Are you a Victim? A Rescuer? Or a Persecutor?
Believe it or not, you are all of them, at certain moments of your life. You are a victim, and then you are a rescuer and sometimes, without even knowing it, you are a persecutor. Don’t buy this? Let’s try some short examples:
1. At work, you hit a block: there’s a task so big and so complicated, that you can’t do it by yourself. What do you do? You reach out for help. Ask a colleague to support you. And why you do this? Because it’s too much for you. You’re overwhelmed. You’re a Victim (in this case, a victim of the circumstances).
2.Â Suppose now you’re the other guy, the one who is asked for help. What do you do? You come to the rescue, you help the other person. Why? Because helping the other person fulfills some internal desire for recognition and self-esteem. You’re a Rescuer.
3. Now suppose you’re the boss of the two workers above. You spot the fact that one of them is asking for help and you don’t agree with that. You interfere: you forbid to the rescuer to help and leave the victim alone in finishing that task. You think it’s “your job as a boss” to do that, but in fact you’re playing a Persecutor.
These are just short, real-life examples when we are playing what I call social games. But the real social games, the ones that are shaping our lives in uncontrollable ways, are played without even knowing. We’re doing them for months, sometimes years, without noticing. Think you’re not doing things without knowing?
Fact is we’re all doing that. At various moments in our lives we’re all playing the part of the Victim, the Rescuer or the Persecutor. Sometimes we have a really good reason for doing it, sometimes, most of the times, we don’t: we’re doing it unconsciously, on auto-pilot. We’re following a Script. In fact, the real problems with those roles arise when we’re following a Script, not when we’re playing them for really good reasons. Some of the really good reasons includes saving a person from an accident (Rescuer) or taking attitude against an injustice (Persecutor).
By the age of 4-5 years, we all have our Scripts engrained in our main behavior. Based on these Scripts, we’re playing our parts for the rest of our lives. We’re playing at our job, to get a job, or to get rid of a job. We’re playing with our friends, by saving them, by asking for their protection or by hurting them. We’re playing in our personal relationships, looking for people who are going to fulfill our needs for protection, for saving or for hurting.
The Scripts are unconscious sequences we’re following, most of the time ending with a negative outcome. Also called the “pay-off”. Confused? Read on.
The Mechanics Of The Human Games
One of the most common Scripts is the victim – rescuer tango. The initiator, usually the Victim, starts to advertise his or her needs for protection. “I’m alone”, “I need somebody in my life” are common phrases for this part. Some variations are “Love me, feed me, never leave me” or even “I’m so available, can you just pick me up?”.
At this stage, a rescuer, or a matching partner for the victim advertised needs, is starting to make his or her moves. “Ok, I’m here now, you won’t be alone anymore”, or “I’m going to love you and protect you for the rest of my life” are common phrases for the rescuer. A junction is formed. The Victim and the Rescuer are starting their tango. Sometimes, most of the times, this tango takes the structure of a marriage.
But that’s only the initial part of the Script, and it’s usually the simplest part of it. As time goes by, the partners are starting to interchange their parts based on their unconscious Scripts. They take their turns at becoming Victims, Rescuers or Persecutors.
One of the most common variations is the following one: let’s say the Rescuer has some troubles. (By the way, because of the nature of their attitude, Rescuers are the most exposed to troubles. They’re reaching out trying to “help” other people because they didn’t properly addressed their own internal problems. So, they’re the most vulnerable actors.) Well, let’s say a Rescuer have some troubles so he can’t fulfill his part in front of the Victim. He runs out of money or he gets ill. He can’t “protect” her anymore. Now, what’s interesting is that the Victim is turning into a Persecutor.
You would expect the Victim will become a Rescuer, balancing the situation until the initial Rescuer gets back on his feet. Well, nope. In 99% of the situations the Victim becomes a powerful Persecutor, starting to blame him. The Rescuer become the Victim, only this time he has nobody to save him. He has only a Prosecutor who blames him for everything that goes wrong in the Universe.
From now on, the two actors can follow many paths. Some of them choose to address their issues and get rid of their roles. They are the lucky ones. And they’re also very few. The rest, the vast majority, is choosing to get out of the initial game with a “pay-off”. The “pay-off” is something like: “I knew it from the beginning” or “It’s over and I deserve to be unhappy”.Â The “pay-off” is the negative outcome of the Script. It’s based on some past events which are tracing the main parts of the Script in the player unconscious behavior.
The “pay-off” acts like the trigger for the next game. It doesn’t end the circle, it just creates the premises for the next encounter.
The Victim will start advertising her needs again and the Rescuer will start looking for somebody to protect again. The Script is rebooted.
Assess, Decide, Do
The only way to get out of the Script is awareness. A Victim must accept his or her needs to control other people, a Rescuer must acknowledge his or her internal problems that must be addressed before trying to save somebody else, and a Persecutor must deal with his exaggerated sense of justice, coming most likely from the fact the he or she suffered the effects of some injustice in the past.
It’s far more easier to say this than to do it. I agree. The Script is always easier to follow because it’s proved. Reality is uncertain. Becoming aware can put you in an unexpected situation, while the Script will at least give you some familiar feelings. You did this before and you got your “pay-off”. It’s a closed circle and gives a sense of security. Even if the outcome it’s negative, a Script is much more comfortable than an open confrontation with your own problems.
The “pay-off” will always enforce a negative conclusion about life, about yourself or about the Universe. Something like “I’m ugly, nobody wants me around”, or “I always give too much and I’m under appreciated”, or even “There’s no justice in this world and this is just not fair”. But it’s exactly the “pay-off” that makes a an actor to dive again in the next Script. Ok, I screw it up, but next time I’ll do better. I know where to start. I’ll strive and this time I won’t miss it.
Of course you will. The Script will run again.
Games People Play – The Book
Many of the concepts in this blog posts were borrowed from Eric Berne’s great book “Games People Play“, published 50 years ago. If, by any chance, this blog post raised a part of your eyebrow, then check out the book. You’ll find some amazing games described there, from the “Debtor” to the “Frigid Woman”.
Until then, feel free to share in the comments your opinions, games and current roles you’re playing: are you a Victim, a Rescuer or a Persecutor?