ARE YOU A MARTYR? | 01.26.2022
In this episode, Kristen talks about martyrdom - what it is, the role of a martyr, how it evolves, and how you work through it to create expansion and self reflection.
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Welcome to this week's Close the Chapter Podcast. I'm so happy you're here. I am so grateful you're joining me today we have a very important topic that we're going to cover. We are going to be talking about martyrdom. What is a martyr? The role of a martyr? How does it evolve? How do you work through it? And this podcast is really designed to create expansion, awakening, more self reflection, really exploring who you are, and what you feel. Why do you feel that way? So I highly recommend pen and paper for this episode, per usual, if you are running, exercising, doing household chores, maybe you're in the car, just take pen and paper or write it down in your phone. So you can reflect on it later. There may be lots of Aha, there may be some shame that arises take several deep breaths. Hold yourself for so much compassion and radical gentleness. As we walk through the journey together. This is not meant to be shaming, this is meant to be awakening. And when we awaken, we can disrupt unhealthy patterns, we can change the relationship you have with yourself and other people. It's liberation, it's freedom, you're no longer trapped in the confines of survival strategies, you are empowered to be you in the world. So I really encourage you to write it out to get it out. And take some time and write down the aha moments. And if you want a guide to help you continue growing and healing highly recommend getting the free guide, go to kristendboice.com forward slash free resources, you'll be first to know about the program's going to be rolled out this year. And you can join us on social at Kristen D Boice, on Instagram and Facebook. And there's a free community on Facebook, the close the chapter community of people doing like minded work. And I would love to have you join us there. And be sure to join the mailing list. That's where it all happens. All the magic happens. And without further ado, I want to jump into today's episode. And I want you to do some self reflection on your own family system. As we talk about this again, as I always say not to blame anyone. We are creating more self empowerment by understanding yourself understanding your triggers your reactivity, why you feel the way you do. That is empowerment that gets us unstuck. So let's start with defining what is a martyr? How do we define a martyr we've all heard the term, let's define it and jump in. So a martyr is a caretaker who attempts to take care of everyone in the family and make them happy. They want to try to make everybody happy in the family system. They don't really want discord conflict. They're uncomfortable with challenging conversations. They didn't grow up. And they might have grown up in a family system that was chaotic alcoholic, maybe there was some addiction issues. Abandonment was at the root, even if it means maybe there was grief and loss, and they will try to make everyone happy at their the expense of denying real issues in the family, they will live somewhat in a denial, which is a defence defence strategy. And really, self abandon. In the process, it doesn't look like they're self abandoning, but they are and this can get mixed up with victimhood, it can very much look like victimhood. And we're gonna kind of deconstruct this whole concept. So
in the family system roles, there's an episode way back if you want to go back and listen to that one on family roles, I highly recommend that because it creates a understanding of how a family system works. So the martyr typically will suffer the most. And they will be developmentally stuck, as well. Typically a martyr is stuck somewhere along the lines where they've had trauma. Maybe they've had grief and loss. Maybe they were neglected emotionally or physically. Maybe there was some abandonment there. There's typically a trauma where a martyr will be stuck from their childhood, and then they're trying to create a different role to meet an unmet need. They will claim they help the most so because They're the caretaker, their whole identity is surrounded by being needed and wanted. And then they feel resentment, anger, jealousy, the list goes on. But typically you're going to see real passive aggressive behaviour, they will be resentful that they're the ones doing it all. But yet, they don't want to identify what's really happening in the family system. Especially, let's say there's an addictive system, they will deny that there's an issue or even though come into therapy with their partner, and they think it's the partner, that's the whole issue. And they really don't see how they've contributed to the problem, because they've been the one that's kept the family together, they've been the caretaker, they've been the one that's put up with all the problems, and they don't see their contribution to how they're just as stuck as maybe the addict is developmentally, they just look like they're functioning better. They look like they have it all together, when they really don't. And yet, inside, they're bitter, they're angry, they feel lonely, because their inner child didn't get their needs met, and they picked somebody that was at their same developmental place. They were in terms of emotional IQ. And therefore, they are upset that their needs aren't getting met, that they're doing it all quote, unquote, there's kind of an all or nothing thinking. And they also struggle typically, if the other person gets well, they struggle with What's their purpose. So they struggle with somebody doing work having an awakening, let's say they come in with our partner, because then what's their role are they not wanted or needed anymore.
