Information

Why does a lot of victims of abuse tend to avoid confrontation?

Why does a lot of victims of abuse tend to avoid confrontation?



We are searching data for your request:

Forums and discussions:
Manuals and reference books:
Data from registers:
Wait the end of the search in all databases.
Upon completion, a link will appear to access the found materials.

I have known a few abuse victims (mental abuse more than physical abuse). One common trait among all of these people are they would go to any length to make peace. Usually their abusers use this weakness to get their things done. For instance, one of the abusers I know would call up everyone if the victim does not pick up the call or would create extreme public nuisance. The victim would than quickly pick up his/her call or would try to do anything to bring back peace, usually at the expense of his/her dignity. I have asked these victims and they have usually responded that they like peace. Is there any psychological/ neuroscience phenomena that exclaims this behaviour?


Contents

Institutional abuse which is also known as organizational abuse, [16] is the maltreatment of a person (often children or older adults) from a system of power. [17] This can range from acts similar to home-based child abuse, such as neglect, physical and sexual abuse, and starvation, to the effects of assistance programs working below acceptable service standards, or relying on harsh or unfair ways to modify behavior. [17] Institutional abuse can take many different forms, some of them very small. An example of a small instance is insisting that the person in their care eat their meal or have their snack at the same time everyday, even when they do not want to.

Forms of Institutional abuse [16]

  • improper use of power
  • improper use of control
  • improper use of restraints
  • Taking away choices
  • Lack of personal possessions (clothing, items, trinkets, etc.)
  • No flexibility with schedules, particularly at bed time
  • financial abuse
  • physical abuse
  • verbal abuse
  • psychological abuse

Signs of Institutional abuse [16]

  • an unhygienic environment
  • an unsafe environment
  • rigid schedule
  • No privacy, respect, or dignity as a person
  • isolating from family and community
  • Lack of choices with food, activities, etc.
  • absence of respect for religion, cultural background, or beliefs
  • treating adults as children, particularly in small insignificant decisions

In England and Wales, Section 76 of the Serious Crime Act 2015 created a criminal offence for controlling or coercive behavior in an intimate or family relationship. [18] [19] For the purposes of this offence, behaviour must be engaged in "repeatedly" or "continuously". Another, separate, element of the offence is that it must have a "serious effect" on someone and one way of proving this is that it causes someone to fear, on at least two occasions, that violence will be used against them. There is no specific requirement in the Act that the activity should be of the same nature. The prosecution should be able to show that there was intent to control or coerce someone. [20] For relevant behaviour, it has been criminalised in section 77 of the Serious Crime Act 2015. [21] In 2018, Jordan Worth became the first woman to be convicted under this new law.

In the United States, to assist in preventing and stopping domestic violence with children, there have been laws put into place to mandate report in specific professions, such as teacher, doctor, or care provider, any suspected abuse happening in the home. [22]

According to anti-bullying author and activist Tim Field, bullies are attracted to the caring professions, such as medicine, by the opportunities to exercise power over vulnerable clients, and over vulnerable employees and students. [23]

Background Edit

The power and control "wheel" was developed in 1982 by the Domestic Abuse Program in Minneapolis to explain the nature of abuse, to delineate the forms of abuse used to control another person, and to educate people with the goal of stopping violence and abuse. The model is used in many batterer intervention programs and is known as the Duluth model. [24] Power and control is generally present with violent physical and sexual abuse. [25]

Control development Edit

Often the abusers are initially attentive, charming, and loving, gaining the trust of the individual that will ultimately become the victim, also known as the survivor. When there is a connection and a degree of trust, the abusers become unusually involved in their partner's feelings, thoughts, and actions. [7] Next, they set petty rules and exhibit "pathological jealousy". A conditioning process begins with alternation of loving followed by abusive behavior. According to Counselling Survivors of Domestic Abuse, "These serve to confuse the survivor leading to potent conditioning processes that impact on the survivor's self-structure and cognitive schemas." The abuser projects responsibility for the abuse onto the victim, or survivor, and the denigration and negative projections become incorporated into the survivor's self-image. [7] Control is the defining aspect of an abusive relationship. Catherine Hodes argues that while conflict is often found in these relationships, it is not the defining factor of abuse. Instead, an emphasis of power dynamics in domestic relationships is suggested to be the principle indicator. [26]

Traumatic bonding occurs as the result of ongoing cycles of abuse in which the intermittent reinforcement of reward and punishment creates powerful emotional bonds that are resistant to change. [7]

Gain trust Overinvolvement Petty rules and jealousy Manipulation, power, and control Traumatic bonding
The potential abuser is attentive, loving, charming The abuser becomes overly involved in the daily life and use of time Rules begin to be inserted to begin control of the relationship. Jealousy is considered by the abuser to be "an act of love" The victim is blamed for the abuser's behavior and becomes coerced and manipulated Ongoing cycles of abuse can lead to traumatic bonding

Tactics Edit

Controlling abusers use multiple tactics to exert power and control over their partners. According to Jill Cory and Karen McAndless-Davis, authors of When Love Hurts: A Woman's Guide to Understanding Abuse in Relationships: Each of the tactics within the power and control wheel are used to "maintain power and control in the relationship. No matter what tactics your partner uses, the effect is to control and intimidate you or to influence you to feel that you do not have an equal voice in the relationship." [3]

Coercion and threats Edit

A tool for exerting control and power is the use of threats and coercion. The victim may be subject to threats that they will be left, hurt, or reported to welfare. The abuser may threaten that they will commit suicide. They may also coerce them to perform illegal actions or to drop charges that they may have against their abuser. [29] Strangulation, a particularly pernicious abusive behavior in which the abuser literally has the victim's life in his hands, is an extreme form of abusive control. Sorenson and colleagues have called strangulation the domestic violence equivalent of waterboarding, which is widely considered to be a form of torture. [30]

At its most effective, the abuser creates intimidation and fear through unpredictable and inconsistent behavior. [7] Absolute control may be sought by any of four types of sadists: explosive, enforcing, tyrannical, or spineless sadists. The victims are at risk of anxiety, dissociation, depression, shame, low self-esteem, and suicidal ideation. [31]

Intimidation Edit

Abused individuals may be intimidated by the brandishing of weapons, destruction of their property or other things, or use of gestures or looks to create fear. [29] For example, threatening to use a gun or simply displaying the weapon is a form of intimidation and coercive control. [32]

Economic abuse Edit

An effective means of ensuring control and power over another is to control their access to money. One method is to prevent the victim from getting or retaining a job. Controlling their access to money can also be done by withholding information and access to family income, taking their money, requiring the person to ask for money, giving them an allowance, or filing a power of attorney or conservatorship, particularly in the case of economic abuse of the elderly. [29]

