Playing the Victim Card


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The family of five had grim and sombre expressions as they waited in the corridor outside the Operation Theatre of the hospital. It was a major health crisis for them. The doctors assured that with medicines and care, the matriarch of the family would have a better quality of life.

Day after day, the children gave their mother best care and undivided attention which benefitted her immensely.

Soon they started seeing a change in her. With numerous friends and relatives dropping by, she started enjoying the sympathy talks and basked in the attention that was lavished on her. She bragged about her illness. She complained about everything and got into self-pity mode frequently. She constantly blamed other people or situations for feeling miserable. She refused to take up any responsibility even when she started getting better. If people told her to get active, she would either get hyper, “How dare you suggest that to me. You don’t know what I am going through” or get into victim mode, “I am in pain and nobody cares for me.”

Needless to say that this disturbed and drained the entire family.

These were the classic signs and symptoms of victim mentality.

Playing the victim actually gave her a lot of power: power to avoid responsibility, power to feel ‘righteously’ sad, power to avoid uncomfortable emotions which would always result in teary-weepy episodes and power to manipulate other people.

Dealing with a self-victimizing person is not an easy task. But it must be dealt with before the relationship with them turns toxic. The children got wiser from their experience and here’s what we can learn from them to tackle the victim mentality displayed by their mother.

  • Do not ignore the red flags. Though the family took action a bit later, but retrospectively they realized that the warning signs were all there from the beginning. They should not have been brushed under the carpet as a bad day or mood swings. Before the other person’s victim mentality starts to negatively impact your own life, it’s important to take action. Sit with the person and make them see the picture and work towards fixing it.

“As long as you feel like a victim, you are one.” – Morgan Freeman

  • Change the story. Help the person to be a survivor in their life story rather than a victim. A victim dwells in the past, a survivor lives in the present. A victim believes they’re helpless, a survivor takes back control over their life. Although the victim mentality is addictive, the survivor mentality is much more empowering in the long term. Change their focus from being self-absorbed to being interested in others. Help them realize the power of gratitude.

They say that victim mentality is a learned behavior, so it can be unlearnt too. Unlearning wasn’t easy but with patience and consistent efforts, my friend and her family fixed the negative attitude that was destroying their peace of mind and happiness.

Have you ever been stuck with someone with a victim mentality? How did you overcome it? Do share in the comments.

Linking this to #FridayReflections

Everyday Gyaan
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12 thoughts on “Playing the Victim Card

  1. I know someone who does that and is doing that even right now. There is very little one can do when people decide to take that as their right and do not wish to change their stance because, as you say it gives them the so-called power over others. It does bother me a lot at times but I know it is now very late in the day to try and change that perspective because the person has absolutely no intention of changing her attitude. What do you do about that?

  2. Oh I could so relate to this story as have been a witness to someone exactly like this. It’s such a taxing situation for the care givers. And draining at the same time.
    It’s a very tough one to deal with as the victim seems no rationale at all.
    Beautifully written Shilpa.

  3. I’ve been hearing a lot about this ‘playing the victim card’ quite a lot these days. And some of the signs (or symptoms) you’ve mentioned – they resonate with regards to some people I’ve dealt with.
    I like the way you dealt with the topic, Shilpa.

  4. I smiled as I kept reading this post shilpa:) I deal with this kind of people more often in my centre, currently I am dealing with a middle aged women of 3 grown up children. Its very interesting to see how they feel and justify… for being sick and passive. Its challenging to deal with these kind of persons, (especially by the family members) as the victims get mileage from being sick. If you are unaware, you can be manipulated and exploited. Rightly said, its a learnt behaviour and it can be unlearnt too… thanks for sharing!

  5. Well I am sure if we open our eyes a bit we can see a few who indulge in this victim mentality.. I know a few who are masters at it now.

    Alas such is the world we live in because playing the victim card is found to be quiet beneficial to some.. hard to let go

    Bikram’s

  6. Ones perceptions of their own life and the world around them is so powerful. In my travels I have found people with immense material wealth who felt poor, with the need to be pitied, and those with little material wealth who felt joyful and as if they owned the who world. It reminds me of the self-fulfilling prophecy, if you see yourself as sick and in demise, it is very hard to feel better.

  7. This can be so mentally draining to the family- mentally as well as emotionally. It can in fact, make them feel used! It really needs to be addressed sooner and nipped in the bud.

  8. I have family members who are like this. My sister is a classic, extreme narcissist, and before my parents passed away, they were forever feeding into her need for constant attention. Victim mode ensured that anything and everything was all about her. They wouldn’t even say just her name: it was always prefaced by “poor,” as in “poor Robin, no one knows or appreciates how hard she works,” it “poor Robin, she does everything with no help/ is in pain/ no one understands,” etc. She was always a toxic relationship for me, but because she’s my only sibling, I continued to try . . . and always thought “everything” was my fault. I now know better and have had to cut the relationship completely. Victim mentality never yields healthy relationships.

  9. Shilpa, it was sad that the mother started behaving like a victim even when her family was taking care of her and was by her side. Making others feel guilty and manipulating them by playing the victim card is unhealthy behaviour and should be explained to the doer gently and patiently, like in your story. Great share.

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