Are you a victim or a volunteer?
Don’t get me wrong, as a betrayed partner you have been victimized. Any time there is a boundary violation, there is the possibility of victimization. Repeated deception, gaslighting, and crazy-making behaviors are some of the worst forms of victimizing another person.
The good news is . . . .
Once you become aware that you’ve been deceived and betrayed, you have the choice to protect yourself from further victimization.
Except in rare circumstances like unjust imprisonment or being held against your will, the experience of victimization lasts only a brief time. As soon as the boundary violation ends, so too does the state of being a victim. If you experience repetitive boundary violations in a relationship, you must learn how to tap into your power to decide how best to protect yourself.
When you are free to choose your response, you are not a victim.
If your spouse is irresponsible about handling money and you choose to separate your money from his, this is a boundary and an act of protection. You may tell yourself that you’re a victim because you “had to” create the boundary because of your spouse’s irresponsibility. This is not true. Among the many choices you could have made, including doing nothing, you chose to separate the money.
Don’t cripple your ability to practice good self-care by equating self-protection with being a victim.
Believe it or not, victim thinking is self-centered. If you’re in a victim stance internally, you feel one-down, helpless and at the mercy of others. From this place you perceive yourself as the target of unfortunate events and other people’s bad behavior. You may interpret random events as being about your exceptionally bad luck or that other people are out to get you. You become “terminally unique” in your outlook and may even become paranoid.
When you take on the role of victim as an identity or a badge of honor, you are actively participating in your victimization. You’re now a volunteer.
One of the most dangerous aspects of perceiving yourself as a victim is that you begin to believe you have a right to victimize others. Pia Mellody calls this “offending from the victim position.” When you offend from the victim position you tell yourself that the other person has victimized you in some way, which may or may not be true.
Perceiving yourself as a victim, you will feel one-down and powerless. You believe you have a right to retaliate or to take revenge. If your boundary has been violated you do have a right to be angry and set a boundary. But you don’t have a right to offend and retaliate. I’ve witnessed many betrayed partners who justify outrageous behaviors, including physical abuse of their unfaithful spouse, by telling themselves that their spouse deserved it because of his behavior.
The fundamental problem with offending from the victim position is that you have justified violating another’s boundaries because they violated (or you perceive they violated) yours. If I have a right to hit my spouse because he lied to me, then do I have a right to break his arm if he’s unfaithful, or kill him if he was unfaithful with my best friend? This is offending from the victim position taken to an extreme. It’s the practice of power over rather than authentic, personal power.
The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any
− Alice Walker
Stepping out of the victim/volunteer role requires 4 crucial steps:
- Make a choice to be victorious over your problem rather than a victim or a volunteer
- Identify where you have power
- Let go of what you’re powerless over
- Take action where you have power
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© Vicki Tidwell Palmer, LCSW (2015)
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