Victimhood & Addiction: How to Identify Victim Mentality
By Kayla Scoumis
Stuck In Dwelling?
“Life is terrible. I’ve lost everything. I have no one.”
“I’ve done so many horrible things and burned so many bridges.”
“Is it even worth it to pursue anything anymore?”
“Will I ever amount to anything? I mean, why should I even try?”
Does any of this sound familiar to you? Have you ever allowed yourself to dwell on everything negative in your life to the point where it became a reason to use? Welcome to something we call ‘the victim role’ – a mentality that can greatly hinder any efforts toward sobriety.
In this article, we cover more about feeling and acting helpless,. Then, we’ll explore several situations in which people assume the role of a victim. Can you identify any of these major roles? If so, recognition and ownership are the beginning to healing. At the end, we welcome you to share your questions and comments.
What Is a ‘Victim Role’…Really?
To assume the victim role is to adopt a way of thinking that essentially makes you feel and act helpless. This type of thinking is dangerous for everyone, but it is especially dangerous for those in active addiction.
Why Do We Assume The Victim Role?
The victim role allows those in active addiction to manipulate others. The “victims” communicate the beliefs in their head in a way that convinces their friends or loved ones that life truly is as bad as they say. This allows the “victims” to obtain:
- a place to stay
- more of their drug of choice
…and the list goes on. In short, the “victim” manipulates others into enabling him or her.
Because the addict is now getting what he or she wants, the victim role feels productive and successful, but, in fact, it creates a complicated situation in which a person lives in misery while using that misery as a weapon.
REMEMBER: The victim mindset tells you you’re not worth anything better. That isn’t living! You are worth more than that…and you are much more than just a victim.
The Victim Role: 3 Beliefs to Look For
There are three (3) main signs you can look for to identify the role of a victim in yourself or a loved one. The identification is key! Once you see yourself playing out any one of these roles, you can start to work on change.
VICTIM #1: The Victim with Low Self-Esteem
The victim role manifests in different ways and wears different masks. We often see the victim mindset in clients with low self-esteem. Their main belief system is: “Bad things will happen anyway, and I deserve it, so what’s the point of trying?” It’s very difficult for such a person to develop and pursue goals.
But, low self-worth is only the surface-level issue. Though self-esteem is something that needs to be addressed, the victim mindset is present in the deeper beliefs this person holds. Their view of life lacks agency. They do not believe their actions will make a difference because, either way, it will all go bad. They seethemselves as a victim of life and, in turn, are comfortable with that position because they believe it is where they belongs.
VICTIM #2: The Victim with a Big Ego
Ironically, the victim mentality also appears in clients with major egos. These individuals believe they are good people just trying to do the right thing, yet nothing seems to work out for them. No matter what good they try to accomplish, life has other things in mind—and it’s not fair.
These individuals might come across as thoughtful and hardworking. They do so much for others! But as soon as their own wants aren’t met, they find themselves depressed and angry.
They may think to themselves, “I give everyone what they want. Why can’t I ever get what I want?” These individuals are the caretakers and over-the-radar types who put on a front that their actions are born of good intent, when in fact they are more motivated by potential gain. When that gain is not realized, they become bitter and resentful. Their primary belief is that the world is not fair and they deserve a fair world.
That said, ego-motivated victims aren’t necessarily selfish. They tend to engage in codependent relationships that probably began at a young age. The only thing they know for sure is that to receive validation or feel loved, they must give in excess.
VICTIM #3: The Victim Who Has Experienced Trauma
Other clients have adopted the victim mindset because they indeed have been victims of situations such as:
- childhood abuse
- domestic violence
- sexual assault
…and other traumas. These individuals have been through tragedy and have not healed fully. They hold onto their trauma in a way that defines them and hinders their ability to move forward. Using substances allows these individuals to feel more comfortable in the world. It blocks the painful emotions and memories and allows them to wear a mask of normalcy.
Don’t get us wrong—these situations have a major impact on a person, and we are not saying they need to “just move on.” What we are acknowledging is that, when some people experience trauma, it creates a belief that all they will ever be is a victim of that situation. This then translates to assuming a victim mentality across most, if not all, areas of life.
NOTE HERE: It is important to note that some people who experience trauma might be diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or might experience its symptoms.
There is Not Just One Type of Victim
As you can see, there isn’t just one type of victim mentality. By fleshing out the different variations, you might be able to see how some of your own thinking, or your loved one’s thinking, involves a victim mindset in some way. That allows you to take the first steps to changing that mindset by learning to reframe various circumstances and create a feeling of empowerment.
For any questions or experiences that you’d like to share, we welcome you to post in the designated section below. We strive to help all our readers find safe and effective ways to address any behavioral and substance use issues. In fact, we do our best to provide a personal and prompt response to all legitimate inquiries.
About the Author: Kayla Scoumis is the clinical coordinator at Adams Recovery Center, a separate-gender drug and alcohol program located in Ohio and offering residential, intensive outpatient, and individual counseling services. Scoumis and her ARC colleagues are the authors of Accept, Reflect, Commit: Your First Steps to Addiction Recovery, releasing September 12, 2017.
Photo credit: succo