They spend a lot of time cloaked and masked, and disconnected from what they feel because they're in this role of being the hero, so to speak, and yet they are underneath. Very young. I mean, there's just a young part there that is really suffering. So let me give you an example of somebody that definitely plays a martyr role. And this is a case example of somebody whose parent died when they were 13 have cancer. And in the family system, they already had lost a child. When the child was four, the child died, I believe of meningitis. If I remember correctly, of this case study, I'm not quite sure. But that's, that's what I can recall. So the family this was 50 years ago, the family didn't really deal with the grief of the parents of the loss of the child. So then this, the next person in line was the daughter who was born and they never fully healed the grief. So the daughter never fully felt loved because they were still grieving the son that died. And then following that, there was a son that was born and the daughter felt like the son was the favourite. And she didn't feel loved by her mother at all. Mother was kind of stoic, emotionless, definitely did the motions of caretaking but wasn't emotionally available at all. And the father was more emotionally available than the mother but was the was the provider for the family. And she always felt like brother was the favourite, especially with a mom. Well, then dad died at 13. So mom really became pretty flat, stoic, emotionless, per se mean, she was stuck in depression, really in grief, and that never got processed or work through. So in this case, the daughter never felt loved. And so she went on to find worth in value through caretaking. And that was how she felt needed and wanted. And so that perpetual need to feel needed and wondered caused her to function like the parent and her marriage. So she became more of a parent figure in the marriage and the husband was more of a child and she created such codependency. But that created this feeling a false feeling of security. And then as time went on, and the husband didn't do anything, and she did literally everything, she became resentful, and the husband got sick and couldn't really wouldn't really take care of himself. And she was afraid to lose the husband, but yet was so bitter Should go around slamming cabinets, huffing and puffing, passive aggressively making comments under a breath, how she did everything, and how he doesn't do anything and would be very passive aggressive to him. Rather than saying, I feel exhausted and overwhelmed, and I really need help. Here's what I need help with, could you put the dishes in the dishwasher? Could you help me go to the grocery with me and go grocery shopping, I'm making this up. But instead of being direct and clear, she was passive aggressive, wouldn't it be nice if someone helped me around the house, I am so sick of all this stuff laying around the house, and nobody helps me instead of saying directly what you need help with. And it becomes somebody becomes very angry, when you're around them, their energy is filled with rage, internal rage, and stuckness. And in this story, how she was unlovable played in every choice and interaction she made, because she wanted dependency, because she didn't feel lovable. Because she didn't feel worthy. And in refused to do that work, and yet was so bitter that she was doing everything. They're always rescuing another person, and they need to be needed is one of the cornerstones of a martyr. And yet they're so mad, because nobody can do things on their own. But yet, they like there's a payoff there, the payoff is a false sense of security and dependency and being wanted and needed. And they claim they're compassionate, and yet,
they act like If, however, someone treats them it doesn't matter, but yet they're very angry at the same time. So they're not presenting with, it can look like compassion with a mask. I'm not saying they're not parts that are compassionate. But they're really driven by this sense of really taking care of everybody. Okay, we are going to break this down. As I was doing research for this episode, I found a very important article that I think is important to identify what makes up a martyr How can you tell if someone's a martyr so here's some identifying factors. Number one, you're angry and resentful, because your relationship is disappointing to you. And you often think the