Are you an emotional victim, pushing others away with your complaints? Are you stuck feeling like a victim of your past, your circumstances, or of other people? Are you in a relationship playing out the dance of victim, perpetrator, and sometimes rescuer? Do you know how to love yourself in the face of someone complaining to you and being a victim?
Hi everyone. Dr. Margaret Paul here with the Inner Bonding podcast. Today I’m addressing the topic of being an emotional victim, how this effects relationships, and what to do about it.
None of us like to think of ourselves as victims. The term “victim” brings to mind a pathetic image of a person who is powerless. Therefore, it comes as a shock to most of us to realize how often we allow ourselves to be victimized or see ourselves as victims.
We are being victims anytime we give another person the power to define our worth. We are being victims anytime we make approval, sex, things, a substance, or an activity responsible for our feelings of happiness and lovability. We operate as victims anytime we blame another for our feelings of anger, hurt, aloneness, jealousy, disappointment and so on. Whenever we choose to define ourselves externally, we are handing away power to others and we then feel controlled by their choices. When we choose to define ourselves internally through our connection with our spiritual guidance, we move out of victimization and into personal power and personal responsibility.
We always have two choices: we can try to find our happiness, peace, safety, security, lovability and worth through people, things, activities and substances; or we can feel joyful, peaceful, safe, secure, lovable and worthy through practicing Inner Bonding – connecting with spirit, learning to take loving care of ourselves and sharing love with others.
Whenever we choose to find our happiness and safety through others, then we have to try to control them to give us what we want. Then, when they don’t come through for us in the way we hoped they would, we feel victimized by their choices.
Here is an example: Don and Joyce are in a continual power struggle over how to handle their children. Joyce tends to be authoritarian while Don is fairly permissive. When Joyce gets frustrated with Don’s parenting, she generally yells at him about his permissiveness. Don often listens to Joyce rant and rave at him. Sometimes she goes on for over an hour and he just listens. Then, when he tries to talk with her, she refuses to listen. Don then feels victimized, complaining about how Joyce yells at him and refuses to listen to him. He gets stuck in victimization.
When I asked Don in a session why he sits and listens to Joyce, he stated that he hoped if he listened to her, she would listen to him. I asked if she ever does listen during these conflicts, and he answered “No.” “Why do you need her to listen to you?” I asked. “I want to explain to her why I did what I did with the children,” he answered. “Why do you need to explain it to her?” I asked. “So she won’t be mad at me,” he answered.
Don allows himself to be yelled at by Joyce as his way of trying to control Joyce, hoping to get her to approve of him. Then he feels victimized by her yelling, blaming her for being such an angry, controlling person.
If Don were willing to practice Inner Bonding and learn to take responsibility for approving of himself through his connection with his spiritual guidance, he would not listen to Joyce when she was yelling at him. Instead, he would set a boundary against being yelled at, stating that he would listen to her only when she spoke to him with respect and only when she was open to learning with him. But as long as she has to approve of him for him to feel secure or worthy, he will not set this boundary. Until Don opens to his higher self for his security and worth, instead of handing this job to Joyce, he will continue to be victimized by her unloving behavior.
Practicing Inner Bonding and learning to take responsibility for our own feelings of worth and lovability, instead of giving that job to others, moves us out of victimization and into personal power.
Do you actually know when you are acting as a victim or seeing yourself as a victim?
Because most of us don’t like to think of ourselves as a victim, without realizing it, you might believe you are a victim, and you might be putting yourself in the position of being a victim.
See if you identify with any of these situations:
- Someone criticizes you and you feel badly. Believing that your upset is in reaction to the criticism, rather than in reaction to whatever you are telling yourself about the criticism and how you are responding to the criticism, makes you feel like a victim of the other person.
- Do you get angry when things don’t go your way? Believing that your anger is being caused by something external, rather than by some way that you are not taking loving care of yourself, makes you feel like a victim of someone or something.
- Do you believe that life is unfair? That others are lucky and you aren’t? That God loves some people but not you? Believing that circumstances or God are the cause of your unhappiness, rather than your own beliefs and behavior, means that you see yourself as a victim.
