Victims are often people that have grown up in households where the Mother or the Father demonstrated the role of victim to them. If one parent was abusive towards the other the child may identify with the abused individual and assume that putting up with physical or emotional abuse is the right way to behave. As they get older they will accept being bullied, abused and treated poorly in their own relationships, because that is what they have witnessed growing up. On the other hand, children and adults that have not seen abuse stand up for themselves and leave unhealthy situations to seek more appropriate interactions relatively quickly.
Victims make up one half of the picture. When there is a victim there must also be an abuser or perpetrator. In some situations the person playing the victim in one situation may be the perpetrator in another, which could be a reaction to the abuse. Very often, children that are bullies at school are experiencing being bullied at home, either by a sibling or a parent figure.
There are other events that create victims besides growing up in a family of abusers and victims. Sometimes, a victim is born as a result of a traumatic event, where the safety of the person is threatened to such a degree that they become very fearful of the world and life. Their reaction to the event is one where they become convinced that the world is negative and that misfortune seeks them out.
So, being a victim can be very dis-empowering, but the other side of the coin is that playing the victim can be a very powerful role. The whole family can tip toe around to avoid upsetting the victim, and they can demand sympathy and constantly seem to be in personal agony and misery.
No one ever sets out to be a victim, and I am sure no one would ever choose the role. The behaviours are either learned or imposed. Either way, many people play this role unconsciously, and get their attention from their misfortune, illness, or pain.
All victims have one thing in common- they can only exist as a victim if they are around a perpetrator. Many victims have relationships with bullies and abusers, not with supportive, nurturing or caring individuals. A co-dependency forms between the victim and the perpetrator, both needing each other to continue the cycle. This is not a conscious decision for either party, but is one that has to be recognised in order for meaningful change to occur.
Living with a victim is not easy for members of the family. The victim continues to use the same behaviours, regardless of any efforts to please them. It is impossible to please them, and this can generate huge frustration for the other members of the family. For some victims this includes being ill all the time. They have learned that health issues create sympathy so they constantly seek attention through being sick and ill. Over time the family and those around the victim run short of patience and frustration and resentment start to surface. This naturally creates the very issues that allows the victim to continue to see themselves as the wronged party.
Getting into recovery from victim-hood can only happen once the problem has been recognized for what it is. This can be a gradual process of understanding how unsatisfying the current behaviour is. Often the desire for change develops over time when relationships falter and friends disappear, and being miserable becomes too painful.
The next phase is to be honest with yourself and find out why you play the victim. Is it because you want sympathy or attention? Do you lack the self-confidence to express your own needs and wants? Are you a bully and do you attempt to control those around you? Do you see life as a constant threat? Do you see others as out to cause you harm? These are all belief systems that need to be looked at in a safe environment, and indeed, many victims need the help of a therapist to understand their behaviour and how to move beyond it.
Often looking back at your family of origin is a good place to start when asking why you became a victim. This needs to be done without judgment. It is a fact finding mission to evaluate and understand your perspective on victim-hood. The behaviours you developed through watching and learning from your family are the behaviours that you have to consciously now work on so that you can bring about the change you desire.
For most bullies and victims the result of this work will be an understanding that there is a lack self-worth and self-confidence. Both groups may feel they are not important or not worthy, and cannot relate to others in any other way. This issue is core to most self-help courses and taking a course, reading a book or doing energy work will help you replace these negative self concepts with more positive belief systems.
Looking for the negative in life also creates a victim mindset. Being able to change negative thoughts or thoughts of persecution to being grateful for the things in your life is a simple yet highly effective personal exercise. Try to find ten or more things to be grateful for each night, and keep a notebook for this by your bed. For some individuals this may be a challenge at first so start with obvious ones and gradually branch out from there. Some starting points include:
- I am grateful that I am loved and cared for
- I am grateful for the companionship of my dog
- I am grateful for the employment I have
- I am grateful for my home, apartment or room
- I am grateful for the beauty of nature
- I am grateful for the food I eat
- I am grateful for my safe arrival home or to work
- I am grateful for my ability to change
Starting with very specific, small things is a good first step. Keep adding to this list throughout the week, months and years. Over time you will find it is much easier to list things to be grateful for as well as find new appreciation for the world around you.
Once you have begun on this journey you will also begin to be able to take responsibility for your own actions and behaviour. You can no longer blame your behaviour on someone in your past or someone else in your life. Avoid complaining and change your interactions with others. Talk about the good things that have happened in your life, and let go of the list of problems that you usually start the conversation with. Also let go of the negative self talk, and embrace healthy boundary setting and interactions. Try to see the good in everyone, including yourself.
Once you begin to change your behaviour, you will find that self-respect follows. You will become more attuned to how to show respect for others and learn to get attention for doing positive deeds. You will find that you will be able to walk away from other misery addicts and victims because being with them is draining, and you will naturally be attracting more positive people into your life. (No one likes to be around someone who complains all the time.) This in turn creates the ideal situation to continue to grow without resorting to those familiar negative behaviours.
Letting go of the past is not always easy, especially if we have been a victim for a long time. The smallest changes that you make will have positive ramifications in your life and will provide the opportunity for continued growth. Being able to understand that you are loved and cared for is the best way of preventing yourself from reverting to type.
It is time to stand up and be counted. It is time to let go of what no longer serves you. You are a wonderful, worthy human being that can outgrow your history and your negative behaviours. You are worth it.
My website is the culmination of many years of seeking answers about my own health and well-being, and studying the human condition. I write articles, am a healer and give talks about subjects relating to spiritual growth and personal development. I am passionate about healing, recovery, and assisting others to grow.