We all know a person with the victim complex. It is about that person who suffers more than anyone else and continually mourns his sacrifices, but denies any help that allows him to lighten his load and even seems to seek new obligations that allow him to retain his role as a martyr.
It can be your partner, parent, co-worker, friend or family member. Whoever it is, the person with the victim complex will make sure you know how much they are sacrificing for you and everyone around them. She will make sure everyone feels sorry for her and in debt. Of course, maintaining a relationship with someone suffering from martyr complex is not easy.
The dynamics behind the victim complex
In relationships with people suffering from a victim complex, an unhealthy dynamic is usually established which reaffirms the role of the martyr. Normally, the person who wants to play the role of the victim is appropriating several tasks by relegating you to the level of the spectator. He takes on more and more obligations and prides himself on knowing what you need while pushing you to take a passive role in your life.
At first this person is usually very attentive and full of good intentions, so it is difficult not to fall into his nets, especially when you are exhausted or have gone through a particularly difficult period. In those cases, it is normal that you need support, so you will end up "giving up" and giving up space.
But when you try to take control of your life or want to lighten the load, the person with the victim complex will push you aside because they don't want your help. By removing obligations from him, you take away power from his role as a martyr. You attack the identity that has built around that role. That's why these people cling to all the things they complain about.
In fact, very soon his sacrifices will begin to weigh on the relationship. The person with the victim complex will begin to suffer aloud, complaining of all his obligations and bringing out his total and complete self-denial. Basically, he keeps you tied up with the psychological double bind: he complains about his sacrifices and blames you for it, but doesn't allow you to help or reward him.
Clinging to his narrative of suffering, the martyr refuses to let in love or outside help, so it is very difficult for him to get out of the script he has created. That person has withdrawn into his role as a sacrificial victim and condemns you to play the role of executioner.
Don't ignore the warning sign of your intuition
Intuition usually gives the first warning sign when establishing a victim-like relationship. The "selfless" help that person offers you may not make you feel good. The seemingly disinterested help does not make you feel comfortable, protected and cared for, but rather has the taste of resentment.
Therefore, help does not cause feelings of gratitude and warmth, but rather creates an unpleasant sense of guilt. Indeed, the help that comes from a martyr is often experienced as an unwanted burden, punishment, or gift.
At this point, you will likely spend a great deal of energy wondering why such generosity produces such unpleasant feelings and why you no longer feel grateful. Often the answer is to blame yourself for those emotions.
In reality, this person does not want to help, but because he believes he is condemned to a life of sacrifice and suffering, he sees no alternative and offers his help reluctantly. What your intuition perceives is that this help does not come from love, altruism, kindness or authenticity, but that you are receiving something forced that forces you to take on a relationship debt for life.
Intuition warns you that very soon you will find yourself trapped in the martyr's narrative, taking on a very unfair role that you probably don't feel comfortable with because it's not that you don't want to help, it's that they don't allow you to. For this reason, the relationship with a martyr can be very frustrating, confusing and even disappointing.
How to get out of the victimization script?
Sooner or later, the person with the victim complex will demand attention for his or her sacrifices. That person will build a narrative in which he plays the role of the martyr, who gives everything for others, but no one understands or appreciates him. And of course, no one can help her.
The problem is that most of these people haven't learned to relate in any other way. They believe they can only get attention by sacrificing for others. Martyrdom is their workhorse and the way to feel precious in the eyes of others. They have spent years building their identity around that role, so they prefer to suffer rather than abandon their role as martyrs.
This means that it can be very difficult to move them out of that predetermined script. Therefore, in a relationship with a martyr, there is often no other possibility than to put the cards on the table, discovering the dynamics of victimization that has been established. It may be helpful to follow a basic script:
1. Recognition. Recognizing the person's effort will help them lower their defenses and be more receptive to your message. You can say: "I recognize everything you have done for me and I thank you deeply".
2. Problem / Solution. It is important that you clarify the issue, how that situation makes you feel, but without blaming it. You can also propose a possible solution where you are willing to compromise to make the relationship work better. “When I offer you my help, I feel that you are refusing it. This confuses me and makes me feel bad because I don't want you to carry that weight alone. I don't even think it's right, neither for you nor for me. That's why I propose that from now on you only deal with X while I deal with Y ”.
3. Validation. The person with the victim complex needs to understand that his value or love is not conditional on his indiscriminate surrender. For this reason it is important to offer him emotional validation: "I want you to know that you don't need to keep doing it for me, I will continue to appreciate and love you the same way."
Either way, don't expect to see a miraculous change overnight. Ultimately, the sharing of responsibilities and obligations implies a great change in the way of seeing and dealing with life in the person with the victim complex. Keep in mind that this person's favorite phrase might be: “I suffer, therefore I exist”.
Basically, you are asking him to change the core of his identity and his "mission" in life. That he gets away from what he thinks makes him valuable. Therefore, letting go of the martyr's narrative will require patience, until that person realizes that he doesn't have to continually suffer and sacrifice himself for others.