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Pseudo-victims — 60 Comments

  1. Truthty, I also wasn’t labeled ADHD until much into adulthood, but again, I think that a lot of ADHD is genetic, but that doesn’t mean that the child should be allowed to be out of control as well, it simply means that it is a challenge for the kid to learn like a “typical” (non-adhd kid) I have no doubt though that I am somewhat ADHD but I’ve learned to work around it and to generally focus on a task.

    I have more Short term memory problems with the PTSD since the plane crash, but that has improved significantly and again, I am able to function within normal limits even on that score. My therapist tested me on that and I am still “within the normal range” for my age, although on the low end of “normal” but that’s okay.

    When my step son was severely head injured we had him tested by a leading neuro psych doc and the doctor told us afterwards that the young man was working with severely diminished IQ and very low short term memory and high imipulsiveness etc but that the worst part for him would be that he RECOGNIZED that he was not what he had previously been (exceptionally bright) and that this knowledge would be difficult for him emotionally. He was very right, and I am sort of in the same boat. I recognize where I am less “bright” than I used to be, and for some time it was very upsetting to me, but now I am more accepting of what I am NOW rather than being filled with grief and regret for what I USED TO BE.

    Just as I can no longer run like I could when I was 18, or lift heavy weights, and never will be able again to be as strong and fleet as I was as a teenager, I have to accept that I am what I am at 67, not grieve that I am not what I was at age 18.

    I’ll be going to my 50th high school reunion next summer, Good Lord willing and the creek don’t rise, and there are several of my class that are in extremely poor health, and others that have passed away, so I’m grateful that I’m here at all and in relatively good health for my age.

    Each day that we have is a gift from God I believe, and we should not waste that gift but use it for our own and for the benefit of others.

  2. The problems with “helping” folks is to be able to distinguish the person who is a pseudo-victim and who is the true victim wanting out…because it is sure NOT a clear picture. True victims are many times trauma bonded to the abuser, Elizabeth Smart and Jaycee Dugard are two examples of true victims who were totally trauma bonded to their kidnappers and abusers. Stockholm syndrome IS REAL. Many times cult members who have been “brainwashed” by cults will fight like wild cats if the police or anyone else tries to remove them from the cult no matter how dangerous or twisted it is, because it is their reality and they truly believe that the world is out to get them.

    Then, there is our National concept of “free will” for adults to choose their own life styles no matter how twisted or “crazy” as their constitutional rights.

    Working in mental health care with very elderly people who had lost their judgment and were doing things that were very self neglectful or irrational was a dicey slope of protecting their rights as adults to make their own decisions, even decisions that “everyone else” could see were poor decisions taught me a great deal about the fine line of the “rights” of the individual versus “being crazy.”

    Over the past few years one of my neighbors, a good friend and good neighbor, reached that point and fell into the hands of a drug addict woman who milked him for every dime the poor man had on a monthly basis, leaving him alone in his home without utilities or food or water and there was nothing we could do to get him out of her clutches. It is not against the law to “self neglect.”

    We did manage to get her arrested once (there was a warrant out on her) and I called the police and let them know she was there, and we knew that the old man would take her and try to evade the police so my son guarded one road out of the area and I guarded the other until the cops could get her and arrest her and that kept her in jail for a few weeks, but that was about all we could do. Eventually he got to the point that he was “certifiable” and his daughter could take control of his person and property (by then there was essentially NO property as he had sold everything to get the money to give this woman for booze and drugs) but at least he was safe until the time he finally passed away.

    When people whose judgments are poor, and that is the case in many elderly who are not “legally” demented, but are no longer able to distinguish good advice from poor advice, and lies from truth, or other people who are “brainwashed” by people with evil intentions, it is difficult to help them to see the truth. I’m in that situation with my own mother believing Patrick’s lies that I am “out to get poor innocent him.” Well, obviously he is NOT innocent, he is a cold blooded killer, but my mother chooses to believe his lies rather than the EVIDENCE to the contrary.

    Sometimes it is the same with true victims who are under the control emotionally of offenders who use them for both “fun and games” and profits. Sigh. It is frustrating.

