The Blame Game: Demonizing the Other

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Many of us find great comfort in demonizing our ex spouses or ex friends to make it easier to banish them from our world. This is a very 1 or 10, black or white, self serving point of view.

We call this either/or thinking which is always about the extremes. Psychotherapy is often about the grey, or the 4,5 or 6. Truth lies in the complexity of the situation. Very little in life is simply right or wrong.

This attitude serves me well in working with couples. It always takes two people to kill off a marriage. While one person may have a greater percentage of responsibility, it’s still very important to claim your 15-45%. Yet so many people love the simplicity of ignoring their part in the troubles.

When working with individuals it can be a challenge to interrupt the convenience of blaming the other person. There is also the delicious self righteousness that it’s all their fault. Who among us doesn’t love that?

It’s a whole lot harder to walk the plank & take responsibility for your part. Face the sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach & then you actually will have a shot at not repeating the same relationship mistakes.

When my clients date, I recommend that they ask “What was your part in the demise of your last relationship?” It’s really a test of maturity & self awareness. Everyone should be able to answer that question in their late 30’s & up.

Truthful integrity requires that you look at yourself. Alcoholics Anonymous has a saying “When you point your finger at someone else there are 3 fingers pointing back at you.”

Blame can be very manipulative. It is a way to erase all other point of view that interfere with your own ideas. Your ex may have said some very ugly things in the process of the breakup. Unfortunately people do. Emotions run high & barriers are rapidly built.

Six to Nine months later try to be fair & ask yourself; Does your ex really lack character? Are they likely to be that destructive? Don’t use what was said to rob them & the children of time together. Try to reserve your protective instincts for situations where there truly is danger, not as an excuse to be selfish.

Demonizing & Blame can be very gratifying.

The novel by Russell Banks called The Sweet Hereafter is all about how human it is to blaming, blamed, blame it, I blame you, to blame, demonize, manipulation, blame forwant to assign blame. It is a wonderful book because the author understands that we sooo want things explained that are unexplainable….

It makes it easier to justify what you want or how you want to appear. Parents, kids, spouses & friends all fall into the trap of using their own sensitivity to avoid authentic dialogue. This ends up with you avoiding the opportunity to swallow your defenses & look at yourself which is also an invitation to grow.

It is truly classy to honestly face your own misdeeds. It’s not only one of the cornerstone of trust in all relationships but in believing in yourself.

Penn State Punished for Sandusky & Why it Matters for Victims &amp the Remaining Students

Penn State Scandal, Sandusky, Sandusky's wife, Denial, Reality, NCAA Punishment, Sandusky abuse, abuse charges

In 1980 Ann Pride hired me fresh out of graduate school to start the incest program for Pittsburgh Action Against Rape. I remember thinking “…but I don’t know anything about incest.” There were only 2 significant books written at the time & I read them both. I only remember the title of one Conspiracy of Silence. After all these years it is staggering that title still holds true.

I read the transcript of some of what was said in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette and was immediately struck by the authenticity. Particularly striking was one victim’s admission that he believed he was loved & was hurt when Sandusky stopped making contact. That was a very difficult truth to tell.

I learned a lot from the victims I worked with for over 2 years. One of the things I taught other therapists across the country, who wanted to learn more, was that the experience for the victim is a complicated one. If you rush into the work only assuming it was terrible you can increase their shame.

Complicated means there are a mixture of feelings, each person’s experience is unique. For many victims to admit there were loving feelings can be crucial for healing to occur. This was often a secret shame for them. In getting better, shame can be the biggest obstacle to overcome. It can be lethal to add to any victim’s shame.

The courage it took for Victim #1 to step forward is very admirable.

Another point I want to make to those who are wondering how Sandusky’s wife could still believe her husband after all the court testimony; Denial is the most powerful force in the universe. I learned this back in the early 80’s, denial is stronger than either love or hate and everyone struggles with it in some way.

Our delusions are very important to us.

Sandusky manipulated the boys and his colleagues & the friends who testified as to his sterling character. Of course, she was willing to be manipulated into the story of what a great guy he was……then her life won’t fall apart. It’s worth repeating, Denial is the most powerful force in the universe.

