“Playing the Victim” Comments, Page 1

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33 Comments (7 Discussion Threads) on “Playing the Victim”

  1. One of my exes used to do this. He told me that he’d nearly killed someone in self-defense, and that the guy had a knife. At a later date I found out that he’d also used a knife, but he told me that he’d got it off one of this guy’s friends (I don’t believe him). But when he went to court he got off completely as he had glowing references (from his ex gfs parents among others) saying they’d never believe he would carry a knife, he’d had a difficult upbringing, he’d been bullied out of his last job. He didn’t go to prison, I’d told him he had to take responsibility and walk away from fights but he looked at me as if I was mad, and it was their fault.
    What I don’t understand is how so many people get taken in by him, he’s extremely charming, do people just choose to ignore the truth or do they really believe it?

    1. Great question, Ellie. People get hoodwinked for three reasons mainly. First, the tactics are psychologically powerful and effective for the most part until the other party becomes illuminated about them. Second, many “neurotics” engage in a fair amount of true denial (unconscious protection from allowing oneself to see what is simply too unnerving to accept) because it’s simply too unfathomable or acceptable that some people can be so different and so malevolent in comparison to most. Lastly, some people have some unresolved “issues” of their own (psychological needs) that interfere with their ability to exercise good judgment. They may see clearly the danger, but lie to themselves because there’s something they need so badly from the other person that they’re willing to turn a blind eye. The first two reasons, however, are the most common.

    2. Thank you for that reply Dr Simon. Worryingly, I think I fit into the third category (though I can be a bit neurotic) as I’ve got a fear of abandonment, so I chose to ignore certain things, hence being involved/staying with someone who behaves like that.

      Gives me something to think about, cheers for the illuminating comment.

  2. What an eye opening article. It’s a doorway out of the labyrinth of abuse I’ve found myself in. After leaving my abusive husband, he has taken on the victim role turning the tables and very publicly accusing me of the very abuse I suffered at his hands. This has left me shaking my head wondering what in the world is going on, with neighbours, friends, and family all believing his lies and essentially ignoring me. I actually truly suffered from an abusive relationship and now feel that I have no support or validation/ justice because everyone is pitying him and believe him. He’s got people thinking that I am crazy and have made up all these lies about him, and he’s just husband and father of the year. It’s incredible the lengths he’s gone to to discredit me, and paint himself in a picture of “poor me”.
    I’m left feeling more abused, not just by him, but by his manipulation of society that I feel he’s used as a tool to keep me feeling horrible about myself. If people only knew. As far as I’m concerned this type of person is nothing short of a monster.

  3. Thanks so much for posting this article! This reminds me so much of my boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend. They only dated for about a year. She was very charming and popular in the night-life scene, so he was at first very flattered and excited that someone like her would be interested in a quiet, “unknown” guy like himself. However, she had a very violent temper and unbeknownst to him she had a reputation for being a “primadonna” and would often become very confrontational in public places with him (I witnessed it when he and I were friends before). However, when he would stand up for himself or become stressed and say something snappy back to her, she would break up with him as punishment, not talk to him for weeks, and then appear out of the blue and expect him to be back with her, no questions asked. The worst part was that she would always get him to genuinely believe that it was his fault for making her angry and making her break up with him, and that if he was just more careful about what he said, that she wouldn’t have to do that to him. Even for a year after they broke up, he said that they broke up because he was a terrible, selfish person and hurt her so badly so it made her leave him. She also made it her business to tell everyone in their mutual circle of friends how awful he is. However, I have been in a committed relationship with him for over two years now and he is simply the most caring, warm-hearted, giving person I have ever met. He has a great relationship with many long-term friends and a warm relationship with his family. I have tried to see what made him so “bad” in her eyes and in turn, his eyes, but I just cannot see it. He’s been faithful, thoughtful, fun, and supportive every step of the way. He is even good friends with a few past girlfriends who speak very highly of him even though it didn’t work out.

    Anyhow, sorry for the rant, but her behavior (that still continues to this day) has just boggled my mind and I always wondered how she was able to make a good, caring person feel like they were selfish and not a good partner when they so clearly are. I guess this article answers my question!

