We gravitate towards roles in relationships – mother, helper, know-er, child, savior. How many relationships are you in just to continue playing a role, because it makes you feel needed? Are you choosing these roles or are they automatic?
How people choose roles that they become victimized by:
1. Roles come from how someone has related to another person from past experiences. For example: I need to be your protector because I know you to put yourself in dangerous situations. The victimization is that the other person winds up resenting you for not understanding who they are today.
2. Roles are chosen to help people mitigate their own fear and discomfort. Because I am scared about my future with you, I choose to fix you. We choose a role that if we follow, it will hopefully make us comfortable. It is ultimately about our life, not the other person. In this role, we (consciously or unconsciously) care about what happens because we feel the other person’s choices effect us. Our discomfort distorts everything we see.
“If my boyfriend would just realize…”
“If my son would just finish law school…”
The victimization here is that we relate to the thing we’re afraid of, not the person and the relationship suffers.
3. Pattern. We find ourselves habitually choosing roles all my life. This is usually born from an incident early in life. We learned how to deal with something scary by choosing this role
The victimization here is that we don’t get our needs met, because we are always being the ________.
The other side is how we react to the roles others choose in relationships with us.
I am tired of my husband trying to be my therapist. My mom won’t leave me alone about getting married. My brother is always correcting me, like he’s some critic I never asked for.
We can all relate to these examples. Here are some tips on how to deal with it.
1. LEAVE THEM ALONE. Let these people play the roles they want to play. In fact,thank them for it. Whatever reactions (thoughts and feelings) are coming up for you are yours. Learn to be with your emotional responses, become masterful.
Your reactions are also a part of the pattern that you and your partner/mom/friend have created together. If you stop bringing the predictable response and take responsibility for your reaction, the pattern will break down over time and the relationship will shift. By taking a role with us, people are NOT controlling us. Whatever reactions we have are ours.
2. Let the person your in a relationship with know the roles you want them to play with you. Not to the exclusion of the roles they want to play, in addition to them. In fact, don’t even mention the roles they seem to play. Only mention what you want more of.
No matter how careful you are with suggestion number two, when you are shifting the normalcy of the roles people play in a relationship, there may be some pushback and upset. Many of us will not want to take on number two, because we are afraid of hurting someone’s feelings. There are things we don’t say or do because we make up a future possibility in our mind, like if someone gets upset that it will cause irreparable damage. We don’t think we can have a continued relationship with someone if we say something to them that could be upsetting and then we stay victimized. We need to allow them to have a reaction and continue to forge the relationship we want.
3. Recognize that role dissonance occurs because each person on this planet is living inside a different reality than every other person on the planet. What we try to do is force others to live inside our reality. Life would be so much easier if everyone lived inside of one reality 🙂 Your reality doesn’t have to be my reality. Once you see that, the experience of being controlled will dissipate. Again you don’t need to mention this to the other person, just allow them to continue doing it, it’s your reactions to it that you can make a difference with.
Travis Bailey, thank you so much for helping me collect the notes from The Relationship Circle and sending them to me without me even asking. It was invaluable help in putting this update together.