Letting Go Of Our Willfulness: Playing Victim

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It may seem strange to include playing the victim as a form of willfulness, but consider it as a tactic that some people use to get what they want. It is a way to get attention, since most people feel sorry for someone who has been victimized. And if someone acting as a victim is particularly good at it, they may even get others to do whatever the victim wants, especially to take care of them. Of course the victim pays a steep price for their role, since they are forced to depict themselves as unfortunate. But as long as they get the payoff, the attention and concern, they will continue to play the role.

We all have had something bad happen to us. We got hurt and have deep emotional wounds as a result. At the time we may have enjoyed the attention we received, and we may have yearned for someone to heal our wounds with their affectionate support. But when others started to look elsewhere, we began to put the past behind us and move on to the tasks at hand. While we could still play the victim if necessary to get others to notice our suffering and pay attention to us, perhaps even love us, we would prefer to present a strong image of ourselves, not a weak one such as a victim.

Most people outgrow the inclination to blame their parents for their difficult life, because this blaming does not change the circumstances. It is much more effective to deal directly with the problems at hand than to simply attribute them to someone else. Even so, all our efforts to correct what we perceive as wrong with us will not fully succeed, because a new problem will always arise to replace the old one.

What we need to do is replace the image of ourselves as damaged and defective with an appreciation for the Source that is operating through us. This shift may occur through meditation, for then we become calm enough to see how the Source is aware of us and how it cares for us in all situations.

Richard G. Hartnett, MA, MS, LCADC is a former Jesuit priest who now lives with his wife, Kathy, by a lake in northwestern New Jersey. He has served as the chaplain at Hazelden New York, pastoral counselor at the Chemical Dependency Department of the International Center for the Disabled in NYC, and continuing care counselor at the outpatient Chemical Dependency Program of High Focus Centers in New Jersey. Currently he maintains a private practice in New Jersey. He is the author of The Presence at the Center, Renewing Your Fourth Step, The Three Inner Voices: Uncovering the Spiritual Roots of Addiction and Recovery, and Sobriety and Inspiration: Entrusting Ourselves to the Source of Our Healing and Creativity.

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