In my last post, I wrote about the many roles a carer plays. One of them is the Victim role and I will expand on that here.
Living with a long-term chronic condition, whether you are the person directly affected, or the carer, can be tiring. You may have daily uncertainty wondering how you will feel and therefore what you will be able to do. Or you cannot do what you used to and missing that is tiring. There are times where you feel you just want to throw in the towel and you sit there wondering, ‘Why me? Why?’ You feel like you have no control, you are existing from day to day and not living life the way you want to. You may have tried the ‘Be positive!’ mantra, which everyone has suggested, but for whatever reason it hasn’t quite worked for you.
This is a normal experience. It can take a lot of energy, physically and mentally, to live with the impact of a chronic condition particularly in the acute phase, during any relapses, or at times when you are feeling more down than usual. And at these times there may not a lot of energy left over to be proactive. What I will do in this post is explain the psychological process of what could be going on when you or others are often feeling ‘why me’, what it looks like in action so you can identify it, and what you can do if it is becoming an unhelpful pattern.
So what is going on?
Common features of the Victim role include wishing someone would come along and sort out your issue and make things better and/or feeling others do not understand and are making your life worse. It shows up in the words we use to express ourselves: continual ‘why me’; references to what others have said you can do, cannot do or should do and you then do as you have been told begrudgingly; your language sounds passive; and getting upset at others when they cannot help us.
When we are in Victim mode, we can end up looking at others as our Rescuer – the person we hope will sort out our issue for us or does – or the Persecutor, the person who makes our life miserable (Karpman, 1968). Think of an upside-down triangle where you have Rescuer, Persecutor and Victim.
This is referred to as the Drama Triangle (Karpman, 1968). You find that two people interacting with each other can take on one or more of these roles in one interaction. It is a not-so-merry dance.
Here are examples of what people say and do in the Victim, Rescuer and Persecutor roles.
- I was relieved when the doctor signed me off sick. – A person looking to the doctor to rescue her.
- ‘I wish someone would ask me how I am.’ – Another example where a person was hoping others would rescue him.
- ‘Needing vitamin D gives me the right to leave the house.’ – The person is looking to something external to her to give her permission to do something, to rescue her.
- ‘If only she would stop asking me to do everything for her!’ – A person upset with their sibling’s many requests and placing the sister in the Persecutor role.
- “If only they would change!” – Person is putting others into the Persecutor role and expecting and relying on them to change so she could feel better.
- Thinking of things you can do to help yourself and then listing all the reasons why they will not work. You then do nothing. – An example of self-sabotage.
- Someone asks a friend on what to do about a situation. The friend offers their advice. the person responds with all the reasons why their suggestions won’t work and inside feels their friend doesn’t has a clue. – Looking to be rescued by others, but then moving into Persecutor role when their suggestions aren’t seen as good enough.
- You ask someone for their opinion on what you should do and they say they cannot help or do not know how. You get upset. – Looking others to rescue you.
- You ask someone for their opinion and do what they suggested. It does not work out as you had hoped. You tell that person in a slightly accusatory tone that their suggestion did not work. – An example of looking to others to rescue you, and when their suggestion did not rescue you, you ‘persecute’ them, thus placing them in the ‘victim’ role.
When we wish someone would Rescue us, we are giving them our responsibility for ourselves.
When we feel others are making our life worse in some way or are out to get us, we are giving that person our personal power so in effect, they have power over us.
We all do this. And we will all continue to do this. It is part of the human experience.
But doing this on a continual basis where one often feels very frustrated, discouraged, and upset because others will not do XYZ or help with something or are making the person’s life worse, then that is when the Victim role is not a psychologically healthy place to be.
Knowing these signs means that going forward, you can recognise when you are in the Victim role (or one of the other roles) and with that awareness you can then choose to do something about it.
What can you do?
If you are tired of the not-so-merry dance around the Drama Triangle, you can choose to step out of it.
But what do you step into?
You can step into a place where you adopt three principles (Karpman, 1968) and base your actions on those.
1. Demonstrate your vulnerability
There are times when you need help from another. You truly do not know the answer, have tried to find one but have not been successful. You feel stuck. Ask for help when you need it yet recognise that the person might not want to help you or be able to help.
2. Take responsibility for you
You are responsible only for those things that are truly yours to deal with, those things that you can directly control or influence (Covey, 1989). Be mindful of what you can change and cannot. You cannot change other people but you can influence their response by how you communicate with them. For more on how to discern what you can control and what you cannot, make a cup of tea or coffee and watch this presentation I gave a few years ago on this very topic.
3. Take action, stand in your power
When you know what is in your spheres of direct control and influence (Covey, 1989), it is up to you to take action. If you are relying on others or the situation to change while you stand by, watch and hope, you are giving away your personal power. Instead, stand in your power and do, be and become.
Over to you
When have you last found yourself in the Victim role? Or Rescuer or Persecutor roles? How did you get yourself out of it? Do you find that you spend more time in the Victim role than you want? Or have you found someone wanting you to play one of these roles? And what was that like? Share by leaving a comment.
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© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2014
Covey, S.R. (1989) The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change. London, UK: Simon & Schuster UK Ltd.
Karpman, S. (1968). Fairy tales and script drama analysis. Transactional Analysis Bulletin, 7(26), 39-43.
To learn more about the Drama Triangle, go to this site – http://www.karpmandramatriangle.com/index.html