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What does being a victim really mean?

Name tag that says I'm A VictimAdopting a victim mentality and surrendering to life’s circumstances will not improve those circumstances. We will encounter many challenging situations on our life’s journey. Some will be of our own making and others will be thrust upon us by external forces seemingly outside of our control. Some we will have the experience, skills, aptitude or support to deal with successfully, while others will result in an undesirable consequence and personal hardship.

The fact is they are all just events and it is up to us to choose how we will respond to them. Whether we let them overpower us and bind us to them for perhaps many years, or whether we choose to seek to understand why the event occurred, learn from it and use it to empower us to be wiser, more experienced and learn new skills, is entirely up to us.

Our life’s journey is one of experiencing, learning, adapting to what we have experienced and continually creating a better experience for ourselves and others. Along the way we will make mistakes and poor choices; so does everyone else. Those mistakes are part of the learning experience. If we are negatively impacted by our own or others’ errors then we need to make the most of them, try to understand them and look for some positive to be found (and there always is).

Don't blame me! A man doesn't understand why he is being blamedMy definition of being a victim means you choose only to see the negative of an undesirable eventand you surrender to the circumstance as a helpless, powerless sufferer. Sure, through seemingly no fault of our own we may be a ‘recipient’ or a part of some misfortune, though as the age old saying goes, when life hands us a big sour lemon we could choose to find some sugar and make lemonade from it. There is always some good to be found in everything, if only we give ourselves permission to earnestly look for it.

Having a victim mentality means you do the opposite of looking for the hidden opportunity in an unwelcome situation, instead favouring to dwell on the hurt, suffering and losses experienced. Instead of us using our own innate power to rise above the initial negativity and to re-establish feeling good about ourselves, we hand our power over to whoever is willing to treat us like a victim and bestow ongoing sympathy and pity. It may be quite reasonable to display sincere empathy for an appropriate amount of time after someone has experienced a significant setback in life, though I believe the best solution is to also help them see the way forward by focusing on the good, the learning and strengths to be gained.

It is all too easy for us to feel sorry for ourselves and unfortunately people that like to adopt the victim mentality also like to reinforce that attitude in others when unfortunate circumstances befall them. This ‘pity party’ helps those willing participants feel it’s OK and that their victimhood is out of their control. That it is quite OK that they remain ‘stuck’ where they are because it’s not their fault; it’s someone else’s job to make them feel better.o.

Intersecting street signs that point in different directions ... all of them have a phrase that relates to assigning blame.For many years I felt like a victim of the circumstances of my childhood and upbringing. That I developed my alcohol addiction because of those events and environment and therefore I was bound to them for life. My victim mentality dictated that because I became dependent on alcohol to feel good at a very young age, I would have to live with that for the rest of my life. However as the story of my journey is told in my book Alcohemy, I turned that victim mentality into one of positivity and power to develop my 13-element self-help alcohol treatment program, resulting in me being permanently alcohol-free, without even the desire to use alcohol.

I would be very interested to read your comments or about experiences you have where you (or someone you know) has had problems with a victim mentality. Please add your comments below.

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  1. It really boils down to taking responsibility for your own life. You can’t control what others do or say, but you can control how you react to what life throws at you. I think it is becoming a cultural thing to have a victim attitude.

    • I would be interested to hear more about what you mean by a victim attitude becoming a cultural thing, Helena. This morning I heard a news report about someone who was drunk and didn’t remember what happened to her and so was a victim of a crime. Does being drunk excuse responsibility, whether you’re the victim or the perpetrator? I don’t think it does, but some places consider alcoholism a mental illness, which would further lead to the idea of being drunk and not taking responsibility because of it. Perhaps this is what it means in that it is becoming a cultural thing.

      • I can’t presume to know what Helena meant, though I would like to add some comments of my own.

        Just like an increase in alcohol dependency is bolstered by societies where it is culturally accepted (and even promoted) to use alcohol to deal with all sorts of social and emotional stress, so does a propensity for an apathetic and victim-style attitude get reinforcement from societies and communities that have had experienced generations of handout or welfare-style living. The internal belief of young people raised in these type of communities is highly likely (though not always), one of “I’m a victim of circumstance” and “I have a right to expect someone to take care of me” and make my life comfortable. With more and more people around the world expecting government handouts and welfare payments, there is a real risk that this cultural expectation subtly flows into other parts of their life. Victimhood is a state of mind, not an environment condition. You can be in the very worst of external circumstances, yet have a powerful and positive attitude of self-determination. People raised in a culture that fosters self-reliance, will tend to take more responsibility for their own actions and also responsibility for resolving external challenges that come their way.

        It is my belief that if someone who is drunk has a crime (or other unpleasant event) acted apon them, they are not responsible for that act. No one forces a person to commit a crime or indecent act. Even if the female you mentioned was passed out on a park bench in the middle of the night, she has the human right (in an ideal world), to be left in peace. Having said that, the fact is in all societies there is an percentage of immoral people that prey on the vunerable and do commit crimes and indecent acts. We all have a resposibility for our own wellbeing and at the very least, to be aware of potentially harmfull situations. It is our responsibility not to place ourselves unduely in harms way. Unfortunately, one of the side effects of alcohol consumption is our judgement and ability to think rationally, is one of the first brain functions to be effected. Poor decisions are often made after as little a 1-2 drinks.

