to exercise the way they used to. I am not a metabolism expert but did some research and found that the...

Taming “Scanxiety”

Taming “Scanxiety”

In the same way we can imagine beautiful futures like a cure for cancer and watching our grandchildren thrive, we can imagine the most awful futures: disease progression, painful treatment, devastating side effects, dying. Imagination is a uniquely human capacity,...

A SIMPLE Framework for Life

A SIMPLE Framework for Life

It’s completely normal to feel disoriented and detached from our old lives and original selves after anything as life-altering as a breast cancer diagnosis. It’s like we’ve been picked up in a personal tidal wave, tossed and tumbled, and washed up on a new shore,...

Get through this with self-love, a clear focus on what matters most to you, and help from someone who's been there.

Explore what kind, compassionate support can feel like with a no-obligation conversation with me by phone or by Zoom.