You feel a rush of righteousness and entitlement as you sit with your friends on a Friday night. They were all talking about their amazing careers and how much money they were making. You know that you should feel happy for them and their success. You know you should be smiling along with them instead of thinking about your own miserable job. It just isn’t fair. You think to yourself, suddenly feeling intense hatred towards your friends. Now beating yourself up with guilt, you sink deeper into your chair, trying to think of the best excuse to leave and go home.
This scenario may sound very familiar to some of you. Everyone has had at least a couple experiences like that in their lifetime. Why do we do this? Why do we get stuck in this victim mindset whenever we view ourselves as “worse” or “not as successful” as someone else? And what makes this so addictive?
Let me tell you this: you playing the victim is more than just a “bad habit”, it’s an addictive mindset that affects every single area of your life.
What does it mean to “play the victim”?
Playing the victim can be done in many different ways: from overexaggerating an injury, to not standing up for yourself when you are being treated unfairly. The key thing to remember is that people who play the victim often want to be mistreated, put in unfair situations, or even get pity from other people. This is what makes playing the victim different from actually being a victim.
We are all going to be victims at certain points in our lives. Maybe it’s something small like someone taking your toy as a little kid, or maybe it’s more extreme, like having abusive parents growing up. In both of these situations, you are in the “right” and someone else is in the “wrong”. While there is nothing inherently bad about being a victim at times, the problem arises when the “victim” becomes addicted to their role.
Why do YOU play the victim?
There are many reasons why playing the victim is an addicting and destructive cycle. You may resonate with one or more of these reasons.
Playing the victim to get “LOVE”
Many people who play the victim will get great pleasure out of the attention and/or pity they get from other people as a result of being “wronged”. This could be the result of a neglectful childhood, or a childhood where being a victim was often praised in some way.
The subconscious mind (or inner child) recognizes the “love” that it gets from being in this role. Even though the conscious mind may recognize playing the victim as a harmful behavior, the subconscious mind does not shift with simple logic. This is why, even if you recognize and try to change harmful habits with willpower, true change will not occur until the subconscious mind has merged with what the conscious mind already knows.
What’s important to recognize is that the perceived “love” that you get by playing the victim is often not love at all. It is pity, concern, worry, and protectiveness. In order for this to change, you must change your definition of what love is. This could take a long time and the process will be different for everyone. Recognize the way your parents showed love towards you. When was love given, in what form was it given, was love unconditional or conditional? All these questions will help get you to the root cause of your victim mentality.
Playing the victim to avoid taking RESPONSIBILITY
No one can deny that playing the victim gives you a certain feeling of being “out of control”. When people are complaining, they will usually place the blame on someone or something else. You don’t have a partner because there are no good men/women out there. You don’t have a successful career because your boss is the worst. You don’t exercise because you don’t have enough time. The list goes on and on.
All of these examples show a shift of blame. Instead of accepting the issue and making it YOUR responsibility to fix it, you search for something externally to place the blame on. Doing this makes it easy to stay in the same place. Instead of striving for more in your life, you stay in your comfort zone because it’s “out of your control” or “too hard”. Deep down, we all want to stay in our comfort zones. Your brain wants to do what’s easiest because it wants to survive. Playing the victim gives it a good excuse to not grow, to not learn, and to not change.
You can also avoid taking responsibility by acting like your identity is set in stone. By labeling yourself as “too anxious” or “too lazy”, you also reinforce those things into your subconscious brain. You become attached to your own identity of “lazy” or “anxious”. You may not think that you are avoiding responsibility by labeling yourself, but it is still the same thing. By creating labels you limit yourself and often refuse to take responsibility for your life. You are still shifting the blame to something else by insisting that you cannot change your identity.
You can change your identity. Your identity is created by no one else but YOU.
Playing the victim for the ADRENALINE RUSH
Yes, believe it or not, you do get a rush of adrenaline when you complain to your friends or when you let people cross your boundaries. You go into a very subtle fight or flight response because you feel unsafe. This rush of hormones gives us the feeling of being ALIVE. In this way, playing the victim truly is like an addiction. When you become addicted to this adrenaline, you will (unconsciously or consciously) repeat the same behaviors that gave you the rush in the first place.
People do this when they have no other way to feel excited in their lives. As humans, of course, we want to feel alive. The important part is to not attach our sense of aliveness to anything external. If we are unable to generate excitement and a passion for life within our own bodies, it is dangerous to rely on external things/activities/people to achieve this feeling.
We must first get to the root of why do I not feel alive? Why do I need to do XYZ in order to feel excited about living? These questions are critical and will force you to see things you couldn’t see before.
Playing the victim because you want to SURRENDER
This one is interesting. For me personally, this was the root behind many of my harmful behaviors. So pay close attention, especially if you are a woman, you may relate to this reason.
Many of us derive a lot of pleasure out of letting go, surrendering, and giving in. We may deny this and try to control things out of fear, but deep down we want someone/something else to take control so we can let go and relax. Playing the victim is one way that we can get this feeling, except it is not fulfilling in the long run and will cause more harm than good.
When we give up, when we decide that we can’t control our lives, when we give our power to someone else, we don’t need to DO anything anymore. We can just give in to life and accept wherever it takes us. This may sound horrible to some of you, but at your core, you may crave this. For many people, this is the case (again, especially if you are a woman).
The problem is that when we are playing the victim, we are in denial of this innate urge. We refuse to accept that we actually want to let someone take control, and because of this repression and shame, we act out this desire in very unhealthy ways.
Let me be the first to tell you that there is NOTHING WRONG WITH YOU if you want to be a victim. Nothing at all. The question is whether that is ultimately satisfying to you or not. Do you get true joy out of complaining and putting all these labels on yourself? If you do, that’s fine, but for most people, that’s not the case. For most people, being a victim gives them a short-term high, but it does not last. Like a drug, you must keep coming back for more and more.
What if this didn’t need to be the case? What if you can trust the universe, give in, and surrender without playing the victim? This is what will happen once you learn to trust not only yourself but the entire universe/God/higher power/whatever you want to call “it”. Once you trust that you are in good hands and that everything is happening FOR you not TO you, you can truly let go and feel alive in every cell of your body.
You are alive
You are alive. Right now. You do not need to DO anything to be alive. You do not need to force yourself to let go, nor do you need to try and control every part of your life. It is all working out for you without you doing anything at all.
Simply enjoy the ride.
Feel free to listen to this post in podcast format to learn more about this topic! 🙂