    When I took my younger son and fled for our lives, it was difficult for me to leave my mother behind in the control of Hamilton and my son’s other family members who were controlling her and lying to her, but there came a point I had to give up trying to protect her in order to protect my own life. It was one of the hardest and saddest days of my life. she is still under the emotional control of my son Patrick, and I have finally come to realize that there is nothing I can do about it, I cannot change her thinking, not be evidence or persuasion of any kind and since she is not “legally” incompetent because she still knows who the president is, then my hands are tied. Accepting that my hands are tied is extremely difficult, and I have seen the families of many people whose loved ones were under the influence of offenders in the same unhappy position of having to accept that. I think it is probably one of the most difficult positions there is. WE can see so clearly that the person we love, as in the case of my mother and my neighbor, that they are being abused, but they believe truly that the abuser loves them. Frustrating.

    • Joyce, you’re spot-on about the limitations of “helping” someone. I was recently asked whether or not I became angry at people who were complaining about an abusive partner, offered help, and then turned right back to their abusers, and I had to answer, “No. I cannot be angry with them because I understand the dynamics of abuse. But, more important than that understanding is the fact that I cannot control what another person does, thinks, believes, or responds to.

      Do I feel frustrated by people in obvious need of help who won’t accept any type of assistance? Well, of course – I’m only human, but I temper that frustration with pity. I was just as deep in blind denial as anyone else ever was, and I remained with Victor out of personal fears – abandonment, inability to live on my own, that I would be unloveable, etc…. So, I have to remember that it took me nearly 15 years to “see” that I was living in a violently abusive environment with Victor and I do not have any right to become angry with someone who is still mired in the status of “victim.”

      The people that I cannot tolerate are the ones that claim to be victims, play the part as a means to an end, and use that victim-status as a crutch or tool. Once any situation is defined as “toxic” or “abusive,” then the role of “victim” is finished. Period. What a person does after that determines whether they’re a pseudo-victim, or not. If it takes them some time to put a plan of self-protection and self-preservation into action, that’s understandable. But, if they keep saying that they HAVE to stay because of this or that, then they’re trading (or, prostituting) themselves and they have become familiar with that role.

      As far as seniors and poor judgment goes, it’s terrible that people target the elderly and that there really are no means to “protect” them against poor judgment. It’s just like being an a**hole – it’s not against the Law to be one. ;-

  3. Truthy, I think the LINE between “helping” someone (or offering them a hand up, not a hand out) and being an ENABLER is that the enabler DOES IT FOR THEM, then gets angry because the person doesn’t appreciate what the enabler has done. So when we offer or do give someone an opportunity to help themselves and they do not take advantage of it, then we have NO “right” to be angry at them. We can be sad, we can be disappointed, but not angry because they have no responsibility to behave the way we would like for them to, if that makes any sense.

    Recently I gave a family some work here on my farm. It was not big pay, but it was SOME pay and they had no work but it did not really “help” them because they chose to spend that money in what I thought was an UNwise way and so before long I had no more work, and they were no better off than before. I realized at that point that they were not going to help themselves in any meaningful way or take advantage of any opportunity to “get ahead” so I quit wasting my time. I wasn’t angry at them. Disappointed some, but not at all surprised.

    Some friends who are visiting for the weekend were talking about a young woman we know and that she had flunked out of nursing school for the second time, because she had moved out from her mother’s house, into a house with her BF (a much older man) and as a result had not passed her classes. She made a CHOICE to move, and the moving cost her time to study, thus she flunked, where if she had WAITED a few months she could have had time to study and pass, so her CHOICE cost her her degree and license. Her mom is very frustrated with her but has decided not to try to “help” her any more because you cannot help someone who won’t take advantage of an opportunity to help themselves.

    Sometimes, in the case of people who are emotionally or intellectually retarded, or even trauma bonded to their abuser, there is no help until they decide they A) need help and B) want help and C) will help themselves and take advantage of an opportunity. As long as someone refuses to go to a DV shelter, all the DV shelters in the wrold won’t protect them or keep them safe.

