prevent conflicts in relationships: understand the victim role
Updated: May 9
The victim plays an important role in the Drama Triangle (by Stephen Karpman). This role is one where the person feels powerless over a situation. As everyone has a predominant role in the Drama Triangle, which consists of the rescuer, victim, and persecutor, there are lots of people who play this role. You can probably see it in those around you once you learn more about it.
What does a victim look like? Victims don't all look the same. It's not a child role that people eventually grow out of. It happens when we are feeling at the mercy of the world. We feel like we do not have power over a situation. Ergo the situation feels like it is controlling you and you cannot change things. Victims can feel that with a variety of things, like their relationship with their mother.
Victims are not interested in changing. For them feeling stuck is usually how they go about life. It's also how they get attention. They enjoy complaining about life and not wanting to do much about it. They want to gripe about how unfair life is. They look for ways that life is hurting them.
Both the rescuer and the persecutor need the victim. The persecutor creates the victim. They tell the person how lousy they are and point out how wrong they are with what they are doing. They make the person feel small and insignificant. Persecutors protect themselves from their own shame by shaming others. So they need the victim to save themselves of their own inner shame. If they are not persecuting others they have to sit with themselves as themself. So this is their defense mechanism. But the victim also needs the persecutor. Without feeling sad and sorry for themselves, they wouldn't be in their comfortable role.
The rescuer needs the victim to keep themselves feeling important. They need someone who is not going to change and is not interested in having help to keep themselves rescued. When the victim feels hurt by the persecutor, the rescuer hopes to fix the situation. The victim normally does not want help. So this will reinforce their feeling powerless over their life. If the rescuer continues to force their help on the victim, the victim will eventually resent the rescuer for helping. So the victim first needs the persecutor then they need the rescuer. All these roles need each other to continue their relationship drama.
How can someone spot a victim? They are people who want to talk about how bad life is and not change. They need others to listen to them complain about the same thing without taking action on it. Victims are usually not action-oriented with their problems. Victims also can feel so helpless over their situation that they become depressed. If they don't feel like they have options and they don't understand a way out they will start to feel hopeless and stuck. The longer they are in this state the worse it can get. And what keeps them in this state is they are so negative that all they see is negativity. People notice what they look for, so they will not register the positive things happening to them.
So how does someone get out of a victim role? The first step is they need to realize they do have options, even though it might not feel like it. The victim role is mostly based on feelings and not facts. They feel stuck. They feel like they don't have options. However, if they start to look at the facts and talk to others about their situation, they can start to see things they can do to get out of their situation. There are always options out there. They just don't know about them yet. So the first step is recognizing where the victim is at.
Often victims base their belief that the situation is hopeless on feelings rather than facts. One way the victim can realize this is to write down the facts of the situation, not feelings. How long has this been going on? What has the victim done to move out of their situation? Who has said no to you? Who has not said no to you? The second step is asking for help. This means talking to a trusted friend, family member, or colleague. It might mean seeking professional help. Getting good help is important, so please be careful of who you ask. If someone's guidance is not helpful, you can ask someone else. Having good help is critically important in this role otherwise, it may continue to validate the victim's idea that the world is against them.
As the victim realizes they do have options with whatever situation they are in, they will start to feel empowered. If this continues they will move into a creator space, which means they will start to use their pain as fuel for their creativity.
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Photo credit: Artem Sapegin on Unsplash