Meet Mr Victim!!
“Self-pity is easily the most destructive of the non-pharmaceutical narcotics; it is addictive, gives momentary pleasure and separates the victim from reality.” – John W. Gardner
For an evergreen victim, slightest disturbances set into motion the well familiar sinking feeling and the typical thinking that he has little or no control over his life. If his highly sensitive mental antenna senses even traces of disapproval by anyone around it implies only one thing: that the whole world is against him and he is utterly without defense. Feelings of sadness, low-ness, and depression are always lurking nearby to possess the wonderful victim at any time, 24X7. Experts can assign several innovative sequences of alphabets to these symptoms that often only reinforce the self-declared conviction of being a permanent victim, without curing the roots of the decaying tree.
This may be somewhat an exaggeration of the emotional status of a person with the victim’s mindset who habitually indulges in self pity, but he lives in a house with walls of pessimism and windows of hopelessness, and is under constant bombardment of his negative mental radio.
Mr Victim is the best example of the power of thoughts – on the negative side though.
Why People Indulge in Self Pity?
Like any other habit or tendency, self-pity or victim mindset is also a self protective behavior. It offers certain advantages; the longer these benefits are enjoyed the stronger the tendency of self pity becomes. Basically, the person finds security in this self-deprecating behavior. When reinforced by others’ reactions, the victim mindset makes a strong enough dwelling in the headspace of Mr Victim. An observation of the mental chatter of the victim will make these issues crystal clear.
So, what are the rewards for this non-assertive and self-degrading behavior?
People around become rather concerned about the well being of the “poor victim”; so the person receives extra attention and validation. It makes the person feel cared for and feels comfortable in this role. This often makes him averse to risk taking which also protects from probable rejection or failure.
Protection against Taking Responsibility
Since he hardly does anything other than playing the victim, no one expects any sense of responsibility for whatever he does. This makes him to get away without making any hard decision. This evasion of responsibility is soothing in the short term; of course, pretty harmful in the long run.
He is Always Right!
Since he takes no action and stays away from taking initiatives, if anything goes wrong the fault always lies with the other persons. And as a corollary, he is always right. This convoluted thinking further reinforces the victim mindset.
So how can he move out of this mindset?
1. Accept the Reality
Becoming aware of the comfort zone created by the victim’s mindset and realizing the trivial (and disparaging) advantages it offers, are the first steps towards coming out of the self pity mode or victim mindset. The conscious awareness of the deceptive benefits of victim-thinking makes it easy to decide on a correcting behavior pattern.
This acceptance also allows the person to accept himself as he is. This paves the way for change and fresh thinking. It brings into open the disadvantages of easy-escape by evading risks and responsibility and focuses on the likely larger benefits of taking emotional risks and being responsible for one’s life.
2. Decide to Not Play Victim
Giving up the victim’s benefits necessarily involves taking risks. In practical terms in means taking decisions and asserting oneself. It is certainly going to feel insecure and threatening initially but with determination and consistent practice the level of discomfort would gradually diminish, and finally vanish.
Remember: Feeling shaky or fearful are not necessarily signs of any imminent danger. There is a very popular advice – feel the fear and do it anyway! This is real bravery: feeling the fear and doing what needs to be done!
It will also involve dealing the past painful memories of hurt or insult. Since already a significant time has gone, it is now better to offer new reactions to the triggers from the past. This may not appear familiar, but was the victim-behavior familiar when it first started?
3. Start Taking Risks
Probably the basic reason how the victim behavior started was some situation or incident when you felt totally terrified and helpless in dealing with it and began blaming someone else under overwhelming emotions. This is how most tendencies of self pity or low self esteem germinate. When we blame others, we essentially give up control; it is like handing over power to the other person.
The correct response would be: accepting the hurt (which is a reality) and devising ways to come up with a different response if that incident were to reoccur in future. But we can’t always remain so objective or so skillful. After all we are fragile humans!
Perhaps the best way to create a victim mindset is to start blaming others for every bad thing happening around us. The tendency to blame others also has a tendency to boomerang – in the form of self pity!! It creates a double illusion: first, that the other person is too strong for you, and second, I am no more than a helpless and defenseless tiny creature. By blaming, you only empower the other person – to your own disadvantage. This is the non-intuitive truth of interpersonal relations.
