No one wants to be a victim. No one likes them or respect them. Moreover, if anyone calls you a “Victim” you’re sure to start looking for a blunt heavy object to neatly throw at the offender :).
The fact of life is, however, that we play the role of a Victim every day. Some do it without realizing it and for little things, others are quite professional.
It is so nice sometimes to pretend that you’re a “typical blond,” especially when you need a volunteer to change your tire, get free service for your computer or simply don’t feel like dragging a heavy bag to your car! :)
You may also remember the movie millionaire-hunters who helplessly bat their eyelashes – the very picture of bashfulness and insecurity.
There are such damsels everywhere. They manage to play their helplessness so well that there are always two-three gallant caballeros dancing attendance on them. They all have strong shoulders and a passionate desire to lend that shoulder preferably for a nice long while, better yet – forever …
The other women, the strong, successful ones, with plenty of achievements in their career suddenly start having doubts, “Did I study the right thing? Should I have bothered?”
This, however, is professional and quite conscious use of the Victim role as a tool to achieve goals and may have its existence as such.
When playing a part becomes a way of life
It is much more damaging when someone plays the part of a Victim without realizing it, simply because they really believe themselves to be impotent and weak, unable to influence the circumstances. You have seen examples of that too:
— When women put up with abuse and ill-treatment for years.
— When after being laid off, men settle on the couch saying, “What can I do? Who needs class A drivers nowadays?” and so on.
Such Victims live their lives waiting for a Rescuer, the one who will find them a job (better yet, go to work for them) or cure their husband of his habit to take his fists to them. However, you should remember that there really aren’t either Rescuers, or Victims, or Persecutors. They are all simply people who are trapped in the parts they play.
These parts go in a circle too. Take, for instance, an alcoholic and his wife. First he drinks and beats her and the wife is a poor Victim. Then she begins to rescue him from alcoholism: on the one hand she scolds him for being bad, on the other – she pities him and gives him money for a pick-me-up.
When she realizes yet again that it’s all no good, she moves on to being a Persecutor.
She does her best to hit him over the head with a rolling pin, sets his bags out on the porch or tries to disgrace him in front of the neighbors. Now the drunk-husband becomes a Victim and the children are forced to assume the role of the Rescuer taking mom’s or dad’s side in turn. And so the family nightmare goes round and round.
Grown-up children and their parents play out the same scenario. The daughter assumes the role of a miserable Victim of parental unfairness and remembers all she’s been “short-changed” of.
Then, that same daughter, having watched the parents’ ostentatious heart attacks, begins to rescue them from early death and behave herself decently out of fear. In the next cycle the daughter realizes that she’s been shamelessly used again and assumes the position of the Persecutor. You can run around this triangle for years.
Is being a Victim your fate or choice?
The example of a “typical blond” at the beginning of this article makes you smile; after all, her helplessness is simply a way to reach her goals. However, it is no laughing matter when the habit of being helpless and waiting for life to happen is formed in childhood.
Here’s the simplest example. A teenage girl dreams of a “knight in shining armor.” In her dreams he finds her on his own with no effort on her part and falls deeply in love with her (despite her uncared-for skin, excess weight, and quite mediocre intellect). This same “magic knight” solves all her problems in one sweep: He provides for her to the end of her days, buys her the most expensive clothes, lets her off doing the dishes (and cooks the meals, while he’s at it).
Here’s another example. A boy is growing up sickly and fragile. His mother carefully wards him from all iniquities of life: “Don’t run around – you’ll sweat and get sick,” “Don’t play with those boys, they’re bigger than you are and will take advantage of you,” thus cultivating in her child a feeling of failure, helplessness, and a habit of feeling sorry for himself at the drop of a hat.
Childhood passes, but as one grows up, this becomes the view of the world where it is customary:
1. To look for “whose fault is it” and to lay the blame on someone else.
“Yes, I’m fat! It’s all my parents’ fault! Couldn’t they have sent me to some sports club, so I’d be more fit?”
“How can you be a success with parents like mine? Why couldn’t they send me to a private school instead of a public one? I’d have had a better education and better friends!”
