(Last Updated On: December 31, 2023)

Applying Boundaries When Compassion Is Required Instead

Or Vice Versa!

Helping Scam Victims To Understand When One Is Called For And Not The Other

Author:
•  Tim McGuinness, Ph.D. – Anthropologist, Scientist, Director of the Society of Citizens Against Relationship Scams Inc.

Knowing When To Use Compassion Or Boundaries Or Both

How Can You Know When It Is Appropriate To Apply Boundaries Or Compassion In Scam-Victim Relationships After The Scam Ends?

Scam victims usually turn to boundaries, not compassion, when they find themselves entangled in a web of emotions and complexities after the scam ordeal.

In the aftermath, there’s a tendency to blur the lines between setting personal boundaries and extending compassion, especially towards others who have shared portions of the traumatic experience within the scam, such as spouses, children, friends, and families.

Yes, boundaries are essential, especially when dealing with toxic judgment, but it may just be the wrong approach to take when dealing with the complexities that are along for the ride with the scam victim.

Setting boundaries can sometimes (maybe often) be an act of compassion. When you set a boundary with another person, you give them the opportunity to re-think their own behavior. But it can also be the wrong course!

Mistaking Boundaries for Compassion with Other Scam Victims or Vice Versa

  1. Sympathy and Shared Experience: Victims, driven by their shared experience of being scammed, easily feel a deep sense of sympathy and connection with others who faced similar situations. This shared experience creates a strong emotional bond, leading to a desire to offer support and understanding. However, remember that this may also be a false feeling since empathy disappears after experiencing trauma and does not return for potentially many months. Often that sympathy is actually the scam victim’s own avoidance mechanism, trying to deflect their own attention away from their pain.
  2. Blurring Personal Boundaries: In their pursuit to offer sympathy and support, scam victims often inadvertently overlook their need for personal boundaries. The eagerness to help and connect with others may override the need to maintain a healthy emotional distance, potentially leaving them vulnerable to further emotional strain and disappointment.
  3. Confusion Between Compassion and Self-Preservation: Victims struggle to differentiate between compassion for others and the essential self-preservation that setting boundaries ensures. They may feel torn between supporting others and safeguarding their own emotional well-being. This is often aa mechanism to deny their own trauma by trying to help others.
  4. Proximity Breeds More Triggers: Scam Victims in trying to offer support to others can often place themselves in a role where they are both exposed to more triggering events, stories, and other victim emotions; but it can also lead them to experience Vicarious Trauma from those others. Victims rarely think about the impact that activities can have on their trauma and that can cause further triggering. Exposure can be good but done in moderation with guidance.
  5. Savior Syndrome: Savior syndrome is a psychological pattern where individuals become excessively focused on helping others, often to the point of neglecting their own needs and well-being. With scam victims, this manifests as an intense desire to help other victims, even at the expense of their own emotional and financial recovery.
  1. Establishing Healthy Boundaries: Setting personal boundaries isn’t about lacking compassion but is crucial for self-care. It involves recognizing one’s emotional limits and establishing guidelines for interactions to safeguard mental health and prevent further emotional strain.
  2. Compassion Without Compromise: It’s possible to extend compassion while maintaining boundaries. Victims can offer support, share experiences, and empathize with others while ensuring they don’t compromise their emotional stability or expose themselves to re-traumatization.
  3. Seeking Support: Engaging with support groups or seeking professional guidance can help victims navigate this delicate balance. It allows them to share experiences, offer support, and receive guidance on maintaining boundaries without sacrificing compassion.

With Family & Friends

Scam victims face a unique and complex set of challenges when navigating boundaries and compassion with family and friends. This relationship is often fraught with emotional landmines, leaving victims grappling with conflicting needs:

  • The Need for Support and Understanding: The aftermath of a scam is emotionally traumatic, leaving victims reeling from feelings of shame, anger, and insecurity. They desperately need the support and understanding of loved ones, yet they may hesitate to share their experiences fully, fearing judgment or blame – and all too often are met with exactly that.
  • Setting Healthy Boundaries: Scams can deeply violate trust and erode boundaries. Victims struggle with setting healthy boundaries with family and friends, either withdrawing completely or clinging tightly for reassurance. This uncertainty very often leads to misunderstandings and conflict.
  • Guilt and Self-blame: Many victims internalize the experience, blaming themselves for becoming victimized by the scam and scammers. This self-blame can make it difficult to accept empathy and support from others, creating a barrier to healthy connections.
  • Unrealistic Expectations: Victims may expect their loved ones to automatically understand the emotional and traumatic complexities of their experience. This can lead to frustration and disappointment when others struggle to fully grasp the impact of the scam.
  • Communication Difficulties: The shame and emotional turmoil associated with being scammed can make it difficult for victims to communicate effectively. They may struggle to articulate their needs and emotions, leaving loved ones feeling confused and helpless.

Tips for navigating these challenges:

  • Open Communication: Encourage open and honest dialogue with loved ones. Share your experiences without blame or self-judgment, and be patient with their reactions.
  • Setting Boundaries: Communicate your needs clearly and respectfully. It’s okay to ask for space or support in specific ways.
  • Seek Professional help: Consider seeking professional counseling to process the emotional trauma and develop healthy coping mechanisms.
  • Join A Professionally Managed Support Group: Connecting with other scam victims can provide invaluable understanding and a sense of shared experience. Visit support.AgainstScams.org to join a SCARS Support & Recovery Group or learn more about them.
  • Educate Your Loved Ones: Share SCARS Information about scams to help them understand the common tactics and emotional manipulations used by perpetrators. Send them to RomanceScamsNOW.com and to ScamsNow.com

Remember, healing takes time and patience. Be gentle with yourself and your loved ones. Focus on fostering open communication, setting healthy boundaries, and seeking professional support when needed. With understanding and compassion, you can rebuild trust and reconnect with your loved ones after the ordeal of a scam.