  4. I found a good article about Carole Alden, the convicted murderer written about in the book mentioned in the article.


    Oakley, the author of the book talks about having compassion for people who are “down and out” but not getting into the hole with them. You can google Carole Alden’s name and find many more interesting articles about this.

  5. In discussing “why won’t they believe me?” we’ve wandered off subject some (but that’s okay) but it brought to mind again this article about what I call “pseudo-victims” so I thought I’d bring it up. again. Barbra Oakley’s books are so well written and researched and they have opened my mind to the “pseudo” victims who are in fact NOT real victims at all but abusers who got “beaten” at their own game by a victim escaping, or by being abused by an even stronger abuser.

    Like for example in a domestic abuse situation when the cops arrive and try to pulll the man (usually) off the woman he is beating, SHE then attacks the police. That kind of behavior makes some people believe that “she likes” being abused, and frankly, environment and are both victims and abusers, and swap chairs between the two on a regular basis.

    • Joyce, that’s a very GOOD example, and one that the general public, law enforcement, AND the civil/criminal legal systems simply DO NOT GET.

      The psychology involved in domestic violence and abuse is convoluted and extremely paradoxical. I never, EVER told anyone about what Victor did to me simply because I knew that nobody would believe me. I knew this. And, it turned out to be true. Even my own mother believed that I was exaggerating and even fabricating the abuses that I endured.

      Then, there was the Social Services case worker that actually asked me, “Well, if it was THAT bad, why didn’t you just leave, then?” I was shocked beyond response. When I finally processed what that person had just said, I answered, “Sir, you have a degree in this field, and you have the nerve to ask such a stupid question? Surely, you’re familiar with the dynamics of abuse……..”

      For the majority of people who were raised in an environment of dysfunction, we were NEVER “believed” whenever we spoke the truth. Mom’s drunk. Nope – mom’s SICK. Relative molested me. Nope – relative is a nice guy and you’re making stuff up to cause trouble. I was alone and frightened. Nope – you were just fine whether mom was sick, or not.

      So, having touched on that dynamic, my personal experiences at being targeted and victimized by spaths WERE NOT my fault – I did not deserve what had been done to me. But, I have to own some of the dynamics. I trusted first, and edged into denial as behaviors became more and more objectifying.

      Now, having typed all of that, above, doesn’t make me a “bad person,” or “stupid,” or anything else. It’s just a symptom of a greater whole where I’m concerned.

      Today, “being believed” isn’t a desperate imperative, anymore. At one point, it was my primary objective: to make people believe what had been done to me. For me, it was a tremendous waste of time, energy, and focus. But, I had to experience that in order to begin sorting myself out.

      And, it’s an absolute fact that victims and abusers switch chairs. Joyce, I’m glad that you mentioned that – it came up during counseling, recently. I don’t care HOW much a person will insist that, as a DV&A victim, they never abused their children. That is simply not true. It may not have been intentional in the same way that the abuser acted, but the children suffered, regardless.

      My own children suffered because of what I tolerated from their father. And, again, with the second exspath. I know this, and I own it.

      For me, “being believed” might mean that I was a “good” person, perhaps. Whatever validation that I sought wasn’t forthcoming, and I HAD to learn about this aspect of the dynamics for me to learn how to validate myself.

      No easy task, that, either. Especially, when being dismissed has been the status quo for my entire life. LOL!!!!!!!! I’m rewiring my thinking. I’m neuroscuplting. And, it just takes time. 😉

  6. Great points, Truthy! Absolutely spot on. Some people never learn to get out…they continue to stay…I have worked with and counseled many abused women, AND men and it is frustrating when they go back and go back..thinking things will change.

    Many times one or both partners are borderline-personality disordered. Frequently abusers (75%) are true PSYCHOPATHS, and many more times they are BPD, with a majority of the women who are abusers or co-abusers being BPD.

    Very few “typical” people with good boundaries will stay in an abusive relationship. Much of the time those who do, are trauma bonded, like Elizabeth Smart and Jaycee Dugard, but both of those were young girls at the time they were kidnapped and abused.

    Pure shame also makes us continue to endure abuse…”what would the neighbors think?” if we told on the abuser, everyone thinks s/he is such a nice person.

