I used to have a habit of complaining about my husband. I would complain about what he had said to me, what he did or didn’t do – it was very unhealthy.
You might ask yourself why is she sharing this? If you tend to complain about someone or something this is for you, if you used to do it, keep smiling!
In effect we played a game of parent/child, I blamed and accused, the focus was on him and I was deemed innocent as I was the ‘victim’ (at least in my own mind).
I often notice the same dynamics in business organisations. I recently heard someone say to his team ‘We were just agreed to the new business plan and I don’t know how it will be possible for us to deliver that.’
Sometimes when we don’t speak up we internalize. We may justify not stating our point or we may focus exclusively on the perspective of the other to avoid having to ‘declare’. However, after a while that usually represents as powerlessness or even pointlessness or depression.
Initially this may look like lack assertiveness – but on a deeper level it is about not wanting to feel discomfort. It is about avoiding something. The result is that we sit in an unhealthy holding pattern that lacks honesty and therefore usually also intimacy.
Organisationally there is often a very high price for taking the victim role, it undermines relationships and is toxic for a healthy work culture.
What do we get out of our victim mode? Well we get allies! We get sympathy and perhaps temporary peace. And sometimes also a sense of being right and good!
In an organisation, the victim gets the support of the team, he/she is not one of the ‘demanding senior execs’ and so the team want to support him/her ‘against’ the top people. In some ways it even strengthens the loyalty within the team.
The victim role relies on complaining. There are many clever ways of doing it subtly; a sigh accompanied by the suffering look, the half eye roll, or flopping heavily into a chair, indicating much hard work has preceded this well earned rest.
Complaining is the vent that keeps the unhealthy system going. If there was no chance of complaining then we might eventually be driven to a point of confrontation.
What is missing? Our sense of influence and a willingness to be with discomfort. I didn’t feel I could take the conversation. Yet we always have a point of influence… but not if we keep quiet.
I don’t think I was aware of having any influence other than in a manipulative way. It was not a healthy open mature sense of influence. But most importantly subconsciously I was not willing to feel discomfort.
Increasingly I think most of our anxiety is all about not wanting to feel anything that is uncomfortable. Yet we often justify our position by making it about not wanting to make others unhappy or we say ‘they wouldn’t understand or listen’ etc. This is often just justifying our own lack of readiness to be with discomfort or lack of courage. And yet; our ability to grow is directly linked to our willingness to be with discomfort.
When delving into this we soon realise that the discomfort at its very core is about fear of rejection or exclusion or it is fear of fear.
Once we get to know the fear as a body sensation, then we realise that we can actually have the difficult conversations and hold the sensation at the same time – it does not undo us.
And it, like everything else, will pass.
So, declare the obstacle and see it as illusive! The beauty is that when we step out of our comfort zone something new is born, a healthier version of ourselves and our relationships. The birthing process is not necessarily pleasant however necessary for this new version of ourselves to emerge.