How to Deal with the Victim Personality

How do I Deal with the Victim Personality?


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Being close to anyone who has been a victim of a traumatic event can be an extremely challenging time. Finding the balance between being sympathetic and giving them the occasional push to help them along often feels like a fool’s errand, particularly if they begin to regularly play the victim.


The time could come when the relationship suffers to the point that you feel as though you have to cut ties with them to preserve your own sanity. Unfortunately though, this will only reinforce their feelings of victimisation, and the cycle continues.


It is worth bearing in mind, that someone who feels consistently victimised will often be unable to realise what he or she are doing. They will be so wrapped up in feeling as though the entire world is against them that their sense of reality will be slightly warped.


For friends and relatives, this can be as painful as it is frustrating – watching someone you care deeply about in this cycle of self-destruction. Yet there are things you can do to help them in an empathetic way, while also challenging them. Below are a few suggestions.


  • Rather than just thinking about how they feel after something has gone wrong, challenge them to think about what led up to the incident. What triggered the event, how did they influence the outcome and could they do anything in the future to prevent a repeat incident?

  • Reinforce positive aspects of the their personality. If they show a trait that they should be displaying more often then tell them – “I like it when you smile – it suits you.”

  • Encourage them to break the cycle of negativity by trying new experiences, particularly with you. Do everything you can to make these pursuits enjoyable and give them a positive experience that will leave them wanting more.

  • Listen when they are feeling low. Empathise with them rather than tell them to ‘snap out of it,’ but work with them to challenge their point of view in a positive way. In other words, steer them towards being solution-focused, not problem-focused.

  • Encourage them to find other ways of expressing their feelings of victimisation. Keeping a journal is a great way of allowing them to get their feelings out without impacting negatively on their relationships with others. Often, if they take time to read back what they’ve written they will find an entirely new perspective on their own.

There is no doubt about it – being around the Victim Personality can be draining. However, these people are like this for a reason – often because they genuinely were a victim. The trouble is that they now victimise themselves. With patience and empathy you can help these people see that there is another way – a way that empowers rather than restrains them.

Categories: Psychology

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4 replies

  1. This is a very simplistic strategy. Be empathetic? It’s too draining. The victim personality is a disorder. They don’t get better by just empathizing and helping them to focus on strategies to cope. We are not therapists or psychotherapists or even counsellors. As friends or relatives, we need to be clear and set boundaries. These people can suck the life out of you and drag you down that spiral. They drain your emotional resources and then you find yourself avoiding them. They need boundaries. You need to be pleasant, kind but let them know that you only have a certain time limit to devote and that you cannot listen for a long time. You need to let them know that you love them and feel for them but unless they are willing to discuss solutions, you cannot keep repeating the same stories…..which they often do. Over and over. We care for them dearly but we need to be clear and focus on solutions and not all the people to blame for their “misery”. Refocusing their thinking may help but remember this is a habit and will take intensive therapy regularly over an extended period of time to break this behaviour that has been established for some time. It won’t be us that will break them of this habit. It’s just a bandaid. We need to look after ourselves first and not get dragged into a spiral of negativity that can be all encompassing.

  2. How you respond to someone’s negativity is entirely up to you. No one forces you down a dark spiral with them without you allowing them to. Certainly if you are not strong enough to deal with someone like this, I can see why you would need to distance yourself from them.

    This article is not too simplistic, it’s very practical and useful information.

  3. While the article is helpful and good points to keep in mind. However, I do not think it’s as practical,
    The reason being that when the victim’s anger and verbal abuse begins, it’s hard to get through them with the suggestions in the article.
    Our family has tried this on our sister who struggles hugely from this victimization role playing. We have her attention for sometime, but she quickly bounces back into ‘you all owe me’ strategy which seems to be a common and re-occurring comment from her, followed with a lot of verbal abuse.

    How do you tell a ‘victim’, no one owes you anything? Shes owes it to herself to get out of this role as a first step.
    Keeping a journal does not help.. we recommended it, but she fills it with lies and stories skewed to suit her victim role. she then reads them and convinces herself of these lies, believes it and the cycle of being a victim continues.

    Our family is desperate to help her and we are all exhausted and drained.
    Are there third party mediators who can sit with the family and really want to help her out, but also get the point across explain that we all love her but are well drained of energy, time and emotions because of her attitude.

  4. It seems an impossible task to ask the person (in my experience) who plays the victim any questions at all. The instant response to any question is that they are being interrogated and this person instantly shuts down. Any form of suggestion towards getting help results in that person seeking support groups for living with other peoples issues. Issues which this person diagnoses upon other people without any qualifications and from their own belief system. All conversations get turned into how this person believes they are being abused by everyone. The twisted manipulation is relentless. I know I am a strong person and want to help this person, however, I can not find a way to get this person to look outside their own victimized point of view. I have tried being subtle, I have tried placating, I have tried the honest approach. In the beginning I was even right there agreeing with this person as I had not seen the truth outside their beliefs at that point. I admit that, agreeing with this person worked to a point. However, realising the accusations this person was making about others were and are false, forced me to not take part in that further on. It is seems impossible to live with this and maintain my own sanity as it is constant. It is destroying our family as it has this persons own (parents and siblings). I very much love this person but the only way out of this, that I can see, is to leave. Is there any advice I can be given to help steer this person in the direction that would help.

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