I see this weekly in my women who date and forgive too easily, buying the easy lies. “My friend found his name on the sexual predator list but he explained…” & I interrupt with “She was 16 but looked 18 & how was I to Know?” and they look at me astonished that I could guess what was said.

For Joe Paterno to have placed the football winning culture above the truth was shameful in this day & age. The punishment doled out by the NCAA is clearly a giant dose of reality for Penn State. The harsh reality was clearly written on the students faces, that showed up in the pictures on the front pages of the newspapers.

I will take the long view that the blow that was dealt to Penn State is a blow for truth & courage.

I also recognize the complicatedness of how the consequences fall on the heads of the young men who had no part in what happened. The spillover for them is painful. My advice is to prioritize the victim’s pain, that has been endured in secret for far too long. Shoulder the spillover of these new consequences with half of the valor of the victims who stepped forward.

Then you will learn something important about what real courage is. In facing the harshness of this new reality, it could be a life long lesson that has the ability to positively shape your life. Like the bombed out remains left standing at Hiroshima’s Park, that now stands as a center of protest against nuclear bombs.

The Powerful Victim & the Emotional Masochist & Jackie (Part 2 of 2)

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“Come on and rescue me, Come on baby and rescue me, Come on baby and rescue me, ‘Coz I need you, by my side” lyrics from Rescue Me by Aretha Franklin

The Karpman Drama Triangle has a lot of complexity to it. A true & emotionally searing experience of abuse can set someone up unconsciously for life to seek love in the deformed way it was received. This is because the focus of the abused and the abuser is always the abuser.

When the focus is always the other person combined with swallowing your own needs, then you will set yourself up to repeat the experience with the eternal hope of a different outcome.

Look at Jackie Kennedy for one example. Caitlin Flanagan in this month’s Atlantic describes her as “dependent on the kindness of sadists” beginning with her Father who was an alcoholic and was “too drunk to walk her down the aisle on her wedding day…”. Jackie as victim perpetrated a carefully constructed story of Camelot upon America & we still believe it despite all the evidence to the contrary. We are then rescued & inspired by the myth of JFK.

Often victims can be inflated with self righteousness which helps to deflect their responsibility in their own enabling behavior. I suspect Jackie poured all of her self righteousness in building the historical myth that still endures. Even Caroline admits inclinations of rescuing in the introduction of Historic Conversations that “I grew up feeling I needed to protect her.” Jackie’s gossip and mean imitations were another way to feel the power of the perpetrator.

Round & round the triangle of drama we go. Emotional masochism means you cater so much to the other person that you lose track of who you are & the truth. You become enchanted by being the rescuing hero or heroine. You prove to yourself you are good by swallowing too much crap from someone else. Then you try to ignore the huge price you pay for doing this.

Victims love milking the heroes & heroines so that it almost always benefits them. Unintentional manipulation is slightly better than intentional. Unintentional manipulators are so wrapped up in their own neediness that they find it impossible to consider anyone else in any genuine way.

If you believe there is no room in a relationship for disagreement or your own ideas then you participate in the lopsided dysfunction (just like the young college grad Anastasia Steele in Fifty Shades of Grey who is so wimpy I will never read the book).

There are many secondary gains to the victim role. Imagine swimming around in agreement, sympathy and being the focus of someone else’s attention and how enticing that might be. It is especially helpful to have highly tuned sensitivity to deflect any introspection or self awareness.

Think of an adolescent girl blasting away at her mother with the successful result of ending all conversation. In fact, adolescents play out the drama triangle endlessly because they are wired for the excitement of drama. They don’t recognize the hollowness inherent in the game.

The danger of dwelling in a relationship of agreement means that victims can then avoid reality. Reality is usually disagreeable. Reality always lies between two people. Reality is about waking up to the truth for BOTH people instead of being a planet that only orbits the sun.

The Victim is Often the Most Powerful Manipulator (Part 1 of 2 on Victims & Drama )

One of the ways The Karpman Drama Triangle works is that people switch around in all 3 roles. Often people favor one or two. Those who favor the victim role often demand “to be loved no matter what”; this internal myth can deeply fuel manipulation. No one over the age of 18 deserves to be loved no matter what.