  4. I believe my son is in a very unhealthy relationship. He dated this girl when he was in high school and they broke up because of her extravagant lying–like she missed 3 days of school because she had cancer. They were both using drugs. He went to treatment after he had a DUI and went on to college. During his 3rd year he came to us for help for cocaine addiction. We put him in Father Martin’s Ashley; he’s had 4 or 5 relapses but has gone on to graduate. This girl came back into his life a “changed” person before he went into rehab. She stuck by him through that first very difficult year. During that time, we had several conversations about her past wherein she repeated what sounded like a counselor’s manual. She also left or was fire from approximately 8 jobs and in each case it started with an “enemy” at work. After one of these I told her she should apply for unemployment based on the situation. She received and it was stopped with her having to pay back the payments received. The second year of their relationship she was unemployed. She ended up living with us and we gave her spending money and helped her out of several tight monetary situations. My son (us) paid for all dates, holidays, etc. During this year I noticed a disturbing pattern in their relationship. She would create a huge fight over things like “I called you and you didn’t call back for 3 hours.” She would break up with him and it would push all his buttons and he’d go out and drink. Recognizing the triggers, I asked her once why she couldn’t at least talk to him before he went to an event. Her response, “I’m not his baby sitter.” She had agreed to stop drinking and smoking pot. She broke that agreement with, “He’s got to give me some freedom. I can’t give up my friends (all of whom are drug addicts).” I’ve come to believe that this pushing buttons and using triggers are her way to pull him in if he shows signs of independence.

    The last incident was the very most serious. She stayed with us last fall for 7 weeks while she was treated for an eye injury. My son was away at college. During that time, she had frequent bouts of flu like symptoms during the day and would be hyperactive at night. There were a couple of instances of excessive itching. She was on xantax for the eye injury and I asked her why she would take it with her history. She began hanging with a friend who is a notorious drug user (I later found out). Frequent fights, frequent break-ups over her friends, which ended in an incident where my son punctured the tires of her male-roommate who was entertaining known drug dealers when they prevented him from seeing her. He admits the wrong doing (he’s very good at self-blame and self-hate). She is the star state’s witness and told the police he’s extremely dangerous. He told us many specifics about her drug use and what happened during their relationship during those first scary days. (may I continue with another post?)

  5. He was calm and finally realistic about her and determined to get on with life. He told us about her hitting him on many occasions, and I know she assaulted her best friend because I was called in to get her away. Sunday night, I got a text message on my cell phone from her and I missed a call from her an hour later. I confronted my son who said she’d called him and asked him about the girl he’d been dating. I said, “I know her; she’s calling me to tell me something bad about you. What’s up?” He then confessed that he owed her $100. I blew up because she owes us over $800 of money we’d loaned. That doesn’t include the several thousands we’ve spent supporting her over the 3 year relationship.

    I came home from work on Monday and was confronted by a very angry son who accused me of hypocracy, never being able to forgive anyone, and insisting that this girl was not on drugs. She and her male roommate took out a peace order against him; I paid his bond and the terms of the bond is that he not contact any witness. I showed him the papers; he still says she’s not involved!!! He threatened to go live on the streets–I would not give in to her coming over to our house because of a) the legal problems and b) I will not have a drug user in my home.

    You should know that our daughter died when my son was 12 and he has huge unresolved grief issues. Last year, I also found out he had been raped at school when he was 5 1/2 (he was high–and we talked about this afterward and he continued to say it was true but he hardly ever even thought about it). He believes strongly that he should have died instead of his sister who was an extraordinarily good and talented child (so was he–an artist, gifted children’s program, honor role).

    Your article is extremely helpful, but I do need reassurance that we’re doing the right thing by refusing to have her in our home (I know it’s right legally). She’s in his head and I’m terrified what she is capable of doing to him and against him. We have told him, he’s always welcome and we’re always there if he needs us. I am, however, mentally preparing for that knock on the door. It’s all like losing two beloved children. One dead already and the other determined to take the short road to hell by going back with a girl who is a drug addicts and controlling abuser. What can we do, if anything? We’re broke so can’t afford any more treatment programs and no more lawyers and no further education. Any advise or direction would be sinerely appreciated (and yes, before her return, he had agreed to counseling. Now. It’s avoidance and in all his counseling, he’s never, ever brought up the issues of his sister’s death or his rape.)

  6. Oh, I forgot to mention. She is always the victim and my son is always at fault. According to her, she was sexually abused as a child (I believe this one), she’s had cervical cancer (although she’s never had post cancer checkups and is very evasive about the specifics of her treatment); she’s been raped and names the rapist and is very non-specific about the reasons why he was never prosecuted; she has bulemia (no symtoms of such in the last 3 years); and her parents were abusive and threw her out in the world on her own when she was 16. Oh, yes, and in the last year, she’s “cut” herself which required a treatment of xantax and goodness knows what else. I have seen her cry many times, but I’ve never seen a tear for anyone else, including my son.

