Ep. 69 – Ranbir Puar – Victim Mentality: Causes And Cures
- Hallmarks of ‘victim thinking’
- The value of ‘auditing’ our thoughts for what is kind, true, and necessary
- How our emotions affect our interpretation of reality
In this episode of family360, Ranbir Puar shares the story of her birth in India as the 5th daughter to parents who longed for a son. Growing up unseen and feeling unwanted, she saw herself as a victim in her home – a narrative she redefined in order to grow and flourish in her adult life.
In this conversation, Ranbir explores what contributes to a victim mentality, and how we can mitigate its effects by auditing our thoughts for a clearer understanding of what directs our inner life.
Ranbir PuarRanbir Puar was born in India, the 5th daughter to parents who desperately wanted a son. Feeling unseen and unheard, she saw herself as a victim in her home - a narrative she had to redefine in order to grow and flourish in her adult life.
Now, as an author, speaker, and counselor, Ranbir guides clients to recognize thought patterns that lead to wisdom and personal grow, versus thought patterns that lead to blame and victimhood.
Ranbir is the creator of the popular app, Today I Practice, an online tool for learning to accept failure, facing your inner critic, releasing judgment or overcoming worry.
Ranbir lives in Vancouver Canada with her husband and 2 teen-age sons.
Ep. 69 – Ranbir Puar – Victim Mentality: Causes And Cures
Rachel Cram – Well, Ranbir thank you so much for being here today. I’m really interested to hear what you have to share. I watched your TED X talk and I’ve been reading your literature and you’re a fascinating woman. I’m looking forward to this interview.
Ranbir Puar – Thank you so much for having me. I’m really excited to be here.
Rachel Cram – Thank you. I’m going to start with a question that we often open with. Aristotle stated, “Give me a child at 7 and I will show you the adult.” Is there Ranbir, a story or experience from your childhood that has shaped the adult that you are today?
Ranbir Puar – Wow, that’s a very powerful question and I think of myself at seven years old. I can remember feeling unwanted. I can remember feeling unseen because I was born in India, I was the fifth daughter in a row over a 16 year span for my parents. And from understanding the culture of the country, the culture at the time, generally people did want to have a son to carry on the family name. It was a very important badge of honor for a woman to bear a son for her husband. It just was kind of that requirement.
So when I was growing up I would hear stories about my birth and how my aunts and cousins and everyone was bawling; crying, like it was this inevitable sad scene in a Bollywood movie. I was told that some of them said my mum and dad to just throw me in the river. And my mom used to tell me this story that they were trying to tell her to leave me in India when they moved to Canada because why would they want another daughter to take care of in a foreign land. They shouldn’t have that burden. Just leave me there so someone else could raise me. And my mom said, “Absolutely not. I am not leaving my child here.” And even though my Mom loved me, I still never felt enough because right after I was born two years later my brother was born.
Rachel Cram – So this is the first boy into your family?
Ranbir Puar – First boy that survived because her first born child was a boy and he passed away during childbirth. So while my older sisters might have understood what was happening with the gender bias, when you’re two years apart it doesn’t make a lot of sense. Why is he having this birthday party? Why is everything about him? Why are they almost worshiping him?
I remember being around 6 years old and I really wanted to talk to somebody. I really wanted to explain how unfair it was because I felt like I never had any recognition. I remember this girl from my school, her dad used to just focus on her and care about her and call her things like Princess. That was so far from my reality. I was like a second class citizen. So I thought, “I’m going to run away. I’m gonna pack a couple things.” And I remember this vivid memory of standing in the cul de sac. And I could get emotional. I normally don’t. Wow, that’s a first.
Rachel Cram – That’s OK.
Ranbir Puar – Wow. I normally never cry at this story.
Rachel Cram – That’s okay. That’s okay. That’s totally fine.
Ranbir Puar – Yeah. Sorry.
Rachel Cram – Oh. Roy and I are both criers, so…. It’s a hard story. Which makes it all the more incredible how you’ve merged.
Ranbir Puar – I guess I feel safe.
Rachel Cram – I’m glad you feel safe. I think also, I find for myself, if you let yourself really immerse, like really
Ranbir Puar – feel it
Rachel Cram – Feel it. And be in the story. Then it catches me the same too.
Ranbir Puar – Wow.
Rachel Cram – And that makes it meaningful if you let yourself be like this.
Ranbir Puar – Yeah
Rachel Cram – like be in the moment.
Ranbir Puar – Clearly.
Rachel Cram – I love that. And thank you.
Ranbir Puar – No thank you.
Rachel Cram – Should we listen to where she just? Oh you know where you were at the cul de sac.
