Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Part 2, the fine line between actual limitations (physical, emotional, etc.) and victimhood, or is it a cry of “wolf” or a cry of “help”?

This is where it gets tricky. It can be difficult to determine whether the issue is the person’s actual limitations or are they faking it? Strange to say, I think it can be difficult for the T.O.W. (Tyranny of the Weak) person to figure it out sometimes too. It seems to become such a habit for them to call upon, and call attention to their weakness to get out of things they don’t want to do, and to have others coddle or cushion them from experiencing normal life. It has become normal life for them and they often feel a sense of entitlement, and then outrage if the coddling and cushioning are not forthcoming.

Once again, I can use my dad is a good example. We were urged not to upset him, and there was a huge list of things that were not allowed—for no other reason than they might upset him. These ranged from the usual parental restrictions to things that seemed downright silly or unduly harsh. My mom spent her 50 years of marriage tip-toeing around all of these restrictions and doing everything needed for the family. When my dad was suffering, and it turns out, dying from cancer, he was unable to get up from his chair. My mother did not believe him and exhorted him to try harder. Later after he was gone and she was ten years older, at the same age he had been, she ruefully mentioned that she should have believed him when he said he couldn’t get up. So why didn’t she believe him? He was ill and if he said he was unable to get up, that should have been that. But she had spent all those years helping him, doing his work, coddling him because he was ill, or so he said. She either had just gotten tired of hearing it, and/or she just didn’t believe him anymore when he said it.

To use a more minor example, my son often had friends over at the house when he was in high school. One of these was a horribly picky eater. Among the many things he would not touch was cheese, he told me he was allergic to it. Well, imagine my surprise when I found him happily (and healthily) eating pizza with lots of cheese on it! The so-called allergy had been a ploy because he didn’t like how my Mac ‘n cheese had looked. Needless to say, I didn’t believe him anymore when he claimed to be allergic to various foods he didn’t want to eat. Now if he had really been allergic to something, it could have been disastrous to offer it to him. Although he was only a teen, that was sort of a dangerous game to play if he had any real allergies.

I ran into a situation like that at work where I normally am unfailingly honest, even when it does not turn to my advantage. Anyway, I was the low-person there and everyone could and did give me tasks to do which I took seriously and completed the best I could. My supervisor encouraged me to speak up in meetings because I hadn’t been doing that. It was very difficult for me to do. I tried to speak up, once, twice, maybe three times and each time whatever I had said was either ignored completely or someone said the exact same thing immediately after and received kudos for it. My supervisor urged me more than once, over a period of time. I was discouraged and didn’t really try much harder to do as she had asked me. Without realizing it, I was expecting her (and the others) to compensate for my own lack of participation—because I was so shy, it was too hard for me, blah blah blah, victimhood excuses. I was coasting on my weakness and expecting different treatment than the others. I completed all the other assignments when asked to do so, but this task I ignored because I felt that I “couldn’t” do it. This crying wolf and asking for special treatment came back to bite me, just like his behavior came back to bite my Dad when he actually could not get up from his chair.

When I was injured at work, this same boss, along with co-workers, did not believe me and thought I was faking it! I was outraged and felt they had no compassion over my very real injury and pain. But I had forgotten that they had been carrying “poor me” along, allowing me to be silent in the meetings and not participating or adding value to the team. They rightfully thought that I had already taken myself off their team by not speaking up. They felt little loyalty or compassion but instead figured I was faking it yet again to get out of something. Even though it was a job I had loved, I ended up getting fired. It has taken me quite a while to figure out exactly why that had happened.

My son had a girlfriend who constantly got out of things by pleading illness. He is a compassionate sort, he works with people with disabilities and loves his job. Yet he got tired of picking up the slack in the relationship all of the time. When there was work to be done, girlfriend could not do it. When fun or friends beckoned, she was fine and raring to go. He felt guilty about it, but became suspicious of her, they fought over every task to be done and ended breaking up. Was she actually unable to do the tasks? Hard to say, perhaps she was, for at least some of them. But she took out her victimhood too much and expected someone (him) to do it all. She didn’t put forth an effort but expected to be coddled and totally taken care of and he got tired of it. She was outraged that he dared to doubt her and dared to leave. Now she is, through necessity, doing most of those tasks by herself.

The online, recent example was of a talented, beautiful woman who demanded that she be treated with special consideration because she was so emotional. We could not disagree, however mildly with her proclamations without her becoming very upset. She would warn us that it was that time of the month, or some other such reason (the last one being quite serious, but by that time, I at least, was tired of her crying wolf all the time). We were supposed to coddle, agree with and generally not rock the boat with her. It hampered free conversation and created much chaos and havoc until she finally left. We all felt a bit guilty, as we had genuinely liked her, but also relief that now we could speak freely without constantly having to “mind” what we said so as to not upset her.

So what’s the moral of this long story? Well, don’t cry wolf, I guess could be one good lesson. And not to expect other people to keep picking up your slack—or if you continue to do so, there could be repercussions! But basically, I think, pulling out the victimhood card weakens relationships, weakens mutual respect. We all have limitations, and some of us are blessed with fewer than others. But it’s important not to use those limitations as a guilt trip to force someone to do what you, yourself are able to do, and not to continually ask for special treatment because of X or Y. Doing so creates a sense of entitlement from the T.O.W. person and feelings of resentment and guilt over that resentment in the person stuck with doing all the work in the relationship. It's unhealthy game-playing, dishonest and not conducive to strong, happy relationships. Take Off Your “Fragile” Sign!

3 Comments:

Blogger Walker said...

I just read part one to be up to speed.
I know what you are talking about and the people it effects.
I know a few people like that and have had to deal with some who were to lazy to live life by fending fr themselves and opt to guilt others to do it for them.
There is no getting away from people like this just like there is no way for people who are caring not to buckle to their needs.
BUT.... for many there comes a time when they get fed up.
When what they are sacrificing is costing them more than they were willing to give, it becomes ugly.

There will always be users and victims aka suckers.
It's what makes the world go around.
Someone has to pick up the slack or the whole suffers

10:35 PM  
Blogger Molly said...

It makes for a very uncomfortable atmosphere when you have someone in your life that you have to tiptoe around. So much better to be able to speak plainly and not have your words blow up in your face! Glad you moved on from that unhealthy place!

8:13 AM  
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