Emotional abuse Edit

Emotional abuse includes name-calling, playing mind games, putting the victim down, blaming the victim, insulting, stalking, ignoring, discounting their feelings and experiences, [33] online harassment, isolating and controlling, [34] or humiliating the individual, private or personal. The goals are to make the person feel badly about themselves, feel guilt, or think that they are crazy. [29] Eventually the victim loses their sense of self worth, self confidence, the trust of their own thoughts and feelings, and who they are as a person. [33] Various studies done by psychologists, such as Angela Kent and Glenn Waller, as well as Hart and Bassard, have found more connections between emotional abuse in childhood being carried into adulthood in professional and personal lives. [35]

Isolation Edit

Another element of psychological control is the isolation of the victim from the outside world. [25] Isolation includes controlling a person's social activity: who they see, who they talk to, where they go, and any other method to limit their access to others. It may also include limiting what material is read. [29] It can include insisting on knowing where they are and requiring permission for medical care. The abuser exhibits hypersensitive and reactive jealousy. [25]

Minimizing, denying, and blaming Edit

The abuser may deny the abuse occurred in order to attempt to place the responsibility for their behavior on the victim. Minimizing concerns or the degree of the abuse is another aspect of this control. [29] They will sometimes tell them that they are too sensitive, it's not that big of a deal, or anything along these lines to minimise the feelings and experiences of the victim. The abuser also tends to blame the victim for the problems in the relationship.

Using children and pets Edit

Children may be used to exert control by the abuser threatening to take the children or making them feel guilty about the children. It could include harassing them during visitation or using the children to relay messages. Another controlling tactic is abusing pets. [29]

Using privilege Edit

Using "privilege" means that the abuser defines the roles in the relationship, makes the important decisions, treats the individual like a servant, and acts like the "master of the castle". [29]

Zersetzung Edit

The practice of repression in Zersetzung comprised extensive and secret methods of control and psychological manipulation, including personal relationships of the target, for which the Stasi relied upon its network of informal collaborators, [36] (in German inoffizielle Mitarbeiter or IM), the state's power over institutions, and on operational psychology. Using targeted psychological attacks the Stasi tried to deprive a dissident of any chance of a "hostile action".

The main objective for one type of serial killer is to gain and exert power over their victim. Such killers are sometimes abused as children, leaving them with feelings of powerlessness and inadequacy as adults. [37] Many power or control-motivated killers sexually abuse their victims, but they differ from hedonistic killers in that rape is not motivated by lust (as it would be with a lust murder), but as simply another form of dominating the victim. [38] (See article causes of sexual violence for the differences regarding anger rape, power rape, and sadistic rape.) Ted Bundy is an example of a power/control-oriented serial killer.

A power and control model has been developed for the workplace, divided into the following categories: [39]

  • overt actions
  • covert actions
  • emotional control
  • isolation
  • economic control
  • tactics
  • restriction
  • management privilege

Workplace psychopaths Edit

The authors of the book Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go to Work describe a five-phase model of how a typical workplace psychopath climbs to and maintains power: [40]

  1. Entry – psychopath will use highly developed social skills and charm to obtain employment into an organisation. At this stage it will be difficult to spot anything that is indicative of psychopathic behaviour, and as a new employee one might perceive the psychopath to be helpful and even benevolent.
  2. Assessment – psychopath will weigh one up according to one's usefulness, and one could be recognised as either a pawn (who has some informal influence and will be easily manipulated) or a patron (who has formal power and will be used by the psychopath for protection against attacks)
  3. Manipulation – psychopath will create a scenario of "psychopathic fiction" where positive information about themselves and negative disinformation about others will be created, where one's role as a part of a network of pawns or patrons will be used and one will be groomed into accepting the psychopath's agenda.
  4. Confrontation – the psychopath will use techniques of character assassination to maintain an agenda, and one will be either discarded as a pawn or used as a patron
  5. Ascension – one's role as a patron in the psychopath's quest for power will be discarded, and the psychopath will usurp a position of power and prestige from anyone who once supported them.

In the study of personality psychology, certain personality disorders display characteristics involving the need to gain compliance or control over others: [41]

  • Individuals with antisocial personality disorder tend to display a superficial charm that helps to disarm others, giving a good likable first impression. If someone likes another person, they're much more apt to comply with them. Because they lack empathy, they see other people as instruments and pawns. The effects of this lack of empathy essentially gives them a grandiose sense of self-worth. Due to their callous and unemotional traits, they are well suited to con and/or manipulate others into complying with their wishes.
  • Individuals with borderline personality disorder tend to display black-and-white thinking and are sensitive to others attitudes toward them. Being so averse to rejection may give them motivation to gain compliance in order to control perceptions of others.
  • Individuals with histrionic personality disorder need to be the center of attention and in turn, draw people in so they may use (and eventually dispose of) their relationship.
  • Individuals with narcissistic personality disorder have an inflated self-importance, hypersensitivity to criticism and a sense of entitlement that compels them to persuade others to comply with their requests. To maintain their self-esteem, and protect their vulnerable true selves, narcissists need to control the behavior of others – particularly that of their children seen as extensions of themselves. [42]
  • Individuals with sadistic personality disorder derive pleasure from the distress caused by their aggressive, demeaning, and cruel behavior toward others. They have poor ability to control their reactions and become enraged by minor disturbances, with some sadists being more severely abusive. They use a wide range of behaviors to inappropriately control others, ranging from hostile glances, threats, humiliation, coercion, and restricting the autonomy of others. Often the purpose of their behavior is to control and intimidate others. [43] The sadistic individuals are likely rigid in their beliefs, intolerant of other races or other "out-groups", authoritarian, and malevolent. They may seek positions in which they are able to exert power over others, such as a judge, armysergeant, or psychiatrist who misuse their positions of power to control or brutalize others. For instance, a psychiatrist may institutionalize a patient by misusing mental health legislation. [43]

Braiker identified the following ways that manipulators control their victims: [4]

    : includes praise, superficial charm, superficial sympathy (crocodile tears), excessive apologizing, money, approval, gifts, attention, facial expressions such as a forced laugh or smile, and public recognition. : involves removing one from a negative situation as a reward, e.g. "You won't have to do your homework if you allow me to do this to you." : Partial or intermittent negative reinforcement can create an effective climate of fear and doubt. Partial or intermittent positive reinforcement can encourage the victim to persist. : includes nagging, yelling, the silent treatment, intimidation, threats, swearing, emotional blackmail, the guilt trip, sulking, crying, and playing the victim.
  • Traumatic one-trial learning: using verbal abuse, explosive anger, or other intimidating behavior to establish dominance or superiority even one incident of such behavior can condition or train victims to avoid upsetting, confronting, or contradicting the manipulator.

Since the Technological Revolution, online communities have expanded, along with it, online psychological manipulation. Algorithms are being made to detect key phrases, words, images, or "gifs" that contribute to psychological manipulation happening in social media and within online communities. [44]

  • a strong need to attain feelings of power and superiority in relationships with others
  • a want and need to feel in control
  • a desire to gain a feeling of power over others in order to raise their perception of self-esteem.