    1. Hi Amy,

      It is really tough going through this with your son.
      Keeping clear boundaries with him are key to his wellness within your relationship with your him. And as Dr. Simon said making him be responsible.

      When dealing with a drug addicts most often its the drug talking not even the person because of the drug being the center of that person life. Oxicotin is so highly addictive even when perscribed by a doctor.

      Its good that you have support systems to help you cope with all of this.

      Keep strong and keep reading here!

      Maybe like a list of what you will and won’t do and practise saying NO! Its a heart wrenching position you are in.

      Do you think your son is doing drugs again too?

      Best Wishes,

  7. Hi Amy,

    Wow! Definately don’t allow her into the home.
    I’d be more concerned about your son and his behaviors.
    Slashing the tires…is no small item. Keep yourself clear on your boundaries with your son and read the articles here to keep your awareness keen on things that are relevant to your sons behaviors.
    So you can be a responsible parent to your son. It’s a hard thing when you have tried to help her. I think getting more savy about these behaviors is the best thing you can do so you can figure out what is the best response you can give your son at this time. I hope he too learns what you have. Will he read some of these articles with you? Or if you copied them would he? That might help him to open his eyes and then concentrate on dealing with his own behaviors which are not helping his own situation. I hope that helps you. Keep strong! Getting him to take care of his problem and focus on that would be to his best interest here. (Easier said then done.) I would definately keep reiterating that point with him.

    I am interested in hearing what Dr. Simon response here, too.

    1. Oh, I am well aware of his manipulation and he is aware that I am aware. He was one of the gentlest children I have ever known. Exuberante, creative and very affectionate. When my daughter died, I can’t even begin to describe the pain. The ONLY reason I decided to survive was because of my son. The same motivation applies to my husband. He showered gifts on our son; I spent years making excuses and avoiding facing the evidence that he was on drugs–it was too awful to contemplate. We are good people; I taught my children about how bad lying and cheating are.

      The grief and fear of a 12 year old boy is difficult. I’ve read so many books and been to so many counseling and group therapies, I have a PhD in grief. I KNEW he was avoiding it and that it was serious, but no one would listen (my husband for one) and the acting out and avoidance led to drugs and booze. It was during this period that he learned to lie and deny and became very adept at turning an argument against you (YOU are the problem, YOU can’t stand to be wrong, etc. etc.). When he finally came to us for help when he was in college, he confessed to every rotten thing he’d ever done, including an attempt at suicide. After he came out of Father Martin’s, he developed a penchant for confession. He really, truly hates himself.

      Because of a family member who was sexually abused, I did a lot of study of the consequences for victims. One of the most common consequences is lying and manipulation. Those are the tools for survival. My son at one point told me he was sure he was crazy because he was always angry, always depressed. I asked him several times if he had been sexually assaulted. He denied it. When I went into counseling because of panic attacks becauase I KNEW if he ever went back on drugs, we had to let him go–I was literally preparing for his death–I asked the counselor repeatedly if mere unresolved grief were the cause of all this. She said yes, and so when he confessed, I wasn’t surprised.

      The very real problem with addiction is that emotional development stops cold at the age the addict begins using. I do believe he has serious unresolved issues which are the crux of his problems. The character abnormalities were acquired during his teen years and the habits and thinking revert when he’s protecting this girl. I believe firmly that there is good in him. He’s never been a bully and protective of anything or anyone who is helpless. This girl feeds into his insecurities, his guilt and manipulates him so that he manipulates us. So, yes, I am very aware of these patterns. The girl is also fully aware that I have her number because I have persisted in questioning a few of her lies when they didn’t make sense.

      Saving him is my goal. Saving her is beyond my abilities. I love him and have told him he’s welcome home any time and to call us if he needs us. But I will not give in to his tactics (his living on the street–he knows I am terrified)

    2. Yes. I am printing these articles. Reading them with him would not work right now. I’ll leave them in the bathroom by the commode and hope that he’ll read them. That sometimes works.

    3. I forgot to mention the drug this girl is on. Oxycontin. This is not a recreational drug. Cocaine and pot can be used without automatic addiction. This stuff is man-made heroin and addiction is swift and absolute and the treatment is either methodone or 3 months of inhouse rehab or one month inhouse with six month’s half-way house. She admitted to using it to ME and to my son…but “only twice last month.” And she admitted to spending $200 in two weeks on it, which isn’t a casual habit. It’s a serious addiction. She won’t WANT him back unless he joins her either as a co-dependent or a co-user. Somewhere in my head, I’m almost wishing he’d get locked up for a month or two just to keep him away from her.

