Are you in a relationship with someone who has a victim mentality?
Is there someone in your family who is constantly blaming others, fate, or circumstances for their misfortune?
Or perhaps you have friends who can’t stop complaining and venting about their life but they don’t do anything to change their situation?
Dealing with someone who has a victim mentality can be tiring.
Listening to their complaint can drain you emotionally and energetically. You want to help and offer them new perspectives. But they keep making excuses and argue for their limitations. Even when you don’t ask about their life, some of them might still treat you like their therapist and share their problems with you.
It is difficult to be around someone who has a victim mindset. Their negativity and refusal to take responsibility for their own life can frustrate even the most positive person.
If they are your friends or acquaintances, you can choose to distance yourself from them. But what if they are your family, spouse, or your colleagues, how do you deal with them if you see them so often?
Before we get to this, let’s understand how to identify someone with a victim consciousness.
How to Identify a Victim Mentality
People who have a victim mindset don’t usually see themselves as a victim.
First, it might be due to the lack of self-awareness. For example, codependents usually think that the problem is caused by someone else, not them because they are the ones helping and putting in the effort in the relationship. So they tend to blame or resent the other party for their misery or taking them for granted.
Second, we might have certain areas of our lives that we feel empowered while for other areas of our lives, we feel like a victim. So we might not be aware of the times when we play the victim. For example, we might have a good mastery of our careers and finances. But when it comes to relationships, we might unconsciously blame others for not giving what we want.
We all have bad days.
It’s okay to feel sorry for yourself once in a while.
If your friends need emotional support, be there for them. But if you know someone who is constantly displaying the following traits, it’s a sign that they have developed a victim mentality and you might have to deal with them differently.
1. They are always looking for someone or something to blame.
No matter what happens, it’s always other people’s fault or external circumstances that are to be blamed. Blaming someone or something feels good because it allows them to have a scapegoat for their misery.
Rather than taking responsibility when things don’t work out for them, blaming others helps them to avoid introspection and any deeper emotional pain that comes along with the introspection.
Blaming is a way to not take self-responsibility.
They believe that others are responsible for their happiness and well-being. Other people have to change to make them feel better, while they don’t have to do anything.
Some people with a victim mindset might engage in negative self-talk and blame themselves instead. But blaming oneself is still considered blame. It’s also a refusal to take responsibility and action to change.
2. They don’t take any action to change.
If someone has a victim mentality, they find it difficult to change because it only reminds them of their powerlessness. They feel that they have no control over the situation and when they try something and it doesn’t work, it only makes them feel worse about themselves. So they don’t try at all.
Deeply entrenched in their mind is a belief that
nothing they do will ever work out.
When other people give them helpful advice, they are quick to dismiss their advice, make excuses, and justify why it won’t work.
Instead of taking action and trying it out to improve their situation, they are constantly rationalizing and arguing for their limitations. For example, they might keep explaining why they can’t do something or why they have no choice and power in the matter.
3. They seek attention and validation for their misery.
Even though they don’t take action to change their circumstances, they like to talk about their problems. Complaining gives them a platform to get noticed and evoke sympathy. But don’t be mistaken, they are not asking you for emotional support. What they want is you to agree with them and validate their misery.
They want others to see how the antagonist is at fault or did them wrong and how life is against them so that other people can feel sorry for them and satisfy their need for attention.
Playing the victim is a way to gain attention.
However, people with a positive outlook or people who are aware of what they are doing usually don’t give them the attention they seek. When they don’t get what they want from you, they look for someone else who is more empathetic and willing to pay attention to them.
They might also attract other complainers or people with a victim consciousness and join them in their complaints and gossip, as long as they don’t take away all the spotlight.
4. They often feel resentful, bitter, angry, and sometimes depressed.
Resentment, anger, and depression are lower vibration emotions than blame. At least when they blame others, they feel somewhat superior and that prevents them from feeling depressed.
A person with a victim mentality usually fluctuates between
the various lower vibration emotions.