Emotional blackmail Edit

Emotional blackmail is a term coined by psychotherapist Susan Forward, about controlling people in relationships and the theory that fear, obligation, and guilt (FOG) are the transactional dynamics at play between the controller and the person being controlled. Understanding these dynamics is useful to anyone trying to extricate themselves from the controlling behavior of another person, and deal with their own compulsions to do things that are uncomfortable, undesirable, burdensome, or self-sacrificing for others. [45]

Forward and Frazier identify four blackmail types each with their own mental manipulation style: [46]

Type Examples
Punisher's threat Eat the food I cooked for you or I'll hurt you.
Self-punisher's threat Eat the food I cooked for you or I'll hurt myself.
Sufferer's threat Eat the food I cooked for you. I was saving it for myself. I wonder what will happen now?
Tantalizer's threat Eat the food I cooked for you and you just may get a really yummy dessert.

There are different levels of demands – demands that are of little consequence, demands that involve important issues or personal integrity, demands that affect major life decisions, and/or demands that are dangerous or illegal. [45]

Silent treatment Edit

The silent treatment is sometimes used as a control mechanism. When so used, it constitutes a passive-aggressive action characterized by the coupling of nonverbal, but nonetheless unambiguous indications of the presence of negative emotion, with the refusal to discuss the scenario triggering those emotions and, when the source of those emotions is unclear to the other party, occasionally the refusal to clarify it or even to identify that source at all. As a result, the perpetrator of the silent treatment denies the victim both the opportunity to negotiate an after-the-fact settlement of the grievance in question and the ability to modify one's future behavior to avoid giving further offense. In especially severe cases, even if the victim gives in and accedes to the perpetrator's initial demands, the perpetrator may continue the silent treatment so as to deny the victim feedback indicating that those demands have been satisfied. The silent treatment thereby enables its perpetrator to cause hurt, obtain ongoing attention in the form of repeated attempts by the victim to restore dialogue, maintain a position of power through creating uncertainty over how long the verbal silence and associated impossibility of resolution will last, and derive the satisfaction that the perpetrator associates with each of these consequences. [47]

Love bombing Edit

The expression has been used to describe the tactics used by pimps and gang members to control their victims, [48] as well as to describe the behavior of an abusive narcissist who tries to win the confidence of a victim. [49] [50] In 2016, Claire Strutzenberg performed a study researching "love bombing" within the young adult age group 18 to 30 at college. She found in this study that this age group tended to communicate regularly at the start of the relationship, but as the relationship went on, one of the partners tended to passively push more toward being more dominant over the other partner gradually working toward "love bombing." [51]

Mind games Edit

One sense of mind games is a largely conscious struggle for psychological one-upmanship, often employing passive–aggressive behavior to specifically demoralize or dis-empower the thinking subject, making the aggressor look superior also referred to as "power games". [52]

In intimate relationships, mind games can be used to undermine one partner's belief in the validity of their own perceptions, [53] often referred to as 'gaslighting'. Personal experience may be denied and driven from memory [54] and such abusive mind games may extend to denial of the victim's reality, social undermining, and the trivializing of what is felt to be important. [55] Both sexes have equal opportunities for such verbal coercion, [56] which may be carried out unconsciously as a result of the need to maintain one's own self-deception. [57]

Divide and conquer Edit

A primary strategy the narcissist uses to assert control, particularly within their family, is to create divisions among individuals. This weakens and isolates each of them, making it easier for the narcissist to manipulate and dominate. Some are favoured, others are scapegoated. Such dynamics can play out in a workplace setting. [58]

The use of coercion by perpetrators and traffickers involves the use of extreme control. Perpetrators expose the victim to high amounts of psychological stress induced by threats, fear, and physical and emotional violence. Tactics of coercion are reportedly used in three phases of trafficking: recruitment, initiation, and indoctrination. [59] During the initiation phase, traffickers use foot-in-the-door techniques of persuasion to lead their victims into various trafficking industries. This manipulation creates an environment where the victim becomes completely dependent upon the authority of the trafficker. [59] Traffickers take advantage of family dysfunction, homelessness, and history of childhood abuse to psychologically manipulate women and children into the trafficking industry. [60]

The goal of a trafficker is to turn a human being into a slave. To do this, perpetrators employ tactics that can lead to the psychological consequence of learned helplessness for the victims, where they sense that they no longer have any autonomy or control over their lives. [60] Traffickers may hold their victims captive, expose them to large amounts of alcohol or use drugs, keep them in isolation, or withhold food or sleep. [60] During this time the victim often begins to feel the onset of depression, guilt and self-blame, anger and rage, and sleep disturbances, PTSD, numbing, and extreme stress. Under these pressures, the victim can fall into the hopeless mental state of learned helplessness. [59] [61] [62]

Children are especially vulnerable to these developmental and psychological consequences of trafficking because they are so young. In order to gain complete control of the child, traffickers often destroy physical and mental health of the children through persistent physical and emotional abuse. [63] Stockholm syndrome is also a common problem for girls while they are trafficked, which can hinder them from both trying to escape, and moving forward in psychological recovery programs. [64]

Oppression is the exercise of authority or power in a burdensome, cruel, or unjust manner. [65]


11 Signs Youre the Victim of Narcissistic Abuse

Imagine this: your entire reality has been warped and distorted. You have been mercilessly violated, manipulated, lied to, ridiculed, demeaned and gaslighted into believing that you are imagining things. The person you thought you knew and the life you built together have been shattered into a million little fragments.

Your sense of self has been eroded, diminished. You were idealized, devalued, then shoved off the pedestal. Perhaps you were even replaced and discarded multiple times, only to be &lsquohoovered&rsquo and lured back into an abuse cycle even more torturous than before. Maybe you were relentlessly stalked, harassed and bullied to stay with your abuser.

This was no normal break-up or relationship: this was a set-up for covert and insidious murder of your psyche and sense of safety in the world. Yet there may not be visible scars to tell the tale all you have are broken pieces, fractured memories and internal battle wounds.

This is what narcissistic abuse looks like.

Psychological violence by malignant narcissists can include verbal and emotional abuse, toxic projection, stonewalling, sabotage, smear campaigns, triangulation along with a plethora of other forms of coercion and control. This is imposed by someone who lacks empathy, demonstrates an excessive sense of entitlement and engages in interpersonal exploitation to meet their own needs at the expense of the rights of others.

As a result of chronic abuse, victims may struggle with symptoms of PTSD, Complex PTSD if they had additional traumas like being abused by narcissistic parents or even what is known as &ldquoNarcissistic Victim Syndrome&rdquo (Cannonville, 2015 Staggs 2016). The aftermath of narcissistic abuse can include depression, anxiety, hypervigilance, a pervasive sense of toxic shame, emotional flashbacks that regress the victim back to the abusive incidents, and overwhelming feelings of helplessness and worthlessness.

When we are in the midst of an ongoing abuse cycle, it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly what we are experiencing because abusers are able to twist and turn reality to suit their own needs, engage in intense love-bombing after abusive incidents and convince their victims that they are the ones who are abusers.

