I don’t have to remain a victim
by Teresia Smith
Bad things happen in life that we just don’t understand. You might be the victim of a trauma, such as domestic violence or sexual assault. In such a case, you have every right to feel that things were out of your control, because they were, and any thought that it’s somehow your fault and you are responsible is flawed thinking. A DV or sexual assault victim is never at fault for the crimes against them.
As a trauma victim, it is perfectly normal to feel sorry for yourself or feel you have no power in the face of these challenges. However, you have to be careful to not let that develop into a lasting victim mentality. If you succumb to a victim mentality, you will start to see everything in your life through the perspective that bad things constantly just happen to you and start to blame all of your challenges on others. You may start to feel as though everything in life is negative, unfair, and beyond your control and you deserve pity. Surrendering to this victim mentality gives you an excuse to avoid responsibility for improving your life and makes you believe that you have no power to change things for yourself.
Sometimes we like having others feel sorry for us, give us attention and be less likely to confront us and more likely to just do what we want – basically we manipulate people using our feelings. We can feel unimportant and become reliant on telling stories about things that happened in our life to make us seem more interesting. We can even become addicted to constant drama in our life to avoid boredom or to avoid facing our feelings.
Sometimes, the victimhood mentality comes from childhood. If your parents always felt the world was out to get them, you could take on this thought pattern too. If you had a codependent relationship with a parent, you may have been taught that you were responsible for their happiness and in turn, that if you are weak, it’s someone else’s job to care for you. If you were a victim of childhood neglect, you may have learned that the only time you received care and attention was when you were sick or something bad happened to you. When we don’t receive the care and concern we require, we often find ways to receive it, even negative ways. And, if you experienced childhood sexual abuse, you may have grown up feeling helpless and ashamed, and you never developed a healthy self-esteem and the worlds seems very dark and dangerous to you.
So how can we avoid this victim mentality? You can choose to realize that many things happen in life, both good and bad, and when we experience hardships, it does not mean we deserve bad things and it has nothing to do with our personal value. Often, victimhood is a learned behavior that has to be unlearned. This process can be quite painful as it requires you to face the feelings you have avoided, such as anger, sadness, shame and fear. Being a victim allowed you to avoid confronting these feelings, but to become an overcomer and move forward, you must work through them.
Seeking professional counseling is a good first step so you have a safe, non-judgmental place to unpack all the feelings, fears, and events from the past that haunt you. After unpacking, a good counselor can help you learn new ways of coping and thinking of the world around you and help you formulate a healthy plan to move forward. It is a horrible thing when someone perpetrates trauma upon another. But, that doesn’t have to be the end of your story. You can move from victim to survivor. As I often say, the best revenge is success.
If you have been a victim of domestic violence or sexual assault, Crisis Services of North Alabama offers free, confidential services to support you. We never tell you what to do, but instead, help you explore your options and work to encourage your independence in your choices. Our Jackson County office may be reached at 256.574.5826 or we also have a 24/7 HELPline at 256.716.1000. Advocates are waiting to assist you.