Like the other roles, the Persecutor is shame based. It’s the sort of shame-drenched-anger that results from growing up overloaded with scorn. Persecutors have long ago repressed their convictions of worthlessness, covering them instead with indignant wrath and an attitude of uncaring.
In the same way that the Rescuer is the shadow mother principle, this role is the shadow father principle. The beneficent father’s job is to protect and provide for his family. The Persecutor role is a perversion of that energy, instead attempting to “reform” through force. This role is taken on by someone who has learned to meet their needs through authoritarian, controlling and often punishing methods. The Persecutor overcomes feelings of shame by over-powering others. Domination becomes their most prevalent style of interaction. This means they must always be right! Techniques include preaching, blaming, lecturing, interrogating and attack. They believe in getting even, very often through passive aggressive acts.
Just like the Rescuer needs someone to fix, the Persecutor needs someone to blame! Persecutors deny their weaknesses in the same way Rescuers deny their needs. Their greatest fear is powerlessness. Denying their own infirmities, they are in constant need of someone on whom they can project their own unclaimed inadequacies. Both Rescuers and Persecutors therefore need a Victim in order to sustain their place on the triangle.
Persecutors also tend to compensate for inner feelings of worthlessness by putting on grandiose airs. Grandiosity inevitably comes from shame. It provides compensation and a cover-up for a deep internal inferiority. Superiority is about swinging hard to the other side of “less than” in order to come across as “better than”.
I recall a client, a doctor who exemplified Persecutor mentality. He truly thought hurting others was justified as a compensation for his own pain. He told me once in session about running into a patient of his on the golf course, who “had the nerve” to ask for on-the-spot treatment.
“That does seem pretty bold” I replied, “how did you handle it?”
“Oh, I took him to my office, alright . . . and he got a steroid shot, too” the doctor chuckled, “but I bet he’ll never ask me to do that again.”
“What do you mean?”, I asked, not quite following.
“Because that shot was one he’ll never forget!”
To the doctor, his action was totally justifiable. His patient had infringed on him and thereby deserved whatever pain he got. This is a prime example of Persecutor thinking. It never occurred to my client that he could’ve said no; that he did not have to feel victimized by, or have to rescue this patient. In his mind he had been treated unjustly and therefore had the right, even the obligation, to get even.
It is most difficult for someone in this stance to take responsibility for the way they hurt others. In their mind, others deserve what they get! These warring individuals tend to see themselves as having to fight the world for survival! Their battle cry might well be, “I’ve been treated unfairly and somebody’s going to pay!”. Theirs is a constant struggle to regain that which they perceive has been taken from them.