People can fall victim to a variety of unfortunate situations. Everyone will play the role of both victim and perpetrator in their own various ways at many times throughout life. The descriptive term of 'victim' is not what we're taking issue with here. Yet too often "victim" as a descriptive term moves into victim-think as a mindset. Victimization as a mindset is a state of mentality that aims to exasperate, amplify, draw attention to, and glorify life's inevitable injustices, making these events into horrific wrongs that cannot be recovered from and become part of the identity of the victimized. Victim-think is prominent throughout society, its mentality preached on numerous television shows and throughout various social movements. It involves a general state of mind that:
A) Blames past injustices for our current negative emotions,
B) Seeks to elevate, emphasize, draw attention to, or promote one's status as a victim,
C) Promotes the idea that their form of suffering is greater, or more unjust than that suffered by others, and thus should elicit more sympathy, D) Tends to promote retaliation and anger as a response and means of gaining empowerment.
Victim-think feels good at first, because it provides an outlet for our negative emotions while eliciting sympathy in return. We get to point our fingers and lay the blame for our misery squarely on the shoulders of what others have done to us. We're not at fault, we're the victims. We couldn't do anything differently, we're the victims. We can't be expected to control our emotions or be blamed for how we feel, we're the victims here. Our negative emotions are funneled through this mindset that lays blame elsewhere while avoiding personal culpability when it comes to accepting that we, not others, are in charge of how we feel.
While victim-think can provide a short-term lift, it's like psychological poison over the long haul. The principles of victimization glorify the very idea of injustice collecting and catastrophic thinking. It's also known that this type of injustice collecting is precisely what separates children who quickly recover from bad events to those who stay stuck in a problematic state. In other words, victim-think promotes the very mentality that is known to be a primary factor in determining why certain individuals have difficulties recovering after unfortunate events. When one examines victim-think, it's quite easy to see why this is the case.
I'm sure most of us, at some point or another, have been around a person who was convinced that life was simply unfair for them and only them, and that unseen forces were conspiring to victimize them. That what they had experienced was more horrible, more unjust than what others experience. Most who know such a person would also know that this person probably didn't experience much more adversity (if any more) than the rest of us. They merely complained about it much louder and dwelled upon it much longer. And in doing so, they tended to incite themselves even further into disparaging thoughts.
What's wrong with victim-think?
1. By its very nature, victimology lays the blame of our suffering on someone else's shoulders. It's their fault we're sad, upset, miserable, etc. But this means we place our own welfare in the hands of the very people who oppress us. If it's always their fault we're unhappy, and it's never we who are responsible for the negative thoughts we feel, then we'll always be miserable because the key to our welfare is given to our oppressors. People can victimize you and your family in many ways. They can assault you, steal from you, rape you, or treat you harshly. But the very moment these unfortunate events are over, it is not their actions that oppress us. It is our own catastrophic thoughts about these actions that continue our torment and allow the insult play on and on in our own minds, making us miserable.
We're not suggesting that it's not quite natural to feel put out and upset over such experiences. But no matter how horrific the experience, unless this person is coming back to rob or rape or assault you every night, night after night after night, these past actions are not what create your current despair. It is we, through our negative thinking, who create our own current despair. Thus, by playing the victim and laying blame elsewhere, you eliminate the only real chance you have of getting better: the things you can do.
2. Victimology is an exercise in destructive thinking. Maintaining a victim mindset means upholding a mental image of oneself that encompasses helplessness, injustice, personal insult, and despair. These ideas come with the very word. Victim-think requires one to believe they have been horribly wronged. Believe they should be upset and depressed. Believe that their lives are now doomed to be horrible because of this particular (past) event. Believe that your particular circumstance is too much for any human being to bear. Believe that you were meant to live a life exempt from suffering, and that it's just horrible that's not how it turned out. Believe that the world is out to get you, and that your ills are worse than those suffered by the people all around you. These negative beliefs and more are the fuel that drives victim-think. Your brain, body, and behavior will all conform to your beliefs. So by thinking such things, before too long you've believed yourself right into a state of self-induced despair. It doesn't matter what your particular past experiences were, everyone is bound to feel awful believing such thoughts.
3. Victimology has at its foundation numerous irrational beliefs that directly go against the basic principles of cognitive psychology: