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A meme - but (gasp!) it's slightly relevant to what I want to talk about today:

Your result for Which Chess Piece are You Test?...

The King's Bishop

To others, the King’s Bishop projects confidence. This can be mistaken for arrogance; but its source is easy to find. From an early age most of the King’s Bishops are specialized in their knowledge. When it comes to an area of expertise the King’s Bishop has several. They can know immediately if they can help you and how. They know what they know, but more importantly they know their limits.

This Bishop is a perfectionist. They will always attempt to improve upon anything of interest. They have an unusual independence of mind which frees them from authority, convention or sentiment. Anyone who is slacking will lose respect – and be made aware of this. The King’s Bishop can be secretive when making critical decisions. However they are even-handed and will recognize contributions others give.
This Bishop is highly ideal with their goals. They attempt to pursue high degree of quality in solutions and can be critical of ideas that compromise this quality. Because of their unwillingness to accept ‘good enough’ they can be unrealistic. They are at their best when they have time to think through a problem, at which point they may have a plan to solve the dilemma. The King's Bishop is an individual with a very analytical attitude. They are like the Queen's Rook, in that they prefer the ascetic quality of solitude. They are not as sociable as others, but are quite prepared to lead if they deem the current leadership as weak. They are thankfully pragmatic and logical individuals. They have very low tolerance for emotional rampaging or the spinning of 'truths'.

Take Which Chess Piece are You Test? at HelloQuizzy

See that last bit there? Today we talk about the person that does that; an enabler of the moocher, and someone you want to avoid becoming like - at all costs.

I am, of course, speaking of The Martyr.  Answers.com defines a martyr in a couple of different ways; the religious martyr is not our purview here, because despite rumours to the contrary*, no-one in the SCA has been forced to burn for their beliefs, and it is the only the Intarweb flamewar bonfires of death, doom and disaster that warm our paws until they are nice and toasty.

(And sore from all that typing.  Whoo!  What a workout!  I deserve a milkshake.)

So, yeah - "One who makes a great show of suffering in order to arouse sympathy".  Sound like someone you know?  I've known a few.  This is not the person who tries to be polite and is afraid of making a scene when something unexpected happens, it's the person who sets themself up again and again to have their hospitality used (and abused), mostly so they can have the satisfaction of complaining later about how they always give everything, and never get anything in return.  I actually had one of these people say to me "I give and I give..."

I don't know what they said next - I got a severe ringing sound in my ears as I tried to prevent an aneurysm from holding in my hysterical laughter.

(I was mostly successful, but I think I may have lost a bit of short-term memory.)

They turn every small issue into a huge drama-fest, exaggerating the "crime", and overstating their own sacrifice and suffering.  There is no forgiveness for little missteps, and, most important, they never do anything to change the situation

Again, this is not the person who is temporarily paralyzed between politeness and frustration as they try to handle mooching and unexpected guests and hospitality at an event; they invariably come up with workable solutions for the next time, they just weren't expecting the issue, and so did not know how to react.  This person makes a clear plan for the future (even if that plan simply consists of "I will say NO when asked to do this by that person, dammit!").

No, we're talking about the people that almost enjoy being victimized by strangers and friends - friends who frequently have no idea they're imposing, and would be mortified to find out they were being complained about in such a manner (worse, the martyr often smiles and encourages them, so they have no idea it's not okay).  What causes this phenomenon?  

I think pathological "martyrdom" in the social sense springs from a discovery of the heady power of victimhood.  Most of our members are socially awkward, and are unused to being the center of attention.  Then  - something bad happens, everyone is super sympathetic (because we are generally really nice people), the person gets a taste of the attention that comes from being a victim of bad things, and the attention and the positive feedback is a little too much to resist.  Like heroin, the state of victimhood becomes addictive, especially if nothing really bad happens, and the situation can be milked for sympathy without any real inconvenience to the martyr.

(In contrast, most people who go through real life trauma rarely make as big a deal about it - for personal reasons, because it's too painful, or because they dislike being thought of as a "victim" of something.  For many victims of sickness/trauma/abuse, it's actually pretty annoying to be pigeon-holed as nothing more than a "victim".  It makes one sound (and often feel) completely powerless, especially when people who have not experienced the same thing become uncomfortable with the issue, and deal with that discomfort by making the victim an object of pity rather than treating them like a normal person.)

