Why some people always play the victim

Author and Medical Reviewer
Dr. Jose Toledo

Why some people always play the victim

Everybody has a bit of bad luck from time to time. But there are some people who seem to attract misfortune all the time.

Perhaps in a subconscious way they are. This can be because they always make choices that allow them to “play the victim”.

This is the person who wants to be seen struggling with heavy shopping bags in the rain when they know they can get their goods delivered to their door. This is somebody who almost seems to be pleased they have another new injury to show on their Facebook page.

They are the one who stays in the terrible relationship – so they can always tell you how unjustly they’ve been treated, once again. This is that person who always tells you what their bully of a boss has said or done this time, but who will never speak to their boss about it, leave the job or even look for a new one.

There are countless examples of someone who plays the victim – a state of being also know as victim syndrome, victim complex, or self-victimization. It is the making up or exaggeration of being a victim, time and time again.

Bad people, places and things…

Bad people, places and things

Someone who continually plays the victim believes that bad things always happen to them; that it is always the fault of others or circumstances; and that there is no point in looking for solutions as bad things will keep happening to them anyway.

If somebody suggests a solution, they are usually ready with a list of reasons why nothing will work – and try to get everyone to see how they are stuck as the victim. People who offer help are frequently left frustrated and bewildered – and in the end will understandably stop trying to help.

Unbeknown to the person with a victim complex, there are reasons behind their behavior. It is sometimes connected to an addiction to drama. Both continual “victims” and drama addicts can wear others away and take lots of their positive energy. So it’s natural that people will want to back away or completely cut them out of their life, at least for a while.

But while it is understandable to want to move away, detach with love, from anyone who steals our good energy, it is also important to have compassion. This is because behind a victim complex there is overwhelming inner pain – and it is that which fuels their behavior as a coping mechanism in life.

What is it like believing you are always the victim?

What is it like believing you are always the victim

It is extremely hard work and exhausting living life believing you are the constant victim of people, places, and things that are out of your hands. “Life has dealt me badly and continues to do so” is what someone with a victim mentality will truly believe.

Then every new struggle they have or can make happen or make up will reinforce their negative beliefs. They will be suffering inside from negative self-talk and self-sabotage, and this will stop them from even attempting any solution.

It will leave them living a life where they feel relentless resentment, anger, and frustration.

They will feel hopeless and hurt and are often bitter towards anyone who seems to not suffer as they do or who has good fortune, even if it is clear that person deserves their good fortune.

Because of these beliefs and negative inner dialogue, a person who always plays the victim is likely to have angry outbursts and suffer from depression. Even if they are surrounded by people, they will feel isolated, lonely, and disconnected.

Signs of self-victimization

Signs of self victimization

If you recognize some or all of these in someone – or yourself if you can be rigorously honest – they are signs of victim complex.

– No coping skills for life’s problems and so a feeling of being powerless to change and improve a situation. A victim never seems to learn and grow from bad things, and perhaps it is because subconsciously they do not want to stop playing the victim.

– Feeling trapped in life and always focusing on negatives and lack – what you’re missing, what there isn’t in life…

– Not wanting or accepting help or a solution when it’s offered. So using tactics such as suddenly changing the subject or then dismissing the problem as not really that bad – so that it can continue and repeatedly be brought up again.

– Feeling relief when able to claim and talk about being a victim.

– Often in a state of feeling sorry for themselves, wallowing in self-pity much of the time.

– Never looking at solutions, refusal even to consider there is one – so giving up before even trying (because a solution is not what is wanted).

– Always blaming others and avoiding responsibility for the way life is and really believing that life is bad and no one can be trusted.

Common phrases or variants that someone who plays the victim is likely to frequently say are:

“I must deserve all these bad things that always happen in my life.”

“It’s not my fault.” 

“Nobody even cares about me.”

“Why is it that everything bad always happens to me?”

“It’s pointless to even try asking that [about a solution], so why bother?”

Why do people want to play the victim?

Why do people want to play the victim

A victim mentality is often subconsciously developed as a way to cope, often from past trauma. That is frequently childhood trauma.

Connected to this is a lack of self-love and self-esteem. In many ways then it is as self-help author and motivational speaker Dr. Wayne Dyer said: “You get treated in life the way you teach people to treat you.”

That is, if you don’t value yourself it’s as if you are giving others permission to not value you either. This is especially the case in “romantic” relationships, where people who play the victim seem always to find someone who won’t treat them well.

So someone suffering from a victim mentality will think things like: “I’m not pretty enough to get or deserve anyone else.” Then it allows them to feel trapped in a relationship where they can continually tell everyone, including through social media posts, how poorly they are treated.

This way of thinking can be similarly applied to their jobs (or not having a job), family, or where they live. This low self-belief, often stemming from childhood from such as copious criticism, keeps them stuck.

Somebody who plays the victim can be doing it to manipulate others – and sometimes this is a sign of narcissistic personality disorder. They get attention through it, and often love and approval too. This can definitely be connected to having their needs unmet as a child and so seeking the love and approval they really needed from their parents and/or key caregivers when growing up.

This sort of manipulation also allows them to take advantage of other people’s kindness. Sometimes it has to be seen that sloth is a motivating factor in this.

Someone with a victim mentality likes the sympathy they get from other people. It temporarily picks them up due to receiving attention.

As well, because of it they may justify drinking or taking drugs, including some medications. Or they may get given money because of their “unfixable” problems.

If the trauma was a part of their childhood or something that happened in later life, then if they have never managed to find a way to cope with or resolve what happened, someone can fall into being a victim. It’s as if they do not even look for solutions because their past experience of not finding a way to deal with the trauma has scarred them.

Someone who plays the victim can feel they are justified in shirking life’s responsibilities. It takes courage to realize we are largely responsible for our own life – and then take action to do something positive about it, which frequently involves an element of risk.

Many people who play the victim have grown up in a household that taught them to focus on the world’s negatives and lack – and never to trust anyone. This is a way that has often been passed down as the attitude to live life for generations.

It makes taking risks that might be needed to get away from certain situations – an abusive partner, a job with a bully boss, living in a rundown part of town – seem too daunting to even consider. There is no belief that things can ever be different.

But there is always a solution. There are proven successful methods that let anyone move away from having a victim mentality – and go forward into the wonderful life they are truly meant to have.

Our expert therapists have helped people for decades now. Get in touch with us today to discuss how we can help you or someone you know.

David Hurst - Tikvah Lake Recovery

About David Hurst

David Hurst has four books published on mental health recovery, including 12 Steps To 1 Hero, The Anxiety Conversation and Words To Change Your Life. He has written for national newspapers and magazines around the world for 30 years including The Guardian, Psychologies, GQ, Esquire, Marie Claire and The Times. He has been in successful continual recovery since January 2002.

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