I Can’t: 4 Key Signs of Victim Thinking

In my previous post, we looked at the language people use when they see themselves as powerless: phrases like “It’s not fair”, “She should…”,  “He won’t let me…”    This is the language of a psychological victim, someone who sees themselves, not as an actor in life, but a passive recipient of what life throws at them.  But few of us can live in complete powerlessness for long.  We are driven to snatch back some shred of power for ourselves and we do it in ways we might not recognize as power plays.  Below are some of the signs of victim thinking:

  1. Neediness:  Acting helpless, crying during conflict, looking for approval before acting, looking for companions for new ventures instead of proceeding alone.  These are all ways we get people to do what we want them to do.  If we want conflict to go away, crying is often an effective strategy.  Being helpless can be a useful way to get others to do what we want them to do.
  2. Fixing:  Trying to solve other people’s problems for them, smoothing out conflicts, backing down from anger, taking our cues from other people.  These are all ways to bind others to us, encourage them to depend on us, like us.
  3. Overworking:  When we say yes to work even when we’re overwhelmed, we make ourselves indispensable.
  4. Pleasing:  When we do what other people want in preference to what we want, when we anticipate their needs and mold ourselves to their desires, we are often attempting to bond with them so that they will like us, stay with us, maybe even do some of the things we want to do occasionally.

Thinking of these strategies as power plays can seem judgmental.  Instead, it’s far more valuable to recognize that the victim thinker’s behavior is driven by the deep pain of feeling less than adequate, of feeling unlovable or unwanted…and powerless.  Once that is recognized with compassion, the psychological victim can move on to reclaiming real personal power.  That power can lie in an unexpected place which is the subject of my next post.

For more information on Victim Thinking and how to work through to empowerment, see Radical Awareness:  5 Practices for a Fully Engaged Life.