issue is your be your spouse's or your partner's behaviour. And if they would just do things differently, this would solve everything, you really have trouble owning your own stuff, you can't take radical ownership for your own thoughts, feelings, you feel like the other person is responsible for how you feel. Number two, you communicate with people who cannot make any changes, you kind of gossip, you talk to friends, rather than communicating directly to the person. I see this all the time. And this is really rooted in inner child, if you didn't have a voice as a child, or maybe you are the parental FIDE child, you were the one that was responsible, quote, unquote, and took care of everything. Sometimes that takes that role that you played as the responsible child, the hero child, you take that into your other relationships, and you resent it, because you didn't get to be a kid, you didn't get to be the kid that had was carefree, because you're carrying the weight of maybe an alcoholic family system, or a dysfunctional family pattern. And you had to be the one that had it all together because your parents didn't. And so you've learned to kind of just go around the bend, instead of telling the person directly and I cannot tell you, you cannot have a healthy relationship. If you can't say how you feel directly clearly and calmly. And it's important you're doing this inner child work. If this is you no shame in the game. It's important that you learn to own the roots of where this came from. Number three, you wind scapegoat complaint and may even describe yourself or see yourself as a victim. Although you have endured some bad experiences in your relationship, you fail to own how to create, promote and allow these outcomes. Okay, so this is very important you stay stick stuck and what your partner should have done differently. That's a hard one because you're so hyper fixated on their flaws that you're not looking within to say where is my room for growth? Number five. If someone who you complain to offers a suggestion, your first reaction is to reject it and get defensive and you want to rationalise and justify Why you must continue to behave the way you are, you get super defensive, and you shut that person down, which is exactly what was done to you, and you're doing it to other people. Number six, the problem is a chronic problem, it has endured more than three months. So this is not just an hour, every now and again, pattern, this is a chronic pattern that you have developed. And it's a deeper issue that has to be tended to, we have to get to the root of our trauma, and I identify it, acknowledge it, nurture it, and process it. If we sweep it under the rug, and we deny, minimise, and rationalise why we're behaving the way we do, we don't heal, we stay stuck. Number seven, you begin to see yourself as a storyteller, moving from one negative story to the next, you may even find yourself rehearsing what you're going to tell your friends and family and therapist and pastor and coach and whoever, rather than the strategies that you need to do to actually face the pain and the issue to problem solve it.
That's what little kids do. They're not really and we do this, I'm guilty of it too. Instead of me looking within I'm blaming my husband, or I'm blaming my kids on their behaviour and what they're doing well, that may be true. I am powerless over what my husband does have to look within and say, what is it in me that isn't speaking up? Even if they're not going to change? This? is the myth the misnomer? Why said something they didn't change? Right? Because you can't change another person, I might have to make some hard choices. I'm not in that situation. But if I were, this is why I work with clients on a lifetime of work. If it's an unhealthy relationship, why are you staying in it? And they'll go well, for the kids, I'm like, well, what's the cost for them? They're learning an unhealthy relationship, too. And what is your part in creating this unhealthy relationship? Number eight, underneath your anger and resentment, there may be depression or, and fear and unprocessed grief and trauma, these feelings tend to surface after a storm of anger comes to the surface that needs to be tended to we have to look underneath anger and figure out what is going on. What is my little girl, little boy or little person in there saying to me, and be compassionate, radically compassionate with yourself. Number