Persecution Complex

“I can see that they don’t like me, therefore I’m correct.”

Recently someone accused me of being “willfully defiant” and “intentionally non-cooperative” toward him. And there’s no point in trying to defend myself from these accusations, because apparently, I’m also a liar. This verdict against my character actually took me by surprise. Usually, mature adults don’t place those labels on mature adults. That’s something you might say about a tantrum-throwing child or a troubled teenager. But the most surprising thing about it is that it was obvious that he sincerely believed his assessment, and it couldn’t be further from the truth. How strange for two people to be living in such polar opposite realities.

Clearly, this guy does not know me well. In general, I’m a very low-energy person. I’m proud of myself when I get the bare minimum done for my survival on any given day. The dust bunnies under my bed can attest to that.

The thought of sitting around, plotting and scheming and following some rigid plan to… what? Make someone’s life miserable for the pure hell of it?  That seems like an enormous waste of my limited energy. It makes me tired just thinking about it.

It’s also rather startling that someone actually thinks that I focus my attention that much, either positively or negatively, on someone who is not a loved one. I mean, I have never socialized with this guy, and I never will. I don’t know where he lives or what he likes to eat. Frankly, I have to admit that I’m not even certain of his eye color. Brown, maybe? Blue? I’m not sure.

The truth is, I don’t care about this dude unless or until he decides to do something that affects me. The bulk of his life has absolutely nothing to do with me, and that’s as it should be. If we were drawn as a Venn diagram, a tiny sliver of our circles would just barely overlap. Go on about your business, man. That’s what I’m trying to do.

We do have a lot of philosophical differences. Neither of us seem inspired to try to alter the other’s politics or religion, so frankly I couldn’t care less. Where we seem to butt heads is in regard to how things should be done that will impact both of us.

If he comes up with a great idea, I give credit where credit is due, and I adopt the policy without question. Sadly, he doesn’t seem to have kept track of the times that I have done that. Had I but known there would be a test afterward, I’d have taken notes.

On the other hand, if he floats an idea and I see potential problems therewith, I point those out. But I do that with everybody. By no means am I singling him out for such treatment. But if what he does will impact me as well, I feel I have the right to weigh in. In fact, I genuinely believe that I would be remiss in not mentioning the pros and cons of the concept.

Now, what he chooses to do with that information once it’s provided is up to him. I’d want someone to point out potential hazards in my plans were the positions reversed. That way I can be confident that I’m making an informed decision.

Instead, his idea of feedback is vague and uninformative, and usually a tad condescending. “Your pet project is a waste of funds.” The only thing that informs me of is his general disdain for me. It causes me to explain how I could get around the funds issue, which he then interprets as me being argumentative.

So there you have it. We don’t like each other. The difference, it seems, is that he thinks I’m actively out to get him, and only him, and that it’s my reason for being. But actually, I just think he’s a jerk with poor communication skills, but I know for a fact that he’s that way with everybody. I don’t think I’m particularly special, so when I am the beneficiary of his lack of tact, I know that I’m not the only one. I don’t think he’s smart enough or evil enough to rise to the level of plotting against me. I don’t believe that I take up the amount of space in the world that would inspire someone to give over their every waking moment to destroy me.

And I am truly confused by that mindset. What am I supposed to gain by being willfully defiant? I don’t see any possible motivation for behaving that way. Personally, I prefer to avoid confrontation whenever possible. If my character and/or reputation is attacked, I will speak up about it, mind you, but I certainly don’t go looking for fights.

I’m an introvert. Human interactions exhaust me. So the last thing on earth that I’d want to do is go out of my way to make any necessary interactions hostile. I would much rather exchange pertinent information and then get on with things. Preferably alone.

I made a new friend recently, and in an effort to understand this confusing situation, I told him about it, and he said, “I bet that guy was bullied a lot as a child. He sure seems to have a persecution complex.”