“How do you expect me to marry well? They’re not men around here; they’re just a bunch of jerks! All they look at is your butt and your boobs! No one wants to know about your tender heart (strong intellect, vivid personality)!”
All that being said, no one ever thinks of getting a membership at the gym, changing their social circle or at least getting a new wardrobe.
2. To criticize oneself before others do it.
“How would I talk to such a girl when I’m so ugly?” (I’ll just stay put quietly in a dark corner).
“No one loves me because I’m so fat!” (So I’ll continue stuffing myself at night as a last resort).
3. To demonstrate one’s helplessness in any way possible and avoid any opportunity to prove that you are talented, intelligent, dance well or know lots of poetry :).
4. To constantly compare oneself to others in their favor.
“Of course Liz got the promotion. She’s so pretty and the boss likes her better.”
“Of course, Jones is going to go on that business trip. He’s always the lucky one!”
5. To feel helpless and dismayed in a conflict situation. The Victim feels that they are always in the wrong, that they have no right to insist or demand something for themselves.
6. That any changes to plans or habits call forth a stream of fears and worries, from thinking “What if I don’t make it” all the way to vivid images of being run over by a truck or butchered by a homicidal maniac.
Each failure is accompanied by an attack of self-pity and phrases like, “I knew it. I never do anything right.” “Everyone else can do it, but I…” It is obvious that a person who plays the Victim most of their life is their own worst enemy. However, with all that helplessness, they manage to inflict damage on others too.
Why it is harmful to help a Victim
The strategy of people who play this part is to find someone who would do everything FOR them. In most cases, this is unconscious trickery and not brazen consumerism. The Victim broadcasts to the world a plea for help “If you don’t help me now I will simply die. After all, no one will help me if you don’t. You are my protector and rescuer!”
Yes, we are talking manipulation here, but you should not think that the Victims are putting on an act. They really do feel completely helpless and that is why they spend most of their lives looking for yet another Rescuer.
However, instead of being truly grateful, the Victim is annoyed with her benefactor. He is better than she is. Every day she looks at him with poorly concealed envy and even hate.
On the one hand, she absolutely denies that she can manage on her own and grows numb in expectation of failure. On the other hand, a Victim is annoyed with her Rescuer for the very reason of being so good. If, God forbid, this benefactor says, “Maybe you should get off the couch (stop whining) and try doing something yourself,” their relationship will simply fall apart!
There is also a different scenario for such a relationship. The Victim gets tired of always being weaker and inferior. She begins to look for any way to even the score and turns into a Persecutor.
- For starters, she simply sabotages all Rescuer’s advice. She chooses passive-aggressive behavior formulating it as, “You’re right, of course, but…”
- Then she looks for a way to prove at any cost that the Rescuer is a failure, to convince him that he is weak, to let him know in full his own “impotence.”
Thus, despite all external efforts, the Victim maintains a deep conviction in her own inferiority. She does not look for a way to manage, but only for a way to reduce the pain; preferably at the expense of the Rescuer. If not, then at the expense of alcohol, drugs, gambling, or other such “adventures.” Her behavior is inherently self-destructive.
The worst thing is that she pulls the Rescuer down with her. The very Rescuer who spends all his resources in battle with the Victim’s low self-esteem, bad habits and depression and who has neither time nor energy left for his own development.
In addition to all that, the Victims skillfully use that ideal weapon of guilt. A Victim contrives with recriminations, complaints, tears and public suffering to convince her Rescuer that he is the source of all her trouble; that he is the one who failed and did not make her happy.
Even though, in reality, it is the Victim who keeps going back to the painful scenarios of her past.
How to drop out of the game
The goal of this article is not to rebuke, condemn or convict those who cannot manage their lives on their own.
If you find a typical Victim next to you, don’t hurry to flee for your life. If you realize that you live playing the part of a Victim, that is no reason to start looking for a convenient bridge to jump. There is, actually, a solution :).
Psychologists call this “inverting the roles;” that means substituting them with other, more constructive ones. A Rescuer, for example, can turn into a Coach whose goal is to teach the pupil to overcome obstacles.
A Victim might become a Student and approach all life’s difficulties as school homework. Substitute the habit of complaining about life with one of drawing conclusions and moving on. Then your view of the world will start changing :).