Ranbir Puar – OK so, I was ready to run away because I had a little bit of money for a few bags of chips or something. And I stood in the cul de sac and I stopped because I thought if I leave, my brother was my best friend, who was gonna look after him, who would play with him, what would happen to my mommy? All that kind of stuff. So I went back in and I understood what I had to accept in order to get through my life living in that house where I wasn’t as good as the son, no matter what I did. Even though I had excelled in school and athletics and academics. But it just wasn’t enough. I was still never seen. So that is how I started my journey. It felt like a very dark jungle.
Rachel Cram – How did you carry that over into the rest of life? It’s amazing to think that a child that is dealing with all that internally at home can go into an environment like school and thrive academically and athletically. Was there a dissonance in you when you were living in your school world as opposed to your home world?
Ranbir Puar – Yeah, I was two separate people. I used to go to school so early in the morning just to leave the house. I felt like the teachers understood me. They could see me. I felt like they were these parents so to speak, mentors for me. So I lived two separate lives for sure.
Rachel Cram – Now we know that the first years of your life are so incredibly influential. In fact it’s been said that during those first seven years we formulate 90 percent of our values and our attitudes and our beliefs. Yet, perhaps in opposition to the quote by Aristotle, you haven’t actually been shaped into being unseen, invisible, who you felt your parents were making you into. You have taken a different path. How did you start to make that move from being almost a victim in your home to being someone who has not lived life like that and in fact really wants to help other people not live life like that either?
Ranbir Puar – Well, the first practice came in understanding I really celebrated being a victim. I think sometimes we forget how comforting that story is, and how it fits like a glove. And, oh my gosh, I used it to drive me. It was my driving force.
Rachel Cram – Can you describe how that would have looked?
Ranbir Puar – Oh yeah. I would sit there and think to myself, “If I don’t do this then I’m going to be similar to my mom,” who I love so much. She’s passed away but my mom didn’t have a life of her own. So I kind of used that as motivation to be ‘not like that’ but I didn’t naturally switch from being a victim to a victor. I actually met somebody in my 20s who started to challenge my victim mentality. And I would always look at how my past broke me. and he would say, “And so how did that make you stronger? So he changed the lens on me. And I found it very aggravating to be honest because I had to think about how my past built me, not broke me. And that was very very difficult to let go of my old sad story. And learning to reprogram how I filtered the reality of my life, to look for what was right and not what was wrong, shifted everything for me.
Rachel Cram – You made this really interesting statement. You said you spent the first half of your life as a victim, and I’ve heard you in your talks speaking about this as well. You’ve gone on to say it’s hard, it’s unusual, sometimes it’s even undesirable to just be a regular human being. You’re seeing in culture right now that many people cling to a victim status as almost a cry to be noticed.
Ranbir Puar – Mm hmm.
Rachel Cram – Am I saying that.
Ranbir Puar – Yeah it’s a really interesting concept because the race to victimhood is really fragmenting our society because everybody wants to be the victim and who has the loudest voice of the victimhood. And I understand people have been discriminated against. I have been discriminated against in my life. I experienced so much racism as a kid. But I don’t let the racism I experienced or the gender bias I experienced dictate the trajectory of my life and how I contribute and how I think and how I process the world around me. I’m always now trying to look for what is good or right. And there’s always a seed of that. And this race to victimhood I think, is very very destructive.
Rachel Cram – When we’re going down that path of victimhood there’s a lot of blame. We can choose how we’re going to nurture our roots. We can choose what we want to be built upon. And you’ve chosen not to be someone who’s built their life upon victimhood. You’re not building on blame.
Ranbir Puar – But I did. I used to. I used to blame my dad for everything wrong in my life. So if I ever made a mistake in my life, or if I ever failed at something, or I didn’t do well, or I didn’t achieve the thing I wanted, it was because he hurt me. And he put me down. And if I didn’t have him I would never have any problems.
And I convinced myself of that until I realized, what did he do right for me? And when my husband asked me that, because he’s the man that challenged my belief system when I first met him in my 20s. He asked me, “Well what did your dad do right?”
I couldn’t answer the question. It took me a long time to really understand what my dad did right for me. And when I was feeling like a victim, I could never have seen it because I wanted him to bear the blame for my hurt.
Musical Interlude #1
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Rachel Cram – You’ve used your own experience to affect the lives of thousands of people now and you view your job as a way to help clients find their path their self self-image to reform to reshape their own inner dialogue. Can you explain how you start that with somebody that comes into your practice?
Ranbir Puar – Good question. It depends on what stage they are in their life and how old they are. But I think people have a really good instinctive reaction to truth. And if you can explain to them that you might not be responsible for what happens around you but you’re responsible for your reaction; the only thing you can control is you. And why is that important? Well, how you filter the world around you is so so important because we don’t always see things as they actually are.