However, remember they are Victims too!

The Ripple Effects of Scams on Family and Friends

The sting of a scam can feel intensely personal, leaving a trail of hurt, confusion, and financial loss. But the truth is, the impact often extends far beyond the individual victim, creating ripples that touch family, friends, and loved ones in unexpected ways.

For married individuals, the trauma of a scam can be compounded by the infidelity often woven into romance scams. The emotional betrayal can shatter trust and intimacy within the partnership, leaving both spouses grappling with complex emotions. The principal scam victim may struggle with guilt and shame, while their spouse faces a mix of anger, hurt, and confusion. This can lead to communication breakdowns, resentment, and even the threat of divorce.

Even in non-romantic scams, the financial fallout can have a significant ripple effect on families. Lost savings, mounting debts, and the stress of rebuilding can strain relationships, create tension, and force difficult choices. Children may witness increased anxiety and arguments, impacting their own sense of security and well-being.

They are NOT Bystanders!

It’s crucial to remember that family and friends are not bystanders in this trauma. They are secondary victims, caught in the emotional and financial fallout of the scam. Ignoring their needs can exacerbate the situation, perpetuating isolation and hindering the healing process for everyone involved.

Tips to help hold things together

Here are some ways to acknowledge the impact of scams on families and support them through the recovery journey:

  • Keep NO Secrets: If the principal scam victims want to restore family trust with their spouse there can be no secrets. In the period following the crime, it is important for the principal victim to reestablish honesty and trust to overcome the secrets kept during the scam.
  • Open Communication: Encourage open and honest dialogue within the family. Acknowledge the pain and challenges everyone is facing, and create a safe space for expressing emotions without judgment.
  • Empathy and Understanding: Recognize that your family members and friends are also struggling. Offer empathy, support, and a listening ear. Remember, they may be grappling with their own feelings of anger, worry, and confusion.
  • Shared responsibility: While the victim may have been directly targeted, the burden of the scam shouldn’t be borne alone. Work together to manage the financial fallout, creating a plan for debt repayment and rebuilding financial security.
  • Prioritizing family unity: Strengthen your family bonds during this challenging time. Engage in shared activities, seek support from trusted friends and family, and prioritize quality time together.
  • Professional support: Consider seeking professional help from a therapist or counselor specializing in family trauma or financial stress. This can provide valuable tools for coping with the emotional impact and navigating the challenges as a unit.
  • Explore Feelings In A Support Group: It is important to belong to a support group that understands the dynamics of scams across the whole family and is not just an echo chamber for the victim. Unprofessional groups often support the victim while promoting the destruction of the family.

Remember, the aftermath of a scam doesn’t have to tear families apart. By acknowledging the shared impact, offering support and understanding, and working together to rebuild, families can emerge from this experience stronger and more resilient.

This is not just about the individual victim; it’s about rebuilding trust, communication, and unity within the family. By creating a supportive and understanding environment, you can navigate this difficult journey together, towards healing and a brighter future.

Remember

Scam victims’ inclination towards compassion for fellow victims is inherently noble, yet it’s essential to ensure they prioritize their emotional well-being by setting and maintaining boundaries. Understanding the distinction between compassion and boundary-setting is crucial for their recovery journey, enabling them to extend support while safeguarding their own mental health.

However, it is equally important to understand when boundaries may not be the way to go, such as with their own family. In the case of families, scam victims need to help the family to understand while rebuilding trust.

SCARS Resources:

PLEASE NOTE: Psychology Clarification

The following specific modalities within the practice of psychology are restricted to psychologists appropriately trained in the use of such modalities:

  • Diagnosis: The diagnosis of mental, emotional, or brain disorders and related behaviors.
  • Psychoanalysis: Psychoanalysis is a type of therapy that focuses on helping individuals to understand and resolve unconscious conflicts.
  • Hypnosis: Hypnosis is a state of trance in which individuals are more susceptible to suggestion. It can be used to treat a variety of conditions, including anxiety, depression, and pain.
  • Biofeedback: Biofeedback is a type of therapy that teaches individuals to control their bodily functions, such as heart rate and blood pressure. It can be used to treat a variety of conditions, including stress, anxiety, and pain.
  • Behavioral analysis: Behavioral analysis is a type of therapy that focuses on changing individuals’ behaviors. It is often used to treat conditions such as autism and ADHD.
    Neuropsychology: Neuropsychology is a type of psychology that focuses on the relationship between the brain and behavior. It is often used to assess and treat cognitive impairments caused by brain injuries or diseases.

SCARS and the members of the SCARS Team do not engage in any of the above modalities in relationship to scam victims. SCARS is not a mental healthcare provider and recognizes the importance of professionalism and separation between its work and that of the licensed practice of psychology.

SCARS is an educational provider of generalized self-help information that individuals can use for their own benefit to achieve their own goals related to emotional trauma. SCARS recommends that all scam victims see professional counselors or therapists to help them determine the suitability of any specific information or practices that may help them.

SCARS cannot diagnose or treat any individuals, nor can it state the effectiveness of any educational information that it may provide, regardless of its experience in interacting with traumatized scam victims over time. All information that SCARS provides is purely for general educational purposes to help scam victims become aware of and better understand the topics and to be able to dialog with their counselors or therapists.

It is important that all readers understand these distinctions and that they apply the information that SCARS may publish at their own risk, and should do so only after consulting a licensed psychologist or mental healthcare provider.

Opinions

The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of the Society of Citizens Against Rleationship Scams Inc. The author is solely responsible for the content of their work. SCARS is protected under the Communications Decency Act (CDA) section 230 from liability.

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