A victim mentality can emerge following trauma or hardship. This mindset can include despair, lack of energy, and the inability to be proactive in critical situations. A similar frame of mind occurs in depression. Cognitive behavioral therapy focuses on the thought processes of a person, particularly the hopeless, helpless thinking, and changing negative thought patterns. In treating depression, this change in thinking has proven as effective as some antidepressants. With feelings of martyrdom and a victim mentality, changing thoughts and beliefs is crucial to recovery and improved mental health.
Developing a Victim Mindset
Some people, after experiencing numerous hardships or traumatic situations, begin to have a distorted view of themselves. They see themselves as victims in many different scenarios. Once this destructive mindset is in place it affects major decisions, motivation, relational interactions, view of others, and self-esteem. Consider the common attributes described below. People with a victim mentality:
1. Feel sorry for themselves, seek pity from others and believe no one understands or cares.
2. Often exaggerate their problems, life difficulties and the mistreatment from others.
3. Complain and grumble endlessly about their situation but do little to change it.
4. Feel overwhelmed, helpless, and paralyzed by problems and cave under pressure.
5. Blame hardships and difficult circumstances on other people or institutions.
6. Take little responsibility for their own feelings or actions.
7. Use their suffering to manipulate others into doing more for them.
8. Want help yet refuse suggestions, advice, or direction from others.
9. Have an insatiable need for reassurance but refuse to believe it when it’s given.
10. Move from one problem to the next, create endless drama, and live in constant crisis.
Change Your Thinking
We feel helpless when we perceive having little or no control over a situation or circumstance. We want to feel as if we have some control of our own experiences. Having a victim mentality or feeling helpless comes from our perception of a situation and the meaning we assign to the thoughts and feelings experienced. Those thoughts, perceptions, and interpretations can be altered. I can see something as a difficulty or as a disaster. I can perceive myself as capable of trying, or as helpless and incompetent. Framing something as possible rather than impossible is an important first step.
A New Perspective
To decrease feelings of helplessness, focus on your abilities, not your limitations. Regularly think through what is going well, and do not get stuck on what is not. Consider your recent successes and be intentional about seeing the ways you positively contributed to your own success. Minimize difficulties, hardships, and stressful situations. Maximize your strengths and positive traits. Make efforts to solve problems, work hard, and persevere through difficult times. Collaborate with people who believe the best about you. They will encourage, inspire, and affirm you in your journey, without solving the problem for you.
Recovery is a Journey. Enjoy the Ride!