Abusive Relationships

“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.”

—William Shakespeare

I find that in our minds, the above quote tends to be truer than we realize. We place ourselves in the leading role of a dramatic play that we have difficulty seeing clearly. We don’t see how we are following a script and find other actors to fill the roles that we assign them. We believe we stumble into bad relationships and abusive people by mere happenstance. We don’t see that we have predetermined our roles as well as the roles of others, and will quickly recast these parts when the other actors won’t follow the script.

We tend to cast ourselves in the role of hero, victim, and or savior. In order to follow a script that casts us as such, we must find enemies to fight, bad guys to hurt us, and weaklings to rescue. When people find the correct actors they believe will fill these roles—simply stand back and watch the drama.

Watch how the hero of the story is always right…

Watch how the savior is always sacrificing themselves for others and is never acknowledged…

Watch how the victim becomes perpetually abused.

Watching people attempt to remain in character in the face of reality can be truly painful. Invariably, when we come across someone following their script, we raise questions as to why the person continues to behave in a way that results in loss, rejection, abuse, and misunderstandings. The person will rationalize why they are correct and the other person is wrong while never truly acknowledging responsibility for changing their circumstances.

We’ve all watched people ruin great relationships and stay in horrible ones with no logical basis for doing so. Furthermore, we often see this same person immediately form another relationship that has strikingly similar dynamics and then listen to the same stories ad nauseum on how the other person is always wrong.

The problem is that once people identify themselves a certain way, changing this self-identified label becomes unthinkable. The person becomes lost if they aren’t the character they have always seen themselves to be. The heroine cannot acknowledge that at times she can be awful, because this isn’t the role she has cast for herself. If she is in a bad mood and snaps at others, it must be their fault. Its others that are inconsiderate and selfish, never her. Ever.

The savior cannot admit that they too want to be saved at times, because this isn’t what saviors are supposed to say. Saviors are supposed to suffer in silence and never have needs of their own. Never mind that they just “accidentally” kicked the dog on the way into the house. They of course feel horrible about it and will go to the shelter and rescue another dog to make up for their “accidental” cruelty within the week. Latent anger over having needs unmet doesn’t follow the savior script, therefore these feelings simply don’t exist.

The victim script is the most painful to watch. The person is often just as deserving of happiness as the next person, but they invariably set their sites on individuals they believe will play the role of abuser. Others watch the victim “put up with” so much abuse that they end up hating the abuser on their behalf. What happens in equal measure is that the victim may accidentally cast the wrong person as abuser. The abuser may continue to flub their lines by being giving, caring, and considerate to the victim, which becomes shockingly irritating to them. They find fault with the other person’s efforts, and they will try with all their might to bring out the abuser in them. If they succeed, they will keep the person in their part, but continue to direct them in a way that ensures they will eventually read their lines on queue. If they can’t get the person to play the abuser role, they will find a reason to sabotage the relationship. Subsequently, friends and family will be baffled at the swiftness in which the victim will cast their new abuser.

This is why nice guys and nice girls (heroes and or saviors) feel like they finish last. Their script calls for success in this scenario. They are the hero that wins over/saves the victim. They are of course devastated at the victim’s behavior and slink away brokenhearted. Subsequently, their friends and family will be baffled at the swiftness in which the hero (and or savior) will cast another object to win over (or victim to save).

Once they win over the object of their affection they bask in the glory of their triumph as heroes…but then what? You guessed it. They become discontent and disengaged with no explanation, until they come across a new object (victim) to win (save) and are suddenly revitalized. Such people often end their lives with four or more marriages but can’t figure out why they could never make one last.

Who are the directors in these plays? Mostly our parents. We learn these scripts from observing their behaviors in relationships and watch how they play out the roles they cast for themselves. The parent we most identify with becomes the model for the role we choose. These scripts are then perpetuated by all forms of fiction and religious doctrine that look to influence us into holding certain beliefs, and following certain behaviors.

The key is to become your own director. Examine your true character and stop looking to others to fill a role. Who are you? I assure you, that is a complicated answer because in every person there will be a combination of hero, victim, savior, and yes…abuser. What do you really want? This too is complicated because desires change and that’s okay.  Once you answer these questions by yourself, and for yourself, you will no longer need to live by a script. Simply leave the stage, stop acting, and be authentic.



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