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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Perpetual Victim

For some, wrongs simply can never be righted. For some, there is always something in their lives or directly outside of it that perpetuates their lure to drama or the compulsion to create drama for themselves. For some it is an innocent once in a while thing, for others it becomes a habit or worse yet, an addiction!

Everyone has a bit of drama in their lives, it makes us human. Drama can come from our families, work, kids, close friends, kids of close friends, our spouse, significant other, you name it stress and drama are a part of life! In a sense it makes us human for to have no drama at all would take a stone cold heart, not caring and not participating in this wonderful experience of living.

When a person takes that drama and thrives upon it we are talking about a whole different ball game. The victim feels that everything is happened TO THEM that everyone is against them and they have no control over their own life let alone that they have any viable choices or options. The perpetual victim nearly always feels this way finding fault and placing blame on anyone and everyone around them in order not to have to own their own path. Situations are never to their benefit, people put blockages in their way, everything is falling down around them and none of it was by their own doing. Nothing was due to an action of their own, or for that matter lack of taking action when they should have. Some of these perpetual victims will even go so far as to self sabotage in order so that things can and will go wrong. Often the perpetual victim will not just take actions but know just how and when to go with lack of action to be sure things fall down around them.

The perpetual victim loves to play toward your sympathies, and loves to get attention even if the attention is negative. For that matter it is not just drama that the perpetual victim thrives on but the attention the drama gains them.

Often times you will discover that the perpetual victim has much more deeply seeded issues within them that have grown into the more obvious issue of thriving on their own drama.
How do you handle someone who is like this? How can you have a progressive relationship with someone who is the Drama King or Drama Queen?
In most cases it is best to withdraw and disassociate them from your life however you can not always do this in all cases. Sometimes if you work with this type of person or worse yet, married to one or a family member of one, you have to seek ways to not only deal with their mentality but perhaps try to shake them out of it.

Now I know many of you may be thinking to yourselves that this article sounds very rude, even heartless. The fact is we all have to champion ourselves in this world and while hopefully we have a strong support network around us and those who love us this article is not about normal day to day problems or those rare moments when we all get to feeling that the world just is working against us, or that luck is not on our side. The type of person I am talking about is that individual who you have already tried to do all you can for, who you have given your best efforts to help, understand and cheer up. That friend who continues to drain on your good nature, your energy and has come to the point that you even are beginning to feel down about yourself for not being able to help them. That friend who always asks your advice about the same situation over and over and over and never once accepts their own responsibility for why things are as they are in their lives. That family member who has had every chance and opportunity to do better for themselves and continuously blames others for their own lack of progress. That neighbor who comes over several times a day to complain about things that they have every possibility to shift and change into something better yet just does not seem to WANT to do so or they would have nothing left to talk with you about. And the worst, that person who is so terribly unhappy and unwilling to work on themselves that they have began to put you down, say things that make you feel disempowered, cutting into you in order to make themselves feel better!

This is your perpetual victim and the type of person we are talking about today.
I am a huge advocate of helping and empowering others, I do it daily in my work. It is who I AM for that matter. However even with over 25 years experience doing so there are those people who will never hear the messages and those are the types you must take that step away from and learn to set boundaries with and work with in a whole new way.

Again if you have a person like this in your life if there is any way in order to totally cut ties I highly recommend you do so but this is simply not possible in all cases. So in this article I hope to help shed some light on how to at least live with this person in your life in a way that helps you keep your sanity, in a way you can self preserve and save your energy for those in your life who need and deserve it and are willing to work on SELF!

