How to Deal with Someone Who Plays the Victim
If you have a “victim” in your life, they probably leave you feeling emotionally drained. Here is what you need to know about the victim mentality and how to deal with someone that plays the victim to give yourself some space and peace of mind.
You may want to help a friend or loved one that seems to need rescuing, but how much is too much? Will helping just uncover another unsolvable issue? With this type of person, that is generally what happens. However, there are ways to offer guidance or assistance while protecting yourself at the same time.
What is Victim Mentality?
Victim mentality is also referred to as victim complex or victim syndrome. While it is not a formal medical term, people who suffer from this mentality are trapped in a particular way of thinking that is neither healthy nor productive.
Victim mentality generally rests on a set of several beliefs:
- Terrible things happen, and this will never stop.
- Other circumstances or people are to blame.
- Change is not possible, so why even try?
In short, a person that plays the victim usually expresses a ton of negativity and sees their troubles as being caused by anyone but themselves.
Signs that Someone is Playing the Victim
How many of us have blamed someone else for one of our mistakes? Just about everyone plays the victim at some point in their lives. The difference is that we are usually aware that something isn’t quite right when we point the finger.
Victim mentality is a bit different. Most people who exhibit these behaviors do not realize how ingrained they have become. At some point, it is just a destructive way of thinking that pushes others away and fails to get the desired results.
Here are some signs that someone in your life is playing the victim card:
1. They feel sorry for themselves.
In the eyes of a victim, the world is a terrible place, and they are too weak to do anything about it. They feel sorry for themselves, and when others join in, this intensifies those feelings.
2. They manipulate.
Victims act like they are powerless to get sympathy, compassion, and support from others. This allows them to manipulate you and control your feelings.
3. They are emotionally draining.
A victim’s constant complaining, and attention-seeking behavior can be exhausting. They act needy and clingy to the point that the patience and energy of loved ones are drained.
4. They create barriers.
Victims do not want to hear anything a healthy person has to say about their attitudes or behavior. If someone tries enough, they will cut those people out of their lives and label them as “untrustworthy.”
5. Their lives are on hold.
It is not uncommon for victims to live a life that seems to be in limbo. Since the world is against them, it would be impossible for them to get a better job, find a nice place to live, or have a successful relationship. They will always give you a million reasons why these things have not happened.
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6. They have trust issues.
Most victims lack self-confidence, so have a difficult time trusting others. They see themselves as untrustworthy and project this same trait onto the rest of the world.
7. They compare themselves to others.
Because of a low sense of self-confidence, victims spend a lot of time comparing themselves to others. Most of it will be in a negative light so that they can get depressed about it and garner sympathy from others.
8. They take no responsibility.
Victims are generally unhappy people that blame others for their perceived problems. Instead of taking responsibility, they run away from their feelings and thoughts, and blame everything on someone or something else.
Where Does Victim Mentality Come From?
Few people are born with victim mentality. For many, it is a learned coping skill that serves some purpose. It is often rooted in a few things.
- Past Trauma – A person with victim mentality might use it to cope with trauma or abuse as a way to deal with their feelings of helplessness.
- Betrayal – Anyone who has repeatedly had their trust betrayed may find it difficult to trust others and see life positively.
- Codependency – People who always put others first may end up feeling resentful or frustrated about not getting what they want or need.
- Manipulation – Some people purposely take on the role of victim to manipulate others.
How to Deal with Someone Who Plays the Victim
Sadly, people who play the victim long enough have a difficult time changing their mentality. It becomes their MO in just about every encounter with others. With that in mind, here is how to deal with someone who plays the victim so you can safeguard your own peace of mind.
1. Avoid getting emotionally involved.
When your victim is speaking, it is ok to show empathy, but don’t get sucked into their drama. Avoid getting emotional or choosing sides. Remember, their perception is a way to generate attention or sympathy. They are getting something out of this behavior.
2. Do not become anyone’s “savior.”
It might be tempting to want to step in and help someone that appears to be struggling, but that generally isn’t what’s happening with a victim. They do not really want you to fix anything. They are more interested in complaining and the attention that they get when they do it.
3. Set firm boundaries.
When you have a victim in your life, it is essential that you set firm boundaries. Listening to a person complain for hours on end or day after day can be frustrating and exhausting. If you are already dreading spending time with someone like this, limit that time. Set specific time limits on phone conversations and strict limits on in-person visits to put your needs first.
4. Change the subject.
One tactic you can use with people who are victims is to constantly redirect the conversation. They will not know what hit them. By allowing them to continue down a negative path, you are not doing them any favors. Instead, abruptly change the topic to something positive, like your new puppy. When that takes a negative turn, redirect the conversation again.
5. Avoid name-calling or direct accusations.
You might have tried calling out the victim in your life once or twice. Chance are, it did not go well. This type of confrontation usually only leads to defensiveness. If you are determined to say something, approach it indirectly. Instead of saying, “you constantly play the victim,” you might try, “what would you like to see happen in that situation instead?”
6. Establish some distance.
When you are around a person with a victim mentality a lot, it’s probably going to have a deep impact on you, and not in a good way. You may end up feeling frustrated, anxious, depressed, and exhausted. That is not fair to you, so it might be time to take a break from the relationship to practice some self-care.
7. Let go of the relationship.
People who play the victim are not likely to change and will expect you to put their needs first. This is not a healthy relationship, particularly if it is making you feel emotionally and physically drained. When you can see the victim for who they are and what their behaviors have cost you, it might be time to move on from the relationship for good.
While you do not necessarily need to completely cut a victim out of your life, it is helpful to understand these behaviors. When you know how to deal with someone who plays the victim, you can protect your own mental health and learn how to establish healthy boundaries.