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Dealing with the Sufferer in Your Life

  • Dr. David B. Hawkins The Relationship Doctor
  • Updated May 11, 2010
Dealing with the Sufferer in Your Life

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Does this interaction sound familiar to you?

You know them by the energy they take from you.  In an effort to help them feel better, you walk away drained. In an effort to cheer them up, you feel discouraged. No matter how much or how often you give to them, it's never enough. They rarely appreciate the lengths you go to please them—and this breeds low level resentment which makes you feel even guiltier. 

CrazyMakers, you remember, make us feel crazy. We walk away from an encounter with an Egotist, Aggressor, or Sufferer, feeling tired, confused and angry. We wonder, "Is it me, or is it them? What just happened here," as our minds swirl with frustration. This CrazyMaker, the third of five in this series, struggles with life. Often depressed, they look outside themselves for happiness. If you're in their circle, they look to you to fill their inner void. 

Now this is where things get tricky. The Sufferer is adept at playing the victim, and we all know what a victim needs — a Rescuer. Few of us, especially caring, concerned Christians, can resist the opportunity of helping someone who is suffering. But that is also the bait --- those who have perfected the role of victim/ Sufferer, will truly never change when offered help. Your help will never be quite enough. And so, you're caught in an endless pattern of trying to fix someone who really doesn't want to be fixed.

Perhaps you're familiar with the paralyzed man at the Pool of Bethesda. Having lay by the pool for thirty-eight years waiting for the swirling of the water in order to be healed, Jesus asks him a pointed question.

"Do you want to get well?"

At first glance this appears to be a slap in the man's face. Of course, he wants to be healed, but complains that he has had no one to help him into the pool when the water is stirred. Thirty-eight years without assistance? On the surface he wants healing, but Jesus looked into his heart. Jesus asks about his true, inner motives.

Each of us has a responsibility in our own healing. While it is right to pray for healing, and even to ask for help, it's not right to expect others to do healing work for us.

Here are some steps to take if you feel hooked by a Sufferer.

First, give up the need to rescue. We must look into our own hearts and make sure we are not feeding an inner need to be the messiah that fixes people. We must let go of any arrogance lingering below the surface whispering, "I have the answers to all your problems." 

Second, we must detach ourselves from their problems. Many Sufferers want to symbiotically attach themselves to others, causing us to feel drained. We must unhook, caring from a distance. We must step back and take a fresh look at what we're doing, and whether we are truly offering legitimate assistance.

Finally, we must give back responsibility. Detaching from others can be a biblically sound enterprise. The Apostle Paul talks at length about responsible behavior. While we are to "carry one another's burdens," (Galatians 6:2) these are burdens they cannot carry alone. We are called to help those with legitimate challenges who cannot carry their burdens alone. But we must also realize we are called to "carry our own load," discovering that by doing so we become stronger. (Galatians 6:5)

Interacting with Sufferers is difficult, but can be much easier when we get our boundaries straightened out. Learn to give the emotional load back to Sufferers and you may find a desire to be around them again. Carrying their load frustrates you and enables them to remain weak and helpless. Treat them as if they are capable, because more often than not, they are!

Are you coping with a Sufferer in your life? Contact me with your feedback.

May 10, 2010

Dr. David Hawkins is the director of the Marriage Recover Center where he counsels couples in distress. He is the author of over 30 books, including Dealing With the CrazyMakers in Your Life, 90 Days to a Fantastic Marriage, and Saying It So He'll Listen. Dr. Hawkins grew up in the beautiful Pacific Northwest and lives with his wife on the South Puget Sound where he enjoys sailing, biking, and skiing. He has active practices in two Washington cities.