“Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim.” -Nora Ephron
Victim behavior is never attractive. We’ve seen it in the form of children crying crocodile tears when a toy is taken away or pouting when told to come in from playing outside. It’s a form of self-pity and lack of responsibility. Some people never grow out of using the “poor me” strategy.
Part of the path to healthy growth and adulthood is learning to take responsibility for our own situations or mistakes, and learning not to blame others for things which aren’t their fault. We also learn that most people can see through insincere attempts at manipulating their emotions.
I see it with many of my former therapy clients: people who have had things done to them without seeing their role. I see chronic (emotional) pain attached to self-fulfilling victim hood: there’s usually something that has not been completed, so the person has a need to continuously bring it up.
Some examples of victimization are when bad things continuously happen to people but they refuse to look at how they participated. We’ve all heard stories of people who, unfortunately, get their children removed from the biological home and the parents refuse to take the necessary measures to reunify. Or people who cry about not having many friends but don’t attempt to look at themselves and what they’re doing.
Self-victimization is often a strategy to manipulate people and situations. People who have contact with the victims begin to feel badly and just want to help them.
Here’s how I’ve seen self-victimization:
- A woman manipulates and lies to her partner and says her needs are being neglected and she needs to be heard.
- A husband hits his wife and eventually complains that he’s been treated worse in other ways.
- A spouse is having an affair and claims the other partner drove them to it.
- A person spreads false accusations about physical or sexual abuse in the home.
- A narcissistic boss mistreats an employee and then claims the employee’s behavior was hurting the company as justification.
- A teenager starts a fight with a sibling and then complains about the resulting bruises.
If you have a relationship (friendship, romantic partnership, coworking situation) with someone who is a victimizer, you might feel like you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place, or “damned if you do and damned if you don’t.”No matter how hard you try, no amount of effort or sacrifice will be enough to fill the chasm of insecurity and attention seeking. The stories victimizers tell themselves have been practiced and considered for years, so they’re adept at the victimization game. You’ll likely feel resentment or frustrated with them. It probably won’t help to retaliate or try to trip them up.
When faced with friends or acquaintances who habitually take on the role of victims, here are a few things you can do:
- Remain unemotional and neutral.
- Acknowledge that everyone, even self-victimizers, are entitled to their beliefs, even situations that clearly show victimization.
- Keep moving forward and doing what you know is right, regardless of what a self-victimizer tells you.
Yesterday’s blog post was about Understanding IMperfection.
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