If you find yourself experiencing the eleven symptoms below and you are or have been in a toxic relationship with a partner that disrespects, invalidates and mistreats you, you may just have been terrorized by an emotional predator:

1. You experience dissociation as a survival mechanism.

You feel emotionally or even physically detached from your environment, experiencing disruptions in your memory, perceptions, consciousness and sense of self. As Dr. Van der Kolk (2015) writes in his book, The Body Keeps the Score, &ldquoDissociation is the essence of trauma. The overwhelming experience is split off and fragmented, so that the emotions, sounds, images, thoughts and physical sensations take on a life of their own.&rdquo

Dissociation can lead to emotional numbing in the face of horrific circumstances. Mind-numbing activities, obsessions, addictions and repression may become a way of life because they give you an escape from your current reality. Your brain finds ways to emotionally block out the impact of your pain so you do not have to deal with the full terror of your circumstances.

You may also develop traumatized inner parts that become disjointed from the personality you inhabit with your abuser or loved ones (Johnston, 2017). These inner parts can include the inner child parts that were never nurtured, the true anger and disgust you feel towards your abuser or parts of yourselves you feel you cannot express around them.

According totherapist Rev. Sheri Heller (2015), &ldquoIntegrating and reclaiming dissociated and disowned aspects of the personality is largely dependent on constructing a cohesive narrative, which allows for the assimilation of emotional, cognitive, and physiological realities.&rdquo This inner integration is best done with the help of a trauma-informed therapist.

2. You walk on eggshells.

A common symptom of trauma is avoiding anything that represents reliving the trauma &ndash whether it be people, places or activities that pose that threat. Whether it be your friend, your partner, your family member, co-worker or boss, you find yourself constantly watching what you say or do around this person lest you incur their wrath, punishment or become the object of their envy.

However, you find that this does not work and you still become the abusers target whenever he or she feels entitled to use you as an emotional punching bag. You become perpetually anxious about &lsquoprovoking&rsquo your abuser in any way and may avoid confrontation or setting boundaries as a result. You may also extend your people-pleasing behavior outside of the abusive relationship, losing your ability to be spontaneous or assertive while navigating the outside world, especially with people who resemble or are associated with your abuser and the abuse.

3. You put aside your basic needs and desires, sacrificing your emotional and even your physical safety to please the abuser.

You may have once been full of life, goal-driven and dream-oriented. Now you feel as if you are living just to fulfill the needs and agendas of another person. Once, the narcissists entire life seemed to revolve around you now your entire life revolves around them. You may have placed your goals, hobbies, friendships and personal safety on the back burner just to ensure that your abuser feels satisfied in the relationship. Of course, you soon realize that he or she will never truly be satisfied regardless of what you do or dont do.

4. You are struggling with health issues and somatic symptoms that represent your psychological turmoil.

You may have gained or lost a significant amount of weight, developed serious health issues that did not exist prior and experienced physical symptoms of premature aging. The stress of chronic abuse has sent your cortisol levels into overdrive and your immune system has taken a severe hit, leaving you vulnerable to physical ailments and disease (Bergland, 2013). You find yourself unable to sleep or experiencing terrifying nightmares when you do, reliving the trauma through emotional or visual flashbacks that bring you back to the site of the original wounds (Walker, 2013).

5. You develop a pervasive sense of mistrust.

Every person now represents a threat and you find yourself becoming anxious about the intentions of others, especially having experienced the malicious actions of someone you once trusted. Your usual caution becomes hypervigilance. Since the narcissistic abuser has worked hard to gaslight you into believing that your experiences are invalid, you have a hard time trusting anyone, including yourself.

6. You experience suicidal ideation or self-harming tendencies.

Along with depression and anxiety may come an increased sense of hopelessness. Your circumstances feel unbearable, as if you cannot escape, even if you wanted to. You develop a sense of learned helplessness that makes you feel as if you dont wish to survive another day. You may even engage in self-harm as a way to cope.As Dr. McKeon (2014), chief of the suicide prevention branch at SAMHSA notes, victims of intimate partner violence are twice as likely to attempt suicide multiple times.This is the way abusers essentially commit murder without a trace.

7. You self-isolate.

Many abusers isolate their victims, but victims also isolate themselves because they feel ashamed about the abuse theyre experiencing. Given the victim-blaming and misconceptions about emotional and psychological violence in society, victims may even be retraumatized by law enforcement, family members, friends and the harem members of the narcissist who might invalidate their perceptions of the abuse. They fear no one will understand or believe them, so instead of reaching out for help, they decide to withdraw from others as a way to avoid judgment and retaliation from their abuser.

8. You find yourself comparing yourself to others, often to the extent of blaming yourself for the abuse.

A narcissistic abuser is highly skilled at manufacturing love triangles or bringing another person into the dynamic of the relationship to further terrorize the victim. As a result, victims of narcissistic abuse internalize the fear that they are not enough and may constantly strive to compete for the abusers attention and approval.

Victims may also compare themselves to others in happier, healthier relationships or find themselves wondering why their abuser appears to treat complete strangers with more respect. This can send them down the trapdoor of wondering, &ldquowhy me?&rdquo and stuck in an abyss of self-blame. The truth is, the abuser is the person who should be blamed &ndash you are in no way responsible for being abused.

9. You self-sabotage and self-destruct.

Victims often find themselves ruminating over the abuse and hearing the abuser&rsquos voice in their minds, amplifying their negative self-talk and tendency towards self-sabotage. Malignant narcissists program and condition their victims to self-destruct sometimes even to the point of driving them to suicide.

Due to the narcissists covert and overt put-downs, verbal abuse and hypercriticism, victims develop a tendency to punish themselves because they carry such toxic shame. They may sabotage their goals, dreams and academic pursuits. The abuser has instilled in them a sense of worthlessness and they begin to believe that they are undeserving of good things.

10. You fear doing what you love and achieving success.

Since many pathological predators are envious of their victims, they punish them for succeeding. This conditions their victims to associate their joys, interests, talents and areas of success with cruel and callous treatment. This conditioning gets their victims to fear success lest they be met with reprisal and reprimand.

As a result, victims become depressed, anxious, lack confidence and they may hide from the spotlight and allow their abusers to steal the show again and again. Realize that your abuser is not undercutting your gifts because they truly believe you are inferior it is because those gifts threaten their control over you.

11. You protect your abuser and even &lsquogaslight&rsquo yourself.

Rationalizing, minimizing and denying the abuse are often survival mechanisms for victims in an abusive relationship. In order to reduce the cognitive dissonance that erupts when the person who claims to love you mistreats you, victims of abuse convince themselves that the abuser is really not all that bad or that they must have done something to provoke the abuse.

It is important to reduce this cognitive dissonance in the other direction by reading up on the narcissistic personality and abuse tactics this way, you are able to reconcile your current reality with the narcissist&rsquos false self by recognizing that the abusive personality, not the charming facade, is their true self.

Remember that an intense trauma bond is often formed between victim and abuser because the victim is trained to rely on the abuser for his or her survival (Carnes, 2015). Victims may protect their abusers from legal consequences, portray a happy image of the relationship on social media or overcompensate by sharing the blame of the abuse.

I&rsquove been narcissistically abused. Now what?

