Sunday, 28 April 2013
The victim trap. 28.04.2013
‘“Do you want to get over this? This is her contract that will be used over and over again to remind her that SHE wanted to change and she was willing to pay the price. There is great power in the victim identity. (…) This sentence allows the instructor to point it out when this happens, to point out that the benefits of victim status must be given up to outgrow the victim status. This is hard, but critical. The subtle power in the victim status often seems like the only good thing and the only survival tool to come out of the event. Many are reluctant, very reluctant, to give up a useful “victim identity” for a possible stronger self.’
Rory Miller, “Meditations on Violence”.
I read this sentence last week, right at the back of a book that has truly shaken me up, and for the first time in I can’t remember how long I cried. I wasn’t crying for myself. I was crying for a friend of mine, who told me something a few months back that I could not relate to at all. In relation to a recent and bloody break-up with a lingering practical aftermath, she told me that it was better for her to stay single, because “people feel sorrier for me if I am alone.”
My external reaction to that statement was non-existent. I didn’t argue against it, partly because it is not up to me to tell people how to run their lives but largely because I was so shocked and disgusted by it. You see, I have an aversion to pity. I truly, deeply cannot stand the concept of people feeling sorry for me. The idea of courting that situation is just not something I can fit in my head. I had no immediate response beyond revulsion, which did not seem appropriate.
I only experienced pity in the flesh once before, and it was technically reflected pity, but it still repulsed me. What happened was a result of my then partner (the psychotic alcoholic, if you’ve read my past blogs) deciding to antagonise a group of teenagers on the way back from a pub. This resulted in them rearranging his face by kicking it repeatedly. To cut a long story short, I ended up going along with him to the hospital. He ended up being tersely handled by two older nurses, who were clearly disgusted by him. They weren't very impressed with me either. They looked at me with naked disbelief and pity in their eyes. It was the pity that got to me, that shook me up. I felt so humiliated to be involved in the whole sad, pathetic, sordid little incident. My life had taken a weird, unpleasant turn since I associated myself with the guy, that was a fact, but I had not realised that it might be a cause for pity. That, as much as the event itself, was a catalyst for me to start pulling back, to fight to regain “normality”.
When my ex kicked off, I did not want people to pity me. I would not have minded some assistance at times, that was a fact, but I did not want anyone’s pity. I don’t know what it is about it, but I just cannot stand it. I would much rather have people accusing me of idiocy for having gotten myself in that situation than feeling sorry for me. I believe that my aversion to pity is one of the reasons I quite simply cannot stand the label of “victim”, which in turn causes me to struggles with the label of “abuse” and all its variations. This is, in essence, a form of deliberate self-delusion on my part. I have wondered at times whether it is detrimental – after all, calling things by their rightful name is the first step in dealing with them. As it turns out, though, it may be an incredibly useful feature of my psyche.
Until I read Miller’s book I had never realised the lure of the victim role. I don’t know exactly what I saw in it that repulsed me; it may be quite simply the vulnerability of it. I don’t deal with public vulnerability very well. I do my hurting and my fearing strictly in private and usually after the events are long over. In public and in the thick of it, as a preference I tend to channel Wolverine. Controlled anger helps me ignore other feelings, most notably pain and fear, and resolve situations. Those other feelings have to be deal with eventually, that’s true, but they would interfere with my functioning. Furthermore, why would I want to reveal them to third parties? Why would I want anyone to know what I’m susceptible to? That’s equivalent to giving someone a gun and asking them not to shoot you.
Refusing to admit to being a victim, even if only of circumstances, has meant that in most occasions I have had to deal with stuff on my own. People as a rule rush forward to support the defenceless, not the raging. If you crumble in a heap and cry, people may rush to aid you. If you keep standing, knuckle under and fight against whatever is coming at you, shaking your fist at the gods and swearing like a trouper all the while, you’re largely left to your own devices. A lot of the times I might have done with some help, so this may not have been a helpful trait. Then again, I have avoided the trap of the victim role. I have never assumed it, I have never enjoyed the special privileges it carries, so I have never had to cast it aside either. The more I think about it, the more the concept of it sickens me.
To maintain the victim role, the bottom line is that you have to prevent yourself from getting better. The moment you get better, you are no longer a victim – you are a survivor. In order to remain a victim you have to sabotage your own recovery. You have to embrace whatever painful, damaging events took place in your life and hold on to that damage. You have, effectively, to continue using your past to spoil your present and jeopardise your future. In doggy terms, you have to keep rolling in your own poop.
What my friend is doing, in essence, is refusing to grant herself the one thing that would make her better. Her breakup was a tragic event. Finding new love, a new source of trust, comfort and support, would not erase that tragedy but would help her move on from it. It would help her healing and make her a survivor. She would lose her victim status. She would no longer get special treatment. So, she has decided to deny herself the balm that would soothe her pain. She has decided, essentially, to carry on the hurt her partner inflicted upon her by denying herself a new life, a new hope, a new happiness. She is holding the dagger her partner thrust in her heart and using it to continually cut herself, so that people will see her bleed and feel a compulsion to help her. Well, sorry and all that, but fuck that for a game of soldiers.
I won’t say that I’m a world champion at recoveries and comebacks. Life routinely baffles and hurts me. I bumble about uselessly much of the time, and it probably shows. However, I refuse to force myself to suffer just so I can emotionally blackmail those around me into giving me support. I refuse to let myself down. I will continue fighting for myself, for my well-being, for my happiness and wholeness. If that means that I am the only one doing any fighting, so be it