“How can you be so compassionate to everyone else, but not to yourself?”

“I don’t know,” I respond honestly, shrugging and slumping into my chair. The room we’re sat in is very, very green, I notice absent-mindedly. My counsellor presses on, points out how empathetic, caring, considerate, compassionate, generally lovely I am to everyone (I feel myself smiling shyly at all of the undeserved compliments). She pointed out that I’m even like this to people who you could objectively say were pretty awful. I work for the police and meet some of the most heinous individuals you could ever meet, people who’ve done really terrible things. Honestly, sometimes I do judge them, but a lot of the time I just wonder what they have experienced that has led them to their current path. What horrible things they’ve gone through, things that they don’t deserve. I vocalise this to her.
“But you think you do deserve the bad things that happen to you?”
“I think I must, because I just attract them,” I say as if it’s the most obvious thing in the world. “People meet me and want to be horrible to me, that’s my experience. It happened as a kid, as a teen, even as an adult. I must deserve it, otherwise why would all of those completely unlinked people be so awful? It has to be something about me.”
She thinks for a moment, and asks, “do you think you try to bring it on yourself, because you think you deserve it? I mean you’ve had awful experiences with men and with bullying, and you’ve deliberately taken a job in a male-dominated field that’s also renowned for being full of bullies. You have struggled with depression and anxiety, but you’ve gone for possibly the most stressful job imaginable. What made you do that?” She has a point (again).

My other therapist (boy do I feel crazy having more than one!) makes reference to my little ‘inner saboteur’. I quite like this analogy, and told him so the moment he said it. “Yes,” I enthused, “I definitely have one of those. It likes to wreck everything. It’s very good at it…. I suppose at least I’m good at something.” He smiled patiently at that, and waited for me to elaborate. “I sort of set myself challenges, like taking on this job. Not to prove to myself that I can do it, actually, but to prove to myself that I can’t. That I’m useless. That I’ll mess this up and look a fool in front of everyone. I do that a lot. Ironically some of my biggest achievements have come from that. I’ve surprised myself and actually done pretty well and gone oh, holy crap, this wasn’t meant to happen. It’s pretty cool.”

I mention this inner saboteur concept to the female therapist. I agree with her, that I seem to put myself in harm’s way. We talk about the Karpman drama triangle, discuss the fact that I spend a lot of time in the victim position and that (while awful) this is a very familiar position to me. I’m sort of comfortably uncomfortable there, and seem to look for ways to stay in that position. Indeed, the only time when I’m not is when I’m trying to help someone else. “That’s probably why I’m interested in psychology and moving into that field,” I commented, “because helping other people helps me to feel useful, and to figure my own self out.” She agrees with me and makes reference to Carl Jung’s idea of the ‘wounded healer’. Later as I sit and reflect on what we spoke about, I wonder whether finding more opportunities to take that position will help me to get out of my perpetual victim cycle. Who knows.

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