- Do you get sick a lot or suffer from weight issues or degenerative diseases? Believing that this is just your lot in life or just your genetics, rather than taking responsibility for your food, exercise, and stress, puts you in the position of seeing yourself as a victim.
- Do you find yourself feeling a lot of emotional pain – aloneness, emptiness, anxiety, depression, fear, hurt, guilt, shame? Do you believe that someone should come along and make you happy? Not taking responsibility for yourself, not practicing Inner Bonding, and not learning to love yourself instead of abandoning yourself, keeps you stuck being a victim of your own negative thinking, which is the cause of your pain.
- Are you miserable in a situation in your life – a relationship, a job? If you believe it is the relationship or the job that is making you miserable, instead of recognizing that there are ways you are not taking loving care of yourself regarding these situations, then you likely see yourself as a victim of these situations.
- Do you lack friends and family and end up feeling alone and isolated? Do you wallow in depression rather than practice Inner Bonding to discover how you are abandoning yourself and what the loving actions would be? Staying stuck rather than diligently practicing Inner Bonding keeps you feeling victimized.
No one else is causing your wounded feelings.
Whenever you believe that your wounded feelings of anxiety, depression, guilt, shame, aloneness, emptiness, anger, or jealousy are coming from outside yourself, rather than from your own self-abandoning thoughts and behavior, you are being a victim.
I once heard a lecture by a man who had been homeless. He had come from poverty and abuse and had been a very miserable person. One day he had the idea to read about happy and successful people. He started to spend most of his time at the library, reading the biographies of many successful and happy people. What happened is that, in reading about how these people thought, he started to change his own thinking, which led to changes in his behavior. Within a relatively short time, he was no longer homeless, and eventually got married, had a family, and was a millionaire with much joy in his life. He moved from being a victim to taking 100% responsibility for his thoughts and behavior.
When you focus on practicing Inner Bonding throughout a day, you become aware of the false beliefs that keep you stuck in believing that you are a victim and acting as a victim. You become aware of the many ways you are abandoning yourself that lead to your unhappiness or failure to thrive. In connecting with your feelings and your guidance throughout a day, you learn to live in truth rather than in false beliefs, and to take loving action on your own behalf rather than staying stuck being a victim.
Are you pushing others away with your victim pain?
Most people have had the experience of sometimes being drawn to comfort someone in pain, and other times being repelled by someone in pain. You may also have had the experience of sometimes being comforted when you are in pain and other times being pushed away. There is a very good reason for this.
Our feelings and expressions of pain come from two very different sources and two very different intentions.
Victim pain comes from the wounded self. The pain is real, but it is self-caused, the result of self-abandonment. It comes from a very needy abandoned child or adolescent within and is a pull on others to take over as the compassionate loving adult.
When you are in victim pain, you are suffering. You might wonder why others are not more compassionate toward you when you are suffering so much. The problem is that others see that you are the one causing your suffering. Your suffering feels manipulative to those around you, and they just want to get away from you. Your needy energy feels “yucky” to them.
Even if people are compassionate toward you when you are in victim pain, it doesn’t do much good. It may feel good to you for the moment, but because the pain is being caused by your own self-abandonment, others can’t “fix” it for you. They eventually feel frustrated due to your refusal to take loving care of yourself.
When someone you care about is in victim pain, you might feel badly for not feeling inspired to comfort him or her. Your lack of desire to hold and comfort them is most likely accurate and you need to listen to it. You cannot help them by becoming the adult for their ego wounded self. You will be much more help to them by telling them that you love them and would be happy to help them, but you cannot do it for them. You can let them know that you are available to support them in helping themselves when they are ready to do so.
The way out of victim pain is to open to learning about how you are causing your pain. Imagine that victim pain is a child drowning in a river. Instead of jumping in and drowning with the child, you need to reach out as a loving adult with an intent to learn and pull the child out. As an adult, you do not indulge yourself in wallowing in your pain. Instead, you comfort your child while learning about what you are thinking, believing, doing, or not doing that is causing your pain. Victim pain is caused by false beliefs and the resulting self-abandoning unloving actions, such as self-judgment, ignoring your feelings and needs, turning to addictions, or making others responsible for your feelings, instead of learning to love yourself.
