Welcome to competitive martyrdom. You win!!
Have you noticed? It seems as though everyone is a victim. The world has gone to hell in a handbasket, no good will come of it and it’s Not My Fault! They’re all out to get me! It’s like we’re engaged in competitive martyrdom.
You and I both know there is plenty of good to see in this world if we’re willing to look.
Hurricane Ida ignited the hearts and skills of the people of South Louisiana. Folks wandered the streets looking for ways to help. That’s how humans behave in natural disasters.
Yet, some will never recover. They’ll forget their own courage or creativity and permanently rely on the goodwill of others.
It’s all about being the Victim, you know. When we’re the Victim, we win.
When we’re a Victim, we don’t need to take responsibility or face the consequences of our actions. We don’t need to watch out for ourselves. We don’t even need to ensure our safety. Our Rescuer will do it for us. Score!
Victims are always tormented by some Persecutor. It could be a specific person, and that person doesn’t even have to be living; memories are terrific tormentors. A Persecutor could be a job, life circumstances, or the current favorite – stupid politicians.
Persecutors often morph; if it’s not this it’s that. Victims always have a rant on injustice or a story of how they are incapable. Persecutors make life terribly unfair.
That’s why a Victim needs a Rescuer. A Rescuer doesn’t have to be a person; addictions are great stand-ins. It’s the best way to remain a permanent Victim.
When the Rescuer is a person, they are compassionate and willing to sacrifice. Their self-perceived value is found by taking care of everyone but themselves. If there were no Victims, who would they rescue?
Three roles, three points of a triangle, and everyone races to be the Victim.
The Rescuer gives their all and never feels appreciated, so now it’s their turn to be the Victim. The Persecutor was just trying to set things straight and their good intentions are misunderstood, now it’s their turn to be the Victim.
Here’s the thing. Once you accept any role in this crazy Drama Triangle, you accept them all. You spin around the triangle from Noble Rescuer to Misunderstood Persecutor and end up Helpless Victim no matter what you do. It’s competitive martyrdom.
Victim, Victim, who gets to be the Victim?
Ready to jump off now?
The Drama Triangle is a Dreamkiller. Competitive martyrdom keeps our attention focused on the drama instead of our Dream. It is terribly attractive and sticky. Awareness of the cycle helps us to stay self-directed, and we can take action to avoid being drawn in.
We avoid the Drama by refusing to join in. We don’t take the bait. Many times we enter the Drama Triangle because we just want to help, whether to Rescue from impending doom or to Persecute by holding a higher standard.
As compassionate humans, we value contribution and helping others in need. And that’s the key: in need. A natural disaster like a hurricane is an easy call. You have a tree blown over in your driveway, I have a chainsaw. Done and done.
But it isn’t always that simple. Competitive martyrdom is sneaky. It can look like your brother-in-law between marriages sleeping on your sofa. It can look like your best friend with yet another horrible work supervisor. It can look like anyone who feels incompetent in the face of a challenge.
Sometimes they truly need our help, (this article explains how to tell), but sometimes they’re a hook into the Drama Triangle.
How do we avoid the hook? We listen. We point out the strengths we see in them. We remind them of all the ways they’ve been successful before. We ask them what their options are.
We don’t offer advice, we don’t try to fix things, we let them find their own answers. And celebrate with them when they do. Because, in the absence of a Rescuer, they will survive and likely thrive.
Competitive martyrdom is a choice that pulls you away from your Dream. It’s a path you don’t have to choose.