They might be resentful, bitter, or envious of other people’s success or relationships. They feel this way because they don’t believe that they can do or have the same as others.
Or they might feel resentful, enraged, or hurt when other people don’t care about them as much as they do. They might even demand others to care for them. What they don’t realize is that they are passing their responsibility to care for themselves to others. This only makes other people feel burdensome and want to avoid them.
When they stay in these low vibration emotions for too long, they might end up feeling depressed and isolated eventually.
How to Deal with a Victim Mentality
1. Identify the part you play.
The first thing to do is to take responsibility for the part you play. It’s easy to feel frustrated and get dragged into the space of blaming when you are dealing with someone with a victim mentality. You might find yourself blaming them for taking you time and spreading their negativity to you.
But once you start blaming them, aren’t you in the victim consciousness too?
If you have attracted someone with a victim mentality to your life, examine what you did or what kind of energy did you give off that attracted the person to you in the first place. Are you setting clear boundaries? Have you been communicating clearly to them about your boundaries? Are you giving them the impression that you are interested to hear their complaints?
You probably have some aspects of your life
that you are playing the victim too.
People playing a victim attracts other people who play a victim. When I catch myself feeling resentful for having to deal with a victim mentality, I know that I’m being too agreeable and people-pleasing. I know I’m not having clear boundaries and I’m not saying “no” when I wanted to say “no”. I’m behaving like I have no choice in the matter.
Sometimes, it could also be that I’ve rejected or suppressed the part of me that is complaining and whiny instead of taking care of it. Therefore, I find it difficult to deal with someone else who exhibits the same traits. In order not to further attract people with a victim mentality, I have to stop playing the victim and take responsibility for the part I play.
Don’t ever blame people with a victim mentality for pestering you and let them affect your mood. Instead, focus on yourself and use this opportunity for self-reflection to understand how and where you can do better.
2. Have compassion for them but not empathy or sympathy.
People who struggle with a victim mentality usually carried or built this sense of powerlessness from their childhood, past experiences, and trauma. They didn’t consciously choose to suffer or be a victim unlike what we might perceive. Most of them don’t believe that they have a choice in their happiness. They don’t realize if they do some inner work and change their belief systems or stories, they don’t have to suffer.
It’s okay to be compassionate towards them, but make sure you are not empathizing or sympathizing with them. What’s the difference?
When you are compassionate, you understand their suffering but you also recognize their power to change. You don’t see them as victims. But for empathy and sympathy, you acknowledge their helplessness, and yet, you reaffirm their position as victims. Empathetic people, in particular, feel the sufferings so much that they might lose touch of their own sense of power when they empathize.
If you see them as victims, they will only be more attracted to you.
People with a victim mentality love empathetic people because first, they are able to feel and understand the sufferings. Second, they mirror back the suffering and support their perspective. Third, they are heavily invested in their problems as though it’s their own.
People with a victim mentality receive a lot of attention and validation from empathetic people. They also don’t have to do anything to improve their situation because empathetic people are busy solving their problems for them. So with empathetic people, they can continue to hold onto their victim mindset.
On the other hand, if you are compassionate, you lift the other person up. Even though you understand their suffering, you don’t agree with their victim’s perspective. Instead, you empower them to change on their own. You believe if you can transcend your sufferings, other people can do it too and you show them how.
People suffering from victim mentality will either be attracted to you and get uplifted or they will steer clear of you because they are not ready to let go of their victim mentality and are not willing to change or take responsibility.
3. Give encouragement instead of advice.
Giving advice to people with a victim mentality is an uphill battle. Since they have a belief that they can’t do anything to change their situation, so whatever advice you gave to them will be rejected.
Some of them might consult or seek you for advice but subconsciously, they don’t believe your advice will work. They might try your advice somewhat and give up easily. Then, come back to ask for more advice. But the more advice you give them, the more excuses they will come up to justify why they can’t do it or how it doesn’t work and this leaves you more frustrated with them.
