Breaking Free of Victim Thinking

Photo by Benjamin Lambert

Victim thinking (VT) is rife in our culture. It shows up in films, TV, the news, your Facebook feed and Instagram.

Like nits in a school playground, we can never entirely rid ourselves of it...but we CAN do the equivalent of continually challenge our VT in the same way that we buy headlice shampoo.

(Not liking the headlice analogy? Good. This is how you should feel about VT).

This article will look at why VT is so popular, and then what the equivalent of the shampoo is, ie how to combat it. This will free you in ways you cannot yet even imagine.

By the way, I as much as anyone, can drop into VT. I ate, breathed and slept my victim identity I would say from the onset of adolescence for most of my adult life. At the time of writing (June 2019) I have someone in my life that is perfect material for a whole mini VT movie starring your tragic heroin, Harriet. I am constantly having to pivot to challenge this in myself.

What Is Victim Thinking?

Feeling sorry for yourself
“Why me?”
Holding on to past hurts instead of processing them
Asking someone else to, or fantasising about someone else being able to solve this problem for you 
Nursing a feeling of being indignant
Making the world responsible for your feelings and reactions
Grudge bearing

Why Is Victim Thinking So Popular?

I think there are two reasons for this:

REASON #1 We live in a world that is very complex with a multitude of choices. Change, in the form of career, relationships, finances, location etc etc is ever present.

We live at a time when there have never been so many opportunities. The downside of this is that risk, mistakes, broken hearts, disappointment and scam artists all come as part of the deal. People change and let us down.

If you had a time machine, would you choose to go back to simpler times and avoid all these problems? How about the middle ages, when if you were a woman you were a second class citizen, and the average life expectancy was 31.

REASON #2 VT gives us a very seductive feeling of significance.

All human beings need to feel significant. I don’t mean in some kind of world leadership way. We are wired to want to contribute to a tribe and be recognised for this. This is our Cavebrain.

See this episode for or more on Cavebrain

In today’s world, if we are not careful, we can end up feeling isolated. The tribe we were born into (our family of origin) or the one we work with may be highly dysfunctional and it is quite possible that there are little or no opportunities for you to feel significant.

VT gives us a quick hit of significance. “Why me???” you moan and there it is: I don’t deserve this. I am significant!

The thing is that 9 times out of 10, the problems that lead my clients and indeed myself to moan why me??? are actually real. Their boss IS being unfair. Their partner should NOT have bought the car without telling them. Their parents did indeed give them a rough deal throughout childhood.

Ay, There's The Rub

However legitimate your reasons for sinking into VT are, it will not help you.

It keeps you reliant on your old coping mechanisms like compulsive eating etc

It keeps you passive
It does not help you process the hurt
It does not encourage you to pivot and be different, to learn valuable lessons that will prevent you being in this situation again

VT is like holding a press conference for your pain, and refusing to leave when the journalists have stopped asking questions. Do you really want to remain there at the microphone forever, waiting for questions that will never be asked?