But for some people, the attention they get from complaining is what they crave - P.J. O'Rourke points out that serious people complaining about serious subjects can hold audiences hostage because no-one wants to blow off someone's description of their awful trauma from working with children dying in Africa or helping tsunami victims, no matter how boring or whiny they are.  Similarly, the SCA martyr holds a similar sway over their audience - no-one feels comfortable dismissing someone telling you all about their terrible experiences.

However, a simple question can ferret out those who are simply the victims of something they didn't expect (the jerk who won't get out of their chair, the stranger who sets up in their pavilion without asking), and the person who secretly likes it when this stuff happens, so they can complain about it later:

"So, what will you do next time this happens?"

The normal poor schmuck who froze because of the unfamiliarity of the situation will say something like "I dunno - ask them nicely to move?  Use

attack_laurel's sage and learned advice**, and remember that it's okay to tell people to stop?".

The martyr will say "oh, nothing *sigh*  I'll be okaaaaaaaay".  The reason?  If no-one does anything "mean" or "rude" (the quotation marks are there for a reason), then the martyr doesn't have anything to bitch about, and if the martyr doesn't have anything to whinge about, then they're afraid that no-one will pay attention to them.  I've known a couple of this type of person who became positively Machiavellian in their attempts to wring sympathy out of the most innocuous situations***.

You can't fix a martyr, but you can refuse to play into their mind-games.  They will never do anything to address their problems, pretty much for the exact reasons stated above.  

We're all nice people - we really do want to sympathize with people having a bad day, or people who have had a bad experience, but after a while, some people always seem to be having a "bad day", and they use that excuse to garner sympathy and attention, without ever fixing the issues they complain about so endlessly.

Drama is a somewhat unavoidable aspect of being active in the SCA, and it's terribly easy to get sucked into it.  The time we really need to be conscious of its negative effects is when the poor unsuspecting types are at risk for becoming martyrs against their will.  When everyone is telling you it's rude to ask people not to do something rude, then it's easier to avoid confrontation and complain to friends later - especially when it's your friends abusing your hospitality.   It then becomes a habit, and before you know it, you're a bitter doormat who never fixes anything, because there's a certain power and energy in standing on the sidelines of your life and complaining about how everyone takes advantage of you, and you never get thanked, and they never think of you, and you give and you give...

I almost fell into this trap - until someone very smart *cough*Bob*cough* pointed out that I never talked to the people who had upset me, and even better, he refused to talk to them on my behalf.  He was right - we do too much of our communication second and third-hand, and as a result, communication is lost, feelings are hurt, and no-one actually fixes anything.  Some people are lucky - they're naturals at being assertive while remaining polite.  Others of us (like me) had to learn how to be assertive without psyching ourselves up too far and being rude by mistake.

But even those for whom confrontation is a four-letter word can learn how to (nicely) stand up for themselves.  The added benefit (aside from the increased availability of chairs) is that you avoid incipient martyrdom, and circumvent the long slow descent into bitterness and Cranky mcCrankypants status.  

Good stuff, eh?  Who knew that saying "I'd like to sit in my chair, please" could have such far-reaching effects?

You can't make someone stop nailing themselves to their cross (don't help them, either), but you can avoid picking the hammer up for yourself.  It takes practice, and don't beat yourself up if you don't get it right at first - learning how to stand up for yourself when you've been taught to be self-abnegating**** isn't easy.  But work towards stating your needs directly, and you'll find you get much more positive results than dropping useless hints and complaining to everyone except the person whose actions pissed you off.


*I'm kidding.  Mostly.

**Available for three easy payments of $19.95.  Cash only.

***
One of the martyrs I used to know (details changed slightly to protect the undeserving) always complained of stomach pains and nausea whenever something needed to be done, or when someone annoyed them - basically as a way of excusing their lazy/crappy behaviour.  A friend of mine looked them straight in the eye when they were going on about how awful it was to be so ill, and pity me, oh poor me, and said "Hmmm.  Maybe it's stomach cancer.  You should get that checked".  Fixing the problem would have taken away their excuses - the martyr didn't complain around my friend ever again.  My friend said it was great.  :)

****Look it up.

 

 

