The following is from my booklet, Self-Esteem and Other Tools for Rational Living:
What is the emotional appeal of being considered a victim, since so many people—especially people like Betty—seem to like it?
Being a victim is easy. It simplifies life. It absolves one of responsibility for one’s actions, since taking responsibility could mean change—and change implies work and effort. For many people, this is calming and reassuring in a dysfunctional sort of way. What such victim mentalities don’t realize (or maybe don’t want to realize) is that when they give up personal responsibility, they also give up control. They give up being masters of their own destinies.
They become much more likely to end up in a mid-life crisis, clinical depression, a case of attention-deficit disorder, or whatever the next mental disease rage might be. When they start to sense this loss of control, they become terrified and usually lash out with either more anger or playing the role of victim.
Looking deeper: we are all taught that sacrifice and suffering are virtues. Consequently, many of us like to feel as if we are victims because it makes us virtuous. I find this to be the case when people don’t or can’t seem to get better. Nothing seems to work: self-help books, psychotherapy (even good therapy), psychiatric medication. When you scratch the surface, you realize that they simply don’t want to get better, because getting better represents a psychological conflict-of-interest. How? If they get better, then they are no longer “virtuous” since suffering means virtue. It’s perverse, but it’s a perversion which only a completely wrong approach to ethics and morality could have brought about.
Victimhood is also for people who live short-range. If you look at the bigger picture, including your own role in creating situations you don’t like, then you will see that victimhood is a tragic waste of time, energy and potential. But just as drug addicts or gambling addicts live in their own moment-by-moment realities, so too does the chronic victim. Just like the alcoholic, the victim mentality must recognize that his attitude towards life is killing him, and that he’s got to consider change. Just as the alcoholic is killing himself with booze, the victim mentality is killing herself with wrong ideas.
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