Wow. Perspective. I’d never thought of that. He does spend a great deal of time documenting the most minor transgressions that he sees in all of his coworkers, and then conflates those things into a major crisis. He has a reputation for throwing people under the bus, and I don’t think he truly understands just how universally disliked he is because of it.

He seems to be incapable of allowing for human error. Someone puts a key in the wrong place one time, he will professionally shame that person. He documents it as a safety issue, which it would be if it were a habitual error, but we’re talking one incident as compared to the 125 times that person has put the key in its proper place. What a crisis! No one else at work goes from zero to catastrophe like this guy.

He has said that things would be so much better if he were able to discipline me. And he has absolutely no clue how creepy that sounds. It is beyond me how someone can be so certain of his own self-righteousness that he gets frustrated when he isn’t allowed to mete out justice to everyone around him.

Okay, so let’s face it, we’ll never be inviting each other over for Thanksgiving Dinner. Big deal. But I genuinely do try to understand people, so I decided to read more about persecution complex, to see if it truly fits him, and if so, come up with some coping skills for when I’m faced with his paranoia.

The frustrating thing about persecution complex is that the bulk of the articles out there seem to be discussing only Fundamentalist Christian persecution complex which happens to overlap with Republican persecution complex. It seems that the best way to hold onto your outlandish beliefs without having to defend them is to think that the only reason your beliefs aren’t universally held is that some person or group is out to get you. They’re trying to shut you up, prevent you from spreading the truth. So it’s not your fault. It’s theirs.

How convenient.

I don’t even know if this guy’s a Christian, and while I suspect his politics might make me want to puke, I can’t be certain, so these articles weren’t as helpful as I hoped they would be. I did pull out a few nuggets of information once I stripped away all the religion, though. Here are a few:

  • If you feel like someone is persecuting you, you can convince yourself that somehow that means you must be doing the right thing, so you get to pitch your tent, forever, on the moral high ground.
  • People with a persecution complex find it all but impossible to differentiate contradiction from persecution. (And that, in a nutshell, describes my situation with this guy. I disagree with an idea, and he sees that as the attempted murder of his very essence.)
  • People with this complex think that their beliefs are magically validated if they are hated for expressing them. Further, the more extreme they become, the more they feel they hold the truth in their hands, because martyrs would not die for nothing, right? Their flawed logic tells them, “I can see that they don’t like me, therefore I’m correct.”
  • People with persecutory delusions can’t recognize reality. They believe that someone or some group is trying to harm them. These beliefs often look bizarre and unrealistic to the outsider.

Yep, all these things apply to the guy in question. Does that make me feel vindicated or triumphant? No, actually, it makes me feel sorry for him. He has a sad little life, and that is painful to see.  Another upsetting conclusion I have drawn from my reading is that many people who have a persecution complex either had traumatic childhoods or are suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder for some other reason.

I can imagine he was bullied as a child, and no one deserves that. I can imagine he’s been through some horrible stuff to have so much self-loathing that he believes he must automatically be completely loathed by others. But he’s taking victim-hood to new depths. He once told me that if his marriage fails, it will be my fault, such was the stress that I put on him by pushing back all the time. And I couldn’t even pick his wife out of a lineup.

So, now I have a better sense of what I’m dealing with. I hope that some day he will realize that I care entirely too little about him to pose a threat. Dude, I didn’t push you down the stairs in high school. This monster costume you’ve put me in makes my scalp itch. It’s time for you to let me take it off.

It must be really terrifying to think you’re surrounded by irredeemable demons whose sole purpose is to hunt you down. But I suppose it’s preferable to looking at yourself in the mirror and admitting that you are your own worst enemy.

Sources:

https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Persecution_complex

https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Argumentum_ad_martyrdom

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mizjkPLUFYo (This crazy video allows you to see persecution complex in action.

https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/persecutory-delusions

A big thanks to StoryCorps for inspiring this blog and my first book. http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5