I can tell you a story of a friend who worked in a bank and the bank was being held up and she said the gun was a couple of feet in size. It was this huge huge gun. And then when she went to court and they pulled out the weapon it was this tiny pistol. And sometimes we amplify what’s actually happening based on our life’s experiences and the panic and all the other things that are happening inside of us and we don’t see what’s actually there, outside of us.
Rachel Cram – So, how do you avoid that kind of amplification? How do you stop that when it’s based on emotion and perspective?
Ranbir Puar – I think I have a formula that might fit in well here and it works for adults and children so it’s not limited to one group or the other and it’s very simple and it goes like this observation plus emotion equals insult.
Rachel Cram – Insult? I wasn’t thinking that was going to be the answer at the end. So, our emotion affects our interpretation of reality. So how does that play out?
Ranbir Puar – Well the way that it works is that many of us will make observations. We all do it all day long and I have an example. I had a mom contact me and she said that her daughter came home from school in tears because somebody told her she had hairy arms. And my first question to the mom is, “Does your daughter have hairy arms?”
And she said, “Yeah she does. But how dare that child say that my daughter has hairy arms.”
And I said, “Let’s just maybe back it up a step or two and break this down. So the other child might have said, ‘Oh your arms are hairy,’ and then your daughter made the assumption that that was a bad thing and felt this emotion rise up that she was being judged for her arm hair and then she felt insulted. And truthfully, the child might have just been saying in passing, ‘Oh, you have hairy arms,’ and might have compared it to her arms which maybe didn’t have hair.”
We don’t know what the other person is thinking, we just know that they’re making an observation. So we always have this choice whether or not to add the emotion. And we have the choice to feel insulted because only we can choose that. We decide what the other person’s words mean to us. And if we can create neutrality by just looking at it as an observation rather than adding emotion.
Rachel Cram – That’s so difficult to do but it does make sense. Do you think frequently that is the case? That observations are made without an intended emotion behind them?
Ranbir Puar – It actually wouldn’t matter. It doesn’t matter what their intent is. It’s how you process it. That’s how you become resilient, by understanding that what another person observes doesn’t have to be your programming. So you get to choose whether or not you feel insulted or good or neutral. You choose that by adding emotion. So it’s irrelevant what they observe, it’s what you observe inside of yourself that matters the most.
Rachel Cram – I wonder if there’s another example? Are there things even in adult life that we experience?
Ranbir Puar – Oh adult life. Adult life is very colorful and there will be so many times in marriages where I’ll see partners disagree on just how household things are done. Oh you didn’t put the you know dishes in the dishwasher properly. Really small
Rachel Cram – So that’s an observation.
Ranbir Puar – Yeah. You didn’t do it properly. And so that’s partner number one and partner number two. The one that loaded the dishwasher might think, “Well they’re in there and what does it matter?”
And then that partner could add all this emotion to it. “How dare you judge me for how I loaded the dishwasher!” And all this amped up feeling and anger and frustration over just how the dishes were loaded in the dishwasher. And these small things are actually what lead to daily stressors in relationships. So whether it’s how the dishes are done or whether it’s how the child is bathed or the vacuum is run on the hardwood floor versus the carpeted floor, all of these things; we’re just observing that we would like them a certain way and it would look better this way from our perspective.
And if partner number two just goes, “Oh that’s his or her point of view.” We avoid the insult. We avoid this constant tension and stress inside the household. Under the roof changes, by taking away the emotion and just starting to look at it as, ‘That’s how she sees it.’ ‘That’s how he sees it.’
Rachel Cram – So observation plus emotion equals insults.
Ranbir Puar – Yeah yeah.
Rachel Cram – So if you don’t want the answer to be ‘insult’, you’ve got the observation plus what?
Ranbir Puar – Thought. Processing. So take a look at it and say, “That person is observing this. That person is not trying to hurt me. There’s no need for me to add emotion here. Let me add some conscious thought here. How can I look at it from their perspective? How can that perspective broaden my own perspective?” So rather than adding feeling there, just add thought there and then you have growth.
Rachel Cram – Okay. So, the default formula that we can fall into is observation plus emotion equals insult. But the more enlightened formula, the one we come to when we choose to believe our partner’s agenda is not one set on hurting us, is what?
Ranbir Puar – Observation plus thought equals acceptance or growth.
Rachel Cram – Ok, can you just keep working with me here for a moment Ranbir, because I have to say, I’m quite intrigued with the joy of working with formulas. So what about the times we add something positive. A positive response to an observation. Then, observation plus emotion would not equal insult it would equal, what would be the opposite of insult? Joy?
Ranbir Puar – Yeah but I think that people overlook the good moments. And a lot of us, because we have this negative bias, are so used to and so ready and willing to accept the insult and to be defensive that quite often we don’t recognize the joy that shows up because of our negative bias and our programming from you know pre seven years old.