nine, you may appear very capable to others, but you really see yourself as dependent upon your partner. This leads you to avoid asking for what you want directly, that you're not assertive. You don't want to ask for help. And actually you defend against it. Because it's a threat to your sense of security to ask for help. Or you, you have trouble even leaving a relationship because there's such a familiarity about you being the caretaker and the responsible one because you learned that as a child. Number 10. You may behave as though you are trapped, even when some of your problems may have solutions. And they may be right there. But you don't want to acknowledge that that's an option. I'll hear a lot of times why don't have a choice. And like what you do, you're just scared of the choice. And trapped people often fluctuate between acting helpless, and lashing out. And I will tell you, if you continue that pattern, you're going to recreate the same pattern for your children if you have kids. And there's a high cost to that, you get to decide, do I want to continue with the story that I have in my head? That I do everything? And everybody does nothing? Or do I want to start healing that wound of that role I've played and that's that burden I've carried for so long to be responsible for everyone's happiness. Because you can't make other people happy. It's just the hard truth. You cannot make other people happy. I wish I could I'd sprinkle it around like candy but she can't. And knowing that truth and acknowledging that truth, you can start taking radical ownership for this pattern of years of over owning, needing people to be okay, needing people to be okay with you. Doing everything and feeling so pissed off about it. And feeling quite frankly, so resentful to everybody. That is such a high level of unhealthy when I've gotten there, trust me where I feel so bad because I'm like, I am doing everything around. Sure I'm doing laundry, I'm cooking, I'm cleaning, and nobody's doing anything. Well, that's because I'm not asking and if I do ask and they have attitudes that I'm like Fine, then I'll just do it. That's martyrdom right there. That is such martyrdom of me going fine. I'll just Do it. Rather than saying, Hey guys, I'm going to need your help. I'm going to need you to fold these clothes and put them away in your closet. If you need help, I'll show you how to do that. And walk them through how instead of me getting passive aggressive, having a little tantrum, having a little huff and puff that I do everything. That is not a healthy response, that is me perpetuating my mother's martyrdom. And let's face it, we all have a little martyred, ominous, most of us. So I don't want to pretend like we don't have a part of us that has some martyrdom, especially as a few have taken on so much. It's important that you don't
belittle yourself in the process. Because if you're in martyrdom, chances are you're going to be shaming other people because your map and you feel overwhelmed and you feel exasperated, and that is on you to manage that's not on the family to manage. So okay, let's talk about 10 steps to help you break the martyrdom pattern. When this be awesome for you to break the martyrdom pattern. Or you can here's the thing, if you're listening to this going well my mom's a martyr are my friends a martyr or my insert family member sister's a martyr, you can't change them. This is the other truth that I'm going to keep saying a million times over. You can pray for them. You can say how you feel doesn't mean they're going to change and I recommend being direct and clear. compassionately clear. You work on you that the ticket, you work on your martyrdom parts, you're going to work on your anger, your resentment, your passive aggressive way to show up. So here's 10 steps to help you break it. Okay, give communication, escape mechanisms. Out the door, give them up. That's what I meant to say give them up, stop calling and triangulating people into the dynamic stop gossiping, stop whining, stop blaming stop shaming. Speak to the person directly. Now, if you need a process a safe place to figure out how you're going to make some changes. So let's say you're married to an alcoholic, and you need you need a place to vent. Okay, go to Al Anon goes someplace where they're looking at holding the space for you. And at the same time it's an and and both are looking at how can you get healthy.