        Is this a valid reason for removing the drunk person’s responsibility for their actions? I don’t think so… it may be a reason or excuse for their poor decision/actions, though not the removal of culpability for the actual actions. All but the extreme novice drinker knows that drinking alcohol impairs the brain’s function, including decision making. In your example above, if the female’s intoxicated condition and decisions placed her in an obvious harmful situation, then she must bear responsibility for that predicament alone, not the crime itself. The crime is the full responsibility of the perpetrator.
        The defence that someone was drunk, therefore not responsible for their actions, doesn’t wash with me. It doesn’t erase their actions, nor any pain or suffering they have caused others. It is just another reason why the cultural acceptance of people (especally young) abusing alcohol has to be addressed globally.

        • When is it that I should should stop being the door mat and make everyone else the doormat. I work hard every day to get my kids to do what they need to do at home and at school. My wife well she does what makes her feel good. That means she spoils our kids and does not make them do what they need to do. In turn that makes me the bad guy aka the victim. I am so tired with people telling me I am a victim. I but if treat people like they treat me they will start saying they are the victim. The truth is I don’t know how to Chang this. I want people to treat me like I treat them. I think if I treat them like they treat me again they will be the victim. I guess as the victim I should say sorry.

          • Hi Mike

            You indeed sound frustrated that you doing what you believe to be the ‘right thing’ by your kids and others, isn’t being respected or appreciated. I think most of us have been there at some stage.

            The fact is we can’t force people to respect, appreciate, or even like us. Generally our actions (either physical, verbal or even body language), will determine whether we are ‘in sync’ with other peoples’ perceptions of what is good, and therefore think favourably of us or not. We need to derive how we feel emotionally by how our thoughts and actions align to our own important values and beliefs. We only become a victim if we let other peoples’ views or actions determine how we are feeling. If you have good, sound values and act with good intentions towards others, then be satisfied within yourself knowing you are a good, caring person… regardless of how others react. Your happiness in life should be determined more by how you feel about yourself, than others do.

            As we go through life we attract to ourselves all sorts of people and situations that are there to teach us life lessons. Sometimes people and circumstances come and go very quickly and others remain for many years. Our role is to learn from them all and keep our own personal growth and advancement moving in a direction that is to the betterment of our own life and personal values. You should never lower your good personal values/standards to make other people feel good, or to like you more. Young children don’t have the maturity or developed reasoning to fully appreciate the standards you set for them are for their own long-term benefit. They may only appreciate this when they are much older. This is something we as parents do for the long-term good of our children, not for the immediate recognition and praise. However, if your wife doesn’t appreciate how frustrated you are by her seemingly undermining your good intentions (by counteractive behaviour), you should have a quite and sincere discussion about it with her, so she understands it needs to be a harmonious joint venture. By taking this positive action you are not being a victim, rather being someone who takes control of your own destiny.

            With regards to other people outside of your immediate family… don’t be so emotionally influenced by them. As mentioned above, if they aren’t in harmony with your good values and intentions, then let that problem lie with them, not you. You be proud and content that you are thinking and behaving in ways that you know are right for you… it’s your life, not theirs. Like attracts like, so if you want good, like-minded people in your life, you need to persistently think and act in good ways. People out of alignment with that will eventually drift away from you and better aligned people will be attracted to you (that’s the universal Law of Attraction at work).

            You will only be a victim of others (or yourself), if you let others change your thinking and actions away from your good values and intentions. Never try to ‘get square’ or retaliate for others not behaving the way you would like them to. That is lowering yourself to a lessor standard and is counter-productive to your personal growth and well-being… ensuring you become trapped in that negative attraction cycle. Instead of adopting a victim mentality, have a courageous one and do what you firmly believe is good and right, regardless of how others may act. You can never be a victim with that attitude. Make sure you read my other articles and

  2. Being a victim means waving the banner that says, “don’t blame me.” The flip side, though, is to blame those who have done the hurting. Moreover, they should pay for their crimes, and continue to pay, even though they are not around anymore. This can be done by bringing up past hurts when others question evident problems. (“Remember that nasty person who did that to me all those years ago? That’s why I am like I am, so lay off.”) Being a victim is an excuse to not get well. Why would anyone want to stay sick? Fear of success? Or perhaps fear of the unknown…what would I feel like without my pain, who is that person? The hurt has been carried around so long it is an integral part of my personality, has even shaped that personality into who I am today.

    • Well put Reba. Both ‘continually blaming others‘ and ‘not taking responsibility for your life‘ is simpling saying “I don’t have any power or control“. Also you give your power away to others to control the outcome of your ‘existence‘, rather than being the Master of your fate; the Captain of your soul.

      To overcome alcohol dependence you have to take responsibility for it and you have to choose to take whatever actions are necessary to successfully resolve it.

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