So I think that to come up with a formula that says observation plus the emotion could equal joy 100 percent it could. But because we are so conditioned to look for what’s wrong, the other one will help interrupt the pattern so you could work towards that better formula.
Rachel Cram – So how do we shift then Ranbir, from an emotional interpretation to a thoughtful interpretation?
Ranbir Puar – Well the best thing you can start with is auditing. You know, no different than looking at numbers because it’s pretty black and white. As soon as you start taking some time to actually pay close attention to the thoughts you have, the reactions you have, the things you say in a day, I call it my communication audit. And as soon as you start putting your conscious awareness on something, it’s so much easier to make a decision to change.
And once the awareness is there of the conscious mind, the most incredible thing happens, you start to think, “Why am I doing this? How did I think to talk like that?” You start to be more aware of what your impact is on yourself and on others. And that’s when change happens. You have to have awareness, is step one, to create change. And then step two is just being kind to yourself. So we live in this world of instant gratification where we think I’m going to change and I’m gonna change right now. And unfortunately,
Rachel Cram – Not so easy
Ranbir Puar – Not so easy. So don’t stand in judgment of yourself and of the error that you made, just go, “Okay, I sidestepped, but I’m going to try again.”
Success is all about those little steps, all these tiny little adjustments we make in order to reprogram. So it all starts with awareness. And then two, the desire to change, and then three, following up with each little step. It’s not a big big race. It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. It’s a marathon.
Rachel Cram – When I think about your dishwasher example and then my own auditing, I know I tend to take out my days frustrations on the people closest to me and I kind of think I’m not alone in that?
Ranbir Puar – Well, as we get closer to people that we know, people that we love, we can be a little bit rougher and rougher
Rachel Cram – So true.
Ranbir Puar – Right. So we usually take out the roughest stuff on our partner and then our children. You know, I always call it the donut theory. Who’s ever closest to the center of the donut tends to take most of the filling right. And so the way that I help kids clean out that ‘filling,’ and adults as well is, I use an old Sufi saying which is, “Before you speak, pass your words through these three gates. Is it true? Is it kind and is it necessary?”
And then if you think about that in your own internal dialogue and you just spend one day, that’s all I ask, take one day and audit your internal dialogue and pay attention and jot down how often you say untrue, unkind and unnecessary things to yourself. It is incredibly eye opening. I think audits like that are life changing. So if you go past those three gates every single time.
Rachel Cram – You have to be able to go through all three of them?
Ranbir Puar – Yes
Rachel Cram – Can you just give a demonstration on that?
Ranbir Puar – Well, do you want to share an example of something you tell yourself? Do you want to?
Rachel Carm – Sure. You want me to…
Ranbir Puar – Yeah. If you can.
Rachel Cram – Something that I could tell myself personally? So you want me to share something that’s maybe not kind, true or necessary?
Ranbir Puar – Yeah. Something that it’s a repetitive,
Rachel Cram – thing in my head? Something I ruminate on?
Ranbir Puar – Yeah
Rachel Cram – I don’t know if this totally fits, but when you talk about the thoughts that run through your head, I’ve sometimes noticed, I can do something like… this actually happened to me the other day. I went into my closet and I pulled something off the top shelf and all this stuff came dumping down. It’s all my stuff. And I immediately thought, “ahhh,” and I was frustrated at my husband. Like it’s his fault my sweaters are falling out of my closet. And afterwards I was like, “Well that actually had nothing to do with him.” But the running dialogue that can start to go through your head is this story that you’re creating yourself, that you want blame attached to someone or to something.
Ranbir Puar – Yeah, because we feel unsupported quite often because we’re taking on so so much and we feel diluted and so because we feel diluted we are going to look at the person closest to us and take it out on them when really that’s your first alarm bell to say, “OK if you’re at a point where you’re freaking out because sweaters are falling down on you, that means, ‘Hey! You’ve got to get rid of some of the excess in your life.”
And the best way to do that is again, through the audit. Figure out what’s real, then you actually have something concrete to put your feet on to make change.
Rachel Cram – And those filters of, is it kind? Is it true? Is it necessary?
Ranbir Puar – Yeah.
Rachel Cram – I really like that.
Ranbir Puar – Yeah. And it always applies because if you were to think about that example of the sweaters falling on you and hubby getting the blame, and my hubby a has gotten blame for a lot of
Rachel Cram – I would have never said that out loud. This is my internal dialogue.
Ranbir Puar – Yeah, yeah! No no! But in my head I would have the same. Today’s parent is very very thinly stretched. And so in that moment I think to myself, “Is that kind true or necessary?” No it’s not. Every time I try to blame him or blame somebody else, that makes me feel less than. That makes me feel like a victim.
