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How to Stop Feeling Like a Victim

Updated on June 19, 2013

About the Author

LQWilliams is a Master’s level social worker with more that 15 years of experience. Her training and specialties include therapeutic services with children/families, child protective services, mental health support services for adults, and medical social work. In addition, she is licensed as a certified substance abuse counselor.

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“Why do bad things always seem to happen to me?” This is a question many of us will ask ourselves at some point in our lives. When we feel overwhelmed, powerless, or just discouraged by some challenging circumstance, it is easy to view our lives as an ongoing struggle. During these times we tend to forget the positive and joyous moments of our lives. Instead, our minds quickly become bombarded with thoughts of the last time this happened. Those negative thoughts and events seem to pop into our minds, making our world seem like one big catastrophe. We began to use extreme language like “always” and “constantly.” Those negative thoughts easily float through to the surface of our conscious mind when we are experiencing negative events. Most of us, however, work through these emotions and eventually realize that bad things don’t “always” happen. We are able to take responsibility for the role we played in our own misery. We formulate plans to fix our mistakes and move on in our lives realizing that was a difficult step in an otherwise peaceful existence. We learn to take some things in stride. We release the paranoia that insists that the world is out to get us is not based in reality.

For some of us, however, these powerless and overwhelming emotions are a way of life. Taking responsibility seems to be a foreign concept for these individuals. In fact, it seems nothing is ever their fault. They are eternal victims.

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What is a Victim?

When someone has committed an act that violates the freedoms, rights or well being of another, we refer to the violated person as a victim. The truth is that at some point we will all be the victim of something. It may be a car accident, identity theft, racism, sexism, abuse, bullying, or something so subtle that it barely registers in our mind. Some of these victimizations are, therefore, far more traumatic than others. Some we will take in stride, some will be mildly annoying, and others will linger in our mind long after the incident is over. Though these types of victimizations can be devastating and require time or even professional intervention, there is a vast difference between this type of victim and a person with a victim mentality.

A person who has been the victim of some heinous crime or incident may have feelings of hopelessness, defeat, anxiety, or fear. They may feel out of control and may even resort to self blame regarding what was done to them. The difference between this person and someone with a victim mentality is that these emotions are generally temporary in a genuine victim. Quite often these feelings are based on the incident that occurred and will resolve with time. Individuals that are true victims often regain their sense of hope and learn to conquer victim thinking. They often transition from being a victim to being a survivor and can resume their life in much the same way as they did prior to the victimization. A person with a victim mentality, on the other hand, consistently views life through a filter of defeat and hopelessness. They are often filled with self-pity, fail to take responsibility for their own actions, and result to blame regarding minor as well as major events in their life. "Whoa is me" is a significant theme for the victim identity. It is not a way of thinking that simply happens overnight. Instead, the victim mentality is a learned behavior that served a major purpose at some point in the lives of these individuals. Remember, people only do things (or continue to do things) that work for them. The victim mentality is, therefore, getting something out of continually defining themselves as a victim.

Victim Mentality Quote

Self-pity is easily the most destructive of the nonpharmaceutical narcotics; it is addictive, gives momentary pleasure and separates the victim from reality." --- John W. Gardner

What Are the Benefits of the Victim Mentality?

There is real value in beleiving that you are the victim of a situatuion. People with a victim mindset often find this to be a form of protection. After all, if you are already expecting to get hurtby the world and the people in it, it makes the let downs and conflicts a bit easier to take. Also, people tend to be a bit more helpful to those who present as helpless or defenseless. When you feel you have less or no control over your life it makes it easier to avoid taking responsiblity yourself, your actions, and your mistakes. Good feelings come from attention and validation. Quite often the victim mentality is able to gain both. In addition, the victim of a situation is always in the right. How can you be wrong if it's never your fault?

The down side of this kind of thinking, however, can reduce a life to nothing. Other people typically tire of a victim mentality rather quickly. This can be a lonely place ot be. Constant victims also rarely take risks and some risks are essential to leading a happy, healthy, and productive life. In the short term a victim mentality may seem like a good choice, but in the long term this behavior can prevent you from moving forward, growing, and reaching your full potential.

Victim Menality Quotes

"If it's never your fault, we can't take responsiblity for it. If we can't take responsibility for it, we'll always be its victim." --- Richard Bach

How Do I Overcome A Victim Mentality?

If you have identified that you are suffering from a victim mentality, there are things you can do today to change your way of thinking.

1. Take Inventory of yourself and your circumstances. Surprisingly, many of us rarely think about our role in things and how we got where we are. This is an essential skill, however. Being able to define your own role in things will allow you to learn from your mistakes and enable you to make a better choice next time.

2. Learn to forgive. Yes. Bad things will happen to you as they happen to everyone. Those with a victim mentality tend to hold on to these negative events and feelings. They often pull them out later as "proof" that the world or person is out to get them. Learn to let go and forgive those who have wronged you.

3. Stop focusing on the past. When bad things happen our minds tend to immediately gather other bad events. This can color our world in a negative light and make us forget the good that has happened. Try to stay in the present during these times. Concentrate on this event and make plans to move forward.

4. Began to view the challenges of life as opportunities. Everyone has bad days. Everyone has things they must overcome, rejections, and failures in life. View these things as opportunities to learn and grow. This is your chance to persevere and come out the other side much better for the experience.

5. Remember that the victim mentality is quite often a choice and you can choose to change it. Take responsibility for your actions and learn from your mistakes. Be a victor instead of a victim.

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