The trouble with viewing oneself to be a victim is that it allows the ‘victim’ to carry out any wrongdoings or hurt others and not see the effect or own responsibility for their actions.
When Ronald’s parents decided not to send him for a school tour for which he was chosen, he accepted silently. As he grew older, when they decided that he should give up the love of his life, he silently surrendered. They decided the course he should study, the job to be taken and the money he should earn. Ronald finally married a girl that they found suitable and had children of his own. His wife did not understand his attitude to life. Every time there was a conflict, Ron would back off and give up the fight. He would accept the hopelessness of the situation and his own helplessness and refused to put up a defense. He frequently blamed people other than himself for all that went wrong with his life. He had problems at work that he attributed to other people’s attitudes. He blamed his parents for taking away his right to choose and develop. He loved them but never hesitated to point out their wrongdoings that had spoilt his chances twenty or thirty years ago.
One day, Ron collapsed in the house from a seeming overdose of alcohol. Ron’s wife was aware that he drank occasionally but the event brought forth the possibility that the drinking was more than occasional. On closer questioning, Ronald revealed that the drinking had started during his teens. His wife was devastated. They had tried their best to make sure that Ronald grew up ‘clean’. Ron returned home promising to stop the habit. One day, Ronald lost his job.
Ron’s wife received an urgent missive at work. She had to return home immediately. When she got home, she found Ron in a state of collapse. Her children and the baby sitter had taken shelter in the neighbor’s home. Ronald had gone berserk. He had shouted at the children, smashed a window and collapsed in a heap. The babysitter informed Ron’s wife that she would not come over to help out again. The children were scared to return home. Stressed and worried, Ronald’s wife confronted him with an ultimatum.
Ronald went berserk and started breaking furniture while he screamed and blamed his wife for all his troubles. He had lost his job because of her. He had not wanted children and found himself saddled with two of them. All his unhappiness stemmed from his wife’s adamant behavior.
By the end of the tirade, the children were wailing and his wife was packing the bags to leave. Ronald dozed off to sleep even as his family left the house. The next morning, a repentant Ron slashed his wrists and landed in hospital in a critical condition.
Where does the cycle of victimization start? Who is being treated unfairly? Often, the victim enters a cycle of being a victim and victimizing others. If Ronald’s wife had allowed the behavior to be treated as normal, he would have continued to treat her as the cause of his woes. The point when victimization starts is difficult to determine but the feelings associated with the experience remain fresh in the memory of the person. A person who has been brutally beaten or threatened at any phase of life will retain the memory of abject fear and helplessness for a long time to come. In Ronald’s case, the acquiescence he displayed as a youngster was viewed as maturity. The possibility that he might have resented the parental injunctions did not strike the family as possible.
So, rage has its base in oppression whether forced with intimidation and violence or brought about with the use of emotional duress. Ronald has not developed the judgment about the effect of actions nor has he taken the step of independent action to develop confidence in his abilities.
The trouble with viewing oneself to be a victim is that it allows the ‘victim’ to carry out any form of wrongdoing, cause willful harm or hurt to others and not see the effect or own responsibility for their actions. Typically, victims see themselves as the sufferers in all kinds of situations. The violent husband blames the wife for being a flirt; the abusive parent blames the child for provocation or the angry boss who blames subordinates for all the problems in the department. Ronald’s parents lacked the vision to see the effects of their excessive suppression of the boy’s preferences. There are many parents who would do much more like depriving the child for disobedience or resorting to violence.
Victims are prone to bouts of raging. Potter-Effron presents an analogy to explain the transformation into rage. ‘Water is pouring into streams and rivers, threatening to flood the land. Only a single dam lies in the way. But can that dam hold back the flood?’ The water represents anger. Normally, people who get into bouts of rage are likely to hold their feelings until their emotional dam can no longer take it. The stream of anger that flows is unbridled and dates back from an unknown time in the past.
A mix of angst from acquiescence, rage and addiction form a potent mix that can cause grievous harm to the individual and the family. Ronald may plead that his family return or he may turn to his parents for support. He may decide that marriage was a mistake and alternate the thought with an opinion about how precious his family is. This dilly-dallying will increase his dissonance and cause him to try to harm someone else again.
Is Ronald likely to be open to the suggestion that he is responsible for his current situation? Will he be able to help himself out of this situation? Should his wife allow the situation to remain as is in the hope that things will change? No, to all.
Ronald will have to enter rehabilitation and take professional help about his attitude and learn to identify when he is responsible. In the meantime, he should take the effort to spend time with the children since the past behaviors have created a sense of fear in their minds.
Ronald’s wife will need to bide her time to gauge whether there is a future for the marriage. She should take a positive stand in permitting him to be involved with the children.
How does this situation sort itself? That depends completely on Ronald’s willingness to see himself as the driving force on the road to recovery.
Potter-Effron, 2007. Rage: A Step-by-step Guide to Overcoming Explosive Anger.