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, "bring.it.on."
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.
Sandy Andrews, PhD is a Clinical Psychologist and Psychotherapist who practices CBT in Austin, Texas
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