(Last Updated On: March 24, 2022)

Understanding the Victim Complex

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An Insight Into The “Victim Complex” Or “Victim Mentality”

Portions by By Robert Longley – Updated March 16, 2018 – Copyright Acknowledged

It is important to understand the difference between a Victim and someone who suffers from a Victim Complex.

In our experience, most victims do not suffer from Victim Complex, but some do. If you see yourself in this, we suggest seeking local counselingCounseling Counseling is the professional guidance of the individual by utilizing psychological methods especially in collecting case history data, using various techniques of the personal interview, and testing interests and aptitudes. A mental health counselor (MHC), or counselor, is a person who works with individuals and groups to promote optimum mental and emotional health. Such persons may help individuals deal with issues associated with addiction and substance abuse; family, parenting, and marital problems; stress management; self-esteem; and aging. They may also work with "Social Workers", "Psychiatrists", and "Psychologists". SCARS does not provide mental health counseling. or a mental healthMental health Mental health, defined by the World Health Organization (WHO), is "a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community". According to WHO, mental health includes "subjective well-being, perceived self-efficacy, autonomy, competence, intergenerational dependence, and self-actualization of one's intellectual and emotional potential, among others". From the perspectives of positive psychology or of holism, mental health may include an individual's ability to enjoy life and to create a balance between life activities and efforts to achieve psychological resilience. Cultural differences, subjective assessments, and competing professional theories all affect how one defines "mental health". professional to explore it with you. You can find competent counselors or therapists here: www.opencounseling.com and www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapists/trauma-and-ptsd

VICTIM COMPLEX

In clinical psychology, a “victim complex” or “victim mentality” describes a personality trait of persons who believe they are constantly the victims of the harmful actions of others, even when made aware of evidence to the contrary.

Most people go through normal periods of simple self-pity, as part of the grieving process, for example. However, these episodes are temporary and minor compared to the perpetual feeling of helplessness, pessimism, guilt, shameShame Shame is an unpleasant self-conscious emotion typically associated with a negative evaluation of the self; withdrawal motivations; and feelings of distress, exposure, mistrust, powerlessness, and worthlessness., despair, and depression that consume the lives of persons afflicted with a victim complex.

Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for people who have actually been victims of physically abusive or manipulative relationships to fall prey to a universal victim mentality.

Victim Complex vs. Martyr Complex

Sometimes associated with the term victim complex, persons diagnosed with a “martyr complex” actually desire the feeling of repeatedly being the victim. They sometimes seek out, even encourage, their own victimizationVictimization Victimization (or victimization) is the process of being victimized or becoming a victim. The field that studies the process, rates, incidence, effects, and prevalence of victimization is called victimology. in order to either satisfy a psychological need or as an excuse to avoid personal responsibility. Persons diagnosed with a martyr complex often knowingly place themselves in situations or relationships most likely to result in their suffering.

Outside of the theological context, which holds that martyrs are persecuted as punishment for their refusal to reject a religious doctrine or deity, persons with a martyr complex seek to suffer in the name of love or duty.

The martyr complex is sometimes associated with the personality disorder called “masochism,” regarded as a preference for and the pursuit of suffering.

In this sense, psychologists often observe the martyr complex in persons involved in abusive or codependent relationships.

Fed by their perceived misery, persons with a martyr complex will often reject advice or offers to help them.

Common Traits of Victim Complex Sufferers

Persons diagnosed with a victim complex tend to dwell on every traumaTrauma Emotional and psychological trauma is the result of extraordinarily stressful events that shatter your sense of security, making you feel helpless in a dangerous world. Psychological trauma can leave you struggling with upsetting emotions, memories, and anxiety that won’t go away. It can also leave you feeling numb, disconnected, and unable to trust other people. Traumatic experiences often involve a threat to life or safety or other emotional shocks, but any situation that leaves you feeling overwhelmed and isolated can result in trauma, even if it doesn’t involve physical harm. It’s not the objective circumstances that determine whether an event is traumatic, but your subjective emotional experience of the event. The more frightened and helpless you feel, the more likely you are to be traumatized. Trauma requires treatment, either through counseling or therapy or through trauma-oriented support programs, such as those offered by SCARS., crisis, disease, or another difficulty that they have ever suffered, particularly those that happened during their childhoods.

