In our culture, it is so easy to play the role of victim. Now, in some cases people truly are victims and suffer post-traumatic stress (PTSD) in response. For those folks, the trauma was real, the stress response is real, and the struggle is real.
However, there are many people who take on the role of victim and give the performance of a lifetime. We’re talking Emmy-awarding winning performance. Why is being the victim so appealing?
- It activates people. When we talk about how we have been mistreated, we share one side of the story. And, that one-sided story, when told to someone who cares about us, upsets the other person and activates her, “You-Poor-Thing” response. People feel badly for us and verbalize their concern, give us hugs, or let us know they are thinking of and/or praying for us. And that feels good.
- It’s easier for us. If we make everyone believe we’re the victim, we don’t have to take responsibility for our role in the situation. We start to believe our one-sided story as the absolute truth and don’t feel the need to step back and examine what we did to contribute to the conflict.
The problem is—we aren’t always the victim. Sometimes we perpetrate hurt on other people. We need to learn how to examine our own behaviors and how they may affect other people. We need to learn how to take responsibility and—dare I say it—apologize when we are wrong. And, we will be wrong more than once in our lives.
It is also not healthy to be defined by our hurt. Even when the hurt is legitimate and we are the victim, we can’t wallow in the muck and mire of the pain, not for long anyway. Some hurt and pain is normal, but if we sit there too long, we forget what life was like without the hurt and we don’t know how to think or act outside the hurt.
Part of being able to shed the role of the victim is to forgive, even if the other person isn’t asking for forgiveness. We have to let go of our right to see the other person hurt to the same degree he/she hurt us. That’s a tough pill to swallow for some people. They can carry a grudge the way the World’s Strongest Man carries an Atlas stone. The problem is the other person is most likely not carrying the same weight. He may not even realize you are angry. In that case, carrying around the hurt is only straining your mind and heart. For more on what forgiveness truly is and the health benefits of forgiveness, check out this earlier blog post.
If you have been the victim of hurt or abuse, it may be helpful to see the assistance of a professional counselor trained to work with trauma victims. They are specifically educated to know how to treat trauma reactions and help you find your new “normal.”
If you are having a hard time letting go of a real or perceived hurt, talking to a professional counselor may also be helpful. A counselor can often give you a different perspective and talk with you about your choices and the consequences of those choices. You can discuss whether or not to move forward and how to do so. You can also talk about how to protect yourself from hurts in the future or how to handle hurts better in the future.
When in relationships, we will never be immune to hurt. How we respond to those hurts will make or break us in the long run. Learning how to navigate those issues will be well worth the investment of time and money when seeking the help of a professional. You will have tools that you will be able to use for a lifetime.