If you are currently in an abusive relationship of any kind, know that you are not alone even if you feel like you are. There are millions of survivors all over the world who have experienced what you have. This form of psychological torment is not exclusive to any gender, culture, social class or religion. The first step is becoming aware of the reality of your situation and validating it even if your abuser attempts to gaslight you into believing otherwise.

If you can, journal about the experiences you have been going through to begin acknowledging the realities of the abuse. Share the truth with a trusted mental health professional, domestic violence advocates, family members, friends or fellow survivors. Begin to &lsquoheal&rsquo your body through modalities like trauma-focused yoga and mindfulness meditation, two practices that target the same parts of the brain often affected by trauma (van der Kolk, 2015).

Reach out for help if you are experiencing any of these symptoms, especially suicidal ideation. Consult a trauma-informed counselor who understands and can help guide you through the symptoms of trauma. Make a safety plan if you have concerns about your abuser getting violent.

It is not easy to leave an abusive relationship due to the intense trauma bonds that can develop, the effects of trauma and the pervasive sense of helplessness and hopelessness that can form as a result of the abuse. Yet you have to know that it is in fact possible to leave and to begin the journey to No Contact or Low Contact in the cases of co-parenting. Recovery from this form of abuse is challenging, but it is well worth paving the path back to freedom and putting the pieces back together.

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, be sure to call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at1-800-273-8255.You can also reach the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1?800?799?7233.

Bergland, C. (2013, January 22). Cortisol: Why &ldquoThe Stress Hormone&rdquo is public enemy no. 1. Retrieved August 21, 2017, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-athletes-way/201301/cortisol-why-the-stress-hormone-is-public-enemy-no-1

Clay, R. A. (2014). Suicide and intimate partner violence.Monitor on Psychology,45(10), 30. Retrieved August 21, 2017, from http://www.apa.org/monitor/2014/11/suicide-violence.aspx

Canonville, C. L. (2015). Narcissistic Victim Syndrome: What the heck is that? Retrieved August 18, 2017, from http://narcissisticbehavior.net/the-effects-of-gaslighting-in-narcissistic-victim-syndrome/

Carnes, P. (2015).Betrayal Bond: Breaking Free of Exploitive Relationships. Health Communications, Incorporated.

Heller, S. (2015, February 18). Complex PTSD and the realm of dissociation. Retrieved August 21, 2017, from https://pro.psychcentral.com/complex-ptsd-and-the-realm-of-dissociation/006907.html

Johnston, M. (2017, April 05). Working with our inner Parts. Retrieved August 21, 2017, from https://majohnston.wordpress.com/working-with-our-inner-parts/

Staggs, S. (2016). Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.Psych Central. Retrieved on August 21, 2017, from https://psychcentral.com/lib/complex-post-traumatic-stress-disorder/

Staggs, S. (2016). Symptoms & Diagnosis of PTSD.Psych Central. Retrieved on August 21, 2017, from https://psychcentral.com/lib/symptoms-and-diagnosis-of-ptsd/

Van der Kolk, B. (2015).The body keeps the score: Mind, brain and body in the transformation of trauma. London: Penguin Books.

Walker, P. (2013).Complex PTSD: From surviving to thriving. Lafayette, CA: Azure Coyote.


People who were told they weren’t good enough as children or had to placate the adults in their life to avoid outbursts of abuse or anger often grow up to be chronic people-pleasers.

Victims of verbal forms of abuse will often be terrified of confrontation, and so as they grow up, will attempt to avoid conflict at all costs. If this sounds like you, the idea of a confrontation generally induces immense anxiety and will activate the fight-or-flight response — and you’ll almost always choose flight.

Subscribe to our newsletter.


The Victim Mentality – What It Is and Why You Use It

Last reviewed by Sheri Jacobson April 26, 2016 Counselling, Self Esteem 40 Comments -->

What is a ‘Victim Mentality’?

Having a a ‘victim mentality’ means you blame your challenges in life on others around you, even if you can’t prove their negative actions.

You might also blame many things on circumstances, which you see as always unfair.

Being a Victim vs Self Pity vs Victim Mentality

Bad things can happen in life. You might be the victim of a crime, such as fraud or even 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 erroneous thinking.

It’s also perfectly normal to feel sorry for yourself every once in a while, or feel powerless in the face of a challenge like a bereavement or divorce .

But if you have a victim mentality, you will see your entire life through a perspective that things constantly happen ‘to’ you. Victimisation is thus a combination of seeing most things in life as negative, beyond your control, and as something you should be given sympathy for experiencing as you ‘deserve’ better. At its heart, a victim mentality is actually a way to avoid taking any responsibility for yourself or your life. By believing you have no power then you don’t have to take action.

A healthy person, on the other hand, recognises that beyond random bad occurrences, many things in life happen because of choices they themselves made, and that they have power to choose differently. And they understand that when misfortune does happen, it is nothing to do with personal value or ‘deserving’ or ‘not deserving’.

[Not sure you do or don’t have a victim mentality? Sign up for alerts so you don’t miss our upcoming connected piece, ‘How to Tell if You Have a Victim Mentality’].

Why would I choose to always be a victim?

Constantly acting a victim can actually have a lot of perks. These can look like the following:

  • you don’t have take responsibility for things
  • you have the ‘right’ to complain and receive attention
  • others feel sorry for you and give you attention
  • people are less likely to criticise or upset you
  • others feel compelled to help you and do what you ask for
  • you can tell stories about the things that happened to you and seem interesting
  • there is no time to be bored because there is so much drama in your life
  • you can avoid ever feeling anger as you are too busy being sad and upset.

If you look at the above statements, you might already see the pattern of what the true benefits of being a victim can be. They are:

  1. attention,
  2. feeling valued,
  3. power.

The Secret Power Behind Being a Victim

Surprised that playing the victim gives you power, because you’ve convinced yourself that your life is so awful you have no power at all? This is what a victim tells his or herself.

But having others feel sorry for you can easily be a way to manipulate them into meeting your needs and wants. This can be something small, like someone always going to the shops for you, or can be deeper and more insidious, such as meaning your ‘poor me’ act leaves another forced to treat you nicely and never yell at you, or to not leave you even if they feel they should.

An example of victimhood as a form of power is a codependent relationship , such as the one between an alcoholic and their partner. The ‘caregiver’ can play a victim, putting up with the alcoholic’s terrible behaviour and sacrificing their own needs to care for them, only to one day use guilt, complaints, and ‘poor me’ tirades to then attempt to control the alcoholic.

On a darker note, the role of victim can also be a common way for abusers to take power, called ‘playing the victim’ in psychology. A less unconscious form of victimhood, this can look like an abuser who constantly puts their partner down then fixates on the one time the abused party snapped back and called them a monster, making out that they are in fact the ‘attacked’ one. Or an abuser will say that it’s not their fault they hit the other person when that person is so annoying and stupid and they have to ‘put up with them’. In this way an abuser uses the ‘poor me’ mentality to defend their sociopathic behaviour.

Why am I the sort of person who plays the victim?

What makes you more likely to be the sort that lives your life from a victim mentality?

Like most behavioural patterns, a victim mentality is a learned behaviour that can be traced back to childhood.

You could have learned to play victim because you watched the adults around you doing so. It your mother or father, for example, always felt the world was out to get them and complained daily about all the people who wronged them, you would take on board this was the way to gain personal power and attention.

It’s possible you had a codependent relationship with one of your parents. You would have felt responsible for their wellbeing, either taking care of a sick (mentally or physically) parent, or being led to believe you are in charge of their happiness. The message a child can take on here is that not only do you have to ‘earn’ love, but that if you are sick or weak others take care of you. Both can lead to patterns of victimisation as an adult.

Or, you might have learned to be a victim because it was a way to survive your childhood. As a child, we all require attention and love, and if it’s not offered freely by our caregivers, we are left to find ways to receive it. Perhaps, in your family home, the only way to receive attention and care was to be sick, or to act weak, or to allow bad things to happen to you.

Many people who live life from a victim mentality were sufferers of abuse as a childhood. This is often sexual abuse . The helplessness a child feels, combined with the deep shame abuse causes, can mean you grow into an adult who has no self-esteem and who sees the world as a dangerous place they are lost in.

What should I do if I recognise that I suffer from victimisation?

On a good note, because a victim mentality is a learned behaviour, you can indeed ‘unlearn’ it.

It is, however, a process which takes time and can be quite intense, especially if it is connected to childhood trauma like abuse or neglect.

And dealing with victimisation means you must then face the anger , sadness, shame and fear that playing the victim protects and hides you from.

It is therefore recommended to seek support when dealing with facing your victim mentality. A trained and experienced counsellor or psychotherapist can create a safe, non-judgemental space for you to explore why you act a victim, and what childhood events led to such behaviour as an adult. They will then help you learn new ways of thinking and seeing the world that are more helpful to you.

Do you have a question about victim mentality? Ask below, we love hearing from you.

Related Posts

Im concerned for my son. How can i get the right help for him.

It’s important to tell someone you feel they need help in the right way or they can move further away from you and other support. We’ve written a great article about letting a loved one know they might need help – read it here https://www.harleytherapy.co.uk/counselling/tell-friend-loved-one-need-counselling.htm

Omg. I had no idea what I was doing. Yes, I’ve had unfortunate things happen to me but I realize bad choices and just plain lack of knowledge! Thanks soo much. This the nicest way I’ve encountered of setting a victim straight!

janette
I’m in a relationship with a sex addict. He says the things he did aren’t so bad they could of been worse. He minimizes what he did. He says my grief and anger are wrong. I’m not allowed to talk about how I feel and work through my emotions. He uses gas lighting techniques to control situations. And make it seem like I am unstable. I think I have gotten stuck in a victim mentality. And can’t seem to figure out how to have a voice and explain what has happened to me without coming across as a victim. I have been victimized. I want that to be validated by my husband. Which he refuses to do. Or is just simply unable to do. I spent 5 weeks away from him. Now I’m back. And had my old feelings of being controlled and having to do everything according to his timing his way. I’m supper anxious. How do I deal with this in an emotionally healthy way.

Hi Janette, thanks for sharing this. The thing with relationships is that they are two ways, so you both need to want to work in the same direction. Without knowing you or your husband, or exactly the details of what has happened, we can’t say what direction that is. But if you have a lot of sadness and anger and feel lost, are developing anxiety, and feel unable to leave a situation that is making you unhappy, then it is definitely a good idea to seek support. Would you consider counselling?

I just wanted to say that it’s nice that you guys take what other people judge and rather than judging, you guys try to help people get out of the unhealthy thinking pattern instead. Unfortunately for me, the victim mentality or being a hero are seemingly the only two ways I really know how to get close to people and make friends, but it’s definitely something I’m working on

Thanks for this. We do try to help! It sounds like you have real clarity on what you are dealing with which is good and means you are already on your way forward (even if if it doesn’t always feel like it, personal growth can so often feel circular!). Victim/hero can be a tough pattern, often coming from ways of relating learned as a child. For example, if your parents rewarded you for being ‘good/strong/quiet’ but you didn’t feel loved and accepted on days you were sad or upset, and of course if a parent was not well mentally/physically and as a child you were a caretaker. If you are finding it really hard to breakthrough, this issue is more than enough to seek counselling over, should you so desire. While progress can be made with self help books and research (Codependent No More is a classic and worth reading although you might have already), support makes the process way faster. We wish you courage!

My husband suffers from victim mentality and it’s draining me so much that the thoughts of leaving him flow through my mind almost daily. We have a child together so I rather try to fix the situation before I choose to leave but he refuses counseling and ignores me when I try to help. My concerns are that our daughter will develop this mentality or that he may snap one day and hurt someone. Can you make any suggestions??

I think the victim mentality fits my younger sister. I’m borderline. How can I help her realize she is walling herself up inside a victim mindset and not come across like I am picking on her? She is raw. She cannot afford counseling. If I bought her a book to work through she would turn her back on me for months, even years. I would be the monster and this will make me feel rejected.

Unfortunately we can’t make someone go to therapy or change. The only person we have power over is ourselves. This can feel really hard when a child is involved and our dream of a happy family unit is feeling a nightmare. But what would happen if you took the focus off of all that is wrong with your husband and put your focus and energy on you? What is there to find there? What has led you be in this relationship in the first place, for example? What is keeping you there, beyond having a child? There feels to be a lot more going on here, and it’s to do with you, not your husband. Hope that helps.

Hi Mary, thanks for sharing. Unfortunately you can’t change the way someone thinks or feels, they have to decide they want to change. Really we can only accept people as they are and take it from there. And the only actions we can change our our own. So the focus has to be on you, not your sister, otherwise it’s energy wasted. So you can only look at how you act and respond around her, and go from there. And if truly is borderline traits that are sabotaging your relationship with your sister, it’s a good idea to seek professional help. Schema therapy and dialectical behaviour therapy are two great therapies for BPD. Hope that helps.

Hello,
I am writing my own story about my cancer journey and what I’ve learned along the way. I would love to use your definition of a victim (specifically the first paragraph in italics on this website) in my chapter on the types of patients. Would you consider this request?
Thanks for the consideration. Jan

Hi Jan, if it’s for print, you can quote us and just attribute it to us. If your article is for online, we are generally okay with small amounts of our content being used as long as it is quoted and listed as from Harley Therapy, with a link back to the piece. Otherwise we do chase up people for duplicate content! Thanks, and good luck with writing your story.

I want to say I suffer from having a victim mentality. But in saying that does that make me looking more like a victim? I’ve gone to a lot of emotional mental and physical abuse as a child but the year the sexual abuse I feel is haunting me. I want to change and so many ways but I don’t know how. I’ve been in a relationship that in a couple days we will have been together for a year. It’s been a rough year he stuck by me and stuck through things with me that most would have ran for the hills for. I appreciate his insight but at the same time I despise it. He believes I could b a overt narcissist. A lot of Articles I’ve read about this topic says that narcissist can’t change. Particularly this kind of narcissist. If they can’t recognize it or take accountability. I have a lot of Errors of thinking in my mind and I really want to change what do I do?

