Be honest to yourself: are you addicted to suffering?
If your answer is anything along the lines of “how dare you”, go back to kindergarten. I’m talking to adults here: are you brave enough to do some soul searching? Then PROVE it.
There is something “gothic” and edgy about embracing the darkness. When kept at a healthy level, this personality trait can be quirky and fun. We all know someone who is the metaphorical dead creepy tree in a field where otherwise you’d only see cheerful daisies. And you know what? It adds value and interest to the landscape. I’d just walk past a daisy field without photographing it if it wasn’t for this one unexpected element in the middle of it.
There are people who choose to see beauty in dark creepy things for the heck of it — yes I’m a spiritworker and yadda yadda but I don’t see the point in pretending there’s a deeper meaning to everything. Sometimes you simply enjoy muted colours, gloomy lighting, and music that behaves as if it came straight out of a horror film soundtrack. There’s nothing wrong in liking these things for their aesthetic value. In fact I’m friends with a lot of modern day goths who have an okay mental health and allow themselves to express the full spectrum of emotions just like any other person on planet Earth. This entire paragraph is to say: no, I don’t mean surface-level “dark” personalities. What I’m about to discuss here runs deeper, and can come unexpectedly from people who dress in a preppy way and listen to pop. I am not going to talk about teenage “urban tribes”. I’ll talk about something way older that transcends cliques and aesthetics: martyr syndrome.
Let me put things in perspective: some of the Picts I talk to were alive 1,500 years ago, give or take a century. Martyr syndrome already existed and was a problem back then. It’s nothing new, revolutionary, or edgy in the slightest — despite the fact today’s young people make a real effort to make it seem hip and trendy. Completely embracing, maximising, and broadcasting your suffering to the four winds has long been a human fascination. It thrives among the immature who would rather seek attention and stay suffering when given the opportunity to actually heal instead. A shame if you ask me, but every choice is valid. I simply bring attention to the consequences.
Usually when people feel called out by my words, they try to “get back” at me with the same argument as if it was going to hurt me as much as it hurt them. Um, no. Everything I ever say, I mean. Everything I ever say or do unto others, I’d like to be said and done to me. In fact, that would make my life a lot easier. But somehow, people simply don’t get it, and would rather complicate things. Ah well. Go ahead then. Point fingers at me and tell me how one-dimensional I am, how my entire personality is based around Pictishness and how I have zero rights to call you out without first being perfect. It’s so repetitive, I can already predict it. But perhaps my response to that would surprise you: I’d just say “yes” [insert chad meme here]. I am one-dimensional in that aspect and fully admit it. I am not happy with it but what can I do? I can’t ignore it. Your complaints have been recorded, Karen. Anything else to say?
Let me just be the annoying person and also say: are you hurt? Good. Growth is uncomfortable. Sooner or later you’d have to come out of this shell, and if I’m the one assigned the dirty job, I’m happy to do it. To be honest, this is a note to self, too. I just WISH I had people in my life brave enough to make this possible for me too — all I attract is just fearful overly cautious people who walk on eggshells and expect the same from me, but alas, I digress.
If you think the above paragraphs are just pointless petty rambling, think again. Aye, they’re petty and rambly — but “pointless” is a bit of a stretch. They’re a cautionary tale about a common consequence of having martyr syndrome: a martyr is someone who goes through hardships, comes out the other side, and gains everyone’s respect and admiration (or adoration, like in Catholicism). A fake martyr, on the other hand, is just interested in this end result but wants none of the effort or real suffering it takes. They attempt (and sometimes succeed!) to fool the public into believing they’re genuinely unable to overcome their circumstances. With that, they gather sympathy and attention, but end up paying a price: they never grow or become stronger, and remain forever stuck at the starting point. Having nothing real to teach ABOUT this pain — because their entire journey is an act — they focus solely on what it feels like, rather than meaningful lessons that could come from its real counterpart.
If you’re in doubt about whether or not addiction to suffering is a productive thing, ask yourself: isn’t it ironic that the same people who seem to enjoy showcasing their suffering also have the thinnest skin? Try criticising them and you’ll see the ginormous defensiveness. That’s thin skin. If their lifelong endurance of pain (emotional or otherwise) was entirely genuine, not made-up or exaggerated for pity points, they would have a thick skin by now. It isn’t a character flaw, it’s just a fact of life (a brutal and very unfair one at that, but still true) that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. That’s plain logic and doesn’t take anyone a 6th sense to figure out. So if you just age, but never grow up, never become stronger… That means you weren’t suffering all that much. It was an act.
Are these “fake martyrs” bad people?