So the premiss is that you have already have lent an ear, a helping hand, given advice, listened to the same stories over and over, tired to be patient, done favors for, etc and so on and now you are at your wits end. You feel like you are beating your head against a wall and darn close to beating their head against a wall to try to get through to them. You have realized you are no longer adding anything and perhaps you never did add anything to their lives. That they are doing nothing but taking from you and even using you because you have allowed it for so long. It may even be that THEY end up saying YOU have used THEM in order to throw shade back onto you and not take accountability for themselves. Now not in all cases but in some the relationship can even become a tad abusive making you feel that you have not tried hard enough, that you could have done more, that you have been judgmental or unfair. And perhaps in some cases in a desperation to finally get through to this person you have become someone yourself you do not even recognize anymore, said some things you wished you had not said or said some things you are damn happy you said but didn’t do any good anyway. Perhaps you stepped in and tried to do “too much” or take over. Perhaps you have found that in trying to help them you have lost your own sense of control.
In these extreme cases and when you have no choice but to be involved in their lives you have to step back and take stock of self, establish your own boundaries, and reinvent the wheel.
Here are the steps to dealing with the Perpetual Victim
Determine what you can honestly offer - This means without ending up feeling resentful, regretful, put out, frustrated, angered etc and so on. HONESTLY ask yourself - where are MY personal boundaries? You must set boundaries for SELF before you can establish boundaries for others! How much focus, attention and time will you be able to devote to this person without the negative feelings seeping into your veins? How often can you tolerate being around this person? What topics are open for discussion and which are off limits?
Know yourself - perhaps there are certain times of day you are more prepared to deal with this person. Perhaps there are times of the day you are ill equipped? What moods do you have that are red flags for being near this type of energy? Knowing you are not perfect either and knowing when you personally are “not in the mood” to take on their negative energy is a good idea! Be honest with yourself and them when it is your “fault” or “bad mood” that is effecting the situation. “Im not in the right head space to talk about this right now” is okay to say to the other person and if they still press you then its okay to stand firm, restate you are not in the right head space and walk away. Sometimes you may have to be a bit gruff or even rude to get your point across but do not allow for guilt to get to you on this! It is not rude to have your own boundaries! What IS rude is for another person to push those boundaries when you have politely said NO!
Set Boundaries - With the perpetual victim it is more necessary than with anyone else to establish firm boundaries! You can not let this type of person push you or pull you in their direction! You have to be sure of self and strong enough to stand firm. At times it may seem you are pushing back but the fact is that once you set boundaries which is your right to do so and they step beyond them you are within your full right to say NO MORE! Let this person know what topics are simply non negotiable. Let them know that you will not retread the same topics over and over - beating the proverbial dead horse. All too often with the perpetual victim what happens is that they come to us seeking a venting source over and over again on the very same issue, never making changes, never taking any advice or words or wisdom, never listening to what we say in return. They use us as a leaning post sucking up our energy and time endlessly never doing a thing to help themselves. They honestly do NOT WANT help from us or anyone all they want is attention and to complain. Trying to help is pointless unless you happen to be a therapist or social worker but even then as their friend you are far too close to them to help anyway! Refer them to someone else! If you are dealing with a victim of this nature it is time to say “this topic is off limits. I do not want to discuss this with you any further or ever again. I do not want to hear you talk about it, I do not have time to tread the same water over and over.”
Do not fall into the ego trap - Sometimes when we have been effected by the perpetual victim for years we ourselves become co-dependent on them! You may find that once you set your own boundaries and then establish them with your perpetual victim friend, family or co-worker, that you actually begin to miss the drama! Don’t be shocked if this happens! All too often these people take up so much of our free time and energy that once it is gone we actually miss it as we had build up our own dependency on their needs of us! Sometimes there can be a shock effect of how much free time we actually have or perhaps not so much free time but free energy that we simply do not know what to do with now that we do not have our victim constantly draining us! Do not let yourself fall into the trap of inviting the victim BACK into your life! Resist the temptation to ask questions, get involved, give advice, lean a listening ear! You have set your boundaries so now LIVE by your own rules! Believe it or not it is VERY easy to slip back into supporter role and usually the perpetual victim found you because you are the type to be the healer, nurturer, giver, supporter! They found you because you took them in and tolerated them when others would not! They found you because they could read on your energy you would absorb their issues and deal with them and all too often it is your own need to help that gets you stuck with the perpetual victim in the first place! Be aware of this and accept it and make some behavioral changes in yourself or you will find that even once you get rid of this victim another will surely follow! Sometimes there is just something inside of ourselves that make us feel the need due to our own egos to SOLVE others problems that we tend to let the victim latch on to us and bleed our energy dry! When we need that ego feed of healing others we can become overly involved in a way that is not healthy for ourselves. We can not expect for others to change how they treat us until we change our own patterns.