Musical Interlude #2
And here we go, into our updated interview with Ranbir Puar and then we’ll return for the conclusion of our original conversation. If you want a transcript of this episode, find it on Ranbir’s episode page at family360podcast.com. It’s all there waiting for you.
Rachel Cram – This next part of our conversation is a two year step forward in time. Ranbir, thanks for re- joining me for a few inserted questions to augment your original interview.
Ranbir Puar – Thank you for having me. I’m excited to be here again.
Rachel Cram – And you have a cold.
Ranbir Puar – I have a cold. I apologize for the, well, maybe I shouldn’t apologize, maybe it’s kind of cool.
Rachel Cram – You sound very sexy.
Ranbir Puar – Like a rock star.
Rachel Cram – I think listeners will appreciate that. Well, I want to pick up on your phrase, “feeling like a victim.” Where we’re jumping into this interview, those were some of your last words. And “feeling like a victim” often starts in response to true victimization, and you touched on this in your own life with your traumatic birth story in India and ensuing childhood experiences of being ‘unseen’.
But then, as you described, without mindful practices and intervention, a victim mentality can become part of an unhealthy coping mechanism for dealing with that trauma and pain.
So Ranbir, I would love you to talk more about that – about victim mentality. I think it’s sensitive and challenging topic to address. Victim mentality influences how a lot of us feel and think. And so I’ve gathered some great questions for your input.
Ranbir Puar – Okay, I’m ready.
Rachel Cram – When is feeling like a victim legitimate and important?
Ranbir Puar – I’m going to be controversial and say never.
Rachel Cram – Okay. Interesting.
Ranbir Puar – Yeah, never. I feel like the idea of a ‘victim’, feels more like a power struggle. It’s okay to be hurt. It’s okay to feel devastated or gutted or sad or feel helpless or hopeless. Like it’s okay to have those feelings, but to identify as the victim for longer than that period of processing your emotions, I think it’s going to hurt you because with that victim mentality, you are making sure that you are not equal with the oppressor or the aggressor or whatever. So we give them power by taking that victim position. So I would say never.
Rachel Cram – Okay. What would you say then would be the mentality that you’re taking for yourself then? Say you’ve been raped or say you’ve experienced prejudice, or say you’ve been in an accident or health or financial crisis that’s diminished your quality of life – how do we hold onto our power?
Ranbir Puar – I think well, when I’m teaching children, I try to tell them that as the human experience, quite often you can relate it to being like a trampoline. In your life people will jump on you and you will dip and you will, sometimes really dip low. But it’s your own self-image, your own self-worth that’ll help you bounce back and become stable again, like the base of the trampoline. And so when you have been through horrific life experiences and I have gone through some horrific life experiences,
Rachel Cram – Yes you have.
Ranbir Puar- that you could say I could truly identify as the victim for the rest of my life. But if I transform that and look at it as an energy management conversation and say that horrific experience gave me an elevated, emotional state of sadness, grief, loss, whatever it is, after I express and process those emotions, then I’m left with a unit of energy that I can either use to continue to beat up myself, continue to let that victim story live on, or I can use it to transform myself into the next level of personal development or growth.
So that horrific experience can slowly, over time, become a catalyst for growth versus allowing you to stay in that victim position forever.
I feel like society has created a real strong pull for us to stay stuck in the victim story. And like I said, it’s okay to stay there as you process. But as you know, from talking to all the people you talk to, you know, the definition of trauma is ‘too much, too fast and too soon’. And so once we have a chance to do that processing, we’re left with an abundant amount of energy. And how do we want to use that for transformation?
Rachel Cram – I love that answer. Ranbir, thank you so much and this is why I’m back to talking to you again because listeners had so many questions around your interview and this is my opportunity to ask you, so I’m just going to keep going through the list.
Ranbir Puar -Yes, please.
Rachel Cram – Okay. The next one, Is there such a thing as ‘necessary steps or necessary responses’ in processing hurt or trauma?
Ranbir Puar – Hmm. Well, the feeling of hurt or trauma is always legitimate however you process it, because we all come to it with a different container of goods. So my container of goods might have certain things and someone comes along and shakes it up and it happens to be I’m a very sensitive person, so when they shake me up, maybe all my vases inside are going to crack like crazy.
And someone else might come to that experience and they’re going to shake it up. But their vases are made of wood and they’re just going to fall and all they have to do is pick them up and reorganize. Where I might have more work to do because of the life and lived experiences I’ve had.
So I think that’s a tough question to answer generally, but if you’re genuine to understanding your internal dialog and auditing that, then you have the best capacity to put your containers back together, whatever sort of material they’re made of.
Rachel Cram – Ok, auditing. I have questions on auditing too,
Ranbir Puar – Sure, sure
Rachel Cram – And we’ll get there in a moment. I have a few other questions before those.
