“Your wound is probably not your fault, but your healing is your responsibility.”
Each of us has experienced hurt, pain, or trauma in our life. For some of us, it’s big trauma, like physical violence, serious illness, or abuse. For others, it’s little trauma, like getting made fun of on the playground as a kid or being called stupid.
Often times, the hurt, pain, or trauma we experience isn’t a direct result of something we’ve done, but rather something that’s been done to us.
In the aftermath, it’s normal to question why this happened, feel negative emotions, and blame those who are responsible.
But when it leads to the onset of a victim mentality, a person can get caught up in feelings of bitterness and dwell on the past that creates a barrier to experiencing joy in the present.
What is the victim mentality?
“Self-pity is easily the most destructive of the nonpharmaceutical narcotics; it is addictive, gives momentary pleasure and separates the victim from reality.” – John W. Gardner
The victim mentality doesn’t just mean that someone is a victim.
A victim is a person who has experienced some kind of trauma, hurt, or injury as a result of someone else’s behavior. Many people who are victims do not adopt a victim mentality.
The victim mentality is a mindset, and it has a way of becoming the lens through which the person views the world.
People who adopt this mindset often believe the world is conspiring against them and that there’s nothing they can do to change their situation. They take on a helpless, “poor-me” persona which inhibits them from taking action in the present.
They focus on blaming others for their problems, instead of accepting responsibility for their own healing.
Why would someone take on this mindset?
It can feel powerful to be the victim. You don’t have to own any decisions or take responsibility for your actions. You feel justified in your bitterness and you feel pride in being able to convince others that you were unjustly wronged.
Ironically, it feels safe being the victim because everything negative that happens can be blamed on something or someone else.
All of these things perpetuate the victim mentality and make it hard to adopt another way of thinking and seeing the world around you.
How the victim mentality keeps you down.
A big problem with the victim mentality is that any comforting feelings it brings are short-lived. The other times, you are living in a place of anger and bitterness. It cuts you off from enjoying the present and sharing in the joys of others.
Dwelling on anger and bitterness won’t change what happened. It only serves to keep you in a victim state of mind. The victim mentality keeps you living in the past and makes it nearly impossible to focus on what you can control in the present.
Responding to trauma is within our control.
As much as we’d like to, we can’t change our pasts. We can either let our past trauma steer, or we can take the wheel.
Trauma can suck the life right out of you. It happens, and it’s awful. It’s okay (and healthy) to acknowledge the hurt that was experienced – it’s real, it happened, and it may have been life-changing.
BUT you do have a choice in how you respond. Deciding how to move forward after loss, trauma, or hurt is within your control.
Adopt an attitude of resilience.
It’s your responsibility to choose the next step – to say, “okay, this happened, it really sucked, what am I going to do now? What have I learned? How can I gain control of my life and heal?”
Every single person has inner resilience and strengths that can be harnessed in these times. When you take control of your life, you will reduce feelings of bitterness, anger, and self-pity.
Life may not ever be the same again, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have an incredibly fulfilling and beautiful life.
It’s possible to practice self-compassion and self-love through the healing process.
Make no mistake, confronting those demons will be challenging, but you’ll also find freedom in not allowing your past to keep you from creating the future you desire.
How have you dealt with the victim mentality, either personally or with someone you know? Leave your thoughts below!