Enforce the change - It can take a while for the changes you have made to take effect. You can not expect the perpetual victim to believe what you say right off the bat! They have probably spent weeks, months and at times years draining you with their issues and have built up a dependency on you for your support. Do not be afraid and do not hesitate to reaffirm your boundaries with them. Do not be surprised if they totally ignore your requests. Do not be shocked if they show a total lack of disrespect for what you have said or asked for. If they respected you to begin with they would not be doing this to you in the first place. Usually the perpetual victim has no respect for SELF therefore can have little to none for you! Keep this in mind as they keep coming at you and stand firm and restate your boundaries and walk away if need be! Often times your victim will consider you their friend when in reality what you have with them is nothing close to a real friendship! True friendships go both ways, support is given and taken, things are balanced, 50/50, but with the perpetual victim anything they may give in return is only to cover for their consistent need to drain you. Their small “givings” be them in the form of gifts, time spent with you, etc is more often than not just a means to keep you around them so they can lean on you. If you really examine the give and take you will see that there is far more taking from you than giving toward you and their small efforts are not what friendship is truly about! Let them know what you would expect from a friend! Tell them what kind of relationship you would like to have with another person and present to them the ways in which the two of you are actually not friends at all. Tell them that if they can be a part of a change in the unhealthy patterns that have developed that you may consider still being a part of their lives but that you have set the rules of engagement and anything less than that is going to result in a total dissimulation of the relationship as a whole. Go back to your boundaries you had established, go over them with the victim again and again until they get it through their heads that you will not be their leaning post any longer and that true friendship involves them being there for you as much as you have been there for them, going to lunch, talking about the good times, not just the bad, not going toward their own drama over and over and making progress as people, this means they may have to find some resolution in their life issues that they keep bringing to the table with you! Tell them that they need help outside of you and other friends if that be the case and most often with the perpetual victim it IS the case! Let them know kindly but firmly that you are not their therapist and that you can no longer offer them help nor even hear about the same dramas time and again and that you feel that the relationship as a whole is stuck in limbo because they personally are not progressing! If all else fails it is time to completely shut off the relationship and let them know you will not be taking calls, reading emails, engaging in conversation period.
In closing:
I do realize that this is not an easy path for you. I realize how hard it can be for most of us to stand firm and say these things to someone else. Most people do not want to hurt others, sound mean, or rude. It can be extremely difficult to say the things and do the things I have suggested in this article and I by no means mean to make it sound simple!
Again most of the time when we have allowed for the perpetual victim to latch onto us it is due to something lacking or something strong in ourselves, be that the need and desire to really help others or the need to feel we are validated through our giving toward others. One thing I can promise you though is that we ALL have our boundaries and that point where we hit our wall. A time will come for each of you that has a perpetual victim in our lives that you will see quite clearly it is time to make a change. For some it only takes a few weeks while for others it may take a few years but regardless of when you hit your own personal wall with your victim the time WILL come and that is when you know you are in fact strong enough to put this plan into play!
Until that time comes just keep this article in mind and start to consider the things above. It is never too early to start to set boundaries or make plans for a major change in your life. Even if you are not quite ready to follow through with it it is okay to think it over. Bear in mind though that you should not start this process until you are honestly fully ready to follow it through. It is much like a love relationship in the sense that you can not go out calling their bluff or setting them up to call yours! Playing games to test boundaries or test the waters is never a good idea. Just as I would never ever tell a woman to leave her husband and their home to see if he will “fight for her” or “chase her” I would not tell you to make idle threats to your perpetual victim by sending warnings or saying words you are not prepared to follow through with! Do not put this plan into action unless and until you are truly ready to be firm, take charge and make change.
All the best,


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