Heroes and Villains?
Each of us is a complex mixture of good and bad - capable of being a hero or a villain depending on what the situation requires.
But some people are chronic mind-game players who seem to have decided that they would rather drain the ones that love them than do their own work.
It might be because these people have never witnessed happiness and healing and don't believe it's possible. It might be because they're so overwhelmed with their own conflicts that they've never figured out non-manipulative ways of getting what they need.
Or maybe they're just misunderstood. Maybe we just think these people are jerks because they don't respond and react the way we like.
Whatever the Reason, it's the Results We Don't Like
People who refuse to heal their stuff, and instead re-create their chronic dramas (in the process sucking everyone else's energy into a vampire vortex of endless need), are victims of learned helplessness. They haven't learned to safely solve problems for themselves. They haven't been allowed to experience the consequences of their actions in such a way as to learn and grow from them.
This is a nice way of saying some people are just spoiled brats.
Whatever the reason, the result is that people who do not know how to handle consequences in an effective way will glom onto people who are the opposite: people who love handling problems. People who love to "help," and thereby get credit, and hopefully friendship, in return.
You end up with a relationship in which one person is always needing to be helped and the other is always doing the helping.
This becomes a problem when the helper in the relationship expresses needs of his own, and the helpee in the relationship responds not by helping, but by criticizing.
That's abuse. Victimization.
So, when someone is occasionally (or frequently) abusive toward you, the important question you need to answer for yourself is, "Is this guy I love someone with exceptional bad luck in life who needs my love and tolerance in order to grow and become a wonderful person ...or is this guy an asshole?"
"Is my friend a wonderful gal who sometimes has a slip due to stress or bad events ...or is she an asshole who puts on a good show most of the time?"
How to Decide
I'll tell you right now, to save time.
The answer is the latter. That is, your friend is an asshole.
Assholes are not assholes continuously. They are decent human beings often 95% of the time... as long as things are going okay. But the moment things don't go marvellously - for them - they feel that it's okay to take it out on you.
It comes down to this: assholes, having way-less-than-average experience at successfully solving their own problems, do not understand that failures, screw-ups, and challenges in life are the means by which we grow.
Instead, they believe that flaws or imperfections of any kind are unacceptable and they feel they have the right - perhaps even the duty - to correct those flaws.
But, of course, this whole notion is fundamentally untrue. We are all imperfect at all times. That's the richness of life.
But having the idea that this cannot be, the asshole must deny her own flaws and suppress them, burying them deep into her unconscious ...which means that she will have to crush those flaws every time they are forced into her awareness by other people. You, being an important person in her life, will be the one that she sees her own flaws shining back at her from (what psychologists call "projection").
And this is not acceptable because, by being in a relationship with the asshole, you have secretly agreed to take on the responsibility of helping her pretend that she has no flaws of her own, and that every bad thing that ever happens in her life is someone else's fault.
The name of the game is to help them pretend that they are perfect and that every challenge in life is a result of them being abused and victimized by the world around them.
Assholes must punish (or - from your perspective - abuse) you because they take it personally when you show a flaw (that is, a need) which might require their attention or energy. And they abuse you when you acknowledge their flaws.
This isn't the same as being a selfish two-year-old who flips out whenever she's upset about something simply because she has no idea that other people have feelings. Assholes are people who know your boundaries and violate them anyway. Because you have no right to ask them to control themselves.
The answer to the question above about whether the person you love is an asshole who is nice most of the time or whether he's a nice person who occasionally slips up, is that,
anyone who devalues you, who treats you unkindly because he doesn't accept you for who you are, warts and all, is an asshole.
You can, of course, give people a couple of chances just to make sure. After all, even assholes can see reason and drop their mind games ...at least that's what happens in movies. However, anyone who you don't feel you can count on or trust with all that you are and dream of being is, as far as you're concerned, an asshole.
Even if he or she is wonderful for someone else.
Wait a Sec...
If what I'm saying is true, it means that half the people you've ever loved in your whole life were assholes! That can't be right! Surely it's something about you that makes everyone treat you like crap.
Well, okay, that's true, too.
Here's a little thought experiment to help demonstrate what you are doing to "make" people abuse you. Think of all the people you've encountered in the last three days. Everyone. That's your spouse, your kids, the guy at the toll booth on the way to work, the lady who renewed your library books, everyone.
Now add up how many of those people were abusive toward you. Be honest here. "He was friendly to the guy in front of me in line, but didn't even look at me," doesn't count as abusive behaviour. Count up how many people in the last three days caused you harm or devalued you.
Was it every single human being you interacted with?
Of course it wasn't. I bet it was only the interesting people that abused you. The people who you wanted to like you.
The reason so many of the relationships you've had in your life have been with assholes is that you have only been interested in connecting with those that match your style of energy game. The asshole in you connects with the asshole in them, the sparks fly and things get really exciting. The two of you unite against the world!
Up yours, world!
Real love is painful, right? Like a tonne of bricks and explosions of fireworks and the sweet agony of passion.
Wrong. Real love is sometimes quite boring, actually.
It doesn't make our day-to-day problems and challenges go away. It doesn't remove our flaws.
Real love just gives us the safety and energy to go ahead and tackle those problems with courage and tenacity.
So, there are basically two kinds of relationships we get ourselves into: boring relationships with people we love, trust, and allow and accept, including their flaws...
... and exciting, passionate, risky, roller-coaster relationships... with assholes.
Assholes are exciting and occasionally (or often) abusive. Non-assholes are trustworthy and occasionally (or often) boring.
Now here's how you can fix this situation. Fill your life with the latter - the boring people that you can count on and bare your soul to. Let the assholes entertain you, but be nothing more to you.
If you don't want to remove an asshole from your life, what you'll need to do is not allow him to get away with being an asshole in your presence. Be clear with the person. Any abuse or devaluing behaviour of any kind is unacceptable. Allow the individual the growth and learning experience that comes from not being protected from the consequences of his own behaviour.
And, finally, accept yourself, including all your flaws.
Then you won't be an asshole, either.