What is a victim mentality?
Victim mentality is a psychological term used to refer to the mindset of a person who tends to consider his/her condition as a consequence of the negative actions of others. The person behaves in such a way in the face of evidence that is contrary to such circumstances. In other words, people with a victim mentality look at life as if it happens to them rather than for them. When something does not go according to their plan, they quickly blame the circumstances and feel victimized.
People with a victim mentality filter the entire perception of their existence through a narrow mental lens. It may be important to assume the role of a victim when one has been genuinely victimized or abused. Nonetheless, neither progress in life nor mental solitude can be achieved if one does not step out of the victim role. The victim mentality generally is based upon the following beliefs:
- Bad things are happening and will continue to happen indefinitely.
- Circumstances and people are to blame.
- They deserve sympathy because of the challenges they are facing.
- There is no good in trying to change the situation because any such effort will definitely fail.
A healthy person on the other hand accepts the fact that many of the things that go wrong in life are the results of bad choices they themselves made. They understand that they can exert the will to choose differently. Also, they do not associate misfortunes in life with their personal value. This means that they do not think bad things happen because they are ‘deserving’ or ‘not deserving’ of them.
People who develop a victim mentality often get trapped in that state. As a result they express a lot of negativity and experience much mental pain and distress. They also tend to force their thoughts on others and bring down the morale of the people that they work and interact with.
How does self-victimization develop?
The victim mentality is an acquired personality trait. This means that nobody is born with a victim mentality. Instead it takes root as a consequence of early life conditioning and coping mechanisms. Many of the people who develop a victim mentality in adult life were victimized in some way as children. This could be through physical, sexual or emotional abuse. It could also result from the adoption of such mentality exhibited by close family members or friends.
What are the perks of being a victim?
People with a victim mentality often do not take full responsibility of their choices and actions. They attract the attention of the people they work with and cause them to feel sorry for them. Also people are less likely to criticize the victim as they want to steer clear of ever upsetting the victim. The victim holds a sort of right to complain and transfer the blame for the consequences of their irresponsibility on other people and circumstances.
In short, playing the victim consciously or otherwise helps the individual to accumulate the attention and sympathy of others. They use this to feel more valued and powerful in their society and in turn neglect responsibility.
Why is self-victimization bad?
The victim mentality can be damaging to dangerous in work circles and in relationships. The chronic pessimism of victims can irritate and damage the morale of team members at work. It is also a detriment to productivity at work. As an individual shirks responsibility off their shoulders, he/she commits errors at work that could otherwise be prevented. In addition, a victim often swings to the role of victimizer as they blame the people they associate with for their poor choices. This can create toxic relationships and on the extreme end can even create abusive circumstances that may seem normal to the abuser and the abused. And since victims think that everything that happens to them is outside of their control, they cannot be entrusted with important tasks. This proves damaging to interpersonal trust in the long run.
How to get rid of the victim mentality?
The first step in getting rid of the victim mentality is to identify and accept it as a part of your current character. From there you should consistently try to make the necessary changes to your approach to life step by step until you are rid of it. Here are some steps that may help overcome a victim mentality if you find that you have one:
- Perceive yourself as a survivor: Victims generally find themselves arguing with the past. Instead a survivor understands and embraces it. And by embracing it, a survivor is able to live in the present and to take more control of his/ her life. Developing the survivor mentality is extremely empowering. Once you start perceiving yourself as a survivor, listening to you will be a more refreshing and inspiring experience for the people you meet.
- Be kind to yourself: The victim mentality develops as a result of conditioning to trauma. Thus by its nature it can be addictive to dwell in that state of mind. It is important for you to explore and analyze your past trauma and come to terms with it. You may also have to explore your core beliefs and change some of them in the process of coming to terms with your past. In doing so, you will learn to be more compassionate towards yourself instead of pitiful.
- Journaling: Journaling will help you keep a tab on your thoughts and actions over time. It will also help you supervise the patterns of change you are bringing to your thoughts and actions and be more conscious of them on a daily basis. If this seems impossible to you seeing a therapist would be the right choice. Cognitive and Behavioral Therapy when followed up consistently will help things get better in time.
- Explore your belief systems: Our thoughts and actions are often guided by our beliefs. And when our beliefs are misplaced, they will turn into the source of our anger, depression and self-pity. Making necessary changes to unhealthy beliefs is important if you aim to overcome your victim mentality. It is also important for you to note that many of your mistaken beliefs are lodged in the shadow of your personality. In Jungian psychology, the shadow is that aspect of your mind that contains all the parts of yourself including your beliefs that you do not want to admit to having. It operates on a sub-conscious to an unconscious level. When you explore your shadow and integrate it into conscious living, you will become more self-aware. This will help you take responsibility of your thoughts and actions.
- Examine the cause of your suffering: Thoughts that remain unquestioned and unexamined serve as the source of our anxiety, depression and distress. When you are faced with suffering you must analyze the underlying thoughts that serve as its origin. Thoughts are not all true. They are simply a neurological phenomenon that comprises your consciousness and are essentially fluctuations in energy. Practicing meditation can help you become more aware of your thoughts and of how fleeting and yet recurrent they are. Understanding the reasons for your thoughts and making willful changes in your life in the respective areas will help ease your suffering by leaps.
- Learn how to say no: You must recognize that you have the power to run your own life. If circumstances are really disadvantageous, it is important to communicate that with who you work with. Through responsible conversation, ways can be devised to improve the situation. Choosing the victim role is often an excuse to not claim the power of your mind and self.
- Practice gratitude: Gratitude can be a powerful force that could show you that your life is not as miserable as it may seem to you. Try to name the things you are thankful for everyday. You could incorporate this into your journal if it helps. Sometimes you may just be overcome by the memory of trauma. It will then help to remind yourself of the people who have had it worse and yet overcame the suffering. It will give you a boost of survivor mentality to read about the lives and experiences of such people.
- Don’t give advice: I may sound like a hypocrite here, but advice can often be a mechanism to ease responsibility off your shoulders. It shifts the locus of control from you to another person. In giving premature advice, you close off to yourselves any further areas where you could improve yourself. So avoid giving advice until you are absolutely sure that you have acted responsibly to the full truth of your awareness.
Assume self–responsibility: It takes a lot of honesty to be truly responsible for your own thoughts and actions. Stop lying to yourself. Accepting responsibility for your thoughts and actions will push you in the direction of making changes by yourself, instead of pointing fingers at others. This will in turn change external factors for the better and also boost your self-confidence.