This article is not about being a victim of crime, hatred, or other injustices, but rather a perceived victimology that ensnares all of us from time to time. It can happen as a result of old wounds surfacing in the present. Being a victim means you don’t take accountability or responsibility for the results of your actions and behaviors. And if you’re not responsible, why change anything? After all, wouldn’t it be someone else’s fault? Being a victim assumes entitlement—I’m blaming you; therefore I’m entitled to feel this way.
If you have taken a victim stance, there may be a lack of hope and feelings of helplessness that you can’t do anything about the situation. What can happen as a result? You attract caretakers to rescue you, thereby validating your victimology. The worst part of it all? You become a victim of your own doing, thereby enhancing its effect.
There are some benefits to being a victim. One, you get to feel righteous! Another is that you gain attention from others. Feeling safe and not taking risks is yet another. These benefits, as they may be perceived, are justifications to keep us small, unaccountable, and, frankly, unhappy. If I can justify my stance as a victim, then I take on the role of martyr—suffering for the right to be a victim.
Justifications about being a victim begin with statements such as, “If I had better parents,” or, “If I had a better childhood,” or, “If I weren’t such a loser,” or, “If my boss weren’t such a jerk,” etc. And you might be saying, “But this is true!” These truths can be real, yet my point is to clarify how these statements stop you from living, moving forward, and taking accountability for your present and future life.
Victimhood can show up in our day-to-day activities and go unnoticed as rewards. I’m sure at some point you have taken an extra cookie, eaten a tub of ice cream, and claimed, “I deserve it!” I won’t deny you such gratifying substitutes, but you have to think—what am I justifying here? Maybe you had a bad day, then dipped into the liquor cabinet, skipped a workout, or lit up a cigarette. Victimology can conjure images of justifications, make us lazy to act, and move us to take unhealthy actions for ourselves.
There are several ways in which being a victim can damage you:
- It robs you of good life energy.
- You give up control.
- Others lose respect for you.
- It ruins your self-esteem.
- It weakens your hopes and dreams.
So, how do we get off this cycle?
“As long as you think that the cause of your problem is ‘out there’—as long as you think that anyone or anything is responsible for your suffering—the situation is hopeless. It means that you are forever in the role of victim, that you’re suffering in paradise.”
—Byron Katie in Loving What Is: Four Questions That Can Change Your Life
Lynne Forrest gives us some answers. She explains that we are all caught up at times in the “victim triangle” of persecutor-victim-rescuer, and as a result we need to develop an observer consciousness to support getting out of the cycle. In essence, we need to be able to get acquainted with these three roles, see how we trap ourselves in them, and find a way to be more accountable to ourselves. There is much too much to write about here, so I’ve included a reference to the article on her site below. I encourage you to check it out.
- Forrest, L. (2008, June 26). An overview of the drama triangle. Retrieved November 5, 2012 from Lynne Forrest: http://www.lynneforrest.com/articles/2008/06/the-faces-of-victim/
- Phaup, T. (2009). Top 10 ways that playing the victim robs you of your life. Retrieved November 5, 2012 from The Free Library: http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Top+10+Ways+That+Playing+the+Victim+Robs+You+of+Your+Life-a01073980017
- Zur, O. (n.d.). Rethinking “don’t blame the victim”: The psychology of victimhood. Retrieved November 5, 2012 from Zur Institute: http://www.zurinstitute.com/victimhood.html
© Copyright 2012 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Douglas Mitchell, MFTI, therapist in San Francisco, California
The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.