Lately, I’ve been looking into getting my thoughts and feelings out regarding the idea of what to do if someone is trying to make you out to be the bad guy. You can find them thusly: Article the first: You are the target of the social pressure and article the second, for when you as a member of a social circle are met with the plea to exact pressure.
Feeling like someone has victimized you is a profoundly and remarkably shitty experience. Feeling like you cannot talk about it when you also feel you must ranks on my list of worst states of being in the world.
There are multiple ways to respond to these feelings and they all really depend on the context of the situation but I believe that there are some general guidance rules that apply from the smallest hurts to the biggest, with everyone. Because they`re healthy behaviours that should work with healthy individuals; it isn`t good life rhetoric to assume that because a healthy behaviour won`t work with an individual that the individual is at fault and intentionally so… that`s not very healthy. But the reality of a healthy behaviour in regard to boundaries and communication about personal intentions is so alien to someone with deeply unhealthy behaviours that at best I feel there`s a strain on the communication of unhealthy people and healthy people before they even speak, and at worst there isn`t a lot of hope that they will communicate well.
When I say ‘healthy’ and ‘unhealthy’ I’m using the very flawed english language I have access to in order to describe behaviours that are really best described in terms of ‘not abusive’ and ‘abusive’. But there are a range of behaviours that aren’t healthy for people that are also not abusive, I couldn’t list them all. Which is why I’ve opted for the terms I’m using. PLS HELP. If you can think of a better term or just have a raging think-on regarding the subject… I would like to have thinks with you. I’m not satisfied with this but am continuing for the sake of expediency.
This is completely a personal experience made to judge the world with on my part: I have been a person with a deeply unhealthy mindset without even knowing it. Almost all my damage was focused internally and I tried very hard not to damage the world outside of me. Despite this I did cause damage to the world around me because I was seeing healthy behaviours as almost violent towards me and unhealthy behaviours as `the norm`. It was almost impossible for me to truly communicate and connect with people: and yet I did in some cases. I have seen this personally with my father who aggressively did not allow healthy behaviours to work with him and so my family members and myself seemed to develop different ways to dealing with that, all dramatically unhealthy: rising to meet his abusiveness with an abusiveness far worse than his own to make him stop… particularly for my younger brother or in my case capitulating entirely. As an adult, I experienced living with my parents just before their divorce and experienced that my attempts at direct healthy behaviours had no bearing on my father’s behaviour. He could not be reasoned with and I say this as more than just his daughter because he had me in the role of marriage counselor. So as his marriage counselor I found him deeply unwilling to address anything other than what he wanted to address…
Thus I cannot believe that healthy behaviours work on unhealthy situations: But does this mean that I believe anyone should engage in unhealthy behaviours to solve a problem with an unhealthy person behaving towards you unhealthily?
NO. ABSOLUTELY NOT.
The unhealthy behaviour towards you is going to trap you and make you feel like there’s only one or two ways to escape it. This is not true. There are a literal list of things that can be done to remove yourself from the situation with varying consequences and difficulties depending on your personal/external resources available and your willingness to deal with them. If you can list off a hundred reasons why you can’t remove yourself from a situation that’s just you acknowledging the consequences.
Do we remove ourselves from these situations? Not as often as would be best for us. I see this play out from time to time. Often people leave entirely, sometimes the consequences for leaving are too high. Be this in the case of a child leaving home; a spouse leaving a partner; leaving a job; leaving a community of like-minded people; changing schools — though this is sometimes impossible. Changing schools saved my life as a child, it was denied to a friend of mine before I ever met her and thankfully she survived. A lot of times we try to stick it out until we are beyond done dealing with someone else’s behaviour towards us and we end up removing ourselves, or being removed from a situation in even more rotten circumstances than we were in before.
If mediation, communication and other healthy behaviours don’t work to cease someone’s torment of you… regardless of what that torment actually is, such that you cannot bear it anymore and you cannot continue without damage to your self and healthy behaviours do not work to mitigate the situation: I will always tell you that the responsible thing to do for your SOUL is to remove yourself from this situation.
This is a hard thing to swallow. This feels like the worst burden of being victimized and there’s a plethora of literature out there on the subject from many different perspectives. This is a sad reality. And often times leaving a situation you’ve ended up in with someone who was close to you or held power over you involves changing your life completely. Its monumental and overwhelming. It doesn’t seem fair.
But when you stop accepting someone’s treatment of you, this is a direct statement about problems you see with your life. You are already aware that certain things need to change. The weird thing about change is that it is exponentially easier to enact any change the more you change overall. I believe it is easier to change more about your life than it is to change specific parts while keeping other parts of your life the same.
And at the very least: as YOU change… your relationship with others in your life and your social circle might have to change. The people in your life might love it; they might be confused; they might not notice; they might not know how to recontextualize you in a new role. When we decide we are not going to accept someone’s behaviour anymore we are committed to some kind of change and it is up to us how intentionally we make those personal changes.
Sharing a community with someone you feel had victimized you is a rough go. Most people legitimately cannot share a community with someone who has hurt them, or with someone they have hurt… that goes both ways. Sometimes by removing yourself from a situation; your aggressor could be mad that you have removed yourself from their sphere of control and attempt to control you through other means; your aggressor could be preemptively trying to discredit you before you come forward; your aggressor might not want you to talk to other potential victims to warn them away from them…. your aggressor might feel rotten about how that situation went and be dedicated to not having things go down that way with anyone else again.
They are human. SO ARE YOU. This means you are not clairvoyant. You removed yourself from the situation you shared with them and so you really don’t know what they are doing or thinking. You only know the pattern you have had with them. Which others may or may not share… Your brain may catastrophize and tell you that they are still trying to stab at you from wherever they are: MAYBE THEY WILL OR ARE. The only one that you can control in this situation is you.
If this person still has a degree of power over you; or is trying to exert power over you, you may have limited means to fight back. Continue removing yourself from their sphere of control however you must. Divorce has a legal component that is expensive but can be helpful. Employment often comes with your boss or coworker’s superiors, which may or may not be helpful but in the case of harassment leading to your leaving your job or illegitimate firing there are legal routes for this that involve some expense but I don’t know how much. Volunteer organizations often have a form of accountability in the form of boards or other people to whom your victmizer might be accountable, but this is not always possible to engage- perhas the organization was founded by your victimizer, perhaps your victimizer holds an integral enough role that they are necessary to continue the operations. You may face consequences for attempting to stay and change the environment to better suit your needs – this should be your right, but often involves forcing a messy conflict that is not enjoyable for anyone involved… it is up to you to weigh the benefits and consequences of leaving entirely vs staying and trying to change the environment.
Personal example time: my mother has been counseled many many many times to simply leave her house and leave my father to deal with the debts that they acrued as well as with selling the house and getting a fair price for it.
She has and does find this completely unacceptable. The consequences to her of voluntarily giving up the last thing of value that she was able to secure with the last of her brother’s estate is unacceptable. To her, she cannot simply remove herself entirely from the situation. She left the house for 14 months; lived in a women’s shelter, a friend’s house, stayed with my younger brother in his 500sqft apartment on his horrible couch for a few days, house sat for people on vacation and rented a hotel room when everything ran out at once. All while holding down her jobs as a private contracting janitor for businesses; while paying half the mortgage and other costs for a house she wasn’t living in. She went through the courts to get my father ordered to either stop or not start new home improvement projects (which he did not fully respect) and after 14 months of living nowhere: she was allowed back in the house with him ordered to stay elsewhere.
I have a lot of sympathy for my father having to stay on his boat which he always had access to. But this is a person who insisted on being on welfare for over a decade to escape bankruptcy payments he incurred on a failed venture as an inventor; which he decided to have another go at in my teen years, insisted on lying to welfare to receive payments as a single person while my mom worked-this is technically illegal but not as illegal as other things he engaged in which suited him and endangered my family. I’m happy with the life I had but to say he burned through a small inheritance of his own and two of my mother’s would be intolerable to him because my mother smokes cigarettes. Yet it is his life choices that had a direct impact on us which he refuses to take credit for the bad whilst insisting on being given all the credit of the things he got right.
What this involves for my mother is continued contact with my father in order to divide their paltry assets and impressive debt. She shares a community with him… not well. She goes out to one place and one place only that feels safe for her, a place he doesn’t go. She sees the same people as he does but does not have to deal with him face to face. If he did show up there I’m sure she would leave. This is hard for her and has daily consequences which she assures me are much preferable to leaving entirely.
In the case of my father, he has a proven track record of not being able to hold ‘it’ together and she has no reason to believe the house would not be foreclosed on and she would receive nothing from its sale. He doesn’t technically have any incentive to do so because between debts and what my mother has proven that she contributed she believes he wouldn’t receive anything to begin with unless the house sold for a magical unicorn price that she has every reason to believe is unlikely. Conveniently this magical unicorn price that would land him with any money at all is what my father vividly assures everyone this house is worth. My father is actively combative and poisonous via email; because he seems to think my mother is attempting to take something from him or withhold what he is due. Mom seems so much happier now that he is not in her day to day life, she has experienced improved health benefits particularly surrounding her blood pressure which hitherto had been unresponsive to medication… is now responsive to medication. There are immediate benefits to removing a person you feel is victimizing you from your day to day life.
So, whether you are trying to change all the bits of your life or specific bits of your life you need to do this. If not for your personal happiness then for your personal health.
Once your victimizer is not in your life on a day to day basis anymore you have one job. Make your life as amazing as you knew it would be without that person holding you back. This is a big job and it almost feels trivial to state it in such a forthright way. But this is your duty to yourself. There might be hard things on the horizon. You might fail a few times, learn the lessons, and move on. You have a new life to deal with.
“Move on” is often said to us when people want us to shut up about what we are processing at that time and I do not mean it this way. Processing your experience is part of ‘moving on’ and skipping this step doesn’t often yeild great results. But this is a strange time for you and you need to be careful who you are processing to.