Ranbir Puar – Please
Rachel Cram – Ok, here’s another good question, and one I was wondering about too. What are hallmark signs of somebody holding on to an unhealthy victim status? What would alert someone to realizing that they’re doing that?
Ranbir Puar – Well, I held on to one for a very long time, so I have some examples of that from myself, but also from coaching clients. Some of the regular dialog that you hear is, “Oh, this always happens to me,” that sort of ‘woe is me’ mentality. The other thing that happens is they don’t actually allow themselves to set too high of a goal. They try to aim for mediocrity and safety when inside they might have the capacity to actually push further and farther than they do. But they decide not to because they don’t want to feel disappointed or hurt because they’ve been disappointed or hurt in the past.
The other thing is they have a really hard time trusting other people. They have a hard time receiving.
Rachel Cram – Receiving. Can you say more about that?
Rachel Cram – So one thing that really stands out is a lot of people will talk about how generous they are and how much they like to give and give and give. And then when I ask them about receiving or asking for help, they said, “Oh yeah, I’m not very good at receiving. I’m not good at asking for help.”
So that’s usually a telltale sign that they’re stuck in victimhood because everything in life has a dark and a light. So with generosity, in order to be a generous giver, you have to be a generous receiver. You have to be able to give and take in equal measure. So there are some signs there that show when somebody is quite stuck.
Rachel Cram – And you can see how that can be so perpetuated because there is such an emphasis on giving. We can almost feel it’s a point of pride to say, I’m a giver, not a taker, and you’re saying both are so important. That’s a real change in how we think.
Ranbir Puar – It took me a while to really get my head around it. As I said in my last interview, the person who challenges me the most happens to be my husband.
Rachel Cram – Which could be a blessing and a curse, I’m sure.
Ranbir Puar – Blessing and a curse. So basically the idea of giving unconditionally means that you’re not giving your happy birthday wish to somebody with your fingers crossed in hopes and wishes that they remember yours. So what happens is we’ll give and call someone to say happy birthday, and then they don’t call you back. And part of you feels that you’re waiting for their call, you’re waiting for the acknowledgment and it doesn’t happen. So then, did you really give that wish generously? Or was it conditional on hopes that you would also feel validated?
So in order to give generously, we give and we don’t expect anything in return. But it allows us to be open to receiving without any conditions as well.
Rachel Cram – So interesting. I was jotting these down as you spoke, so; it’s the woe is me mentality, playing it safe so we don’t get hurt, holding ourselves back at mediocrity when we probably want more, having a hard time trusting other people, having a hard time receiving from others.
Those are some of the hallmark signs that we might be holding on to a victim mentality. What would make us want to cling to that kind of mentality?
Ranbir Puar – Well, it’s the program we know. A lot of theorists will say that the programs between zero and seven set the stage, as, you know, for the rest of our lives. And some say that we’ve taken a vow to the story and program of our parents, whether that’s a healthy vow or an unhealthy vow. So it makes you feel like, on this deep subconscious level, that you’re betraying your family unit when you let go of the victim story because you took a vow to maintain that program, because these are the people that are supposed to love you the most, right?
Rachel Cram – So is what your is saying is that we’re clinging to a mentality we were shaped into in childhood? This is the way our family thinks and processes? As victims? And we remain loyal to that? Subconsciously?
Ranbir Puar – Yeah, and so it becomes quite confusing when you pose it to people and you think they think, I would never take a vow to maintain the program that my parents put in place. I would never take a vow to victimhood. And then you do an analysis, you do an audit, and you find out actually you have. It’s there.
And then the next thing that happens is neuroscience based. We have a negativity bias. People are three times more likely to do work on something to avoid a penalty than they are to get a reward. Three times.
So in order to not pay a fine, you will work three times harder than you will to get the same prize. If 100 bucks was there, you’re going to work three times harder to avoid the fine than to win the 100 bucks.
100 is nothing now but
Rachel Cram – It’s something to me.
Ranbir Puar – Anyway.
Rachel Cram – Yeah. So what kind of family culture are we wanting to create then so that that is not an allegiance that our child is following? And so that we don’t perpetuate that kind of negativity bias? What’s the allegiance that we’re wanting to be creating in our family atmosphere? And how do we do that?
Ranbir Puar – Yes, actually, I’m just finishing live training on this very, very topic. Parents can actually change the perspective of what it means to be a parent. I like to define the role of a parent as an adult coach. If you are looking at your kid as somebody you had to coach to be an adult, what language would you use? What food would you give them? What sort of grit would you want them to have?
Rather than looking at this as a power dynamic or a hierarchical thing between parent and child, try to look at it as you’re coaching this little human to be an adult. And how can they best create a life where they’re contributors not only to themselves but to their communities? How can they be self-sufficient, self-motivated, resilient, growth mindset, all of that good stuff. So I think if you start from the end and work your way back of what is it that you are doing in your role?