What people with a victim mentality don’t realize for themselves is that when they ask for advice they are actually not looking for advice. They are just looking for a platform to voice their complaints.
Seeking advice is a passive way of voicing their grievance
without appearing needy or like a complainer.
When they seek you for advice and you ask them about their problems, you are giving them permission to share with you their grievance. They want to be heard and be cared for but they are not expressing their needs directly. So you have to read between the lines.
You can always offer advice when someone consults you for something. But if you sense that they are not committed to change, then stop giving them advice. Instead, listen and give them encouragement and words of assurance. Focus on their well-being rather than their problems or unhappiness. It will serve them better.
Also, ask empowering questions and allow them to come out with their own solution. Not only do you help them to be in touch with their own sense of power but they are more likely to follow through with something they come up with.
People with a victim mentality tend to focus too much on what happened in the past. If you ask them questions about the future, you can help them gain a wider perspective. For example, you can ask them, “If you were to meet with the situation again, how would you do it differently?” or “If the situation is never going to change, how do you have to change to cope with the situation?”
4. Inject some humor if appropriate.
When someone with a victim mentality is venting about others or something, they take things very personally. If you become as serious as them in the matter, then you get sucked into their problems and negative energy.
Sometimes, injecting humor into a conversation is better than trying to help them change their perspective. Humor helps to disarm the seriousness and hostility that are present. For some people, it’s difficult to switch completely from a negative to a positive stance. Humor helps them to step out of their victim mentality temporarily.
Furthermore, when you are fixing their problem or giving them suggestions, you are using a rational approach. But this usually only triggers them to argue with you, make excuses, and explain why your perspective is wrong.
However, if you use an irrational approach, they can’t argue with you.
That’s because you are not engaging their mind, the place where their negative beliefs and stories are stored. So how do you inject humor appropriately?
One way to do this is you can agree with them in a jokingly manner. For example, I have a student who always says “I’m stupid” whenever she makes a mistake. Initially, I tried to show her a different perspective and help her see why she isn’t stupid. But that doesn’t seem to work. So I gave up. One day, she asks me if she’s stupid, I just laughed and said, “Yeah, you are stupid.” She immediately rebutted, “No, I’m not stupid, teacher!” From that day onward, I seldom hear her say she’s stupid.
People with a victim mentality find it okay to criticize themselves or other people. But if you criticize them for the same thing, they do not like it. So you can exaggerate their victim’s point of view until they find it ridiculous themselves. Here are some things you can say:
- “It really seems that your life sucks so much. I’m glad I’m not you.”
- “Wow, it seems that you have a knack of attracting people that hurt you.”
- “Yeah, I don’t think anything will work for you. Good luck!”
Of course, you have to gauge if the context is appropriate for you to inject some humor and you have to be skillful at it. But staying amused, playful, and light-hearted prevents you from being too serious and getting into an anti-victim mode.
5. Allow them to be and trust that things will get better for them.
When all things fail, don’t feel guilty if you have to let them suffer on their own. This doesn’t mean that you don’t care about them. It just means that you trust that things will work out for them eventually and so there is no need to try so hard to help them.
For most of us, suffering is part of our process to grow. When people hit rock bottom, they will start to realize that their way of living and thinking is not working for them and they have to change. Knowing what they don’t want causes them to know what they do want.
Suffering can bring out the will and fire in them to change.
So it’s not a bad thing after all. But when we try to soften their suffering and prevent them from hitting rock bottom, we also unconsciously hinder them from experiencing the growth that they could possibly experience otherwise. We are preventing them from taking self-responsibility and making them dependent on us instead of themselves.
Sometimes, it’s best to stay neutral and not do too much. You don’t have to deliberately avoid them but you also don’t have to give them too much attention and be too invested in their life. Just recognize you can’t help them and allow them to deal with their own problems.
Because ultimately, the only person who can help them is themselves, not you. They just haven’t realized it yet.
Featured Photo Credit: Vera Arsic