During the winter holiday season, I was experiencing an overwhelming sense of despair and loneliness. What person wouldn’t, with having to deal with my father’s second heart attack before Thanksgiving, my dad’s eviction from his home on Christmas Day, and my husband’s refusal to be a more “social” and congenial person at my church friend’s home on New Year’s Eve? I think any person would have felt an all-time low with such negative incidents occurring back-to-back during the more cheerful seasons. I had become so fed up with all of it that by the middle of January, I decided to talk to a priest friend about how I was feeling. He was very patient and listened to me pour my heart out about how alone and hopeless I felt experiencing all this misfortune.
He asked me if I thought I was the only person who’d ever had the scare of possibly losing a parent, or if I was the only person whose sibling had major disagreements with our parents, OR if I was the only wife who had issues with her spouse’s lack of social skills. My answer to each of his questions was a resounding, “No,” at which point I was feeling guilty. Father Peter’s advice to me was twofold. First, he said I needed to find a support network (preferably of very understanding and patient friends) who would listen with unconditional love and non-judgement. He said that I needed to be around more positive people. I agreed. His second piece of advice was, “Stop falling into the victim mentality.”
I was taken back by his comment. At first, I thought he had just told me that I was throwing myself a pity party. But he did clarify. While we are not always able to control situations that happen to us, we are able to control our reaction to it. We are responsible for our reaction to an action or situation. I took his advice, but couldn’t help but wonder if I really had this victim mentality going on in my psyche.
For those of us who don’t know, victim mentality is a trait that causes an individual to view themselves as a victim of their circumstances, as being someone who should be pitied and as someone who is up against exceptional odds. As Father Peter advised me, I may not be responsible for the situation at hand, but I am in control of my reaction to it. In an article by Adam Sinicki in Health Guidance (see full article at http://www.healthguidance.org/entry/17840/1/Understanding-and-Overcoming-Victim-Mentality.html) there are a few ways of combating the trap of victim mentality.
- Identifying and recognizing that you have this state of mind. One cannot fix a problem they do not acknowledge exists, therefore, the first step is to see it in yourself.
- Develop a “gratitude attitude.” Focus on the things in your life that are going well, and be thankful for even the smallest of blessings in your life.
- Seek out privacy and counsel. It is always a good idea to talk out your problems with someone privately, especially someone you trust. If the issue you perceive is the people you trusted, then perhaps seeking professional help through therapy or counseling. One non-therapy form of seeking privacy is to also monitor what and with whom you share information. Start to self-monitor your negative self-talk or stories you tell others, and reign it in.
- Learn to forgive. Often, victim mentality comes with the desire to place blame on someone who may or may not have wronged us. Holding onto anger only causes harm to ourselves. We really do have to learn to forgive AND forget. Anger only harms ourselves. As one quote states: “being angry at someone is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”
- Take responsibility. Victim mentality has a very high external locus of control, meaning that our lives are controlled by everything outside of us. This needs to shift to a more internal locus of control in how we react to situations, and seeing if we have not acted in a way that may have contributed to the present circumstances. We truly can only control how we react or failed to act in any given situation.
In my fifth and final book in the spiritual fiction series, The Last Prophet: Raziel’s Revelation, the main character continues to focus on how a troubled young man’s life has been the result of various instances of victim mentality. Unfortunately, the young man chose to use that mentality as his guiding force and turned to the dark side. Spoiler alert: he is still redeemed, but it requires major reprogramming of his mentality, and the intervention of Higher Power to bring him back to a state of grace in God’s eyes.
I took Father Peter’s advice to heart and began making several changes in my self-talk, and in how I viewed my life. I have taken a more active role and positive outlook on my relationships, life situations I encounter or enter into, and the types of friends I surround myself with regularly. I had to let go of those individuals, and circumstances, that caused me to slide into victim mentality. I am learning each day how to recognize my habit of falling into victim mentality, and am doing my best to use the methods noted above in combating and avoiding the VM trap. It is easier said than done, but practice makes perfect and I am sure to get plenty of it over the coming months.
Have you ever fallen into Victim Mentality? How will you begin avoiding VM? Comment in the space provided.
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