‘Stop playing the victim’, ‘you’re just attention seeking’, ‘get over it’. These really are some of the cruellest words ever spoken, often by people who have no interest in seeing any further than their own experience.
Sometimes people ‘play the victim’ because they are the victim. A victim of an unfair or unprovoked attack(s). A victim of neglect. A victim of abuse, casual cruelty, tribal collusion. When did ignoring anyone’s pain ever help? It didn’t. In fact, it can add enormous suffering onto already unmanageable mental injury. There are those who need to use drama as a defence mechanism, but then there are those who never wanted the drama at all. If someone is ‘playing the victim’, then their perception is that an injustice has been done. And in some cases, it really has.
The attention seeker, in my view, has suffered a frightening blow to their primary attachment bond – the parental figures or the home base – that has resulted in a fracture to their developing ego. The attention seeker is showing you what they need. Attention. Not because they too are on the drama spectrum, but because they are on the fearful precipice of a psychological roller coaster, about to plummet into the dark void of separation by insignificance. Not only from others, but sometimes, from themselves.
And then there are those who cannot get over it. Those to whom the words ‘just let go’, show the speaker has absolutely no awareness as to the obliterated internal landscape left behind after the event. It’s not a case of just getting over it. Sometimes it’s a case of learning how to breathe again, then crawl, then stand, then re-learn how to walk. All in the new land of mistrust.
People don’t help others who are suffering for a number of reasons; they can’t be bothered, they don’t really like the person anyway (or they think of something they do not like in order to justify their not helping), they already have too many people on their plate, or they really just do not know how or what to say?
Psychological wounds are as real as physical wounds. The question on the table is how do we help a victim, an attention seeker, someone who cannot get over it? The answers are more simple than you might think. The victim needs a witness to their suffering. The attention seeker needs reassurance that the attachment bond is secure. The one who cannot let go needs time for resolution. All of these people need someone, not to do anything, but to properly listen, not only to what they are saying, but what they are trying to say.
Bion said, ‘we use a mind to heal a mind’. Surely we have 10 minutes to let someone suffering use ours.
May you be surrounded by people who listen,