A lot of parents in the Western world especially look at their children as the role of sacrifice. And I think if you look at it as, they’re a catalysts for your personal growth, for one, and how can you coach them on being this incredible adult that you can later in life enjoy their company?
Rachel Cram – Well, I’ve heard the phrase mother as martyr. And if you’re parenting from that, “I am giving my life to you because it is my job to, you know, sacrifice my time, my resources, my pleasure, in order to raise and launch you, then of course, they’re going to pick up on that belief that life is about being a martyr and a victim.
Ranbir Puar – And that they owe you and they owe the world. Because what is a martyr? Someone who sacrifices themselves and what they actually need, thinking that they’re doing the best for the world.
The best for the world is for you to light your whole self up and give your whole self creatively, physically, spiritually to the world. Not to hold back because you think you’re less than somebody else.
Rachel Cram – Whew! And for all these reasons and more, we want to know how to audit our thoughts!
Musical Interlude #3
Thanks for listening to family360 and our conversation with Ranbir Puar. There’s more to come.
In our next episode, we’re with Katherine Reynolds Lewis talking about her book, The Good News About Bad Behavior. Katherine is an award winning journalist and co-founder of the Center for Independent Journalists. From her ongoing investigations into classroom discipline and North American parenting practices, we’re talking with her about a prominent educational question; “Why are kids less disciplined than ever — and what to do about it.” Join us for this surprisingly positive and encouraging conversation.
And now back to our conversation with Ranbir about auditing out thoughts and her artistically expressed ending from her first conversation.
Rachel Cram – So, how do we pay attention to the thoughts that are going on in our mind, to know if we’re falling into that victim mentality or any other unhealthy way of thinking?
Ranbir Puar – Auditing thoughts is so powerful but so uncomfortable. And it’s kind of like that idea where a lot of people don’t want to look at their bank balance or look at their scale, because if they look at it, it makes it real.
Rachel Cram – Their scale? Like their bathroom weight scale?
Ranbir Puar – Bathroom scale. But if they actually looked at the scale every day, they wouldn’t show up one day and say, “How did I get 20 pounds heavier?”
Like, they would be able to manage the micro dose of issues that come up rather than waiting for it to be a major issue. The same thing goes with your credit card balance or your bank balance. If you look at it every day, there’s so much power in that. The power is putting it back in your hands and saying, “I’m aware of the self that lives inside of me and I am comfortable going up or down a little bit here and there because I am resilient.”
The mentality that says, “Don’t look at yourself, don’t look at your bank balance, don’t look at anything,” says, “You are too fragile. You are too fragile to look at yourself.”
So if when we start auditing our mental-self, we can see, are we mentally rehearsing the past? Or are we mentally rehearsing the life we say we want to live? Because if we say we want to live a life of peace or joy or contribution, and we audit ourselves and we’ve mentally rehearsed all the days past, that means you’re not committed. You’re just not committed. As soon as you put your awareness on it, guess what? After a while it’ll start to change. Because I used to say to myself, “You know what? I’m mentally rehearsing my past. I feel really bad, but I’m going to do it anyway.”
I used to just say that to myself. “I’m going to do it anyway.”
Why? Why am I addicted to that thought pattern? How does that thought pattern serve me? And is it moving me towards feeling free? All I’ve ever wanted in my life is to feel free.
Rachel Cram – It is an addiction though, isn’t it? We get addicted to ways of thinking and it’s familiar. Like there’s there’s comfort in that familiar of
Ranbir Puar – the old pair of jogging pants.
Rachel Cram – Yeah, it’s comfortable.
Ranbir Puar – It’s comfortable and it’s easy. It is easy. It’s like basically taking a chainsaw, cutting down trees and making a whole new path in the brain to think this other way. That takes a lot of effort. And because most of us have a low self-image, we don’t know that we’re worth it to do that. Most of us don’t have that sort of drive to go do that.
So the other way to trick yourself into doing it, because not everyone can think of themselves in the concept of worth or value, is to think about dollars. So I say, “I’m going to give you,” to clients, “you have 100 energy dollars today. 100 mental dollars today. How many dollars today did you spend on guilt? How many dollars did you spend on shame? How many dollars did you spend on, you know, maybe something memory, past memory? How many dollars did you invest in your future? In your dreams? And in today.”
And when you put it in dollar signs, I don’t know how or why, but man, oh, man, does that change quickly? Putting it in dollars helps. Because everybody understands money.