  8. Thanks for the comments, Amy, Diane. BTW, great summary of relevant issues, Diane!

    My two cents: For a variety of reasons, I can’t comment directly about cases where I have no direct familiarity. Based merely on the facts presented, however, it seems that in Amy’s situation there is an abundance of character issues at play with all parties involved. Many of the behaviors described are indeed serious matters. One of the reasons why persons with significant deficiencies of self-regulation (mature conscience) retain those deficiencies is that all the neurotics around them (parents, legal system, “helping” professionals, etc.) have more than enough conscience for all parties combined. With so much conscience lurking around outside of their own psyches, there’s no real reason for such individuals to develop one of their own. Everybody else is ready to do so much work and invest so much energy and attention to the problems that the person with the problem invests little unless the proverbial crap is about to or has already hit the fan, providing a temporary increase in motivation.

    In Western societies, our cultural “enabling” of individual irresponsibility and accountability has yielding its inevitable fruit. The only solution to the character crisis we’re now dealing with is place the burden on those to whom it rightfully belongs. That’s the right medicine. But sometimes even the best medicine tastes bad or hurts at first.

    Sorry for having to be so general, but the principles involved here are a bit more profound than they might first appear.

    1. I read this yesterday and spent most of last night and this morning digesting the truth—and it’s a truth I knew but wouldn’t admit, and yes, I am entirely culpable in producing the disaster I’m leaving the world. The great irony is that I’ve taken on the Justice Department and won. I’ve taken on the Mormon Church and won. I’ve taken on the Chairman of a House Committee and won. I’ve taken on a governor of a state and won. After my daughter died I lost all heart for battle. I thought if I loved him enough, if I followed the prescription of Christianity and caring, if I was entirely righteous, he would learn. And so I failed at the most important battle of my life. He’s entirely a loser and will join another loser to ensure a never-ending cycle of dishonorable behavior and there is not one thing I can do at this point to right the wrong I’ve done him and the community. The irony is also that life and achieving goals were relatively easy, and the one thing I put my heart and soul into–the one thing I wanted more than anything–was to be a good and nurturing parent. My daughter dead because I called an ambulance instead of taking her to the hospital myself (no one in at the volunteer fire department). My son a lost soul because I was too cowardly to confront him. I should have allowed him to leave as he threatened to do and let the streets teach him the lessons he needed—he knew me well. He knew I’d appease because of my fear of losing another child. He knew and I didn’t go the tough love route. When I needed to be at my best, I was at my worst.

      I’m going to begin attending Compassionate Friends again to help me prepare for the inevitable. My husband and I talked last night about volunteering at the homeless shelter as a small way to pay our debt to society. Thank you for taking the time to help me admit the truth out loud and face the reality. MacBeth was spot on. Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow creeps in this petty pace from day to day to the last syllable of recorded time. It is, indeed, a tale told by idiots, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

      Indeed, what a waste of energy. Loving the unloveable is not a fate I’d wish on anyone.

  9. Ah yes…LOVE this one. My father used to cast himself in the victim role as a way to explain why he abused my sister and I. “I had a bad day at work because my boss is a jerk…”, etc.

    Yet another great article!

  10. There is something else I was thinking about. What about those who talk about their bad childhoods as a reason for what they do? I’ve had this happen to me, one of my exes had had a really horrific childhood. He told me that one of his friends said that he should explain to me in more detail what happened so I could “understand his behaviour”. Then in the next breath was telling me he didn’t want to make excuses for the way he acted. Rationally, I don’t buy it, but then I start to think “well, if all that’s happened maybe I should be more understanding”. I do think it’s a way of playing the victim, but I find it hard to argue with.

    1. I’ve given counsel to similar scenarios countless times. One question I always ask is if there is no intent to offer an excuse, why is the “explanation” even being offered, especially as a way of “understanding” the bad behavior? Of course it’s offered in the hopes that with new “understanding,” the victim will forgive and forget the behavior and also not think badly about the perpetrator (this is what impression management is all about). When people of good character know that their tragic pasts are prompting them to do things they know will be destructive to relationships, they march themselves into therapy BEFORE they do any more damage. They don’t keep doing things and then expect others to understand.

    2. Yep, we can’t control or change the way adults treated us when we were children. We can choose how we behave as adults. They are two separate issues and one is not an acceptable excuse for the other.

    3. Hi Ellie,

      To me the point is this:
      Yes you were treated badly as a child but this does not give you the right to be abusive or destructive or irrespsonsible to others. Many surviors of abuse tend not to abuse others because of their own experince and conscience work to not be like their abusers. Be glad they are your ex’s if they choose to except their own behavior as excusable.

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