I shared last week about being a recovering Rescuer and it resonated with many of you. So much so, I thought I’d do a little mini-series on the roles in Karpman Drama Triangle…this week is playing the Victim.
What is the victim role?
When people choose to play the Victim, they get to have their needs met without having to ask directly and can blame whatever isn’t working on someone/something else. The Victim doesn’t take responsibility for their behaviour or their feelings.
How does a Victim behave?
There are two types of Victims: the Pathetic Victim and the Angry Victim. The Pathetic Victim holds pity-parties, uses woeful, poor me facial expressions, body language, and verbal language.
The Angry Victim pretends to be powerful, using guilt and shame to get others to feel sorry for them. The underlying motive of the Angry Victim is revenge.
Both types want someone to blame for the feelings they have and for their troubles.
A Victim looks for a Rescuer to look after them and perpetuate their negative self-beliefs. The Victim feels victimized, oppressed, helpless, hopeless, powerless and ashamed and will use the Victim role to avoid making decisions, solving problems and taking responsibility. They often use conflict situations to play victim, refusing to learn how to avoid or creating conflict situations.
The Victim role is key in the Drama Triangle because the whole game revolves around getting to be the Victim, because then their needs are met without asking.
We all want to play the Victim sometimes
When you play the Victim it can feel soooo good. It feels good not to take responsibility, to feel like it’s out of your control. It feels good to be rescued in some cases, to be looked after.
Even if it doesn’t feel good to be helped and we just want everyone to leave us alone…it secretly feels good to then say ‘why does no-one ever listen to me/trust me/etc?’
In my experience though, if we stay in Victim mode too long we can end up stuck feeling powerless and hopelessness.
Learned helplessness is a lifelong pattern of victimisation in which people learn how to get their needs met by being a helpless Victim. People with learned helplessness often perceive they have no control over the outcomes of their life situations. They see no possibility of changing things, and so they just give up and become Victims. It’s almost like they see suffering and pain as being good (possibly because they don’t believe they’re worthy of any reward) and so are unable to respond to opportunities or situations that contain positive rewards.
Learned helplessness can be a cause of clinical depression so if this feels like you or a loved one, please get professional support.
How to stop playing the Victim
The key thing to remember is that you need to recognise that you play the Victim and that you’re ready to make a change. We all experience ‘bad’ experiences e.g. being made redundant, a relationship ending, being diagnosed with a serious illness, car breaking down, losing our bank card or keys and much more, some more ‘serious’ than others.
Much of stopping playing the Victim is self-awareness. Educate yourself further and understand how and why you came to play the Victim, to begin with (I’d recommend doing a limiting beliefs exercise) and get support if it feels like this is more serious.
- Acknowledge your feelings. It’s ok to be angry, frustrated, unsure, fearful. In naming the emotion(s) you can choose what you do next
- Figure out what’s important to you (I can help you with this) and name it. Take charge of what you want…and ask for it explicitly so that everyone is clear
- Do what you need to do to make it happen, setting realistic goals for where you are at the moment and what you feel able to actually do. Setting over ambitious goals is not going to be helpful!
- Be kind to yourself, it might not happen overnight. You will need to unlearn this behaviour and relearn new, healthier behaviours
- Practice saying no to things you don’t want to do
- Actively stop blaming other people and things. Consider what is in your control, then control that bit. Ask yourself: ‘what is my role in this situation?’
- Focus on helping others or at least listening empathetically to others, it helps us get out of the spiral of Victim behaviour
- Practice gratitude – it’s almost impossible to feel like a Victim if you’re feeling grateful. You can ask yourself: ‘what can I learn from this experience?’
- Make a list of how you would change the situation if you could (even if it’s a complete fantasy option). Then choose from the list thins that you can really do and make them a goal
- Resist the urge to self-sabotage yourself! Resist and challenge those feelings that say you’re not good enough or worthy to receive joy, happiness or success
Moving from Victim to Survivor
We all know that bad things happen to good people. The way to be a survivor is to change your perspective. So instead of wondering how long it will take to feel better, a survivor chooses to look for/do things to feel better immediately. They keep putting one foot in front of another.
Instead of being jealous of others’ success, choose to be inspired. Instead of seeking revenge, choose to forgive (yourself and others).
Look for the simplest explanation instead of getting caught up in a torrent of complex thoughts and focusing on the worst-case scenario. If you do end up there though, write it down, get as dark as you like. Then, when you’re finished, challenge each part with an ‘is it true?’ question along with a dose of ‘how likely is this to happen?’.
If you need help, get in touch.