Learn the difference between someone who is going to urge you to see reality more clearly; even if they might make things less clear by offering unforseen contexts or perspectives, and someone who is reacting and urging you to reaction. There are a lot of different ways people express support and you might not be well served by all of them; perhaps someone being instantly angry on your behalf might allow you to sort of ‘reason with yourself’ by attempting to calm them down… perhaps it spurs you to some kind of rash toxic action that helps create the reactions you do not desire from your victimizer or others. Learn who will keep your processing to themselves; recognizing that it is not necessarily opinions but freeform thinking, and who might take yourprocessing as a stark or concrete view of your personality. The process isn’t you. But you will define how the process goes. Perhaps you talk to others to help you rationalize how the world has affected you, perhaps you don’t. Perhaps not talking to others is equally bad as talking to the wrong people. You need support at this time.
You might feel tempted to call out your victimizer publically and make their social circle realize ‘who they are’ and condemn them… to turn the tables; to reclaim power; but unless you’re involving the legal system I think this is unproductive almost every case.
Other people have their own relationship with your victimizer that they are going to form on the basis of their own experiences with that person. Maybe it mirrors yours. Maybe you have cause to think it should be a public matter… if there are others and you know them you can submit a complaint that defines the pattern of their behaviours you think are problematic to their superior if applicable… almost everyone has a superior, either in their workplace, volunteer location, or even within specific communities you just have to find out who that person is and then word your complaint very carefully.
I can’t tell you how to word your things only you know the context of the situation you are in, but it is my suggestion to ground your complaint in the specific experiences you had with this person and any other people who also share this experience. State firmly that these are only the patterns of behaviour you have witnessed and you are simply making the person in authority over your victimizer aware of them so that they can also watch and be informed.
If you expect other people to have the same reactions you do….
Other people might not be as supportive as you need them to be. By opening this up in a public sphere you are opening yourself to a world of hurt as people who you cannot possibly explain all the context of your situation to, look in on your actions and the information you have given them … and start trying to poke holes in your argument or remind you that “it takes two to tango”.
And more than that I have some rather specific beliefs about mobilizing social groups against someone. I don’t think its ok. I think it’s engaging in a level of abusive behaviour in response to abusiveness. This doesn’t make it right, and moreover other people don’t tend to respond well to it. Its stressful for people and it isn’t their business, their fight or their concern. … unless it is in the case of patterns of victimization surrounding consent. But then I firmly believe that the courts have to be involved. There are situations where I feel a community has to be made aware of someone’s private behaviour: Missing stairs should be fixed.
But fixing a missing stair involves so very much more than the typical victim/victimizer scenario that plays out in social circles. What’s sad and distressing is that missing stair conversations seem to be unassailingly assigned as victim/victimizer scenarios and addressed as such. When they aren’t. This is damaging all the way around and happens because we don’t have advanced language to address these scenarios and those of us that do are often somewhat quiet.
What do I define a missing stair conversation as? A specific statement of experience that is made in the form of an open letter or speech at an engagement OR a private conversation with specific persons or a person who has comparative ‘power’ within a community. The fundamental difference between this and ‘trash talking’ or ‘gossip’ is that the behaviours and not their effects are what is under focus. If you are so worried about someone’s behaviours that you feel like someone else could be hurt, you may feel like it is your duty or responsibility to ‘come out’ in some way. If that is part of your healing process, then perhaps it is imperative. But your responsibility is to yourself. ‘Coming out’ against someone can be highly unpleasant and might not help you as much as you’d like.
That said: if all it takes is identifying a pattern of behaviour in someone’s actions that ‘turns other people against them’, there’s something seriously wrong with how that person is addressing reality. However, THAT SAID, all you can do is identify the behaviours, it is up to other people to watch and or connect dots to form a picture in their mind that makes sense to them.
The picture they form in their head from the pieces of information you provide might not be the same as what you had in mind. And this can be painful.
People show themselves to the people around them eventually. If they are committed to the process of victimization that landed you feeling so rotten, whatever their behaviour that is problematic; maybe they are hurt people hurting people; maybe they have just found that hurtful behaviour is very very effective to get one’s own way; whatever they did to hurt you: it is very likely a general flaw of their personality.
How aware they are of their flaws and how much they work on either personally growing or hiding the evidence of their flaws is going to dictate how the future goes. In a world where we all think we’re the good guy, its very likely that they learned some kind of lesson from their interaction with you. Once you have removed yourself from their day to day life it is up to them to learn and enact that lesson. Maybe they are a better person away from you and for having had the experience with you. Only space and time will tell.
Your job is to make an awesome life you adore without them and to stand strong. Your experience is your experience and you can talk about it without trashing the people that provided you potentially painful lessons… just be careful who you talk to. And remember that if you have to, do say something but make it clear and consice.
Which is hilarious for me to advise someone because really? Really. I can barely handle being consice. There’s too much conctext.