Everything we do has a payoff. Not for a moment would I suggest that any of us sets out to become a victim. Nevertheless, once circumstances conspire to cast as in that role, abused women can - and do- find that it has certain payoffs. Of course we would ideally want more. Ideally we would settle for more, if only more were on offer. But when it is not, we can our payoffs were we may.
What follows is a list of the payoffs of victimhood.
- Being ‘different’ – “I’m not the same as other people because I am going though so much more sh*te.” Being different lends itself to the “Yes, but…” syndrome: “because I’m different, nothing you say applies to me. My suffering sets me apart.”
- Being ‘special’ – other people don’t have the same intensity of emotion (read misery) that I do. This makes me special.
- You get the moral high ground, because of his appalling treatment of you. (Sure, it’s pretty lonely and cold up there, but still it feels better than being down in the mud where he kept you. Actually, there are other places. There are hillsides, seasides, villages. Create a vision and you can start to move towards it.)
- You have a dramatic story to tell. This does two things: it commands attention – and respect – and it establishes status and identity. You are a person who has been through so many awful things. People have to acknowledge that. Some will and some will decide they can’t hack it after a while, and that is another injustice you suffer.
- You get to abdicate responsibility. Certainly, you did not cause the toxic relationship in your life. Your abusive partner has his own responsibility for that. Nevertheless you did, at some level, attract and allow it. Every abused woman I have ever worked with had an intuition at the start of the relationship. She sensed she was making a mistake and overrode that intuition. Accepting responsibility does not mean shouldering blame; the two things are quite separate. What we do not own, we cannot change. Responsibility makes you the creator of your life, which means that you can make different choices in the future with different results. Victimhood leaves you stuck.
- You get to escape change. Going round and round the closed circuit of your story again and again means that you have no energy and no opening for change. Because he has told you endlessly how much harder life will be without him, you end up believing that ‘different’ means ‘worse’. (Although, when you stop to think about he, he wasn’t usually either that truthful or accurate in his predictions.)
- You get to keep thinking small. This one comes up again and again in my workshops. There comes a point when women can embrace a new way of thinking, with new insights, new visions and new hope, or stick with the known. But you can’t do both at the same time. Some women see the big picture and go straight for it. A few prefer to stay with the small known picture. They might say: “When the mess I am in is over, then I will think bigger.” But for as long as they focus on the mess that mess will dominate their consciousness.
- You avoid the challenge of feeling happy in the moment. I’ve heard the argument that being happy just sets you up for disappointment about as often as I’ve had hot dinners lately. I don’t buy it. Expecting disappointment sets you up for disappointment. Being happy in the moment teaches you to be happy in the moment. I’m guessing that even if you can’t eat in a 5 star restaurant every night, you will still eat and quite often enjoy what you eat. The same goes for happiness, why not enjoy whatever you can get now? It beat unhappiness. It really doesn’t take much enjoyment of the moment to make a dent in profound feelings of unhappiness.
- You’re able to totally avoid having fun!
- You don’t have to be positive, ever.
- You can be at least as hard on yourself as ever he was. You don’t have to love yourself at all.
Abused women are programmed by their partner to focus on loss and lack. What do you lose when you step out of that mind-set? Absolutely nothing.
How do you get out of it? Understanding about abuse will inform you, but it won’t necessarily set you free. You get out of it by starting to focus on yourself in a caring, positive way.
Now, I’m aware that you may well not know how to do this for yourself. Why? Because nobody ever taught you. Most people don’t know how to teach you. Either they were lucky and were born into a nurturing, supportive family, or they weren’t.
Happily, you can learn to do that for yourself. You can start any time you choose. It may take a little while, but it is very doable. It will work. My ebook The Woman You Want To Be’ is a powerful tool that will enable you to do just that.
Victimhood has its own small rewards. There are much bigger ones waiting out there for you. You just have to make the decision to step out of that small, claustrophobic circle of misery.