Breaking the Victim Habit

Breaking the Victim Habit

1
Share.

This post was originally published on July 24, 2014.

“Self-pity is easily the most destructive of the non-pharmaceutical narcotics; it is addictive, gives momentary pleasure and separates the victim from reality.” — John Gardner

These words resonate with me a good deal. For years, in fact, victimhood has been a very powerful drug for me. Since a rather young age I felt like a burden to the world, devoid of a meaningful voice. Growing up, those feelings only became more tangible; my parents seemed to not understand me, friends repeatedly made fun of me and partners emotionally drained me. So in my teens I arrived at to the only possible conclusion: If there was a God, he hated me. This is quite dramatic a scenario—a very ungrateful one, too—given the fact that I survived my past fairly unscathed. However, it took me years of therapy, an intense mindfulness practice and working with a new sponsor to understand that playing the victim was just another of my coping strategies to get through life. Turns out that being a martyr and blaming people for my miserable existence is an addiction—and one that only today I am finally kicking.

“Can you see the pattern, Alice?” I recall my old therapist asking. I still lived in Italy and wasn’t sober. I actually wasn’t remotely interested in recovery at that time; I was actually waiting for another prescription of Xanax and, ideally, her magic words to fix me. The only theme I could see was my recurrent misery and people hurting me. For some reason, I’d tell her, I always ended up in a weak position, whether it was at work, with a man or with friends. When she suggested that I might be getting something out of my victimhood, I felt outraged and insulted. Now I know that she was referring to the psychoanalytical concept of secondary gain.

As I got older, I only became more and more the stereotype of self-pity; I considered my problems unique and would act on them with subtle, passive-aggressive and masochistic behavior to punish anyone I perceived as the enemy. I was so paranoid that I only considered one possible outlook on life: tragedy. People were either out to get me or, when showing something remotely close to care, only being charitable. Self-pity was ugly and never healed my wounds, but it seemed to anesthetize them somewhat. However, just like every other drug, its effects wore out quickly and always gave way to the same withdrawal symptoms: shame, depression and resentment.

Every journey in recovery has been slow for me. And the most important lessons are those that I keep learning during the times of struggle. Finally seeing a shift and taking a stand against the martyr syndrome was an important step for me, so evident in its manifestation that I can easily pin it down. A month ago, I met with my publisher and opened up to him about some work frustration I’d been having. He gave me wise advice in return and the meeting ended up being very successful. But when I got home, I felt the urge to apologize to him for having spoken up—that is, to send him a victim email. But before hitting send, I paused. I asked myself whether I had done anything wrong. Apologies come as a consequence of an erroneous act; I had only been myself with somebody who sincerely cared, somebody I work with. What was the real motive behind my desperate need to apologize? I did not send the email.

The act of constantly apologizing has been until recently one of my subconscious tools to make myself subordinate to other people and also how I manipulated them into having to care for me. But that day I broke the pattern of enabling the twisted role-playing.

The truth is that self-victimization never yielded any positive result, and its effects on my psyche have been as detrimental as those of other substance abuse. I am still not sure whether I was trying to escape harsh judgment coming from others or if I simply needed protection (which I never found anyway).

My mindfulness teacher tells me that it’s like training a puppy to not jump on the couch; by following the same strategy, I have to train my brain to drop old and unhealthy thinking patterns that don’t serve me anymore. There is a voice in my head screaming at me every day. According to it, I am worthless and nobody loves me, and if I listen to it, I can transform into the selfish, bitter and martyr Alice overflowing with self-hatred and envy. I can excel at that—I did it for years.

So although the sick whisper hasn’t disappeared, today I have the choice of not buying into my thoughts. Today I know that life doesn’t happen at me. I make that choice when I go grocery shopping and think people are judging me or when I deliver a column, send out an interview request or even when I (rarely) go on a date. This process, I believe, is not only empowering and self-loving, but it’s also an act of love toward the people who care for me. At the end of the day, it is a reward to look in the mirror and see the reflection of a person I am still not familiar with, but am actually starting to like.

Share.

1 Comment

  1. Pingback: Addiction Is Not a Choice

  2. Jeffrey Dowling on

    My name is Dr.great a Spell casters, Are you losing sleep at night worrying worrying to get cure from HIV/ AIDS
    or getting your love

    My name is Stacey Fernandez from the United States of America and am here to share a testimony i would please want you to read careful. I was married for seventeen years until misfortune came in. My husband and i were living happily with our children and enjoyed the company of each other. Our eldest daughter eloped with her boyfriend and this cost my husband his job because he could no longer concentrate on his job and this almost tore our home apart. My husband lost his job and we were living on the little income i was making from my cabbage. This really tormented our home cos my husband loves her more than our other kids. I tried all i could do to make my husband happy even when i wasn’t happy. This happened for sometime and he had cardiac arrest. We spent virtually all the money we had and still the condition did not improve. I was left with no choice than to sell the stuffs in our house, I was able to realise some money which was spent on his medical bills. I did this for a while until we had no money on us again. We came home and was hoping he could get better. He continued like that for some months and we decided to seek for solution else where. I went online where i met many self acclaimed doctors and spell casters but none could help. I then came across this particular caster whose testimonies i have read. His name is Dr.great he promised to help and he did in a way i find very surprising to explain. He told me that he would cast some spells to make my daughter come back and to get my husband his job back. It was like an impossible task. But with the help and intervention of this prophet of GOD, my daughter came back home and saw her dad was sick and she cried and asked for forgiveness. My husband after a week became whole again and another spell was cast to get him his job back. Like a dream it happened. My daughter is back home and my loving husband is well again and now has his job back. So good people of the world i want you to help me in saying a big thank you to Dr.great for his intervention. This is one Dr great seriously recommend for anyone with issues of such nature or any other problem. Simply contact him on his email via [email protected]……………..

Leave A Reply

About Author

Alice Carbone Tench is a writer and journalist based in Los Angeles. A former translator and interpreter from Turin, Italy, Alice moved to Los Angeles in 2010 and worked as a journalist and foreign correspondent for several Italian magazines, among which Vanity Fair, the Italian news agency ANSA and the online magazine Fine Dining Lovers. In 2011 she started a blog, Wonderland Mag, to share the American experience with her Italian friends, but the blog soon became something more, the source material for a book. Her debut novel, The Sex Girl, was published by Rare Bird Books in July, 2015. The book is currently out of print. From 2013 to 2015 she hosted the interview podcast Coffee with Alice. Today, Wonderland Mag has evolved into a candid portrait of Alice’s life: Stories of healing, of being a woman in today’s America, stories of food, love, and of how to dust off after a storm, to move forward stronger than before. Alice is currently working on her second book, a collection of essays from this blog titled Making Sense of Reality. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, keyboard player Benmont Tench and their daughter, Catherine Gabriella Winter.