Rachel Cram – I don’t know what that says about us as people but it makes sense. Well, as I’ve been weighing out the cost of my own thoughts over the last few days, in preparation for our conversation, I used those gates that you’ve mentioned already; are these kind, true and unnecessary thoughts. I’ll tell you three that came to my mind that I noticed myself saying numerous times, “I’m so tired,” is one of them. Another one is, “I can’t keep doing this.” And another one was. “She always does this,” you know, and I don’t need to expand on that. But those are three kinds of thoughts that I recognized, “This has come up quite a few times on repeat.”
Are those the kind of thoughts?
Ranbir Puar – Those are the kind of thoughts. And, you know, the self-help world, which is growing massively as mental health is plummeting, will tell you, “Well, you should use affirmations for that,” and I will wholeheartedly disagree.
Rachel Cram – Why?
Ranbir Puar – So when you look at the word “I’m so tired,” or the phrase, “I’m so tired,” if you keep telling yourself, “I’m so tired,” then most likely you have a mismanagement of energy. So that’s either time, food, exercise, there’s an imbalance somewhere. So you can focus on trying to create a statement about, “I am working towards creating balance in my life so I can live joyfully and peacefully.”
But don’t say “I am balanced and fulfilled” because your brain has a negativity bias and it’ll call your BS. It’ll say, “You’re lying to me.”
Rachel Cram – And that what you mean by an affirmation?
Ranbir Puar – Yeah, and so when you have this statement that keeps coming up that says, “I am so tired,” then say “I’m working towards, I’m committed to working towards creating balance in my life. So I feel energized.”
So the brain will start to believe that statement and it will help you build self trust. The more you can build self trust, the more you feel expansive and the more you can be generous, the more you can receive. Your capacity just increases.
And then when we find ourselves saying, “She always does this,” or the word always or never, you know, I’ve been really paying attention to myself lately. So I try to say to myself, “Okay, Ranbir,” that’s an audit I did recently, “You use the word ‘always’ a lot. What about looking to be in the middle way and being okay with average, being okay with just being yourself and not having to be in an extreme or another extreme. So, helps a lot. It’s very Zen to be in the middle way, of course, but it’s so helpful because it lets us let go of the addiction for that high.
Rachel Cram – That high of.
Ranbir Puar – Praise, the high that comes with feeling hurt, like both come with a high, right? They’re just an elevated, emotional state. Some of us, the high that comes with feeling hurt just is so handy. It’s right there. It’s those jogging pants or the UGGs with the holes that I have. You know, it’s comfortable, but it’s a high. We crave that high.
Rachel Cram – A while back, I think it was on your Instagram page, you wrote something about the power and pleasure of being in the middle, being ordinary, and I wonder if that would fit into this conversation about letting go of the high of feeling hurt. Would it make sense to close off this section with that?
Ranbir Puar – Sure, I can talk about that. So, I wrote a post called When I Realized I Was Ordinary My Life Became Extraordinary, because I stopped trying to chase the label of being special. I chase the label of being special because the victim story inside of me told me I had to be special in order to balance that out. And when I stopped chasing it, I realized the magic of the people around me. My whole world lit up. And all of a sudden, I had so much support, the support that had always been there, but I didn’t see it because of the filter that the victim story had placed over my eyes, and especially over my heart.
So the more you can get into that heart center, the more you’re going to be able to really feel the joy and beauty of your life.
Rachel Cram – Ranbir, thank you so much for joining me for an addition to your original interview. And I think this just leads us beautifully into where I know you are about to go with your conclusion.
Ranbir Puar – Thank you.
Rachel Cram – So Ranbir, as we start to wrap up the interview, I’m wondering, is there a last thought or idea you want to share? I’m thinking particularly in light of the pursuit of truth in the stories that we tell ourselves.
Ranbir Puar- Well I think that a lot of people, when they’re listening to a podcast like this and they’re looking for growth and expansion, the first thing that might come to mind is, “Hey, I’ve got a lot of broken spots in my life. I have a lot of trauma. I have a lot of sadness. What do I do? I’m cracked. I’m broken. I’m a broken adult.”
And I turn to this Japanese practice called ‘Kintsugi’. And what they do is they take cracked pottery, broken pottery, and they put it back together with this beautiful gold paint. And so you’re left with this previously broken piece of pottery and it’s re-put together with this gold and it looks incredible. And I think you can do the same in your life. When you look at the places that you’re cracked, think about how that built you not broke you. What is that gold? What did you get out of it? It gave you character, it gave you strength, it gave you resilience. And resilience is life. It’s everything. So that crack is really your opportunity for growth.
Rachel Cram – Ranbir it’s been so enjoyable chatting with you. So enlightening. I thank you so much for your time.
Ranbir Pura – Thank you so much for having me. It’s an honor and a pleasure. Thank you.
“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart
and try to love the questions themselves,
like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue.
Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you
because you would not be able to live them.
And the point is, to live everything.
Live the questions now.
Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it,
live along some distant day
into the answer.”
– Rainier Maria Rilke