How do I Deal with the Victim Personality?
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.