If you're just going to dump on people the same stuff, what's going to happen is they're going to feel exasperated, because you're not you're not willing to look at your own stuff and figure out ways to solve it. It's like the person that keeps complaining about let's say they're dating someone and they're like, ah, they keep doing the same thing. You're like, why are you keep dating them? Well, because they're, they've got all these wonderful traits. Well, that's great. But the patterns are pretty ingrained in your, you don't want to do anything differently. So maybe it's time to seek therapy, maybe it's time to go to a 12 step. Maybe it's time to have a support system in place, a support group, a grief support group, maybe you maybe you need a codependent anonymous. Maybe you need a coda meeting, let's Codependents Anonymous. There's so many options to get support to break the pattern of you doing everything for you being the responsible one and doing everything alone. Okay, number two, when someone is wrong, think about what you want to request or what action you want to take. So if you think something is wrong, so sometimes it's our perception, it's not reality. If you are engaging a martyr behaviour, you won't think about what you can ask for or do you'll be thinking about the story you're going to tell later, and then how you're going to complain about it to your friends. Instead of being assertive and direct. And if you need help being assertive, indirect, I have so many episodes on that here on the podcast. And I highly recommend getting into therapy and doing EMDR eye movement, desensitisation reprocessing, or brainspotting, or kind of a deep hypnosis work to break through those inner child little parts inside that don't feel like they have a voice that's rooted in family systems in the roles you played. And in order to have healthy relationships, you have to have a voice. So number three, take one action every day to begin to correct the issues at hand. And that may be calling a therapist and making an appointment. That may be going to getting a sponsor or attending a 12 step or having an accountability partner. Number four, find one thing you'd miss about your partner and start expressing appreciation for the people you're in relationship with. Whether it's your children be specific, whether it's your partner focus on something you appreciate about them and doesn't, don't focus just on behaviour, focus on who they are as a person, like I really love your warm and caring heart, I really love that you're so helpful in the ways that you are proactive with the kids, I'm making this up. Okay, number five, when possible, increase relationship, mending behaviours. And that means apologising, taking radical ownership for your part, that might mean holding hands with your partner, that might mean giving a hug, that might mean leaving a little note, that might mean acknowledging your part in this dynamic. Number six, you got to improve your communication skills and find your voice and be more direct and clear. Because if you're not, you're going to continue to blame and shame your partner, instead of that adult self coming online to say, Okay, it's not your job to make me feel better. If you're in an unhealthy addictive system, you need to get support. Absolutely 100%, you need to get support, whether that's the 12 step, like I talked about therapy, you have to get support, it's one of those that you can't do alone, otherwise, you're gonna feel so alone and overwhelmed. And that's part of martyrdom, you feel alone. And that's part of that inner child work. I've done a lot of my own healing on loneliness. Because we're all going to feel lonely. It really is rooted in experiences in childhood, when I felt lonely. That is the key. And I work with clients on that a lot, or they've had a loss, or they've had grief, they've had a transition.
It's important you're attending to it, it's not your partner's job to attend to it. Now, if you need to make some changes, and and as you grow, and the relationship can't sustain it, that's okay. Because you're getting healthier. I tell people, when they're making hard decisions, I say, are you able to be the healthiest version of yourself right now. It's so important because you're responsible for how you parent, not your children, your children are responsible for soothing you, your children are responsible for making you feel loved and that you matter, your children are responsible for making you feel enough, and neither is your partner. And that's icing on the cake for your partner to do that now, do I want to marry someone or be in a relationship that wants to grow? Yes, if I'm not, I'm recommending you do the growth work. And then you'll have to figure out some decisions along the way, perhaps. And sometimes I've seen it where you grow and the partners like whoa, this is really amazing. I kind of want some of that too. And then they decide they're going to grow, it doesn't always go that way. It doesn't matter, you've got to unattached to the outcome. And when you've grown up in an unhealthy family system, you will inadvertently create some of the same feelings you had as a child. And not intentionally but you'll if you feel shame, you may look to your kid to want them to achieve or want them to belong, want them to be popular want them to look a certain way. That's your inner child stuff, that you putting that on your kid. That's your responsibility. That means you're perpetuating this emptiness, this unworthiness, this lovability, this defectiveness that you have, that has to be tended to that's at the root of martyrdom. It's really rooted in unmet needs. And that is the deep dive and working through martyrdom. You have to heal those inner child unmet needs. I know this sounds like oh, I don't want to do it. I'm like this is this is the answer. It's a deeper dive. Okay, I'm gonna keep going with 10 options here to work through martyrdom. Number eight, when you're angry, identify how You're shitting on your partner. Who in checking your expectations, if you're a martyr, you have all these shoulds in your head, and you don't say them out loud, and you don't check the reality of those shoulds. And now you're angry and resentful. Instead of being clear and direct, hey, could you help me unload this dishwasher? I'd really appreciate it then you're gonna have to let go of your perfectionism around it. It's all about radical ownership. This is how you disrupt any kind of role you've played in your in your childhood. It's radically owning your own thoughts, feelings, opinions, and worth because somebody can't take that on for you. Number nine Here's the key. I want you to really use the Journal on the Kristen D boice.com. For slash free resources that I need you to dedicating time to doing that. I need you to start writing things out about how you feel I first identifying your emotions. I've got tonnes of episodes on doing that. Connecting to your emotions processing them, we've got to have a new way for you to stop focusing on your partner and start focusing on your emotions. Why are you doing everything? Why are you wanting to be the caretaker? What unmet need? Are you trying to fill I need you to write it out. I need you to get more clarity around who you are. And how did you get to be who you are? Identity is super important. Self awareness is empowerment. And number 10. I want you to really answer the question within yourself How long have you been a caretaker? How long have you been caretaking? And when want you to float back to your childhood? I want you to write the answer down. How old were you when you started caretaking?