Authentic emotional pain is very different. Our inner child is our feeling self and feels the wounded feelings of the victim when the wounded self is in charge, and feels the pain of life when the loving adult is in charge, and the wonderful feelings of life when the loving adult is in charge. When the loving adult is in charge, we feel the sadness, sorrow, grief, and heartbreak in response to life experiences such as:
- Loss of loved ones
- Loss of a job; loss of financial security
- Working on memories of past abuse with an intent to learn and heal
- Being moved by others’ authentic pain; empathically feeling others’ pain
- Painful life events
- Feeling helpless over others’ unloving behavior
When someone close to you is in authentic pain, you generally feel a desire to comfort him or her. It is easy for most people (other than people who are unable to feel empathy and compassion, such as narcissists and sociopaths) to feel compassion for someone who is genuinely hurting from life experiences of abuse and loss, and who is willing to self-nurture.
When you are in authentic pain, it is important to both comfort yourself and reach out for comfort. Authentic pain is like the tide – it comes and goes. When we acknowledge it, accept it and comfort it, it moves through us each time it comes up.
Stuck emotions cause the body much stress and eventually illness. Staying stuck in victim pain or the pain of life is often a cause of illness. It is vitally important for health and wellbeing to acknowledge, learn from and comfort your feelings so that they can move through your body and be released.
Next time you are in pain and find others withdrawing from you, consider that you may be in victim pain. Instead of staying stuck in suffering, open to learning about how you might be causing your own pain.
When relationships are struggling, what I often see with my clients is a dance of victims and perpetrators, and sometimes rescuers.
My client Lillian was clearly feeling victimized by her husband Rob.
“He is always blaming me for the bad things that happen in his life, and then he tells me it’s me controlling him that is making him so angry. He yells at me and puts me down rather than deal with his own feelings. How can I get him to see that he is the one trying to control me? How can I get him to take responsibility for his own feelings rather than keep on dumping them on me?” she told me in a session.
It is always amazing to me when a person who is blaming their partner for blaming them does not realize that they both are trying to control each other – that they are both blaming.
“Lillian, when you are trying to get Rob to see what he is doing that you don’t like, aren’t you also trying to control him?” I asked her.
“Oh…..Oh, I never thought of it that way. I just thought that if I could get him to see that he is blaming me, maybe he would stop and deal with himself,” she said.
“But aren’t you blaming him for blaming you?” I asked her.
“Yes, I guess I am! So when he says I am trying to control him, he’s right?”
“Yes!” I said “Anytime you blame him for your feelings and try to get him to see what he’s doing, you are trying to control him. The two of you just do it differently. He does it with his anger and meanness, while you do it with your logic and explanations and debating. He gets angry at your debating, and you debate when he gets angry. It is a circle between you – each of you reacting to the other with your own ways of trying to control.”
“Yes, but he…” she started to say, again focused on him getting ready to blame him.
“Lillian,” I said, stopping her. “You are about to do it again. You want to complain about him rather than look at what you are doing and what you need to do differently to take loving care of your own feelings. Your eyes are constantly on him – on how he feels and how he acts and what he needs to do differently. Because he is the angry one, he seems to be the perpetrator and you seem to be the victim. But he could just as easily claim that you are the perpetrator with your constant nagging at him, which he feels victimized by.”
“But I just want him to hear my feelings – to understand how his behavior makes me feel,” she said.
“Aren’t you wanting him to understand your feelings so that he will change? Isn’t telling him your feelings a way to make him responsible for your feelings? Isn’t this just another form of control?”
“Oh my God,” she said. “I can see that! I didn’t know I was doing that!”
“Lillian,” I said, “until you get your eyes off him and think about how to take loving care of yourself in the face of his anger, you will continue to feel like a victim and try to control him into changing. It hasn’t worked for the 20 years of your marriage. What makes you think it is ever going to work?”
“I don’t know what else to do,” she said. “I’ve been so miserable. I thought the only other thing I could do is leave and I don’t want to leave. I love him.”