First of all, it’s an opinion that some diagnosis makes someone unable to change, and not one we’d agree with. Second of all, it’s quite harsh that a partner is trying to diagnose you. Is he a psychiatrist? If not, how can he give a mental health diagnosis? Finally, if you were a covert narcissist, it’s unlikely you’d be googling trying to find help. We all have narcissist traits (traits being very different than narcissistic personality disorder) at times. It’s called being human. And if we have experienced trauma we can have these traits to protect our fear of being hurt again. As for saying you have the victim mentality, not at all. As what you are doing by recognising that is facing yourself and aiming to take back your power. What to do? Reach out for proper support. Sexual abuse leaves the best of us with misguided coping patterns that are simply too hard to break alone. A professional therapist will create a non judgemental space for you and they are not invested in your choices like your partner is, they only are invested in your improvement. Google for a therapist with experience with abuse survivors. If you are on a low budget, ask if they offer sliding scale. We wish you courage!

I still have no idea whether I have a victim mentality. My childhood was tough. I was regularly beaten and called names. I was constantly told my life was worthless. So I grew up, never learned to trust anybody. I never had any relationship. I developed crushes and was regularly heartbroken when my crushes fell for others. So, I blame my parents. I constantly suspected even my best friends and lost one friend after another. So, I blame my parents. I developed a habit of confessing some friends about my problems. They left, one after another. So, I blame my parents. Is that a victim mentality? I think yes.

But whatever happened, happened. I am a survivor, not a victim. I have a choice. I have a choice to tell my crushes how I feel about them. I have a choice to keep my unfounded suspensions to myself. I have a choice not to rant and annoy my friends with my endless problems. I always have a choice.

So far, it’s the best article I have read. Other articles show no compassion and try to blame the people with victim mentality, labeling them as “toxic” or whatever. Nobody does so deliberately. A little compassion goes a long way.

We are so glad to hear that this article was useful. That means a lot to us. When we read what you write, it sounds like there is a lot of intellectualising, like you have sorted it out in your head. But the thing about trauma is that it needs to be experienced, felt, not just understood intellectually. Otherwise we are left being really hard on ourselves, for understanding something but still not being able to be some perfect person we imagine we should be. Yes, you have choices now. But as children we don’t. And that child inside of us needs to have her misery, rage, and fear heard. You are not toxic. You are human and hurting from what we sense. We are not here to push therapy down anyone’s throat, but we just want to say that if you did have the courage to try, it does create a really safe container to let all those feelings out, without fear of being rejected or told you are toxic or annoying. A therapist understands that you are just hurting and processing and that you are actually a powerful, interesting person who just has some issues to work through. We wish you courage.

Could you tell me how to counsel a person with victim mindset?

Hi, really sorry but that’s a huge question and is too big of a generality for us to answer via comment. It depends on the person, the type of therapist/therapy, etc. Are you a student? We advise students to do their own thorough research.

I just read this article𔅿 years after it was written. In a recent session with my counselor, she told me she will help me get out of the victim mentality. It is good that we have a trusting relationship… Her “tough love” approach could very well be what I need.
I’m an ACoA admittedly codependent, who hit bottom about 10 years ago after a narcissistic injury, getting fired from a job and the loss of friendships with anyone mutually associated w/ the narc. I recently over stepped my mother-in-law/grandmother boundaries, when my DIL triggered me. I’ve stepped back, swallowed my pride and apologized. Seeing my grandsons grow up is more important than anything else. And at 67 yo, it is time to just enjoy life (be happy). I’ve started EFT tapping and I know I need to journal. What is your suggestion for healing my developmental trauma lack of self esteem etc. etc. ?

Hi P, our suggestion would be, continue the journey. Keep showing up and working with what sounds an excellent therapist, keep committing to being honest with her, keep up the other techniques that support you like EFT and journalling. Don’t see it as a ‘destination’ but a journey. The day never comes when we think ‘this is it! I am healed!’. We just get more and more comfortable being ourselves until we forget that was the original goal. All the best.

HI my partner of two years is always the victim when he tells his stories of childhood right through to adulthood. He says he cannot work for anyone, he cannot take orders from people who are not as intelligent as him, so he doesnt work. He has double standards what hes allowed to do i cannot do. He dont remember the awful things he says to me, but when i counter him and argue back …hes the victim in the things i say to him that hurts him never recongnising the things he says to me. Hes nice one minute and wakes up in a mood and wants to argue. Ive given up everything for this man. My home kids and work to move away with him and i cannot make him happy. He tells me he will never change. But i dont want to change him i just want him to stop telling stories about how hard done by he is. He has gone to the doctors for help…. they refered him to counselling cognatitive theaphy, he didnt go because he wanted the help there and then and couldnt wait 3 months for the appointment.
I made him go back to doctors again ..they gave him tablets to take… he refused to take them also…excuse after excuse. he believes the problem are me stressing him out and im not understanding him. I have had enough he is wearing me down, and i am no longer happy.
were can i get him theaphy at low cost as money is the Key.

Hi Janet, if you are so unhappy, why are you staying in the relationship? And just to point out this bit here, ” Ive given up everything for this man. My home kids and work to move away with him and i cannot make him happy.” First of all, it’s a clear example of victim mentality. Second of all, we think you might want to read about codependency, which means we stay in miserable relationships and suffer as we take our sense of self by trying to help and change others. In summary, you can’t help or change him, he’s right. The only single person you can change is yourself. If you can’t seem to leave a very unhappy relationship, perhaps you yourself could benefit from therapy to look at where this belief that life and love should be endless suffering comes from. Good luck.

Hello- Thank you very much for your positive information, reading your article I had a lot of ah-ha moments, and unfortunately I seem to fit into the definition of having a victim mentality. Learning to heal and develop better coping mechanism is a lot for me right now but I defiantly don’t want to become someone who is always see’s themselves as the victim. I am an Adult Survivor of Childhood Sexual Abuse, when I was 2-3 the weekly molestation began, and continued on until I was almost 13. Usually twice a week for over 10 years. Even though it sounds strange, I knew I was always molested in childhood but somehow was able to lock it away in my head… until about 2 years ago… happily married with 5 children (only 2 still at home) I had my first flashback. It was a silent black and white movie playing in my head, which made me physically ill. It’s been along two years…. and I know I have so much more to go. My question is…I have a hard time finding counseling… I’m not sure if I should see a therapist or a physiologist…. I honestly don’t know the difference between them. I’ve been to two therapists (both did not specialize in childhood sexual abuse) and haven’t found one that I am comfortable with. The thought of having to tell my “life history” to another person has made me not want to even try. I am currently using workbook, and researching and reading as much as I can learn through the internet. I feel like I have taken a few steps forward in healing, but as an adult I have developed habits to numb feelings, and push myself to be a perfectionist and people pleaser. I realize I can’t heal myself and need additional help…. what kind of counselor should I look for? Seems like I need a broad spectrum specialist, for all the manifestations I seemed to have. Any help is appreciated…. thank you again for your article and positive words.

