A friend of mine recently had a toxic exchange with an acquaintance of hers who is a chronic “wallower”.  (I’ll call this person Jennifer). She routinely complains about her life, her husband, her friends, her family, anything she can to maintain her victimhood. In the not so distant past, I too had experienced the avalanche of misery released from Jennifer, and have avoided her since, partly because wallowers don’t really want help, they just want witnesses for their “misery”, so it always made me feel helpless and depleted when I dealt with her.  I had warned my friend about the wallower, but she needed to learn the distancing lesson herself. It made me think: maybe there should be a “Wallower Alert!” available to the general public, so anyone could read the signs and run, before getting flattened in the avalanche of projected misery!  So here’s my version of a practical “Wallower Alert” for you to use as needed:

  1. Wallowers are extremely self absorbed. They rarely ask substantive questions about the lives and experiences of others. They just want a mirror of their angst.
  2. Wallowers are needy and demanding. They will call you any hour of the day or night to do their complaining, and they expect you to be available.
  3. Wallowers are “help-rejecting”. Don’t try to fix their circumstances, because they don’t accept solutions. They don’t accept solutions because that implies that they have some role or responsibility for their situation.
  4. Wallowers aren’t really miserable. They get a lot of secondary gain from their sense of victimhood, they’re bonded to it for complex reasons. The “misery” is like an appendage for them. Don’t try to amputate it!
  5. Wallowers will not have a mental breakdown if you distance gently – they are wizards at finding some other witness to their “plight”. Remember, their relationship with you isn’t personal, even though their complaints may be of a personal nature. To them you’re an object, a mirror, and they will always find another one if you get sick of the whole deal.

Heading for the hills as I see another Wallower coming,

Susan Lager

About Susan Lager

ABOUT ME Susan Lager, LICSW, BCD I grew up in New Rochelle, a suburb of NYC, lived in Manhattan for ten years during college and graduate school, and escaped the madness for the wilds of Maine to be with Thom, the sweet man I'm still married to after 34 years. (We have an awesome 29 year old son named Alec who will run the free world someday). I knew I'd survive the relocation from New York when I discovered the scenic, historic little city of Portsmouth, on the coast of New Hampshire, with its winding streets, great restaurants, and music everywhere. I was especially thrilled to attend the Portsmouth Psychotherapy Institute, an offshoot of the B.I.P., where I did post-graduate training, and then went into private practice creating The Couples Center PLLC, doing psychotherapy, with individuals, couples and groups. In 2010 I opened a division of the practice called COUPLESPEAK™, providing live and online coaching, training programs, workshops, and written materials for people in different kinds of partnerships. I'm still passionate about the work, which is NEVER boring! My clients are courageous pioneers, and they've taught me lots I'll pass on......
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