If you are stuck with the feeling that everything bad happens to you – that the world is out to get you, or you have more challenges and hardships than others, you could be self-victimising. If so, here is how we can work to break this pattern…
Are you the victim?
When bad things happen, it is natural that we feel sorry for ourselves. You’ve perhaps been cheated on by a partner, or had your wallet stolen, or stubbed your toe! Any one of these experiences will, understandably, induce a sorry feeling of self-pity.
And this is normal. It happens to everybody.
A challenge occurs when you find yourself in a more permanent victim state. Is it the case that bad things keep happening to you? That you truly are the butt of life’s joke? Or could it be that you place yourself in the victim role?
The drama triangle
In psychotherapy, we frequently look at something called The Drama Triangle. The Drama Triangle is a theory that has held strong in psychology for more than 50 years. It hypothesizes that in any conflict, you play one of three roles – the persecutor, the helper, or the victim. These roles shift, and continue in a cycle of game playing without resolution. If you’d like to read more about The Drama Triangle, click here. You can also read more about the persecutor and helper roles.
In this article, we are focusing on why some people like to stay within the victim role.
The victim role
Research has suggested that seeing oneself as a victim may be an aspect of personality. For the purpose of this research, they refer to a victim mentality as “Tendency for Interpersonal Victimhood,” or TIV.
They define TIV as an “enduring feeling that the self is a victim across different kinds of interpersonal relationships.” Within this research, several components of TIV were identified.
- Need for recognition – people who self-victimise are seeking recognition from others.
- Moral elitism – A form of black and white thinking, the victim will see themselves as morally superior to the persecutors who are out to get them.
- Lack of empathy – where the victim’s own suffering trumps the suffering of others. The victim will struggle to see past their own issues to recognise pain in others.
- Rumination – an overwhelming tendency for a person to brood and stay extremely fixated on the many ways they’ve been victimised.
Also within the findings was that victims are more likely to assign negative motivations to others, in order to place themselves in the victim role. Let’s look at an example of this in action:
Mary has made a joke at work that has been perceived as racist by her colleague Gabriel. Gabriel has challenged the racist joke, hoping Mary will see the error of her ways and learn why it is inappropriate. Instead of learning a lesson or apologising, Mary takes great offence at being challenged and decides Gabriel is bullying her. She sulks and refuses to speak to anyone for the rest of the day, sitting by herself and texting her boyfriend to get sympathy about her horrible colleague. Mary stews on the matter for weeks, and cannot believe how stupid and precious Gabriel is for not being able to take a joke.
In this example, we can see Mary doing all the things described in the research above. She believes herself to be morally superior to Gabriel because she can ‘take a joke’ whereas Gabriel can’t (moral elitism). She lacks empathy about how and why the joke might offend Gabriel, even though it has been explained to her. She stews on the issue for weeks (rumination). She wants sympathy for her suffering (recognition).
Moving beyond the victim role
If you can identify with Mary (or any of the areas discussed in this article), therapy can help you escape the victim mentality and move into a healthier mindset. Similarly, if you know somebody who frequently presents as the victim, such as a partner, and paints you as the persecutor, therapy can help identify the roles of the drama triangle and help you to remove yourself from the traps that can be set by the victim.
Identifying as a victim and wanting to change that mentality is a hugely positive step forward. For some, victim mentality can become so blinding that introspectiveness on the matter is near impossible. If you are considering that you may be stuck in the victim role, there is hope that you can empower yourself away from it and into a more accountable, balanced place.
Getting the support you need
I offer you acute couples counselling, couples therapy and individual psychotherapy based on your preferences, either online, at your place, or at my clinics in Østerbro or Svendborg.
We can also go for a walk.
Whichever help and support you need, my pledge to you is consistent.
Book a free 15 minute conversation, which is all you need to begin your journey. We will talk about where you are now, where you want to be, and how I can help you get there.