    We should I think have compassion for abused individuals, but not pity…compassion is active not passive. Pity is simply putting ourselves in a spot to be abused by Faux-victims. Empathy for their plight, and help in a proactive way to help them help themselves.

    One of the red flags to me is a person who is not willing to help themselves, but want others to assume a parental role, taking care of their needs and not expecting them to contribute. Your friend “Gretchen” seems to fit that mold completely.

  7. Joyce, you typed, “Pure shame also makes us continue to endure abuse…”what would the neighbors think?” if we told on the abuser, everyone thinks s/he is such a nice person.”

    In my experienced opinion, I believe that shame is the core or why people remain. I also believe that shame is the cornerstone for trauma-bonding. When I remained with Victor, I did so out of shame and fear. I was ashamed that I had married such an abusive ne’er-do-well, and I was terrified that I wouldn’t “make it,” on my own.

    What I did not understand at the time that I left was that I had been programmed to play the part of Victim, and to remain in that role for the rest of my life. Everything that I did was based upon shame and fear. I was ashamed of who I thought I was, as per the childhood family dysfunction. And, I was fearful because I didn’t believe in myself, I didn’t trust my own judgment, and I kept making decisions based upon shame and fear, THUS……….what a cycle, huh?………THUS, continuing to make decisions that resulted in confirmation of what a loser I thought I was.

    Now, when someone is held captive as Elizabeth Smart and Jaycee Dugard were, that’s a completely different scenario with a completely different psychology involved, although many of the same terms are used. For children who were raised by their parents in an environment of dysfunction, the behaviors are almost………ALMOST………cast in bronze. And, the behaviors are almost identical across the boards, even if they vary from person to person.

    So, I read “Healing The Shame That Binds You,” by Bradshaw early on in my recovery. I didn’t necessarily “like” what I was reading, but it made 100% sense to me as to HOW I became codependent, trauma-bound, and such an easy target for human predators. Once I read that book, I realized that I was under no obligation to “Make Other People LIKE Me” and that, no matter what I might say or do, there were always going to be people who were not going to like me, and that this fact did not make me a “bad person” or a total failure.

    Yes, Gretchen was NOT going to do anything to help herself – she spent 4 months without a job and didn’t apply for any social services, whatsoever. Because she is so deeply mired in her “I’m A Victim” role, she is going to work up the nerve to act surprised when her house is suddenly under a Sheriff’s Sale, and she has to make yet one more decision based upon panic and fear. She doesn’t WANT to “get it,” no matter how much she claims that she does. It requires a whole lot more than just acknowledging that there’s issues present. It requires digging in that nasty cesspool, and finding the soul that was buried for all those decades.

    • And, I meant to remark upon compassion – I most definitely have compassion for people who are suffering. I have been working on governing my levels of empathy to avoid jumping down the rabbit hole WITH those who are suffering.

      And, I guess I do feel pity, as well. Not the over-the-top-let-me-FIX-it-pity that I once indulged in, but the sadness for what someone is likely feeling or experiencing. But, I don’t attend pity-parties, anymore. I have thrown some of the BEST pity-parties on the planet, compete with refreshments and entertainment. But, I noticed that I’m typically the ONLY person at the party, as it should be, and that I cannot “blame” anyone else for not accepting my invitation. LOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      • Cute! I’ve been at some of my own pity parties and I know what you mean. I DO have compassion for any person’s problems, even if they are of their own making. That doesn’t mean I think that they should NOT have the consequences of their choices though.

        Someone once said “sometimes you have to be flat on your back before you look UP” and I think that’s true, at least for me anyway. I had to be flat on my back before I realized I needed to get up and get going myself, not lying in my own pity party and doing nothing for myself. I am responsible for my own self, and if others abuse me, I am responsible for picking myself up and dustiing myself off and getting away from those abusers. That may mean a divorce and NC, it may mean changing schools or changing jobs, but whatever it takes I am the one responsible for my self. I’ve had help from others, and support, but still the onus is on ME to act. I can’t be stuck in self pity and accomplish anything. I can’t depend on others to do things for me.

