How Emotional Abuse Creates A Victim Story

by Annie Kaszina on January 20, 2015

worriedwomansmallLisa was in that difficult halfway house between wanting to recover from emotional abuse and wanting to hold on to the relationship with her emotionally abusive partner.  Her brain kept telling her that she couldn’t do both, but her emotions were resisting all the way.  Naturally enough, she could find plenty of reasons why she couldn’t leave.

In our first session working together she said she felt like she was going crazy – a sure sign if ever there was one that she was spending too much time around a crazy-maker.

She began the second session by saying that she’d realized her partner was, most likely, a Narcissist with a schizoid personality disorder.  I said to her:

“You could be right.  He may well be – or he may not be.  The important thing is, what do those labels mean to you?”

Lisa is typical of my clients inasmuch as she is bright, thoughtful, and slow to judge.  I know she’s slow to judge because she didn’t give me that Has-She-Just-Lost-The-Plot look.  Instead she thought about it before saying:

“Well, if it’s true – and I think it is true – that’s terribly sad.”

“I don’t deny that it’s sad,” I replied.  “But what makes it so sad?”

Once again, could have given me that Has-She-Just-Lost-The-Plot  look.  But she didn’t.  Instead, she started to explain what was so sad.  She’d suffered so much emotional abuse.  Half-way through her explanation she fell silent.

I waited.

“That’s my victim story speaking, isn’t it?” she finally said.

“Absolutely,” I replied.  “And you should be really proud of yourself for taking on board the concept of your Victim Story and having the courage to run with it.”

Anyone who has ever been through an emotionally abusive relation has been a victim of ill treatment, big time.  Most of us will have had victim experiences which almost wove themselves into a victim narrative long before we ever met our Mr Nasty.  Most likely, a parent or sibling was a bully – or worse.  We explained  our bad experiences to ourselves the best way we could.

Your victim story provides a sense of identity when you feel you have little, or none.

Unfortunately, your victim story gets in the way of you blossoming into who you truly can be.

What is the hallmark of a victim?

A victim is defined, and limited, by their victim story.  It’s all about what has already happened, and what they cannot hope to have in the future – because of what has already happened. And because they – allegedly – don’t deserve better.

Is that how Life really is?

We could spend a while debating that, but to what end?  Let’s just say that the term ‘reinventing oneself’ would never have found its way into the language if people didn’t do just that: reinvent themselves.  They draw a line under the thing that didn’t work, and focus on creating something more appealing.

Lisa is bright enough to know that she can’t have her victim story and be happy, focused, and committed to moving forward.  It can’t happen.

A victim story can only ever be a mill-stone around your neck.  (I say this as someone with a natural talent for weaving a great victim story.)

Your victim story is all about what you cannot do, or be, or have: because of X, I can never have Y:

  • Because I’ve been so broken, I can never heal.
  • Because I’ve been treated so badly, I’ll never be treated well.
  • Because I’ve loved a Mr Nasty, I can never find my Mr Nice
  • Because I’ve messed up, I can never NOT mess up

Stuff and nonsense!!

That’s your victim story speaking.

Your victim story is suffering with chronic depression.  It always, always has a negative, depressing opinion to foist on you.

Well, it would, wouldn’t it?  It’s hardly going to say, “Hey, %$firstname$%, wake up and smell the roses.” “Hey, %$firstname$%, you see those roses over there? Well, you’re never going to be able to have them, and smell them,” is more its style. 

Lisa is happy to trade one depressing, threadbare victim story for a life.  She can already see how, once she gets rid of that story, she’ll be able to run her life successfully.  She can see that there are plenty of opportunities for her, out there, that she wasn’t  seeing before because her victim story was blinding her to them.

Your victim story may be as familiar and cosy as that tired old bathrobe (UK dressing gown) you probably wouldn’t like people to see you in.  Staying stuck in your bathrobe  is not good for your street cred.  Being stuck in your victim story is not good for your emotional well-being.

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