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( 51 brains — Leave a chunk of brain! )
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maricelt
Jul. 10th, 2008 01:18 pm (UTC)
I adore your icon. :>
And, Brava! You do have a way of hitting the nail on the head.
attack_laurel
Jul. 10th, 2008 01:21 pm (UTC)
I found it on the intarwebs, and it was too good to resist stealing. :)

I try. Keep in mind that this lot of people is a very small subset of the overall picture, which is why we all have such a hard time dealing with them - we don't get much practice at it (thankfully).

elasait
Jul. 10th, 2008 01:21 pm (UTC)
My mother was never in the SCA, but you have described her to a "T". Much of my energy in life has been spent very consciously trying not to become her...
attack_laurel
Jul. 10th, 2008 01:24 pm (UTC)
The charcter archetypes are universal - the SCA is where I deal with them, but the SCA didn't create them.

Professional victims can be very dangerpus - if you don't buy into their ploys, they will frequently turn you into an enemy, and recruit people to hate you.

...not that I would have any experience with that. *innocent whistle*
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isenglass
Jul. 10th, 2008 01:23 pm (UTC)
Stomach cancer?!! Awesome!!! I am totally going to steal that.
attack_laurel
Jul. 10th, 2008 01:24 pm (UTC)
*giggle* Like Head-On, apply where it hurts. :)
isabelladangelo
Jul. 10th, 2008 01:27 pm (UTC)
I'm going to email this (and the rest of this lovely lecture series. Is it really only $19.95 for a tape of it?) to a couple of people.


Thank you for the link to the jacket, btw! I'll check it out when I get home. We are allowed on the LJ but not "educational" sites anymore. Don't ask. I don't get it either.
cathgrace
Jul. 10th, 2008 01:30 pm (UTC)
when we were kids, as soon as my mom would ask my younger sister to vacuum she would all of a sudden develop a debilitating pain in her leg, (she would limp and hop around whimpering.) We took to singing "It's a hard knock life" from Annie at her while we cleaned, it used to make her so mad (my mom didn't love it either, but I digress.) that we would tease her for her drama, but she eventually wouldn't complain or fake around us.
attack_laurel
Jul. 10th, 2008 01:40 pm (UTC)
Heh. Lame. :)
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kass_rants
Jul. 10th, 2008 01:35 pm (UTC)
I have a friend who's a martyr. I mentioned him in a reponse to one of your earlier posts. Actually at this point, I've ceased to consider him a friend because his martyrdom has completely alienated me at this point. And I'm just not a nice enough person to continue to say, "Yes, yes. Poor thing. It always happens to you." The truth is that every one of his problems has a simple solution. I give him these solutions and his response is always a big sigh and then, "If only I could do that..." Why can't you do that? What's stopping you? If you're so miserable, why not change the thing you're miserable about?"

I don't get it. I'd do anything to stop being miserable. I hate being down. When I'm down, I constantly look for that thing that's going to solve the problem so I can solve it and get happy again.

You know, I've been having a lot of bad days recently. But you know what I do? I avoid people. I don't want anyone to have to put up with me when I'm depressed or sick or harping on a situation that I just can't change. I'll be back when I'm someone pleasant to be around. No martyrdom. And I can't stand sympathy. I got into this situation. I'll get out of it. Just gimme a couple days...

This reminds me of another martyr I knew as a child -- probably my first. She was a fat kid, but she was also tough and funny, so no one ever made fun of her twice. She was fun to be around. Our fathers worked together and we went to school together, so we were together a lot.

She would sometimes have these parties and invite the whole class. Our class was only about 25 kids, so not as huge as that sounds. So we'd have these parties in her basement and there would be soda and cake and games and music and everything to make the party fun. I LOVED going to parties at her house.

But just when the party was getting fun, you'd notice she wasn't around. If you went looking for her, you'd find her across the room from the party, in plain sight, sitting and staring at the floor, moping.

Her parties were the most successful things going, but she wanted more. She wanted a group of people to gather around her and pity her. For what, I don't know. After all, her party was a success and she was well liked. What did she have to garner pity? But she did this at every party. And sure enough, the enabler in our class would go over and go, "There there. It's okay." And soon a crowd would gather around her saying, "There there. It's okay." And no one knew what was "okay" and why we stopped having the party to do this in the first place.

