Exiting the Victim Triangle
Once you’ve decided you want to exit the victim triangle, you begin to realize how tricky it can be.
That is because your participation in the triangle has to do with your past, the ways you are wounded, and how well you have healed those wounds so far. Once you notice your doing it one place, and seem to resolve it there, it will appear in some other way. So simply recognizing that you are participating in a victim triangle, can be a challenge by itself.
You are in the victim triangle whenever you are acting in any of its roles: victim, rescuer, or persecutor. If anyone in the situation has too much power or too little power then you are probably in the triangle. If you feel powerless you are in a victim triangle. If you find yourself trying to annihilate another person or cut them down the size you are in the triangle. If you are overwhelmed by the need to help another person, then you are in the triangle.
Recognizing the Triangle
The victim triangle does not just happen in situations of extreme abuse. It can happen in response to any situation where an individual feels powerless.
For example, you were teased by the “popular kids” as a child, and that teasing made you feel powerless. As an adult you find yourself being or wanting to be mean to your child’s classmates, because you perceive them as the “cool” kids. Maybe they haven’t done anything to your child, but you’re going to cut them off at the pass. In other words you perceive them as potential abusers that need to be dis-empowered.
Or alternatively, you try to impress the cool kids and their parents, in the hopes that will make them be nice to your own child – in this case you are trying to appease the abuser. In either case the “cool” kids are potential abusers, and your child a potential victim, that you are attempting to rescue. You have entered the victim triangle.
The situations don’t have to match precisely with your past. Maybe you had parents with restrictive rules, and you find yourself trying to rescue coworkers from the boss that reminds you of your parent. You try thwarting the boss or undermining his authority. Perhaps you find yourself turning to fight with moviegoers who have knowingly stolen people’s seat, because you must defend the injustice! If afterwards you realize the seat stealers felt like abusers, then it was a victim triangle reaction.
The Wounded Healer
It is likely that you will be the first to recognize situations, because they resemble ones that you have been through. Our ability to empathize with another person’s situation, comes because we have suffered, and know what it feels like. Having been through a similar situation, we also have unique knowledge or insight to share, that someone else does not have. In other words, you can help another person, because you share the same wounds.
However, that also makes helping more tricky. Where you are most drawn to help, you may also be most drawn to view a person as a victim. In other words, you are susceptible to being drawn into the victim triangle. Someone should have saved you, and now you must save them.
The degree to which you feel drawn towards a victim triangle, will correspond with how strongly you wish to rescue yourself or how strongly you wish that you had been rescued. If the helpless feeling of the past still lives strongly in you, it can be hard not to want to swoop in and save another person. You may also still wish to punish the abuser, which is another way of being drawn into the triangle. When you abuse the abuser to eliminate their power, you do so by making them a vicitim=powerless.
We should not trivialize the struggle. Getting out of the victim triangle is a goal that is not always easy. If you suffered a larger wound, it will take more work to move to a space outside the triangle. The more you heal your own wound, the more you can help others without entering into the triangle.
Seeing that a person is not a victim, involves letting go of control. If the individual you wish to help, decides she isn’t going to do anything about the situation, you may have to let that decision stand. When you do have the chance to help, you might have to shift your attitude, so the help is offered without pity. Try to be honest with yourself. If you feel a desire to override another’s decision, why do you feel that way? If you wish to intervene, is that to alleviate your own feelings of helplessness? Is this about that person, or is it about you?
Sometimes we want to rescue another, because we have been victimized in the past. Its difficult to bear watching it happen again. You might feel anything is better than watching it happen again. You are the victim who has become a rescuer. If you over ride another person’s choice, helping them despite themselves, aren’t you turning them back into a victim?
Sometimes we want recognition that an abuser was bad. Sometimes we want the victory that was denied us the first time around. We see a persecutor, and we are drawn to unveil them, or take them down to size. As we attempt to strip the abuser of his power, we risk becoming the persecutor. If you feel a desire or act to over shadow another’s power, how is that different than being an persecutor? Is there some other way to resolve the situation, that doesn’t involve more abuse?
Going Forward with Awareness
You shouldn’t expect to fix the victim triangle overnight. Hopefully, seeing the pitfalls will make you compassionate with yourself, and with others, when you find yourself back in the triangle. People really can learn to step out of the triangle, but just as with anything, its a process were you will fall back into the triangle quite a lot as you work on this. Each trip into the triangle, can teach you something to make it easier the next time around. Success is therefore not measured by avoiding the triangle completely, rather, improvement is shown by:
- How quickly your recognize your in the triangle
- How easily you begin to be able to step back out
- Entering the triangle less and less over time
If you have improvement in any of those areas, from what you had before, than you are doing well.
The Victim Triangle Series
I’ve broken this topic into three articles because the topic becomes more complex as you examine it more deeply. The first was about how your perceive others, which is powerful in itself. This second article was about aspects of becoming more aware. The articles should be read in order, but I’ve broken them up so you delve into the more complex aspects as you are ready.
The final article is on the trickiest aspect of the triangle: the persecutor / abuser.
Lauren Torres – Lansing, IL
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