Thursday, November 27, 2008

the martyr syndrome: an intervention

I have sorely strayed from one of my blog objectives: to share some of my accumulated wisdom in the area of all things psychological. The holiday weekend has given me fresh motivation and inspiration.

The Martyr Syndrome

Defining Characteristics: Insisting on having one's own way in the completion of a task; which is the hardest, tedious, most time consuming and potentially back breaking way of doing said task; and despite the urging of the majority of adults present to make it easy on oneself; and despite assurances that it will "taste just fine: or "work just as well" (maybe even better) done the easier, faster, way.

Upon insisting on having done it the hard way, The Martyr becomes overly fatiqued and "stressed out," to the point of intolerable crankiness, or poutiness, or both, in repeating cycles; which, in turn, inevitably elicits feelings of alienation and emotional deprivation; and the overall belief that one is not appreciated in the slightest, and therefore not loved, despite (indeed, in spite of) the sacrifices one has made. Heavy sighs and comments such as "But I only wanted to make everyone happy!" may be heard during this latter phase of the disorder. Tears may be present.

Preparation of the annual Thanksgiving Feast is a common precipitating event. The making of turkey gravy is a particularly ripe activity for the presentation of The Martyr Syndrome but there are an infinite number of domestic scenerios that work equally well in sparking the onset of the disorder.

Unfortunately, there is very little that can be done to thwart the perpetual enactor of the syndrome. If a Martyr is in your midst, do not, therefore, direct your efforts toward trying to dissuade, shame, or engage in "I told you so's", particularly if you are in the throes of the decades long sufferer. It will be to no avail and could escalate The Martyr into further decompensation.

Recommended Treatment: There is, however, one full proof method that those exposed to The Martyr Syndrome can employ. I call it the "Dayglo Slushie Surprise."

1. Present the kids and The Martyr with a "Dayglo Pink Slushie" made in the blender. Inform recipients that you thought this would be "a fun surprise" and perhaps "the start of a holiday tradition."

2. Hold back a generous portion of the slushie.

3. Enact slight of hand.
4. Add heavy handed jiggerfulls of tequila and triple sec to the blender. At this stage, you should begin to feel the Prodromal Effects, Stage I of relief. i.e., Help IS on the way.

5. Pour covertly enhanced (prickly pear margaritas) DayGlo Slushie Surprises into two glasses: one for yourself and one for your co-conspirator, if you are fortunate enough to have one on hand.

Lime wedge and salt rim optional. Although, experts suggest these are better left off entirely lest The Martyr be tipped off to their significance and a second, more vicious round of the disorder ensues.

6. Give a knowing wink when handing the co-conspirator his Slushie "Surprise."

7. Toast to the happiness and wellbeing of all present. Give the co-conspirator a second knowing wink.

Feel Prodromal Phase, Stage II of the impending relief.

8. Slurp. Swallow. Allow the icy cold elixir to move to the back of throat, roll slowly down the esophagus, make contact with the tummy, and then ... ahhhh ... feel the merciful FULL RELIEF phase of treatment, that luxurious warmth from the inside out. The feeling that whispers, ""

9. Agree wholeheartedly when kids and The Martyr tell you how yummy these slushies are and what a good idea it was and how they "hope we do this every year."

10. Repeat steps #4 through #8, as often as needed.


Lisa Wheeler Milton said...

I took notes for next year. You are a wise woman.

(Playing martyr is rampant in our family. I've learned to not engage when the whining starts, lest I break into sharp words about free will and making choices.

That's never welcome.)

Hope you had a good weekend.

shrink on the couch said...

lisa -- thanks, I shall add your good advice to my intervention repertoire, because you absolutely have the right idea.

Mary said...

1. Fortunately we do not celebrate thanksgiving.

2. Fortunately we have no martyrs in the family.

3. Number 2 could change as we grow older.

4. We do celebrate Christmas of course.

5. In which case I will never ever forget this post!

shrink on the couch said...

mary -- martyr syndrome comes in hues of green and red, oh yes it does. decorating just so, finding, and the whole dinner ordeal. good point.

laurie said...

oh man. does the martyr syndrome cure lead to another syndrome? middle-of-the-afternoon napping syndrome, perhaps?

Vodka Mom said...

omg you are BRILLIANT!! I love it.

shrink on the couch said...

laurie -- it can, yes. we didn't start out intervention until right before dinner time.

Denise @ Sunflowers, Chocolate and Little Boys said...

I loved this post....and will remember it for next Thanksgiving. Actually I may try it for Christmas and Easter too.
Thanks for stopping over at my birthday party :-) I love meeting new bloggy friends...especially ones who wish me a happy birthday.

Jennifer S said...

The beauty of this post is that its wisdom comes in handy for all kinds of family get-togethers.

Brilliant, and hilarious!

Anonymous said...

Could have used this advice on Wednesday, but at least I'm prepared for next year.....and I don't think my own martyr tendencies will be making an appearance at Christmas.

Melissa said...

Found you through apathy lounge...even if you appear to be an aggie, I'll give a fellow austinite a chance...:)

I did a lot of new things this t-day, abut I think next year the slushie tradition will be added. Before you got to the good part, I kept thinking that "hmmm...that would be better with tequila", and then you obliged!

Glennis said...

ah, perfect!! with salt!

Your description reminded me of a friend I like very much, but who always takes on the role of martyr. her organization of her mother-in-law's annual summer barbecue was excruciating!

she could have used a tequila slushy!

Anonymous said...

Jeez, I thought it was just people I know who act that way.

And yes, a little booze goes a long way toward keeping the peace in those situations.

Anonymous said...

So THAT'S what was missing during last week's festivities with the in-laws. Where were you when I needed you?

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

I just chug straight from the bottle.

Nora said...

Oh my, this made me smile. I could have used some hidden booze myself this weekend.

JCK said...

Best meaning I've ever read on "martyr." Where was MY drink, damn it?!

AnnD said...

Brilliant! That should be published. I am have tempted to send it to my mother, though she would be like: "What are you talking about?! I don't do do that!"

AnnD said...

have should have been half

That's what I get for trying to eat and type.

Marinka said...

I, too, am taking notes. Maybe I'll need to practice before the next Thanksgiving?

e.beck.artist said...

crack up!!
love that you have a such a fun solution!

Mels Place in Big Bear said...

It's not fair. I dealt with a martyr but had no drink. Where the hell are you when I need yoU?

Anonymous said...

haha oh excellent.

I do loathe being in the presence of a martyr. And yes, I do usually turn to alcohol! The trick is not to overdo it - otherwise I tend to stick my big foot in it and say all sorts of things I shouldn't. I need to stay at the mellow stage!