Stop Being a Victim

Are you being persecuted, punished, neglected or otherwise used over and over again? Do you tend to end up in relationships where you are abused or find that people are constantly trying to push you around?

It is difficult to get to the heart of the victim mentality without a brief explanation about codependency. Karpman’s Triangle defines 3 roles in Codependency, namely, the victim, persecutor and the rescuer. Often, dysfunctional families have members who take on one or more of these roles. For example, the mom may be the victim (constantly getting yelled at by the dad, who may be the persecutor). The mom then goes to the child and tells him/her all of her woes. The child, in turn “rescues” the mom by trying to comfort her (which robs the child of his/her childhood). People with codependency issues often can switch from one role to another (“What are you, stupid? (persecutor), all I ever do is work to feed you (rescuer) and this is the thanks I get? (victim)”. As a child grows up in a family system, they tend to take on one or more of these roles in order to survive in the dysfunctional family system.

There are unspoken rules in these codependent families, some of them being…
-It’s not okay to disagree,
-It’s not okay to say no,
-You must never be selfish,
-You must be perfect, and good and strong,
-Do as I say, not as I do,
-Don’t tell the family secrets,
-Don’t make waves,
-Only certain member(s) of the family are allowed to express anger,
-Other family members are designated for “scapegoating” or projecting all the blame, ridicule or rejection onto.

Unfortunately, though these family rules may have helped you survive in your own family, they probably are ruining your chances of survival in the big world out there. Why? Because people NEED to say no sometimes, they NEED to be selfish at times, they NEED to speak their truth, they NEED to express their anger in a healthy way, NOBODY is all bad, NOBODY deserves to be disrespected, NO grownup is 100% helpless, and people NEED to tell their secrets in order to heal. The healthier you are, the more you advocate and respect yourself, the better the world will treat you. The less healthy you are, the less you love and respect yourself, the more you will attract perpetrators. I’m not sure why, but walking around with unhealthy beliefs is a little like swimming in a shark tank with an open wound.

You may also have some reasons that being a victim works for you. Perhaps being a victim helps get you attention from people who come along to rescue you. Maybe that is the only way you know of to get love. If this is true for you, ask yourself if this false version of “love” is really satisfying to you. These roles are only roles, and actually take you away from the real thing.

Perhaps it is easier to be a victim. If you are a victim, you don’t have to admit mistakes because you never made any decisions. If you are a victim, you never have to say no, have uncomfortable conversations, always have the best excuse for being late, not paying the bills, and you are still always the good guy, right? Have you ever heard of the term “tyranny of the weak”? It is possible to be very aggressive while being guised as being very helpless.

If any of the belief systems apply to you, I encourage you to take a frank and honest account of the belief systems and behaviors that you have been using up till this point. The truth will set you free. Excuses will only keep you stuck.

If you are ready to make a change, follow these 10 steps…

1.) Stop blaming everybody else. Remind yourself that the people that hurt you are not all-powerful. Remind yourself that you are not all-helpless.

2.) Take a good hard look at the rules you have been living by, and decide which ones aren’t working for you anymore. Write down your new decision and carry it in your pocket for 21 days. Every time you say something self-defeating or self-depreciating, do a wall sit for a minute or something equally as unenjoyable (and non-harmful). Then as you stand up, tell yourself your new decision (ie “Everyone NEEDS to be selfish sometimes” or “Everyone has the right and the responsibility to say “No””). Your body will literally retrain your brain to think more constructively after you do this a handful of times.

3.) Stand up straight and look people in the eye. Go into each social situation telling yourself “I’m a respectable person and deserve to be treated as such”.

4.) Focus on what you CAN change in your life. Let go of what you cannot change (including other people). Tell yourself “I take full responsibility for my thoughts, feelings and actions”.

5.) Build alliances with healthy people around you. Healthy people will treat you with dignity and respect whether or not you agree with them, will try to understand if you are upset with them, will set boundaries with you, will allow you to set boundaries with them, and will honor you whenever you say “no”. Bullies, in general, are afraid to target people who have connections.

6.) Do not give fearful thoughts room to grow. Protect yourself where it’s necessary and leave it at that.

7.) Practice gratitude and spend time thinking about the goodness others have shown you. Think about the goodness you can offer to others.

8.) Learn what healthy boundaries are and start to take action in a skillful way by learning how to negotiate (See my article on Mastering Negotiation Skills). This is often the most difficult part, and can feel as scary as walking off a cliff. Do it anyway. The more you practice, the easier it will get. The more you do it, the more you will weed out people you don’t need in your life, and the more you will attract people you want in your life. You may also find that people you used to have issues with all of a sudden are treating you better.

9.) Visualize what kind of life you want for yourself. Then make a plan to get you there. Don’t give your power to procrastination, just get going.

10.) Remember, you may have been a victim of a bad situation at some point in your life, but NO ONE can force you have the attitude of a victim.

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33 Responses to Stop Being a Victim

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  30. Red says:

    I’m going to be an iconoclast here.

    First of all, has Karpman actually published and empirically researched psychological paper in a peer-reviewed journal supporting evidence of her theoretical construct? Or does she just expect everybody to believe her because she said so?

    Now, as for the rules for making change:

    1. “Stop blaming everybody else.” Okay… So I guess if there was rape or sexual abuse involved, you should blame yourself, right? Because that’s what any good person would do, isn’t it?

    3. “Stand up straight and look people in the eye.” Not on the subway you don’t.

    4. “Take full responsibility for your thoughts, feelings, and actions.” Oh, okay. So if somebody knocks your teeth out with an uppercut, they are not responsible for your feeling pain after the punch. You are responsible, because it’s your fault for having teeth and a nervous system. The same applies emotionally. Do you see the victim blaming in this?

    5. “Build alliances with healthy people around you.” That sounds nice. What if you’re socially isolated or geographically isolated and can’t find any?

    6. “Do not give fearful thoughts room to grow.” In other words, tightly control your own feelings and do not allow yourself to be anxious or nervous at anytime, because then your therapist will not approve of you. Um, does this sound a little bit like a double bind?

    7. “Practice gratitude and focus on the goodness that others have shown you.” That’s right, because you need to be told that you’re ungrateful too. Don’t demand better in your life. Settle for crumbs. What if the goodness that others have shown you goes hand-in-hand with abuse? What if you had a sexually abusive relative who gave you attention and treats before raping you? This sounds like a great way to turn even further into a meek, submissive, passive person. The idea just seems to be to avoid ruffling the therapist’s feathers.


    Anna Reply:

    Here is a link to peer-reviewed articles on Karpman’s work.

    I am unsure if you were seeking a response, but I will briefly give one.

    1. I am referring to the victim mentality. Yes, people are victims of crimes and the actions of others, whether or not they choose to carry the victim “identity” throughout their lives from that point forward is another question entirely.
    3. In general, body language has everything to do with what messages you are sending out and thereby the types of people you are attracting and repelling. Of course there are exceptions to every rule and one must always use common sense.
    4. Of course there are natural responses to painful situations, however we add great suffering through our thoughts, by what we come to believe that unfortunate experience means about us. Yet, we can release those beliefs about ourselves and doing so, release the suffering.
    5. You seem to have internet, perhaps an online group.
    6. I said do not give fearful “thoughts” room to grow. I said nothing about controlling emotions. Toxic thoughts create toxic feelings. As Yoda once said “Be mindful of your thoughts Annakin”.
    7. Gratitude has nothing to do with putting up with bad behavior or pleasing therapists. Gratitude is tonic for the soul. It creates positive feelings.

    I always appreciate a good iconoclast. Thanks for reading.



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