No-one wants to admit to thinking and living like a victim. And as victim mentality is one of those super-sensitive subjects that have the capacity to elicit an immediate and highly defensive response, I am aware that I may be treading on very thin ice with this blog.
However, it is something that I feel very passionate about because I have worked with hundreds and hundreds of people who have reduced their own lives (and those of their nearest and dearest) to miserable rubble, as a result of focusing on what they have ‘been through’. I am not, for one second, suggesting that there is no such thing as victimhood; absolutely not, that would be ridiculous. However, it is actually possible to be a victim, without being a victim… if you understand what I mean.
So, what does thinking, feeling and behaving like a victim entail?
It requires us to consistently focus on the past, and the ways in which we, or those close to us, were hurt or let down.
It requires us to feel cheated out of the life we should have had, had it not been stolen away from us, either by certain individuals, or life in general.
It requires us to continue to tell ourselves, and others, the story of a difficult life, listing all of the reasons we cannot let go of the past and move forward. We might say with our mouth that we do not see ourselves as a victim, whilst our most consistent story suggests otherwise.
It requires us to generalise and exaggerate: everyone has let me down; all men/women are liars; you can’t trust anyone; I support everyone, but no-one is ever there for me; I have tried everything, but nothing changes… and so on.
It requires us to continue to blame certain individuals for our ongoing unhappiness, and our unwillingness to trust again.
It requires us to join forces with others who also have tales of disappointment and betrayal to tell, adding extra weight to our beliefs.
It requires us to respond in a passive-aggressive way to those who ‘don’t understand’ our situation.
It requires us to respond with a ‘yes-but’ to well-meant suggestions or encouragement.
It requires us to pay attention to those things that align with our beliefs, and be oblivious or dismissive of those things that don’t.
It requires us to focus more on survival than growth and to settle for less than we actually and ideally would rather aspire to.
It requires us to give up too often, and too soon.
It requires us to have a limited repertoire, consistently responding in the same old way to different situations.
What are some of the situations that can lead to a victim mentality?
Childhood. The most common causes of bitterness I have come across are parental abandonment, present but unsupportive parents, abuse of one parent by the other, a sibling being more loved and favoured by either or both parents.
Ongoing exposure to excessive negativity in our formative years.
Unresolved or unacknowledged bullying at school.
Dysfunctional romantic relationships.
Poor life choices, and repeated patterns.
Unwillingness to accept personal, emotional responsibility.
WHY should we change it?
Because our happier, more fulfilled future depends upon us doing so… and if we don’t change it, no-one else will (or can).
For the sake of our loved ones, especially our children. The offspring of habitual emotional victims are more likely to unconsciously follow suit than not, unless they are exceptionally strong-willed, independent thinkers.
For the sake of our physical health, not just our mental health. There is plenty of solid evidence to suggest that our brain and body are in constant communication with one another, and that, to one degree or another, our body is influenced by, and responds to, what it is most consistently exposed to.
For the sake of the human race! Think of it like this: if two people spend a whole day together, and one of them is an absolute misery guts, the other is going to finish up feeling drained and negative, no matter how upbeat they usually are. We are all living in each other’s energetic backwash, whether we are aware or not… and we are all contributing to the ‘collective energy field’!
Because, unless we have a serious, clinical condition that is largely beyond our control, we CAN change it! And because there is no logical reason for not changing it. I have asked literally hundreds of people exactly what it is they want from life, and 99% responded with, “happiness”. If that is true (and many books and articles I have read on the subject suggest that, no matter where people are on the planet, the answer would be exactly the same), then why continue to remain in the limbo state of victimhood?
HOW do we change it?
Firstly, by being absolutely honest with ourselves about the painful beliefs and the feelings of bitterness we are harbouring… and making a commitment to healing them.
By acknowledging exactly who or what it is we feel has wounded us, so that our ‘enemy’ becomes a known quantity, rather than a vague, undefined wound in our heart and mind.
By challenging our own story, and picking it to pieces; it may not all be completely true, and we might have edited it somewhat, over the years.
By asking ourselves if we genuinely were helpless and powerless, and at the mercy of what others, or life, threw at us? Could we have made different choices, responded in a different way… made different decisions? Can we do that right now, from this second onward? And if we see that, yes, we were a victim at some point in the past (for example, as a child I had no control over the way in which my parents behaved, and the actions they took, and I had no control over the dark way in which my ex-husband perceived life, and how he responded to those perceptions) – do we have to remain stuck in that place and time… reliving the experience and keeping it alive?
By accepting personal responsibility for our own choices, and asking ourselves what we believe we are entitled to; we might have intended to spend the rest of our lives with the one we believed loved us, but who then unceremoniously dumped us – but it doesn’t have to define the rest of our life. It hurts like hell, and we have to grieve… but do we really need to become bitter? Bitterness suggests that we are entitled to have things go the way we want them to, and that there is a right way and a wrong way… and that we have been unfairly cheated out of the right way. Life is not always just and fair, and sometimes people can’t or won’t be the way they ideally should be. But today is always built upon yesterday, and tomorrow will always be built upon today. If we make today cleaner and stronger than yesterday, then tomorrow can be something worth waking up to!
By growing a tasty carrot to dangle at the end of our stick – giving ourselves something to look forward to! The past is a still frame of a garden now permanently in the shade, and in which nothing new can possibly grow; the future is fertile ground upon which the sun and rain will pour down, and in which we can plant absolutely anything we want. If we have nothing to move towards, we will probably continue to look over our shoulder.
By becoming consciously aware of our inner and outer dialogue, and quitting the non-productive talk! By monitoring where our thoughts habitually take us, interrupting the old patterns again and again (100 times a day if necessary!), until we have evidence that we have actually reprogrammed our mindset.
By becoming positively proactive, even if we are only taking baby steps: no waiting until we ‘feel better’ to begin; no making excuses; no living on autopilot; no wasting time on negative stuff on the internet; no crumbling the moment the process becomes uncomfortable or doesn’t deliver immediate results!
By remembering that we only have this lifetime once, and asking ourselves if we are really willing to allow it to become a watered down version of a potentially great overall experience?
By recognising that, if we are going to negatively compare our life to other people’s, we have to do it both ways: there are millions who are better off than us, and millions who are far, far worse off than us!
By genuinely lightening up, having fun, learning something new, and having a new experience or two… which doesn’t have to cost much! And by associating ourselves with positive people who have something productive to say, even if they are on YouTube or suchlike! There is a whole new world to explore out there, emotionally speaking… and to answer the question that is the title of this blog: when you decide to get better!