What do you do when you find that within a group of people you are the lowest on the totem pole? The question gets more complex the more complex the group. It’s hard when it is at a place of work, but it cuts deep when it goes into friendships or family. When you are the target, it’s hard to move to get out-of-the-way or protect yourself. How do you handle it?
The biggest problem in these last two groups is when the other people involved have looked at you in this way for so long that they don’t even realize or recognize how painful their comments or treatment are to you.
The problem becomes more difficult to understand when there is a question of whether they don’t realize the pain they are causing or they just don’t care. In some cases, it is part of their plan to knock you down to quiet you or make sure you know that you’ll never measure up or fit in. For others, it has been this way in the group for so long that they don’t even think twice about what they say. You have been in this role much longer than you ever realized or were able to fully see for yourself. In some instances, you were in this spot before you could have done anything to be in this spot.
What are the reasons for this happening? The reasons are probably more numerous than I could even imagine. However, they are important to know. If the problem is something you have done or the way you treat people, this is important to know because there is something in you that needs to change. We all have things in our lives where we can improve to grow and be better people and, therefore, be able to help others and not hurt them.
For others, it is something that is completely out of their control. I recently saw a video of a husband who had not spoken to his wife for 20 years because he was jealous of the attention she gave to their children. She had no idea why he wouldn’t talk to her until their children planned for them to meet in a park to work through it. They wanted so much to hear their father talk to their mother and were in tears when he did speak.
This can also happen to the children or one child if a parent feels jealous of just one of the children, this child can become the target of their displeasure. Also, if there is an abusive family member who zeros in on any one person, that person may become the acceptable target to throw blame on or not defend. It is self-preservation at it’s finest. However, for that person who is the target, it is a life of fighting something they can never win and probably will never understand.
So, what can the person who is targeted do? If they have behaved in a way that is harmful or hurtful, they can do what they can to change. They can become a better version of themselves and apologize for the harm they have caused. It will take time for the person to gain trust of those they have hurt, but it can happen.
For those who have been the target for years with no real reason for being the target, I have no idea what can be done. I would actually love to know. I’ve been in this position and to speak about it to the people involved only causes more pain. When you have been in this place for so long, they don’t understand that what they say only emphasizes more how little you matter. I’m not saying they don’t love you. I believe they can still love you, but it’s not unconditional love. There will not be any defending of you for your benefit because to do so might place stress or problems on one of the others higher on the totem pole. That simply will not happen. It can’t. It’s so engrained in them to look out for the welfare of others who are involved that, for them to go against it, is beyond comprehension.
I don’t believe there can be a replacement target in a family because it would change the entire dynamic of the family. And to not have a target would mean that everyone would have to face their problems and own up to their faults and actions. There would be a need to change, which is not something that is readily done in unhealthy relationships. It’s too much work and usually not every person involved will admit there is a need for change.
If anyone has been through this or has ideas, I’d love to hear from you. My prayer is that each person has at least one person who will defend, stand up for and love them unconditionally at some point in their lives. It is very lonely living in this position.
~ Joanna Lynn
(For the start of the story, read A Voice.)