What was the payoff, which probably makes sense as a child, there was a payoff, you either got attention, you got acknowledgement, you got a connection, there was a payoff for you, that makes sense that you felt some thing from it. Because you had these needs that needed to be met. And then you've taken that into your other relationships, and now it's maladaptive. So it might have been adaptive. And now it's maladaptive. I need you to explore that deeply. Let's say you're in a family system with a martyr, you're not the martyr, but someone else is the martyr, I need you to write out what that was like for you. Did you lose your voice with that person. And here's the ultimate that both. If you are struggling with martyr like roles and qualities, you have to speak up and you have to set boundaries, so does the person on the other end. That is in a relationship with someone that's martyrdom, it's saying, I hear you're really upset. That makes sense. And I'm not the person that's going to be able to help you solve this problem, you really need to go directly to Dad, Mom, you need to go directly to maybe a support system or therapy. I'm not the one that can help you through this. If you're the child and the parents coming to you, even if you're the adult child that is appropriate, that's an appropriate boundary. You can't be the caregiver for your parent that is perpetuating the same pattern. So boundaries, what's okay what's not okay? Because it's about energy. What is your priority? And where does that need to go? And there's, it's impossible for you to make somebody happy. And you've got to own what are the roots of that? When did you feel responsible for making someone happy? What was the payoff? I want you to write out where do you feel resentment? How long have you felt that? And are you willing to look within to heal that wound? I need you to write out some of these pieces and face the pain and not stuff it down. So my first thing is take several deep breaths let's have a space of self compassion. Let's start being honest with ourselves and taking radical ownership. And let's write it out to get it out. Those are the steps. And lastly, if you need assistance, please look online for an EMDR you can go to emdria Em D er Ay ay ay ay believe.org and find a therapist or look for a brain spotting therapist. Those are folks that get trauma they understand family systems or you can find a licenced Marriage and Family Therapist. That's what I am. And they understand family systems and roles. That's our whole training. And that will help you break the martyrdom cycle. And if you're in a relationship with somebody that's a martyr, I really highly recommend you working on boundaries and finding your voice and connecting to your most emotions and being able to self soothe and be clear and direct. And that's okay without guilt because a lot of times martyrs like to use guilt. And that's because they were guilted and guilt gets passed along and guilt about choices and We all have our own choices, and we're all responsible for our own happiness, you're off the hook, you're not responsible for anyone's happiness, you're free from that. It's not your job, and it wasn't your job as a kid, you did the best you could. And I'm proud of you for hanging on here to listen to this whole episode. I'm so proud of you. And if you need to re listen to it, I encourage you to do that. And I want you to know that there's so much helpful information out there and there's some unhelpful information out there as well. But I want you to know that you matter. You're important, you're worthy, you're enough and you're lovable. And you doing this work is you changing the family system. You're having a growth mindset, and there's no greater gift you can give yourself or other people. So thanks for tuning in. And I can't wait to be with you again next week. Have a great week.
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