This will damage many vital things in life, such as relationships and personal achievements.
So, the moral of this section is: Take responsibility of all your feelings – even if they are most humiliating or excruciating. Don’t you think it is simply illogical to blame someone else for what is going on inside my headspace?
When you are responsible for whatever you decide and do, your need for external validation, approval, or praise reduces because you are now action oriented and derive satisfaction in it. This fuels your life with positive emotions no matter what other people say or do around you.
4. Become Extrovert
When you find yourself overpowered, as it were, by melancholy, the best way is to go out and do something. – John Keble
Sympathy is never wasted except when you give it to yourself. – John W. Raper
Introversion is the trademark sign of people struggling with self pity, low self-esteem, or victim mentality. Therefore, turning attention outward is a therapeutic thing. When anyone gets entangled in thoughts and feelings, the best thing is to try to focus elsewhere. The hurdle comes from the fact that he doesn’t feel like doing it.
So what is the easiest way to turn attention outward? The answer is simple: help other people!
Someone has rightly said: “if you can’t help yourself, start helping others!’ And it always works!!
Additionally, it makes you realize that you are not the only person with difficulties; there are many others who can easily beat you in this contest! When you realize this, you tend to downplay your own suffering. I am sure you would not complain now despite losing the competition!!
Then another funny thing begins to happen: When you try to comfort others, it has a healing touch on you – sort of positive side-effect. Any complains now?
“When you are kind and helpful to other people, you are actually being kind and helpful to yourself. The more you love others, the more you love yourself.”
It will help tremendously if you permanently carve these words in your mind.
5. Learn to Forgive
The next step towards losing your victim-hood is practicing forgiveness. It is certainly difficult to forgive those whom we have blamed for years for our miseries. It becomes still harder because of the misunderstandings around the concept of forgiveness. So, consider the following three facts carefully:
First, get it straight that you don’t forgive people for them, but you do it for you. This is probably the most selfish act because you make it absolutely in your own interest.
Second, you want to forgive because you want to come out of the chronic negative emotions of resentment and hatred which constantly suck your vitality.
Third, it is basically an act of letting go – of harmful feelings, in order to create a bigger and healthy emotional space for you to evolve.
To make things still clearer, I quote a wiser person than me:
“When you hold resentment toward another, you are bound to that person or condition by an emotional link that is stronger than steel. Forgiveness is the only way to dissolve that link and get free.” – Catherine Ponder
Therefore, you are the biggest gainer of the act of forgiveness.
The feelings of resentment and ill-will act like invisible strings that connect you with the person you actually want to stay away from. As long as this emotional link is not broken (and forgiving is the surgical knife to do that!) you will stay connected with that person, and consequently with the pain and anguish. This is probably more than that person ever wanted – you have made a jerk the most important person in your life!!
Therefore, the best way to teach that person a lesson is to FORGIVE him and show him his right place!! More than anything else, forgiving is a DECISION; you take this decision in your own best interest.
Take your time and think about this counter intuitive logic and make the right decision.
What poison is to food, self-pity is to life. – Oliver C. Wilson
It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it. – Lena Home
The human mind can bear plenty of reality, but not too much un-intermittent gloom. – Margaret Drabble
It’s all right to sit on your pity pot every now and again. Just be sure to flush when you are finished. – Debbie Macomber
Your distress about life might mean you have been living for the wrong reason, not that you have no reason for living. – Tom O’Connor
Self-pity in its early stages is as snug as a feather mattress. Only when it hardens does it become uncomfortable. – Maya Angelou
It’s odd that you can get so anesthetized by your own pain or your own problem that you don’t quite fully share the hell of someone close to you. – Lady Bird Johnson
Self-pity is a death that has no resurrection, a sinkhole from which no rescuing hand can drag you because you have chosen to sink. – Elizabeth Elliot
The secret of being miserable is to have leisure to bother about whether you are happy or not. The cure for it is occupation. – George Bernard Shaw