“Yes, I know you love him. So leaving is not an option and neither is changing him. It’s time to control what you can control, which is you. I suggest that when he is yelling at you, taking loving care of yourself would mean disengaging – not getting into it with him while keeping your heart open – and go do something you enjoy doing. Are you willing to practice doing this?”
It took a lot of practice for Lillian to stop engaging and trying to control Rob, but eventually, when she was able to take herself out of the dysfunctional system and lovingly disengage, she started to feel much better. Eventually, when Rob’s anger and blame no longer worked for him due to Lillian’s disengaging, things started to improve between them.
It’s important to learn how to love yourself when you experience someone being a victim.
Have you ever had the experience of being with someone who is crying over genuinely difficult situations, yet you felt no compassion for them at all – even if you are a caring, compassionate, and empathic person?
Years ago, this was a very confusing situation for me since I’m highly empathic and I feel others’ feelings deeply. I finally understood that people cry from two different places – from genuinely wanting help in helping themselves, or from self-abandonment, wanting someone to feel sorry for them and care-take them. When they want someone to feel sorry for them and take care of them, they are being a victim, and instead of feeling compassion for them and wanting to help them, you might feel pulled on and want to distance yourself.
Victims are like energy vampires, draining caring people with their lack of responsibility for themselves and blaming others for their feelings. Empathic and caring people may become caretakers for victims, trying to rescue them and solve their problems for them, but consistently running into “Yes but…” when offering help or solutions.
If you are a caring and empathic person, you need to learn to love yourself in the face of people who are devoted to being victims.
Dr. Judith Orloff, in her book, The Empath’s Survival Guide, suggests “Use the three-minute phone call when on the phone with a victim: ‘I support you, but I can only listen for a few minutes if you keep rehashing the same issues. Perhaps you could benefit from finding a therapist to help you.’”
When I work with a client who is being a victim, I might say something like, “I feel that you want something from me, and I’m wondering what it is you want and how I can be of help to you. Are you looking for sympathy, or do you want to learn to love yourself in the face of these challenges?” This hands the issue to them, and they need to define whether they are pulling for sympathy, or they are open to learning about taking loving care of themselves.
When I’m with people other than clients, who just want to complain about how bad their lives are without any openness to learning, I generally smile, give a moment of supportive caring, and then disengage. It’s not loving to me to get drained by a closed person who is being a victim and pulling on me to fix them. Or, as Dr. Orloff states, “say ‘no’ with a smile by changing the subject and not encouraging their complaints.”
Loving yourself with someone who is complaining and being a victim means that you stay tuned into your own feelings and you want responsibility for taking care of yourself rather than fixing, rescuing, and caretaking the other person. It means that you don’t put aside your own feelings to take care of another’s feelings – unless the other person is actually incapable of taking care of their own feelings (such as a toddler or a very physically or emotionally ill person).
In order to take loving care of yourself, you need to accept that you are helpless to help someone who isn’t open to learning about loving themselves. You can certainly feel compassion for their pain and pray for them to open to learning about loving themselves, but you need to fully accept that you can’t help others who are not willing to help themselves – especially since it’s likely that much of their pain is coming from their own self-abandonment.
If someone you deeply care about is closed and being a victim, loving yourself means that you compassionately embrace your heartbreak over how they are treating themselves and your helplessness over their intent to avoid responsibility for themselves. It’s hard, I know, but this is the reality that we need to accept – that no matter how much we love and care about someone, we have no control over their choice to learn to love themselves or to continue to abandon themselves. If we don’t accept this, we might get caught in the dance of victim, perpetrator, and rescuer.
Are you ready to stop being a victim? Start to diligently practice Inner Bonding! Are you ready to stop caretaking a victim? Then practice Inner Bonding!
I invite you to join me for my 30-Day at-home Course: “Love Yourself: An Inner Bonding Experience to Heal Anxiety, Depression, Shame, Addictions and Relationships.”
And you can learn so much about loving yourself and creating loving relationships from my recent books:
- And, How to Become Strong Enough to Love: Creating Loving Relationships Through the Six-Step Pathway of Inner Bonding
And we have so much to offer you at our website at https://www.innerbonding.com.
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I’m sending you my love and my blessings.