Your home is supposed to be a safe and peaceful place where you can relax, enjoy and get a respite from stress. It should be an environment where you can enjoy time with those who are closest to you. Unfortunately, however, for many people, their home is anything but peaceful.
In my practice, I frequently see people who have taken on the role of victim and they live like prisoners in their own dwellings. Not surprisingly, these people report significant amounts of anger, sadness and depression.
These prisoners/victims fall into two categories. 1. Abused by spouses.
The first group includes spouses who stay trapped in an abusive, unfulfilling or empty relationships. These kinds of patients are frequently living with their spouse, but they often sleep in separate rooms. There is little closeness and virtually no intimacy. Sometimes they are physically battered. And in some instances, they are the recipients of prolonged verbal and emotional abuse, which, can sometimes be worse than physical abuse. 2. Abused by caretakers.
The second group includes parents who are being abused by their children. Sadly, many kids are controlling, manipulating, deceiving and lying to their parents. Some are physically abusing their parents and terrorizing them. Their parents are too frightened to stand up to their kids and assume the role king or queen of their household. In my view, parents must be the “captain of the ship” in their homes.
Sometimes, a person is being abused by their spouse and by their kids. This, of course, makes for a psychological and emotional nightmare. Living under these abusive and oppressive circumstances like those described above for a prolonged period of time is a form of emotional torture. Why does a person tolerate this kind of situation and what can be done to help them?
People who allow themselves to be treated poorly by family members usually have been victims of emotional, physical or sexual abuse when they were youngsters. In many cases, they grew up in homes where alcohol and or drugs were utilized on a frequent basis. Over time, they start to feel and believe that being treated unkindly is the norm and is what they deserve and it is what fits with their feelings of low self-esteem. When I talk to these kinds of patients, I feel that their spirit has been broken and that all of their positive and optimistic energy has been depleted from them.
These prisoner/victims must either remove themselves from these situations or learn how to change their family dynamics to improve their home life. Sometimes, with encouragement, they can learn to act as “igniters” and facilitate some meaningful changes in their family members’ behavior. In some instances, the entire family must enter therapy to normalize their lives.
It is important to help these victims to develop the courage, hope and optimism they need to take on a more empowered role in their lives. Initially, these “prisoners” tend to reject the idea of behaving in a different manner. However, if they can be helped to experience kindness, lovingness, gentleness and a sense of empowerment, they can start to like and embrace the idea of having a life as a person with self-worth, self-esteem, dignity and inner peace.
I have a range of techniques to help people experience and compare life as a prisoner/victim to life as a courageous hero or heroine. In time, many gain an appreciation of the later role. Once they experience this positive role on a deeper level, they clear the way for change, personal growth and freedom. If you feel like a victim/prisoner or know someone who is living in this painful way, suggest that the person get some counseling or psychotherapy promptly. Jay P. Granat, Ph.D., is a psychotherapist, a licensed marriage and family therapist, hypnotherapist, author, lecturer, found of stayinthezone.com. He writes a regular column called, "In The Zone," for divorce360 and author of the book "Get into The Zone in One Minute."