A victim, according to Webster’s dictionary, is a person who has been attacked, injured, robbed, killed, cheated or fooled by someone else, or harmed by an unpleasant event. Everyone gets attacked, injured, cheated, fooled and harmed during their life, if not physically then emotionally. And everyone gets harmed by unpleasant events. We’re all victims, in moments, to life’s challenges and difficulties—life’s lifeness.
It’s psychologically healthy to acknowledge the suffering and feelings of powerlessness that accompany such experiences.
And yet, there are those people who feel like victims all the time, regardless of the circumstances. Those with victim mentality are always being victimized in their own mind. They maintain a consistent victim identity and see life, perpetually, through victim-tinted glasses.
We all know people who seem to be constantly commenting on some injustice done to them, how others are denying them what they need, want, and deserve, controlling them against their will, making them do what they don’t want to do—how life is against them and the universe is designed to punish them, personally. Or perhaps, you yourself are someone who experiences life this way?
To always feel like a victim of life, or, to love someone who’s always convinced they’re the victim of life—neither is easy and both are painful.
To illustrate some of the most common forms of victim mentality, here are three cases in point.
Mary and her husband Phil are leaving on vacation. Mary has done all the booking and travel plans and has asked Phil to confirm the taxi pick-up time. The morning they’re scheduled to leave, Phil (who knows the flight time) nonchalantly mentions that the car is confirmed for a time that’s too late to assure making the flight. Mary asks Phil if he corrected the time to which he responds that she must have booked it at the too-late time because it’s what the company had in their log.
Mary is frustrated, confused, and angry. In response, she decides to do nothing about the car pick up time and instead opts to stew in her rage and fury at her husband. She spends the remaining three hours before the car comes constructing her victim narrative in which Phil is controlling her and stealing her vacation, the one she booked, earned and deserved. As she sees it, Phil’s decision to not change the car renders her powerless, helpless to get what she wants. She decides to take the chance, keep the pickup time as is, and potentially miss her flight and give up her vacation, all this to hold true to her victim identity and prove that her husband is out to destroy her happiness.
Peter’s narrative is that he’s always being controlled by others’ demands, and that his life is never his to decide. On a recent morning, his adult daughter expressed feeling cold in the house (while wearing a t-shirt), and asked Peter if he knew of any way to raise the heat because it appeared to not be working.
This sent Peter into full victim mentality and its accompanying rage. He was certain that he was being intentionally controlled by his daughter, and also that he now had to spend the day figuring out how to fix the heating system so that she would not have to feel uncomfortable. He was convinced that if he didn’t immediately attend to her problem, he would be punished and blamed, and held responsible for her unhappiness.
He was, as he saw it, a victim to her needs with no say over his own life. Just the previous day, he had fought with this same daughter about his having had to clean her room, because she wasn’t doing it herself, and that she was ungrateful. When she responded that she didn’t care if her room was clean, that’s why she wasn’t doing it, and that if he was doing it, he was doing it for himself, Peter screamed back “I have to do everything for everyone in this house and everyone else gets to do what they want to do.”