Sweetie and I are both Aries. Though we appear to be quiet, we both have fiery personalities. I remember this most when we have little fights. Our emotions are hugely powerful, the energy in the room snaps with tension and the need to be heard.
I grew up in a family that forbade open fighting. If my sister and I argued, we’d both get in trouble and sent to our separate rooms – so this drove the fighting underground. I don’t know why this happened, but I’m sure it had something to do with parents wanting to protect their kids from conflict. Every family has it’s dynamics, this was ours: still waters have a damn powerful undertow. My emotion was something to hide and strategically release later on.
Sweetie grew up in a large family with FOUR older brothers. As the youngest by 12 years and the only girl, she had to learn to SHOUT to be heard. When we got together, these differing styles of reacting to conflict came into sharp relief. My icy silence with her volume. We both had to move towards the middle.
I brought the silence through my adulthood. I *never* fought in any of my relationships prior to being with Sweetie. She had to actually teach me HOW to fight. And I had to teach her how to bring it down a notch. I think that ultimately, when you both want to be together, you’re both equally motivated to figure shit out.
A few weeks ago, Sweetie said something to me that probably would have blown up into a massive fight had she said any sooner:
“You position yourself as the victim. When you do that, I am the asshole, and that’s not fair to me.”
This may have been said at a loud volume.
It was a completely silly mini-fight, we were both tired and I was snippy because I’d expected her to realize I needed help with the groceries and skipped the part where I should have asked nicely. I went straight to cranky. Sweetie will throw cranky right back into my lap, she doesn’t take that shit from me for a second.
A few years ago, accusing me of “positioning myself as a victim” would have deeply upset me. I would have felt *wounded*. You know, victimized. I would have allowed the hurt of this statement to injure me and my pain would be proof of my innocence and status as a victim in this fight.
As soon as she said it, I could see she wanted to grab the words out of the air and stuff them back into her mouth. The words stopped our fight dead. I was stunned.
She was right.
In that moment, I realized I utilize my own sense of victimization to elevate myself in any conflict. I am the one done wrong here, I’m a good person with good intentions, therefore I *can’t* be the one at fault here. It’s this other person who’s doing me wrong.
I had no idea I was weaponizing my own victimization! And how messed up is that??? It’s probably the most toxic guilt trip you could ever throw at a loved one.
I’ve been thinking about it for weeks now, and I’ve started to see this tactic at play in other areas of my life. If and when someone positions themselves as being victimized by me, there’s not much I can do about it… Except feel victimized! For example, our previous landlady felt victimized by our use of the shared washer and dryer. To keep the peace and avoid conflict, I started to bike as big a bag of laundry as I could carry the 30 minutes into town to process it at the laundry mat. Talk about a martyr complex. I hate conflict so much, I’d rather bike in the rain with garbage bags of my clothes and spent an extra $40 a month so I can avoid one more conversation, feeling angry and victimized the entire time.
It’s interesting how two people can weaponize victimization in a single conflict. In grief, there is sometimes terrible fallout for families after losing a loved one, particularly a parent or child. I’ve previously talked about the very common question that comes up during readings: Does ____ see how ____ is behaving?
There is so much pain behind that question.
I’m working my way through the book “Nonviolent Communication”. I’m still learning how to shift my own tendency to position myself as a victim, and instead ask “What is my unmet need? What is the unmet need of this other person?”
The answers are not always obvious, and sometimes, we’re limited by the actions of other people. Like Sweetie & I are motivated by our mutual desire to get along and work things out, it’s hard to set aside your own power of victimization. Although Sweetie managed to perfectly time her illumination of my own victim complex, if she’d done that any earlier, I probably would’ve been mighty pissed. You can’t just take away someone’s weaponized victimhood. That would only super-charge it.
I really like Catherine’s comment in the previous entry. She said: I tend to diffuse potential heated confrontations nowadays by simply stating that I am unwilling to get into an argument, we have differing opinions, I respect theirs and we’ll have to agree to disagree. It’s like a firework being drenched in water : it fizzles out very quickly!
This is great in situations where you can walk away, where agreeing to disagree is an option. It’s a viable option in a lot of long-term relationships… but hey, I can only affect my own sense of victimization. I can only choose to disarm my own victim weaponization. If someone else wants to hold on to their own sense of injury because it helps them to feel more in-control, more powerful, well, the only thing we can do with that is not be victimized by that action. Break the cycle of weaponized victimization.
Lay down arms, accept, and observe. Maybe set up some boundary patrol.
Does this all make sense you guys? Have you ever caught yourself weaponizing your own victimization?