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The Victim Triangle and their Toxic Behaviors in Relationships: The Victim

Updated: Nov 11, 2022

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Characteristics of the Victim's “Poor Me” role:

  • Victimized -everything in life is always going wrong for them

  • Oppressed -everybody and everything is trying to keep them down

  • Powerless -they can’t change anything, everything is more powerful than they are

  • Helpless -they just can’t do it, it’s too much

  • Hopeless -life will always be like this for them

  • Dejected -if you thought this way wouldn’t you be depressed all the time?

  • Ashamed -all this hits the “worthlessness” or “defective” button

  • Comes off as “Super-sensitive” and forces everyone to tread gently around them, “please don’t upset me” -which can be felt as manipulative -or make the other person feel alone

  • Similarly, they come off as too fragile to handle anything, rendering them unhelpful and unreliable in a relationship -others must carry all the weight

  • In order to maintain this role, they must deny any responsibility for their negative circumstances

  • Likewise, they must deny that they have any power to change those circumstances -even though they use the power of their “helplessness” and “fragility” to escape responsibility -thus creating the very circumstances they feel victimized by

  • A person in the victim role will look for a Rescuer to save them, and this is how the victim cycle can start -by engaging a complimentary personality: a Rescuer to a Victim

  • Should someone refuse or fail to play the role of Rescuer, there will be accusations of oppression or neglect -ie. playing right into their victim identity

  • More importantly though, this is a great position to use guilt and blame to “win” the rescuer over

  • Because they are primarily rooted in that victim personality, they spend their lives feeling inadequate, inferior, and worthless -all feeding into the victim identity

  • If you spend your life feeling at the bottom of everything everyday, with others supposedly better off than you, you will definitely harbor resentment and maybe lash out every once in a while to those you consider superior to you -and feel justified about it (that is moving from Victim to Persecutor)

  • Convinced of their total impotence and incompetence, the Victim lives in a perpetual shame spiral, that often leads to self abuse and suicidal ideation

  • Their greatest fear is that they won’t make it; they won’t be able to handle it

How did the Victim come to be?

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The Victim has a place in all of us. It represents that child-like part that is needy, innocent, and very vulnerable. We may have become stuck here because something happened to us that convinced us that we can’t take care of ourselves. If we had not been weak, stupid, powerless, or defective, it would not have happened. Or, we were raised to deny our instincts to fight back and be assertive which is needed to protect ourselves.

When that happens, a core belief of defectiveness becomes our total identity: I am broken and unfixable. And then a lifelong barrage of negative thinking continues to play out: “I can’t do it by myself.” “I won’t make it.” That anxiety forces the Victim to always be on the lookout for someone stronger or more capable to take care of them; the Rescuer.

If I believe that I am not enough to save myself, then I must rely on others for my rescue. Unfortunately, this perpetuates a lifetime of crippling dependence on others, straining our relationships, making other’s resentful of us.

Here’s one way that plays out:

The Rescuer attempts to save the Victim from their circumstance. The Rescuer offers solution after solution, to the Victim’s consistent response of “Yeah, but…” This continues until the Rescuer feels exhausted, defeated, and useless (a Rescuer’s Kryptonite). The Victim has effectively sabotaged the efforts of the rescue in order to remain the victim.

Does that sound like a powerless individual? They may not be consciously aware of this motivation, but there are certainly some power moves being used here. That doesn’t sound like weakness either. And what it really sounds like is that they have discovered a way to live under the debilitating belief that they are unable to care for themselves while simultaneously taking care of themselves vicariously through others. That’s genius!

But not sustainable in a healthy and enduring relationship. Nor does it do anything to boost self-confidence or self-esteem.

So here’s what you do:

Recognize the pattern you’re in. Redefine your power. If you can get people to take care of you,

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what else can you do? Challenge that restrictive belief that you can’t take care of yourself. Of course you can take care of yourself! You got yourself here, to this day, to this place, didn’t you?

As long as you play the role of the Victim, you will always be led straight back to Victim. Nothing will change. It’s an endless cycle of feeling the panic of dependence and worthlessness. There is no escape except to do the hard thing: take full responsibility for how you feel about yourself and what that inevitably leads you to do.

You’re not responsible for how you got here, but you are responsible for who you are now and what you do going forward.

Please read further for more information intro to the Victim Triangle, the Victim, the Rescuer, the Persecutor.

Adapted from Karpman's Drama Triangle and Lynne Forrest's The Victim Triangle.


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