Martyrdom: a display of feigned or exaggerated suffering to obtain sympathy or admiration.
Martyrdom is a form of manipulation.
Parents use it to guilt their children into doing what they want. I gave birth to you! After all we have done for you! Enter the martyr.
It is a used in relationships. I would do anything for you and you can’t bring yourself to do this one thing for me!
It is used in religion as a way to shame followers into submission. He died for your sins.
It is used at work as a means to increase productivity without incentive. Look at Sue she works 10 hour days and weekends and never comes in late, why can’t you be more like Sue?
Manipulation at its simplest is about control. It is about getting needs met. It usually refers to negative, underhanded ways of getting needs met, but at the core that is what manipulation is.
Martyrdom is an exaggerated form of manipulation that uses guilt trips, and shaming, and extremes, and generalizations to get these needs met or exert control.
In my life I have personally been the victim of this kind of manipulation and I have used this kind of manipulation in past relationships. I am not proud of that fact of course but it is true and I am at a place now where I can show that piece of myself love.
This form of manipulation is very triggering for me none the less. It reminds me of times I have been hurt and times I have hurt others. Neither are memories I like to go back to.
Martyrdom is a thing in social work. It is not only a thing, I feel that it is glorified. I feel it used against us as a way to keep us down. To keep accepting low pay, and high case loads, and long hours, etc. etc. These things become expected and we become the martyrs.
Part of what took place in supervision the other day was manipulation. We listened to a long story of martyrdom and were told that we were not as good because we were not doing it this way.
I was triggered for two reasons mainly, for a moment it took me back to the absolute worst employment experience of my entire life.
I worked for a company for 5+ years that was completely toxic because I loved the work and the population. I finally left after my papa died. That is when I realized I had totally lost sight of what was important in life. The night he died he was surrounded by his family. I was not there. I had worked a 12+ hour day and was too tired to make the drive to hospice. He was stable, I would go to him first thing in the morning. He did not make it to the morning.
Following his death I took no time off to grieve. I was in charge, I could not take time off. I thought my job was the most important thing. I realized after experiencing prolonged complicated grief that I had that all wrong. It took me a long time to forgive myself for the time I lost at the end with him. He was more important. I don’t even work there anymore. How could I have ever thought that work, no matter how noble the work I was doing, was more important than the people I love?
The other part of the trigger for me has to do with my mother. Growing up and even into my twenties my mother used martyrdom, shame, and guilt to control me and get her way. It took years for me to recognize it for what it was. It was not until I recognized it in myself that I was able to see it in our relationship. She no longer has that power over me but the pain is still there. It takes a while to heal that kind of wound, especially when you are trying to learn to love and forgive yourself at the same time.
Social work is a primarily female field. Guess which gender struggles the most with work-life balance in general? Guess which gender is the most over-worked and underpaid? I think it is sad that we do not see this as the feminist issue that it is. It is true that many of us, myself included, do not enter this field for the money but that does not mean that what we do is not valuable and I do believe that we should be advocating for ourselves here. It is not just social work either. I feel the same way about teachers. It is another field that is heavily populated with female workers and is very demanding and treated in a similar way.
As women we are programmed by society to feel shame for wanting to be heard and seen and to have a place at the table. How are we supposed to break the glass ceiling if some of us do not even see how we are being manipulated and controlled by those who would rather keep it in place?
Martyrdom is manipulation. I will not believe anyone who tries to convince me I am not worthy of being seen, and heard, and that I have a place at the table. I will not be a martyr, I will be an advocate for myself and minorities like me who are being manipulated into believing we deserve less.