How To Love Yourself When Someone Is Being A VictimBy Dr. Margaret Paul
September 12, 2017
Do you know how to love yourself in the face of someone complaining to you and being a victim?
Have you ever had the experience of being with someone who is crying over genuinely difficult situations, yet you felt no compassion for them at all - even if you are a caring, compassionate and empathic person?
Years ago, this was a very confusing situation for me, since I feel others’ feelings deeply. I finally understood that people cry from two different places – from genuinely wanting help in helping themselves, or from self-abandonment, wanting someone to feel sorry for them and care-take them. When they want someone to feel sorry for them and take care of them, they are being a victim, and instead of feeling compassion for them and wanting to help them, you might feel pulled on and want to distance yourself.
Victims are like energy vampires, draining caring people with their lack of responsibility for themselves and blaming others for their feelings. Empathic and caring people may become caretakers for victims, trying to solve their problems for them, but consistently running into “Yes but…” when offering solutions.
If you are a caring and empathic person, you need to learn to love yourself in the face of people who are devoted to being victims.
Dr. Judith Orloff, in The Empath’s Survival Guide, suggests “Use the three-minute phone call: ‘I support you, but I can only listen for a few minutes if you keep rehashing the same issues. Perhaps you could benefit from finding a therapist to help you.’”
When I work with a client who is being a victim, I might say something like, “I feel that you want something from me, and I’m wondering what it is you want and how I can be of help to you. Are you looking for sympathy, or do you want to learn to love yourself in the face of these challenges?” This hands the issue to them and they need to define whether they are pulling for sympathy, or they are open to learning about taking loving care of themselves.
When I’m with people other than clients, who just want to complain about how bad their lives are without any openness to learning, I generally smile, give a moment of supportive caring, and then disengage. It’s not loving to me to get drained by a closed person who is being a victim and pulling on me to fix them. Or, as Dr. Orloff states, “say ‘no’ with a smile by changing the subject and not encouraging their complaints.”
Loving yourself means…
Loving yourself with someone who is complaining and being a victim means that you stay tuned into your own feelings and you want responsibility for taking care of yourself rather than caretaking the other person. It means that you don’t put aside your own feelings to take care of another’s feelings – unless the other person is actually incapable of taking care of their own feelings (such as a toddler or a very physically or emotionally ill person).
In order to take loving care of yourself, you need to accept that you are helpless to help someone who isn’t open to learning about loving themselves. You can certainly feel compassion for their pain and pray for them to open to learning about loving themselves, but you need to fully accept that you can’t help others who are not willing to help themselves – especially since it’s likely that much of their pain is coming from their own self-abandonment.
If someone you deeply care about is closed and being a victim, loving yourself means that you compassionately embrace your heartbreak over how they are treating themselves and your helplessness over their intent to avoid responsibility for themselves. It’s hard, I know, but this is the reality that we need to accept – that no matter how much we love and care about someone, we have no control over their choice to abandon themselves.
Join Dr. Margaret Paul for her 30-Day at-home Course: "Love Yourself: An Inner Bonding Experience to Heal Anxiety, Depression, Shame, Addictions and Relationships."
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