No matter what we may think, no matter how we appear, we always have agency. If we appear passive, we have chosen that. And we chose passivity for a reason: we believe that it is a viable strategy.
|No responsibility||Burdened with responsibility|
Many years ago, I knew someone who was an abuser. And when he was called on his abusiveness, he would be silent and just stare. He was then passive—and his passivity was actually a form of aggression, allowing him not to take any responsibility for his actions. He used passivity to appear to be the victim of injustice, not the abuser. He could claim to be misunderstood.
Career victims are experts in active passivity. They see themselves as misunderstood; they will not see themselves as clouded in any way. For them, feeling misunderstood and persecuted is a badge of virtue. And the worst thing that could happen is for them to be viewed as they actually are, without any embellishment.
|Misunderstood / persecuted||Seen clearly without embellishment|
|Completely clouded / insane||Understood and appreciated|
As I wrote in a previous blog post, the career victim attracts people who see themselves as compassionate and caring. These people get entangled with career victims and become guiltily responsible for them. The guiltily responsible person becomes a “whisperer” to the career victim, who is in fact controlling the relationship. The guiltily responsible person—the victim whisperer—believes that she understands and sees the potential in the career victim. And the victim’s passivity encourages the whisperer to feel active, vigorous, and strong. The whisperer then takes full responsibility, and both people remain locked in their roles. This is how they are complicit in the game. Both are actively passive and passively active. The victim’s active passivity brings the victim whisperer onto the dance floor.
|Caring / committed||Cold / unfeeling|
|Controlling||Laissez-faire / open|
|Structured / appropriate rules/boundaries||Chaotic / promiscuous / not nonattached|
Ironically, what saves the whisperer from the victim is exactly the same thing that saves the victim from himself: a recognition and acceptance of their own agency. This does not come easily, because both the victim and the whisperer do not want to see themselves as having actively chosen the terms of the relationship. Until a career victim sees that she makes the choice to be passive, she cannot change. Until a whisperer sees that he makes the choice to be entangled, he cannot change.
There are four steps that both the whisperer and the victim need to take to free themselves:
- Take care of yourself.
- Don’t swallow the victim narrative.
- If you can’t be okay around the person, walk away.
Until one or both participants in the relationship acknowledge their agency and call the relationship what it actually is, none of those four steps can occur. The difficulty is, both the career victim and the victim whisperer hate all four steps. The thing that victimizes the career victim the most, the thing the career victim hates the most, is taking care of yourself. And the thing that most robs the victim whisperer of the feeling of strength and care is taking care of yourself.
Career victims are never themselves. Victim whisperers are never themselves. We have to accept that we are participants in this dance if we want to leave the dance floor. Once we accept that, we have demonstrated enough reflectiveness to actively pursue those four steps. From there, we can begin to see that we are not, and never were, the characters we have been playing for so long.
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