Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Victim Mentality

The victim mentality makes me angry because it's so futile. It's useless for the person who suffers from the affliction, because they spin in the same circles again and again, lashing out to blame everyone else for their inability to progress forward in any kind of straight line, and it damages all relationships when the other person is pressured to carry the victim's stress and anxiety for them.

I must clarify that I am not referring to victims of crime or assault when I use the term "victim", for there are true victims who have been injured by someone else and deserve empathy and caring assistance, and then there are people who suffer from a victim mentality, where nothing is ever their responsibility and therefore they feel powerless to effect change in their lives.

The victim mentality creates ruts so deep that people become mired in their own mud, and have no idea how to break free. Taking responsibility for past mistakes and wounds that you've inflicted is the way to get out of your own mess. I have learned that with crystal clarity this year. I used to be afraid to accept my own failures, preferring to pretend that I was as close to perfection as I could get, and forcing blame onto anyone else so I didn't have to take any myself.

That method of blame leads to the victim mentality, which leads to the inability to manage your own life. After walking through this and making significant changes so that I could forgive myself and others for where I had hurt and been hurt, and accepting responsibility for where I had failed, I find that now I have an extremely low tolerance for this "woe-is-me" complex in other people.

I have to remind myself that my goal is to love and not judge, and that eventually each person will probably discover that they aren't moving forward when they are blaming others for what is going wrong in their own lives, and I have to accept that it may take a long time for them to get there. I am not responsible for other people's victim mentalities. They must work through it themselves, and feel their own hurt and pain, and come to the other side so they can move forward. I know this in theory, but in practice when I come up against it again and again, I find my anger rising, and I have to step back and deal with my own tide of emotion.

We all do things because we get something from them. There is no other reason any of us do anything. There is always a payoff, and for the victim mentality, the payoff is avoiding real responsibility, and deflecting it onto others. The key is for the others not to take any of it on, because it doesn't actually belong to them. We are all damaged and broken; the difference is whether or not you can admit it, look at it without flinching, say sorry for what you have done, and move out of your behavioural rut.

Counselling really helps in these situations. I needed a year of weekly sessions with a Master's student (the only therapy I could possibly afford thirteen years ago) to get to the bottom of what I needed to work through at that time, and those insights have carried me through to this day, providing the necessary skills to work through the new issues which crop up on a regular basis.

There is no shame in admitting when you have reached the end of your rope and you need help. We all need help, and none of us are perfect, and anyone who says they are is either outright lying or simply deluded. I've walked this path of blaming others for stuff I needed to own and change, and I know now that it's a dead-end road, overflowing with hurt and frustration for me and for those who love me.

If you want to change, you can. There is always another option to the victim mentality, and it will bring you further in your personal growth than you could ever dream, and when you look back you won't believe how far you've come. I know because I lived that change, and am still living it, and will never stop because it's the only way I've found to genuinely grow and soften your heart enough to love yourself and others. I want to hurt less and love more, and taking my share of the responsibility gave me the power to stop blaming others and start living a life fully under my own control.


  1. There is no shame in reaching out to a cousnelor. None at all. There is shame in belittling others, even when they have tried to make that step. Many people will take responsibility for their actions, and apologize for what they have done, when others will cast blame, judge, and criticize, instead of offering support when they need it the most. It is sad when someone, who may or may not have suffered emotionally for many years, is ridiculed at their darkest moments. And it is even more sad when others will choose to make the failures of another into their own problems, and will broadcast them to the world at large. I control my life, and I am proud to say that I do, even though all I see ahead of me are the turned backs of friends and family.

  2. I agree with you. No one should ever be ridiculed, for any reason, but I know I have often felt that I had the right to hurt others when I had been hurt, and I'm slowly realizing that I don't want to do that anymore. I wrote this because I struggled with this mentality for a long time, and possibly will always struggle with it, and it becomes a hot button topic when something is painful for us and we see it in others.

    None of us want to be rejected, for any reason, but building up my own confidence has really helped me bear the pain of rejection from those I love. It never goes away, but I don't want to be mired down any longer in the way other people react to who I am. If you don't give that control away to be hurt, you can minimize the damage to yourself.

    It has always helped me to remember that everyone hurts. My pain is not worse or better than the next person's pain, and where the victim mentality becomes dangerous is believing that I have it worse than someone else. If we could all be gentle with each other's pain and feelings, there would be so much less hurt all around. It's just really hard to do that well, and still maintain our own boundaries so we are not consistently wounded by other people.