Victims often expect others to prove they love them by drowning in their orchestrated crap. Pretending it’s not crap is proof of love… just keep swallowing it like the good codependent you are. Victims who insist on this are asking others to love them in an extreme way because they are avoiding figuring out how to love themselves. This is one way to manipulate; you do, what I won’t. YOU solve my insecurities for me!

Remember that opposite energies travel together. Victims do switch into the perpetrator role because unconsciously they feel emotionally safe because someone else is the victim. (This is how a history of sexual abuse is passed on to others.) It can feel empowering to be the perpetrator, however briefly. I found this to be true when I worked at a victim focused agency as director of the Incest Program.

I learned from a comment posted to a previous post on the drama triangle that Karpman originally had the victim on the bottom & it was Eric Berne of Transactional Analysis fame that suggested he flip the triangle because the victim had the most power.

The victim wants to be rescued and what is the best way of being rescued? Always having someone codependently agree with you. I don’t want to smoke pot but I will because you do. I don’t like that you interrupted my t.v. program and changed the channel to watch a dumb movie but I’ll act like it’s ok. Agree, agree, agree even if it feels yucky to me. I go along & swallow my true feelings, then YOU are happy.

If you dare to disagree then you are perceived as the persecutor. There are only two options to the victim in charge; you are either with me or against me. Any relationship without disagreement means there is a power imbalance.

Disagreement is crucial to equality. There are buckets of relationships where one person caters to another. Catering too much crosses the line into enabling & codependence. This can then evolve into erasing yourself & not recognizing that you are emotionally masochistic… being ground down beneath someone’s heel.

The excitement of the drama makes it all appear worth it to too many! It really is better to be alone than to be used……. relationship drama, insecurities in a relationship, disagreement, the victim, victims, manipulation relationships, manipulating, manipulator, manipulated, victim and perpetrator

Wishing Our Perceptions Are Reality

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Reality is always to be found in the messiness in between two people.

Not a week goes by without listening to massive numbers of people, who are only committed to their own point of view. I watch them completely erase the other person’s concerns over & over. One example: “I can have an affair but if you find someone else while we are separated that is sooo humiliating & unfair for me!”

People storm out. People hear apologies that  never happen. People erase apologies. People won’t tolerate a hard question, “Do you think you drink too much?” “Why don’t we have sex?” People erupt like a volcano to shut down conversations. It is manipulative to insist only upon your own point of view by blasting away everything else.

This is all about avoiding the messy uncertainty of dialogue. It’s a whole lot easier to make a feeble attempt and then erase what may have been confusing or uncomfortable with the lovely option of what they already know & are absolutely certain about.

Being a grownup is being able to tolerate disagreements and understanding that complicatedness is the only way to recover truth. A whole lot of people are simply not interested in this.

Our two political parties are too polarized for enough respectful problem solving to take place. It’s scary that each side is too filled up with certainty and self-righteousness.

The military did it – as if “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” addresses any kind of reality that works. Which is why it is no longer enforced.

Even countries do it, Greece is drowning in debt & the protesters don’t want anything to change. Charlie Sheen did it.

We do it within ourselves when we pretend overweight is ok, that we’re not really that narcissistic or that we didn’t really spend too much money.

Asking couples to go home and work out a budget, find out what interest rate they pay on each credit card or read a book on rekindling sexual desire…it’s amazing how few follow through because reality is hard and uncomfortable.

There’s a lot of comfort in self-righteous certainty. As a country we seem to be overdoing it.

Reality really involves seriously swimming around in messy uncertainty. Doubt is a part of openness which is the only way to solve the massive problems we face, whether as a couple or as a country. No one has a corner on the truth. Sacrifice is required for either couples or countries to get back on track.

Do You Feel Like a Victim in Romantic Relationships?

Victims have a lot to learn about being more self protective. Victims have too much empathy for others & not enough for themselves. They forget to take care of themselves because they are too focused on other people.

