Rescuers and Persecutors and the Victim Viewpoint

Let’s continue exploring two viewpoints from which each of us can look at our lives: victim and responsible. Victim is the viewpoint that something is being done to me. Responsible is the viewpoint that I am the cause for my experience. In other words, my experience is the result of choices I have made.

It is important to be aware of the dynamics in relationships around us as we consider victim and responsible. When we operate out of a victim viewpoint, there are usually others around us operating out of either a rescuer role or a persecutor role. What are rescuers and persecutors? A rescuer is a person who steps in and solves any problem the victim is facing. A persecutor, on the other hand, is a person who beats up or persecutes the victim. I elaborate more on this in chapter 9 of my book, When Good Intentions Run Smack into Reality. So, when we talk about victim and responsible it is helpful to realize that it is not one-sided. Responsible is not, “I am responsible, so you are not.” Neither is it, “You are responsible, so I am not.” Responsible is a context we set in our families and organizations for everyone to take.

However, since responsible is a viewpoint, it cannot be delegated in the same way that authority can be delegated. Suppose you are on a team, and you have a problem. If I am the manager, then I also have a problem. And if I respond to you by saying, “You’re just going victim on me,” most likely you will get upset. My friend Jan has coined a phrase for this. He calls it jargon-slamming. Consider how the previous statement could be rephrased. I could begin with: “In my experience, you are coming from victim right now.” By doing so, I am coming from responsible myself. I am saying, “This is my set of sunglasses, not the truth.” Then I could add: “Do you see it that way? Do you want to explore looking at this from responsible and discover other choices you have? Do you want to continue feeling upset, or would you like to feel better?”

Choosing this kind of conversation fosters partnership, helps others to consider their attitudes, and avoids setting up an “us and them” atmosphere.




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