From time to time we find an article that speaks to the issue of what this blog is all about, victims of crime, their rights, how they can cope, find hope and overcome. The following is such an article.
From Psychology Today
Dr. Steven Stosny, Ph.D.
Victim identity beats no identity at all.
Two subtly intertwined evils plague modern relationships. The first is emotional abuse of loved ones. The second is victim identity. They are intertwined because one causes the other.
Victim identity is identification with bad treatment you have suffered. It is focus on perceived damage at the hands of someone else or on personal weaknesses you feel were exploited by someone else. Damage and weakness become an integral part of your identity.
Victim identity carries a retaliation impulse that eventually rises to the level of revenge, enacted either passively (negative attributions and sabotage) or dramatically. All abusers and violent criminals suffer from victim identity, which, in their minds, justifies their abuse and crimes. The retaliation motive of victim identity is so great that you can reliably use the following as a guideline: If you feel chronically like a victim, you are most likely abusive in some way.
Victim identity locks the parties into a reactive narcissism that prevents them from seeing their partners apart from their emotional reactions to them. When I feel good, I put you on a pedestal; when I feel bad, you're inadequate or abusive. The negative emotional states of one feel like abuse to the other. Like the more severe forms of narcissism, this special reactive kind is a failure of compassion for self and other. What they really feel is, "I'm too hurt or vulnerable to recognize your hurt or vulnerability." But it comes out as, "I'm hurt, therefore you're bad, crazy, or abusive."
Victim identity not only worsens abusive relationships, it keeps people stuck in them: "The only way I can feel okay is if you get over your self-obsession and make me okay."
The Diagnosis Duel
When I was an intern in relationship therapy many years ago, dual diagnosis cases - an emotional disorder with concurrent substance abuse - were the most dreaded by young therapists. Since then, effective treatments have emerged for most dual diagnosis cases. Now the more intractable problem is dueling diagnoses. That's when each partner diagnosis the other with a personality disorder or some kind of addiction, brain disease, cognitive deficit, or childhood trauma that explains why he/she is such an idiot.
There are plenty of self-help books that feed the dueling diagnosis syndrome with oversimplified checklists that take behaviors out of context. (It's distressing to see that this website has added a couple of victim identity blogs that tell readers, in effect, you're not okay because you're married to someone who's more not okay.) Partners who diagnose each other often rely on the same self-help checklists or Google searches. Many abusers read the checklists out loud to their partners during arguments to prove how screwed up he/she is. They very commonly rely on their less than ethical therapists who diagnose the partner without even meeting, much less examining and testing him or her. You'd be shocked to see how many therapists married to other therapists engage in the diagnosis duel. More shocking is how often a therapist or psychologist uses "superior knowledge" or "professional expertise" to diagnose a partner - a particularly insidious kind of abuse.
Dueling diagnoses are always inaccurate and abusive because they are neither motivated by objective scientific inquiry nor by a compassionate desire to understand. Rather, they are motivated by a need to feel morally superior and to justify failure of compassion. Such self-righteousness in reaction to a partner's hurtful behavior is understandable, maybe even natural as a defense - it does give momentary relief of pain, anxiety, and depression. But the temporary relief of distress comes at a high price.
Healing vs. Keeping the Wound Open
The mere impulse to justify contempt or failure of compassion (e. g., diagnosing pathology in your partner) tells you that you are violating your deepest values, which creates a war within you. Thus contempt of a loved one causes self-contempt: "He/she is so crazy or abusive that I was such an idiot to believe and trust him/her." Your relationship may have wounded you, but patholigizing your partner keeps the wounds open and infected.
If you want to heal, recover, or prevent getting into a bad relationship in the future, see victim identity for the cancer on your soul that it is. Renounce it along with the self-help books and blogs that encourage it. Focus on your resilience, strengths, and your capacity to deeply understand your hurt and the hurt and vulnerability of the people you love. Respect your self-healing capacity; that will make you respect the self-healing capacity of prospective lovers and get you out of the dangerous need to rescue or be rescued.
Self-value, self-respect, and compassion will make you feel more valuable and reduce the need for idealized value from others. It will reduce the likelihood that you will project idealizations onto potential lovers and tolerate any bad behavior when the idealizations dissipate. Fidelity to your deepest values will make you whole and keep you safe, by helping you see yourself and those you love more compassionately and realistically.
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