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playing the victim

I share my story of how a painful breakup turned a blessing in disguise and taught me to stop playing the victim.

A few years ago, I was seeing a guy who seemed to be the most wonderful person I’d ever met. He was an intellectual, had a great sense of humor and a was perfect fit for me, or so I thought.

After a few months, our relationship became shaky. I couldn’t trust him and there were many fights between us. If you met me then, you’d find me asking one question tirelessly: “But why is he is doing this?”

Related: The Science of Self-Improvement and Positive Relationships

I had a select few people (family and two friends) with whom I’d share the “story”. No matter what they said, I’d always go back to the same question above.

(Now I can empathize with them for being there and patiently answering my stupid and childish questions. Thank you guys!)

At the time, I just couldn’t see it. I was doing everything right, and he was ruining everything. It was all him, him, him. He was the wrong-doer; and me? Just a victim.

Yikes. Can you imagine how unattractive that stance is? Instead of playing the victim, I could have acknowledged the fact that I have ALL the control in the world.

I could have made a better choice.
I could have had a straight one-one talk with him.
I could have called it quits instead of dragging it for months.
I could have asked him where I was going wrong.
I could have taken responsibility to be happy in my life.

You get the point…

But I did not. Instead, I played the victim. Thankfully, I’ve come a long way and the lessons still remain fresh.

Why Do People Play the Victim?

When you hear the word “victim”, what comes to your mind? Most of us know someone or the other who plays the victim role. There are several reasons behind this:

– They want to control others
– They want to justify their acts
– They want to cope with difficult situations
– They want to gain sympathy
– They want to gain attention
– They don’t want to take responsibility
– They enjoy the drama
– They want to take advantage of your kindness or caring nature.

Whatever the reason, living with a victim is hard. It drains your energy and you feel tired in their company.

Victims are energy vampires who suck the energy out of you. They do this knowingly or unknowingly. But their reason for playing the role is not always malign.

Sometimes, the victim has benign reasons for the way they are: They don’t know what else to do or are not consciously aware of their actions.

The Negative Triangle

In human behavioral science, the “triangle” of unhealthy relationships is made up of:

1. Victim
2. Aggressor
3. Rescuer

The Negative Triangle of Relationships

As you know, the Victim feels sorry for himself or herself and may have a benign or malign reason behind their behavior. An Aggressor is the more dominating one in the relationship.

And the Rescuer is a third party who is not a part of the relationship but participates to rescue the victim.

Rescuers feel they are doing a good job by standing up for the victim, however, soon they realize that the victim never learns to take responsibility and are tired of caring and supporting them.

Many relationships also see the Victim and Aggressor roles being played interchangeably by the two partners — when the victim feels he/she has had “too much”, they will take up the aggressor’s role.

Don’t Be the Rescuer!

You don’t have to be in the situation to be in it.

If you want to bring more positive experiences in your life, be on the watch out for victims. Usually, a victim will start with making you feel very important and capable — this is because they project themselves as incapable of taking care of themselves.

This is when you become a rescuer and start taking responsibility for them. In real, you’re stealing the gift of 100% responsibility from them!

Don’t be a Rescuer for a victim! Empower them to become the best version of themselves, but quit doing things for them because they seem incapable and you care far too much. If you truly care about them, let them become responsible.

How can you do this? By challenging them to grow and by congratulating them on each small step. Be careful as to not hurt their ego because they’ll hold on to it like their life depends on it. Instead, be patient, and make them face the facts.

One of the ways you can do this is by challenging their statements that are full of “shoulds”. For example, a client came to me with a complaint, “Well, we’re married now and I should be the most important thing in his life!”

How Playing a Victim Turned Out to Be a Good Thing

If you ask me, I am glad for what I did back then. Without personally experiencing the loss and heartache, I would never “get” what it really means to become responsible for your own happiness.

I was also lucky because my loved ones empowered me to come out of the rut by showing me the mirror. They let me make my own decisions and never played the rescuer in my life.

Eventually, I learned to stop playing the victim. Yes, it was hard and it cost me my relationship because we broke up on a bitter note.

After the break up, I spent days analyzing, soul-searching and checking in with myself, and came to the conclusion of how I was avoiding responsibility by ping-ponging between the roles of the aggressor and victim.

I was now posing a new question to myself:  How can I turn around such events and have more positive experiences in future instead?

That was when the light bulb went on. I realized that no matter how much deep sh*t I think I am into, I can always opt for positive choices and ban the victimhood psychology forever.

Analyse your own life and evaluate if you’re playing the victim (or aggressor or rescuer) to come out of the negative triangle.

Don’t make the mistakes I made. You have a choice. Always.

Image by Angelo González.

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