It’s Not Their Fault, It’s Yours
How I stopped holding my loved ones hostage emotionally
As a child, we’ve all experienced some sort of core wounding which colors the way that we see the world and how we interact with others. As such, most people tend to unconsciously repeat the unhealthy relationship dynamics that they’ve learned in childhood from their family of origin. Traditionally, these patterns go unnoticed until the damage has piled up and a person finds themselves on a therapist’s couch wondering why their marriage of twenty years has fallen apart, in spite of the fact that they’ve tried so hard to keep it together. In confusion, they cry, “What did I do to deserve this? All I’ve ever wanted was my family to be happy!”
The Victim Control Dynamic aka “The Martyr Syndrome”
I can say that I’m an expert on this topic only because I used to be so good at it, that is until I was called out by a romantic partner who refused to play my game. Hands down, the best resource on this topic is Teal swan and I highly recommend watching her video which addresses the Victim Control Dynamic in depth. In her article, she explains: “This behavioral pattern is carried out to make the other person look like the bad guy and oneself, their victim.” I can tell you from my own experience that this can happen on an entirely unconscious level and that’s because the feelings behind the behavior are absolutely real.
In my case, I would passively manipulate others to feel responsible for my emotional state because I had this hidden belief that they made me feel that way, so it was their job to make me feel better. I would carry on in this self-sabotaging setup, escalating the drama until they responded with the specific reaction I needed in order to feel satisfied. I had no understanding of the victimization scheme that I was perpetrating over and over, nor did I realize how I had been punishing my romantic partners for caring about me.
I felt completely justified because of how I believed the other person was hurting me and sub-consciously began resenting them for how powerless I felt in the relationship. So, for example, I might have had some uncommunicated expectations and, when my partner failed to meet those needs, I would feel like they obviously did not love me. That’s all it would take to send me down the slippery slope of feeling “not good enough” and unlovable. I held them responsible for “making me feel that way”, which inevitably led to lashing out against them in my pain until they gave me whatever I felt was owed. They had done nothing wrong, yet I was holding them hostage for actually caring about me – until my ill-justified demands were met. Rinse and repeat.
What is emotional responsibility?
Opposite from what I had learned to believe from childhood, practicing emotional responsibility meant that I had to start accepting that my feelings, beliefs, and behaviors were originating from me alone. In his article You Are Not Responsible for Your Partner’s Feelings, Dr. Romanelli writes: “Most of us have been taught that we are responsible for our loved one’s feelings—that we need to make sure they’re not feeling sad or lonely.” The problem, he says, is that it keeps us in a reactive state with our intimate relationships. By projecting the emotional pain of my inner world onto my loved one as the sole cause, I was actually attacking them with a false accusation and thereby forcing them into a defensive position of “I didn’t say…”, “No, I’m not…”, and “But, I didn’t…”; holding them hostage until they either soothed my injury, or we were both too exhausted to continue.
My wake up call came in the form of a romantic partner who recognized the pattern I was putting us through and loved me enough to stop enabling this subversive cycle. She called my bluff and invited me to take emotional responsibility. What? I had never encountered this idea before, and the thought that I wasn’t the one being victimized but actually the one perpetrating the victimization made absolutely no sense to me. It took a great leap of faith for me to drop my defensiveness and trust that she was acting in alignment with both of our best interests. It was an excruciating crush to my ego, and the key to my emotional freedom ever since.
The relationship between freedom and responsibility
While anyone will tell you, “Of course, I want to be free!”, there is an invisible boundary to the freedom we imagine. This limitation can always be revealed by asking ourselves one question: How much responsibility are you willing to take? “Hey wait a minute here! I said I want to be free, so what’s with all this burden of responsibility?” It is no more than the burden of carrying your own weight.
When I thought that I was powerless in my relationships, I was wrong. Instead, I was misusing my power to enforce my own hidden beliefs of powerlessness, all the while throwing the weight of my responsibility onto the shoulders of my loved ones who actually did not have the power to change how I felt inside. They hadn’t done anything wrong to me, yet I chose to put them in the role of “monster” so I could keep justifying my internal belief that I was somebody’s victim.
Ouch! I guess I wasn’t so innocent after all. This whole process has brought me back to self-compassion, self-forgiveness, and self-love over and over again. It took time for me to integrate the idea that it is my responsibility alone to make sure that I feel safe, loved, and cared for. Once you accept responsibility for your own happiness, and you are no longer looking to others outside of yourself to validate your worth, you embody the empowerment over your life that has been yours all along – and it is truly liberating.
Are you ready to Tap Into Your Power? Schedule a Free Talk with Mike today!