        • Joyce, what a terrific quote about being on one’s back!

          I believe that it’s all about emerging, for me. I’m finally emerging into whom I have always been, but never allowed to simply “be.”

          The hyper-empathy that I used to entertain is swinging into a better space – more balanced or centered, if you will. It’s evolved into compassion – the ability to FEEL without taking on someone’s issues as my own.

  8. Truthy, I brought this tread back up because it deals with the difference between TRUE altruism and “giving” but expecting a “return” of some kind.

    Whether a person “gives” out of a full purse or a more modest one doesn’t really matter, the point is that altruism does not expect a “repayment” or an obligation on the part of the recipient. And that “repayment” can take many forms in both emotional or physical.

    I think it is important that we be aware of and differentiate between those who give altruistically and those who “give” but with strings.

    The dictionary defines altruism as “the principle or practice of unselfish concern for or devotion to the welfare of others (opposed to egoism ).” i.e. giving whether much or little but expecting no “repayment” another dictionary says “SELFLESS concern for the benefit of others.” I think that is the key in that REAL altruism doesn’t put SELF before another or EXPECT repayment.

    • Joyce, I think that distinction is primary in whether or not it’s “true” altruism. Expecting any sort of recompense isn’t what it’s all about.

      Going back to the core of the article, it’s interesting that “Carol” sought and targeted the most needy of people and expected them to maintain some sort of loyalty to her as a result of their “gratitude” for her having “saved” or “rescued” them.

      I think the “battered woman syndrome” does have its merits as an ingrained condition, but it’s become a catch-all phrase to defend ANY woman’s actions, and that simply cannot always be the case. There comes a point when the role of “victim” becomes blurred with that of an abuser. Just like the gal that I mentioned in the other thread, she gave and gave and gave, but the COST of her care and concern was to agree with her outrageous assertions, accept her “advice” as sage wisdom, and so forth………and, she played the victim, frequently.

  9. Truthy, as Dr. Eric Berne pointed out in his book “Games People Play” any time a victim stays in a dysfunctional or abusive relationship WE are also part of the “playing” of the “Game.” The 3 positions are victim, rescuer and persecutor, and each individual in the “play” assumes one of these rolls and then alternates with the other roles, so if we stay in an abusive relationship, though we may be a “victim” we are also involved in the dysfunction.

    People will have their “favorite” role of the three positions of the game, some more abuser than the others, but none the less, we are responsible as well by STAYING in it.

    I finally learned that when people offer “help” it is many times like “Carol” in the book, a way to get some sort of “pay back” or “gratitude” and if you don’t give it, like your buddy wanted, well, then you have “violated” the “contract” and refused to play that game. It will ENRAGE them sometimes.

    Years ago I took in a “victim” who was living in her small RV with two huge dogs, but it wasn’t long before I realized that she was an abuser herself who had been “bested” by a person more abusive than she was, but OH! DID SHE PLAY THE POOR VICTIM” and felt I was OBLIGATED to “help” her no matter how she acted. I asked her to leave, gave her a few dollars to make sure she could get out of the state, and then in her mind I became her abuser. Fortunately many of her would be victims to mooch off of also had her figured out.

    My “favorite roll” is enabler, but I no longer engage in that behavior. If someone is capable of taking care of themselves, I do not offer “help” when they fail to meet their own responsibilities. And when I do help someone it is without expectations of them paying me back or being “grateful.” Expecting gratitude is counter productive to true altruism and I realize that that reward for “giving” can be a “drug” in itself and very addicting.

    When we engage in TRUE altruism we help those who CANNOT help themselves, and we don’t expect gratitude or repayment. It is an entirely DIFFERENT mind set from the “enabler” who expects, yes, DEMANDS gratitude and repayment in some form.

    The story Jesus told about the “Good Samaritan” who helped the man beaten and robbed and left in a ditch is a perfect example of true altruism, as well as the illustrations of those people who FAILED to help him and had no compassion for his plight.

    We should have compassion on those who are “less fortunate” than we are, but we must not enable those people who are not taking responsibility to help themselves when they are ABLE to do so.

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