Often seeking a survival technique, they have come to believe that society simply “has it out for them.” In this sense, they passively submit to their unavoidable “fate” as perpetual victims as a way of coping with problems from tragic to trivial.

Some common traits of persons with a victim complex include:

  • They refuse to accept responsibility for dealing with their problems.
  • They never accept any degree of blameBlame Blame or Blaming is the act of censuring, holding responsible, making negative statements about an individual or group that their action or actions are socially or morally irresponsible, the opposite of praise. When someone is morally responsible for doing something wrong, their action is blameworthy. By contrast, when someone is morally responsible for doing something right, we may say that his or her action is praiseworthy. Blame imparts responsibility for an action or act, as in that they made a choice to perform that act or action. for their problems.
  • They always find reasons why suggested solutions will not work.
  • They carry grudges, never forgiveForgiveness What Is Forgiveness? Psychologists generally define forgiveness as a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether they actually deserve your forgiveness., and simply cannot “move on.”
  • They are rarely assertive and find it hard to express their needs.
  • They believe everyone is “out to get them” and thus trust no one.
  • They are negative and pessimistic, always looking for the bad even in the good.
  • They are often highly critical of others and rarely enjoy lasting friendships.

According to psychologists, victim complex sufferers employ these “safer to flee than fight” beliefs as a method of coping with or completely avoiding life and its inherent difficulties.

As a noted behavioral scientist, author and speaker Steve Maraboli puts it, “The victim mindset dilutes the human potential. By not accepting personal responsibility for our circumstances, we greatly reduce our power to change them.”

The Victim Complex in Relationships

In relationships, a partner with a victim complex can cause extreme emotional chaos. The “victim” may constantly ask their partner to help them only to reject their suggestions or even find ways to sabotage them. In some cases, the “victim” will actually wrongly criticize their partner for failing to help, or even accuse them of trying to make their situation worse.

As a result of this frustrating cycle, victims become experts at manipulating or bullying their partners into making draining attempts at care-giving ranging from financial support to assuming full responsibility for their lives. In this sense, bullies — looking for someone to take advantage of — often seek persons with a victim complex as their partners.

Perhaps the most likely to suffer lasting damage from these relationships are partners whose pity for the victim transcends sympathy to become empathy.

In some cases, the dangers of misguided empathy can be the end of already tenuous relationships.

When Victims Meet Saviors

Along with bullies looking to dominate them, persons with a victim complex often attract partners or others with a “savior complex” looking to “fix” them.

According to psychologists, persons with a savior or “Messiah” complex feel a consuming need to save other people. Often sacrificing their own needs and well-being, they seek out and attach themselves to people who they believe desperately need their help.

Believing they are doing “the noble thing” in trying to “save” people while asking nothing in return, saviors often consider themselves better than everyone else.

While the savior partner is certain they can help them, their victim partners are equally certain they cannot. Worse yet, victim partners with a martyr complex — happy in their misery — will stop at nothing to make sure they fail.

Whether the savior’s motives in helping are pure or not, their actions can be harmful. Incorrectly believing their savior partner will “make them whole” the victim partner feels no need to take responsibility for his or her own actions and never develop the internal motivation to do so. For the victim, any positive changes will be temporary, while negative changes will be permanent and potentially devastating.

Where to Look for Advice

All of the conditions discussed in this article are true mental health disordersMental Illness Mental illness, also called mental health disorders, refers to a wide range of mental health conditions — disorders that affect your mood, thinking, and behavior. Examples of mental illness include depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, eating disorders, and addictive behaviors.. As with medical problems, advice on mental disorders and potentially dangerous relationships should be sought only from certified mental health care professionals.

In the United States, registered professional psychologists are certified by the American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPA).

Lists of certified psychologists or psychiatrists in your area can typically be obtained from your state or local health agency. In addition, your primary care doctor is a good person to ask if you think you may need to see somebody about your mental health.

Editor’s Note: We thank Robert Longley for his excellent article.

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