Victim mentality seldom has a happy ending. For some people, having someone or something to blame when things go wrong is comforting: it helps them deal with their own hurt and negative feelings and it allows them to channel their aggravation to a specific thing. But ultimately, if blaming becomes habitual, they may be making themselves sick without knowing it.
Do you take credit when good things happen yet shirk any type of responsibility when bad things occur? Is it always someone else’s fault? Are you often a victim of circumstance? If you think you’re helpless and that things always happen to you, you may have a victim mentality. Blaming others may make you feel better momentarily, but can have huge health costs down the line.
Where Control Lies
“It’s not what happens to you but what you do with what happens to you,” says HoneyColony Founder Maryam Henein. “When I was much younger I would blame others. It was always someone else’s fault. Today I take responsibility for my part. Nothing happens in a vacuum.”
When you begin to take responsibility for your part in what has happened, you allow yourself to become more in control of your own life. You begin to realize that good and bad things happen to everyone and how you deal with it is what ultimately decides whether you have a good or bad life.
It’s critical to understand things will occur that you do not have any type of control over, but ultimately, you determine your happiness, not someone else. When you dwell and fixate on victim-hood or readily take on victim mentality, you aren’t being completely honest or fair with yourself. Everyone makes mistakes and everyone has setbacks. Everyone also has triumphs and victories. You must own and be accountable for both sides of your existence to live a fully realized and flourishing life.
Emotional Health and Physical Health, Connected
Because our mentality informs our perception of ourselves and our lives, persistent negative thoughts create specific programming inside our head. We begin to see everything through the lens of negativity. This emotional destruction can then easily lead to physical destruction.
According to certified marriage and family therapist Aida Vazin, “Victim mentality keeps one in fight, freeze, or flight mode. This can impact our mental and physical health and at some point the body can become over taxed by surges of adrenaline and excessive cortisol being released in the body.” This can eventually lead to health issues such as anxiety, adrenal fatigue, and inability to sleep well.
And if you already have health issues? Well, it’s a bit like the chicken or the egg. Victim mentality can make you hold onto your disease and stop yourself from getting well.
“We run into this a lot with Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) and tapping,” says Judy Green an EFT Practitioner who is certified in other disciplines such as whole food nutrition, emotional detox, and smoking cessation. “The client has an emotional investment in remaining ill. They may get attention they didn’t get before they became ill. They may self-identify as sick or damaged. They may no longer see themselves as ‘whole’ without the disease. Therefore they remain emotionally invested in remaining ill and will often not ‘let’ themselves heal. That is why we use techniques that help them heal despite these deep rooted beliefs that would otherwise block their recovery.”
Harmful Coping Mechanisms
Additionally, consistent victim mentality can lead to unhealthy coping strategies. Living in such a negative world can be taxing. The need for a break from this negative world can lead to unhealthy cycles of behavior where the person tries to self soothe. If the entire world is out to get you and you turn inwards because you do not feel safe, Vazin says this can lead to many “unhealthy behaviors, such as eating junk food or comfort food, over consuming caffeine to compensate for fatigue…some even turn to drugs or alcohol to cope with their uncomfortable feelings.” So for those who have made negative self-talk and victim mentality a staple in their life, they may be paying a price with their health and not even realizing it. This type of behavior can lead to depression and anxiety, and if left unchecked, will lower the person’s quality of life.
Consequences Of Blaming Others
Psychologists believe victim mentality is often deep-rooted in self-esteem issues. The actions of people who suffer from victim mentality tend to revolve around either bolstering themselves or deflecting any negative consequences/idea that could further threaten that self-esteem. The results can be quite devastating.
Take the case history of Jim and April Lumia. According to Jim, his ex-wife’s incessant blaming him for everything eventually led to divorce.
“She never took responsibility for her actions,” says Lumia. “It was always someone else’s fault even when it clearly wasn’t. When asked her recommendation on something, she often wouldn’t give an opinion. So I would end up making the decision. If it turned out to be a bad decision she would complain and point out how other alternatives would have been better. She never got on board with anything unless it turned out well. And then she acted like it had been her idea all along.”
In retrospect, Lumia says he now understands why April might have been this way.
“Her father was very abusive and critical of her,” says Lumia. “I probably should have been more understanding, but she really did drive me crazy. After the divorce, she said I ‘ruined her life’.”
Our bodies can’t exist in a compromised state internally for too long without developing heightened stress levels, which is often what happens. The stress that a body will start to go through when exercising the victim mentality for excessive amounts of time can actually cause the individual to develop anxiety and depression.
If improperly resolved, these issues will only get worse and may lead to other symptoms as well. Our beliefs strongly influence how we view life. If we think that everything is negative or bad all the time, we’ll expect things to be bad so we’ll only see the bad. That can become a cyclical practice that has no positive or helpful outcomes.
Stress is an influential precursor of many chronic illnesses. In a 30 day period, three out of four people experience physical symptoms of stress. When we allow our body to be stressed and don’t manage our stress in a healthy way, we are putting ourselves at risk. We are risking illness, or at the very least, complete burnout.
Our bodies and our minds do not function as they should when our stress levels are too high. Those who view most of their interactions with others as an attack, or feel that they must always be on the defensive, cannot allow their body to relax and exist peacefully or joyfully. Victim mentality is a very damaging mental framework that individuals need to examine and effectively dispose of. There is no room for happiness or contentment in its presence.
Get Real With Yourself
Here are some questions to ask to determine whether you harbor victim mentality:
- Are you inherently negative? Do you tend to focus on the bad rather than the good or neutral?
- Do you consider a glass as half empty as opposed to being half full?
- Do you find yourself complaining about little things that others would ignore or not necessarily highlight as negative.
- Are you very self involved? Are you concerned with yourself and your personal plight exclusively?
- Are you honestly incredibly defensive or reactive? Do you act in a way that is accusatory and hinders open dialogue about potential contributing factors?
- Do you display learned helplessness: behavior that posits the person always in a position where they are vulnerable, needy, powerless, helpless, and a victim?
- Finally, are you incredibly stubborn? Are you unable or unwilling to accept suggestions on how to deal with situations or reluctant to take others recommendations or verbal help?
3 Ways To Break Free
1. Be grateful– Gratitude plays a huge part in helping you re-frame how you look at things. If you are having a bad day or something isn’t going the way you would like, look around and think of all the things that are going right. Acknowledge what is good and positive and beautiful in your life to shift your focus. What you focus on will impact your mood and your ability to change your perspective. This will also put you in a mental space that will positively impact yourself and those around you.
2. Be accountable- Understand that you have a huge part to play in how your life goes. There are things that will happen to you that are beyond your control but how you handle yourself moving forward matters a lot. Do not look for pity or praise from outside sources. Understand that you have the key to make whatever change is necessary and pertinent to your life and circumstance. Take control of how you live and the ways in which you react. This will eradicate quite a bit of negativity from your life and help to positively improve your perspective.
3. Forgive- It’s crucial that in order to break free from the cycle of victim mentality, you’ll need to figure out how to forgive. This goes both ways. Forgiving yourself and forgiving others will help you tremendously. Being unwilling or unable to forgive others only ties you to them through pain and negative feelings. Healing can not take place in such circumstances. Forgive yourself because the harsh judgement you cast on others may be linked to negative feelings you have about yourself and your current situation. Letting these things go promotes freedom.
Serene Hitchcock has been writing for several years in many forms and facets. She loves the written word and a well-executed story. She’s interested in the arts, health, current events and the world we live in.
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