The sad truth is that she was funny, and if she just acted the way she did at school, she would have had a crowd of people around her laughing and joking with her. But that wasn't good enough. She wanted pity.

After a while, I stopped going over to her to ask what was wrong. I knew what was wrong. She wanted someone to dote on her. And I'm just not that kind of person. Eventually I stopped going to her parties because she was such a trial. I'm sure I wasn't the only one.
attack_laurel
Jul. 10th, 2008 01:39 pm (UTC)
I can see why - But they do it precisely for that reason; it's not enough that everyone is having a good time - they have to understand the sacrifice. *eye*roll*
cortejo
Jul. 10th, 2008 01:36 pm (UTC)
P.J. O'Rourke points out that serious people complaining about serious subjects can hold audiences hostage because no-one wants to blow off someone's description of their awful trauma

OMG! That is so true!!!
(Deleted comment)
thornbury
Jul. 10th, 2008 01:48 pm (UTC)
That's a great icon in so many ways.
(no subject) - attack_laurel - Jul. 10th, 2008 02:08 pm (UTC) - Expand
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thornbury
Jul. 10th, 2008 01:46 pm (UTC)
Something which is perhaps just as debilitating is becoming a martyr in one's own mind - and I'd suggest that more of us do that inwardly than outwardly. It causes the same bitter feelings in one's self, with the same chance for satisfaction (none). I know I've been guilty of this on many occasions, and it serves no one. All it does is to make one unhappy.

Good food for thought. Thanks, Laura.
hugh_mannity
Jul. 10th, 2008 01:59 pm (UTC)
*starts digging under the sofa cushions and see if he can come up with $59.85 in small change and unmarked bills*
attack_laurel
Jul. 10th, 2008 02:09 pm (UTC)
*note new career for self as SCA motivational speaker*

8)
copper_oxide
Jul. 10th, 2008 02:32 pm (UTC)
Hierarchy of Needs
(with apologies to Maslow)
Everyone wants love. Top of the pyramid.
If an individual doesn't feel they are getting love the individual tries to get huge amounts of respect. Center of the pyramid.
If individual doesn't feel they are getting all the respect they feel they deserve they either 1) try to get fear or 2) try to get pity. Bottom of the pyramid.
There is no lower level of the hierarchy pyramid than this, they just work harder at the lowest level and become the super martyrs.
molly_world
Jul. 10th, 2008 02:54 pm (UTC)
But work towards stating your needs directly, and you'll find you get much more positive results than dropping useless hints and complaining to everyone except the person whose actions pissed you off.

You've just nailed another one of my all-time pet peeves (go you!!): If you cannot be bothered to talk to the person who pissed you off, puhleeeze do not spend all of your energy walking around the event bad mouthing them to God and everybody. And when you're called on it, puhleeze don't lamely offer: "Well, I hate conflict" as an excuse because you're obviously OK with the trade-off being that you start to resemble a gossipy backstabbing guttersnipe (at least in my book, smile). Whew...that just HAD to be said...better now!
attack_laurel
Jul. 10th, 2008 03:05 pm (UTC)
Yes - the reply to "I hate conflict" is "actually, you're obsessed with it, or you wouldn't be walking around trying to get everyone into a big war over your issue".

8)
(no subject) - maricelt - Jul. 10th, 2008 03:11 pm (UTC) - Expand
baronessadriana
Jul. 10th, 2008 03:07 pm (UTC)
I don't know how you have such impeccable timing. But, I thank you for it.

*goes off to ponder*
attack_laurel
Jul. 10th, 2008 03:18 pm (UTC)
I am the master of the universe! Muahahahahaha!
mermadn
Jul. 10th, 2008 03:16 pm (UTC)
You are as always a font of useful goodness.

Please consider "Pathological Liars in the SCA" as another topic in the AOD lecture series. Handling them with grace and style is something I would love to be able to do!
attack_laurel
Jul. 10th, 2008 03:19 pm (UTC)
Ooooh - that might be tough - I'd be terribly tempted to tell stories, and that might be bad. :)

"Munchausen's, the SCA, and you" - heh. :)
semy_of_pearls
Jul. 10th, 2008 03:51 pm (UTC)
*chuckle I've known several people like that. But I refer to them as Jewish Grandmothers (I played Yente in High School.)
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