Since everything is politicised nowadays and people are used to being pitted against each other like bulls in a fight, let me just address this real quick: no, I don’t think unhealthy coping mechanisms make anyone a sinner. In fact I don’t believe in sinners. I am not even Christian. Internalised Christianity would have us all believe that there is such a thing as “good” people, “evil” people, pure light and pure dark. The discourse survives even among the most vocal atheists, for the simple fact people have an aversion to the concept of “internalised” things. Ew, no, they say. I don’t… “internalise”. I’m sovereign and on top of every step I take, they say. Fools!
Next thing you see, these very same “sovereign” people “on-top-of-their-choices” are being controlled like puppets by whatever rumours they heard, and proceed to cancel this person, cancel that person, demonise this, demonise that, boycott this and boycott that. It happens in the smartest families, trust me. Nothing to do with character, just level of maturity.
There’s no shame in not having it all figured out just because you’re an adult. That’s what adulthood is for: realising it’s foolish to have certainties, and STILL not throwing a tantrum in response to the frustration that comes of it.
And this is all to say: unless you’re willing to crucify yourself, don’t crucify others. Everyone has layers to them, it isn’t just you. Yes, even “that bitch” that was “mean” to you. Cut her some slack as well, but take your time.
How do you overcome addiction to suffering?
Like any addiction, it can be difficult to manage and/or overcome completely. There won’t be a magic recipe that works for everyone (and I’m fully aware of the irony in that statement, being that I sometimes work magic for specific problems).
I’m no expert in addiction recovery, but life has forced me to deal with several people addicted to suffering ever since I was wee, so I know one thing: nobody IS their addiction. Let’s just get that fallacy out of the way now, completely. It wasn’t a request.
Aye, seriously, get it over with. Addictions are NOT personalities. They aren’t even part of anyone’s personality. Don’t let that thought even cross your mind. They’re only a coping mechanism for something difficult to endure that happened in life and worked as a trigger. My “only” here isn’t meant as a dismissal — addictions are very serious problems, very valid and very real — but they’re tricksters in that they appear (to the addict) to be bigger than they really are. So let’s reduce them to the size they deserve, shall we? Only a coping mechanism. Very doable to overcome. Maybe not easy, but doable. You won’t stop being you when you’re free of the addiction. Really. Zero impact on personality.
This specific addiction (to suffering) can be quite hard to detect or even admit, mainly because there most certainly is an element of reality to the pain that is being romanticised. So just like an alcoholic needed an initial access to alcohol, someone addicted to suffering initially suffered for real. It doesn’t just start out of nothing. And the central problem isn’t actually in the validity of the suffering — it most likely is very valid indeed. The problem lays, instead, in the person’s attitude: rather than just expressing how much it sucks and trying to look for a way out (an average person’s response to suffering), an addict will actually look for reasons to stay and keep suffering as long as possible, because their image of victim before other people gives them a momentary fulfilment. Sometimes they’ll even realise this pattern is unhealthy, but something (be it pride, or whatever else) stops them from admitting the problem, and thus they turn it into a vicious cycle because of fear of judgement.
My mother had this problem: her pain was “loneliness”. She convinced everyone, and probably also herself, that she was actively taking steps to become less lonely ever since the divorce — she’d go out and have fun with coworkers and friends, travel, etc, and claim to be meeting interesting guys… But they were never perfect enough, so she didn’t even try to take the very first steps, it always remained very platonic. My best guess is she was subconsciously attached to the idea of victimhood to loneliness, and didn’t wanna let it go, so she did whatever was needed to sabotage her success in love. The whole attention and sympathy for her loneliness was too advantageous to her, even though deep down she knew exactly what to do to potentially end this suffering little by little.
When I speak of “addiction to suffering”, I am by no means doubting anyone’s hardship. It would be foolish of me to judge someone I don’t even know that well. All I’m trying to do is bring attention to a problem that is often overlooked, not because I am “mean” or “rude” by nature, but because I also worry that when people are unable to identify a problem, they can’t get help for it and keep enduring it. I find that unfair to them. Don’t you? This transcends my opinions of the person. I won’t lie, whenever I look back on these chronic “victims”, some are people who hurt me a lot and I nurture a lot of negative feelings towards them. I don’t love them, but I don’t just “worry” out of condescension either. Somewhere deep inside, I wholeheartedly believe that if they had the opportunity to address the problem before it became overwhelming, maybe they’d have become different people and wouldn’t have hurt me at all.
I can’t single-handedly heal anyone’s addiction — that’d be both unethical and dangerous. I chose not to go for a career in mental health and still stand by my decision. However, I can’t simply stay quiet either. The old saying still stands: you can take a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink, regardless of how qualified you are at the job. Ultimately, the addict is the only person who can decide to help others help them. Nobody else has that much power.