Here are 20 Questions to determine whether or not you set yourself up as a victim?manipulated definition, victim definition, manipulated, meaning of victim, the victim, being manipulated

1. Is it easier for you to stay silent instead of asking for what you want?

2. Do you believe the lyrics of the old Dean Martin Song;
You’re Nobody Until Somebody Loves You?
So you end up feeling bad about being single.

3. Can you be convinced to leave your friends behind,
by someone else so you end up isolated?

4. Are you too committed to pleasing others?

5. How desperate are you to be loved?

6. Do you swallow your anger?

7. Are you able to say NO, and to set limits & boundaries?

8. How over responsible are you?

9. Do you suffer from exaggerated guilt?

10. Do you feel appreciated in your own life or are you too hungry for more?

11. Do you end up feeling lost in relationships?

12. Are you afraid to disagree?

13. Are you an extreme caretaker who does not take care of yourself?

14. Are your relationships follow a lopsided pattern where you do too
much catering to the other person?

15. Do you apologize so often it’s become a habit?

16. Are you easily taken in by others, perhaps a bit sappy?

17. Do you allow others to suffocate your own spirit or creativity?

18. Is it easy for you to hang onto false hopes & ignore your own
suspicious inner voice?

19. Do you minimize your problems in relationships & avoid addressing them?

20. Are you too eager to forgive?

Self awareness is the beginning of real change. Don’t be discouraged if you answer yes to many of these questions. Begin to think about how to be more self protective. The opposite polarity is to learn skills in building your sense of self and hanging onto your own values. One example would be to not allow yourself to become removed from your friends or family.

Learn to change your catering behavior. Instead of a habit of being too generous or forgiving, start to think through your feelings & ask yourself what is reasonable and what is unreasonable. Don’t agree to do things that seem unfair.

When you ignore yourself,then you contribute to the lopsidedness in the relationship. Interrupting the pattern of being a victim is important. Embrace a little bit of wariness & skepticism in a new relationship until you know whether your partner has character & substance. Stop worrying so much if they like you & risk being true to yourself.

Continuing as a victim means to continue to abandon yourself.

Any comments from those of you who know the bad habit of being a victim in romantic relationships would be appreciated!

Playing the Hero Often Makes Real Problems

Many relationships begin when someone wants to be rescued from their life, like Cinderella who found her prince. One way to jack up your self-esteem is to be the hero for someone else. Lenny, the hero of Super Sad True Love Story admits he has a history of dating abused women that he can rescue, which then feeds his frail ego. low esteem, hero, heroe, rescuer syndrome, rescuers, the rescuer, rescuers

What I notice in working with heroes, heroines & victims, is that it is a successful strategy for all of them to avoid their own lives. Whether you are the rescuer or the victim, in reality, the answers are to be found only in your own life.

It is much easier to leave a bad marriage when another person represents the light at the end of a long, dark tunnel. That is the simple truth of why so many people leave that way. It is much more difficult to leave a marriage without the comfort of someone else by your side. The right thing to do is always the hard thing to do. Go it alone & face the loneliness.

Everyone deserves to get dumped for who they are not because there is someone else.

A lot of hero energy is out of our awareness. We just want to be good people. We want to help people. We want someone else to have a better life. Maybe, a better life has to be earned through hard struggle.

I’ve always believed that the struggle of life matters. We grow to embrace greater depth of character from figuring out how to cope with loneliness, financial devastation & our kids, whose hearts are broken. The sum total of our lives is dependant on all of our choices.

Give up the rescue idea & decide to rescue yourself. Rescue is built upon the very shaky foundation of illusions. Illusions have very little to do with the harshness of reality. Illusions are so powerful, especially in the very beginnings of romance.

You look up your old high school sweetheart on Facebook & feelings entangle you in all kinds of schemes to get together again, because that’s the person you are “meant” to be with. There are lots of romantic ideas about this other person & you feel as if you know them because history is just that powerful.

Remember that feelings are not facts & try hard to resist their seductiveness, because that has almost nothing to do with reality. Remind yourself that feelings alone are not the secret path to truth. The path of truth is built on the power of thinking & feeling together.