Hi Kimberly, first things first, give yourself some huge credit. It’s very powerful that you are committed to healing and not being a victim – many survivors of sexual abuse get trapped in victimhood for life as they refuse to be brave enough to see they are. Secondly, it’s amazing you have a marriage and family that is working, that is a good sign, often abuse means we are too disconnected to navigate healthy relationships, so that is great you have that stability. The first stage of facing sexual abuse can be heaps of shame. But we promise you that you are far from alone – stats are at 1 in 4, with reality probably higher – and that you did nothing wrong and there is no reason to feel ashamed, particularly with a therapist. That said, shame is powerful, and it takes time to work through it and it is normal to feel shame even if you tell yourself you needn’t. We would say to really look for someone who has worked with abuse or is even a survivor themselves. Note that some abuse survivors find therapy triggers their trauma response – this might not be you, as it doesn’t seem you are experiencing complex PTSD, but if so it is an idea to do a round of CBT first, a short term therapy that doesn’t dive into the past but focuses more on getting on top of negative thinking and stabilising yourself. And then start a longer form of therapy after. Note that as someone who has gone through abuse you will not like or instantly trust any therapist, because trust will be an issue, so give a therapist 4 sessions before deciding. The type of therapy can be less important than feeling comfortable, but if you prefer a warm supportive environment you might want to steer clear of traditional psychoanalysis. Many abuse survivors like therapies that focus on relating, which has a stronger client/therapist connection http://bit.ly/findlovetherapy but again, relating doesn’t seem your issue. So you might find that you enjoy a more general type of therapy to start, which focuses on helping your build inner resources, such as one of the therapies from the humanistic school of thought. As for the difference between psychotherapist and psychologist, it depends on what country you are in, but you can learn about the difference here in the UK here https://www.harleytherapy.co.uk/counselling/the-humanistic-approach.htm. Finally, healing from abuse is a journey. Don’t expect quick results, go easy on yourself, and take it one step at a time, even if sometimes it feels like you go backwards to go forwards. Best, HT

My daughter says I play the victim and sent me this article as a resource. I lost a beloved husband 14 years ago. Over 4 years my son completely abandoned me, and my relationship with my daughter is bad. she has a lot of resentment. Won’t say exactly why. She doesn’t call, invite me up, or spend time with me on holidays. I initiate all the visits. I walk on eggshells fearing further abandonment. My child hood was very good, stable loving parents. I was molested by my uncle twice at age 11 and had therapy that really helped. My friends see me as upbeat, strong and resilient. My daughter, usually at the worst possible time when Grief comes back strong, accused me of being needy and a victim. She has always been focused on herself and is a super achiever. She’s a perfectionist. Plays a heroic role in her community – always compassionate and loving to all. I think I’m beginning to really dislike her. I’ve had a terrible fight with her. So discouraging. Thankfully, I have a fantastic adopted family and they are really central to my life, loving me easily and unconditionally. I live in a different town than my daughter. Do you think I’m a victim?

Hi Susie, we can’t tell anyone what they are or aren’t over a comment. People are far more complicated than that. And we can be one thing with some people, something else with others. You might be one way with friends, another way entirely with family. It’s best you took a few sessions with a counsellor who could get to know you, and could help you look at your disrupted family relationships. It is interesting though that you have posted a long list of all the difficult things that have befallen you in such detail. We are glad to hear you sought therapy over the abuse, good for you. Did you seek support for the grief that you mention still hits you? As 14 years is a long time to still be grieving, it might be what’s termed ‘complicated grief’. It’s generally recommended to seek support over grief if it’s gone on for more than six months, as it can have become either complicated grief or depression.

I’m a massage therapist/holistic therapist. I find the majority of people who seek me out seem to have victim mentality and don’t want to change. During the consultation where I ask basic health questions to ensure it’s safe for massage etc, I’ve found they actually want me to provide a free counselling session where they offload ALL their life story on to me, even if it’s not at all relevant to the appointment/service they have booked or the question I am asking. When I try to guide their thoughts back to the relevance of why they are here and the question I asked they try to take it back to offloading on me. When I stop them from doing this by explaining that I can not counsel them and remind them that they are here for massage/Reiki etc which can begin to help with their wellbeing, but to speak to their GP or that I can direct them to a service which can provide counselling after the session, they look stunned, aggrieved and don’t come back! I find being confronted with these people very draining and frustrating, they actually don’t want to adopt better self care or change their mindset, when I talk to them about the benefits of massage etc, they are disinterested! They just want to offload on someone and that’s not what I offer and state I don’t offer counselling on my website etc, so they know this from the offset but it doesn’t stop them from trying! I seem to have one of those personalities that attract people offloading their whole life story and problems on to me within the first minute of setting eyes on me. It happens all the time, at bus stops, in shops etc, but at least I can make my excuses and leave in those scenarios. During work when it happens, I do say, I have limited time and will need to speed up this consultation process, which again these people don’t like and feel aggrieved by! How is the best way to deal with such people within my work and why do they book a massage when it’s very obvious they want a counselling session!?

Hi Zoe, would we be correct in assuming your price point is low? First thing might be to raise your rate. People who truly want to invest in themselves are less likely to be victims. Second thing can be to make sure that you yourself are not being a victim in any place in your life and make sure your own boundaries are in place and your self-esteem is high. You might here people on the internet talking about ‘aligning your energy’ or what not, but psychological research would instead show that we all, without realising it, give off signals with body language and face movements and even tone of voice that let people know what we do and don’t put up with, and that tends to attract certain types of people again and again.

I’m starting a podcast about toxicity in our society today, and my first episode is on the victim mentality and I would love to have a professional come on my show and be interviewed by me and discuss this topic further. Is this at all possible?

Hi Kayla, you can send a request to press@ڊrleytڎrapy.co.uk. But we admittedly receive many such requests and tend to only work with established press outlets as many of our therapists don’t like to be distracted from their client work and we do have to compensate them for all their time including that spent doing press. Best, HT

I was told several times by a leader at church that I have a victim mentality but never did he elaborate or tell me how to overcome. I never knew what he meant and I wondered about it occasionally for approx 15 years now. I felt shame and guilt about having this and anger at not knowing how to fix it. Please advise. Thank you. Jannie

Hi Jannie, it sounds like you feel a victim of this situation, which is interesting, isn’t it? Did you read the article? It is useful in and of itself and explains best way forwards at the bottom? Also read our adjoining article on how to tell you use the victim card https://www.harleytherapy.co.uk/counselling/live-life-like-victim-12-ways-tell.htm.

Yes, I can see I have lived my life with a victim mentality. The heading” Why do I live like a victim” I could relate to all 4 sub headings…
Relationships with men to date have been filled with drama, high anxiety and feeling overwhelmed by another’s needs. Realise that I am constantly searching for someone to rescue/ take care of me… which leads me to feel shame and guilt for not being an adult.

Hi Bernadette, seems like this article has hit home. We’d just say that all these things can change, they are not set in stone. It starts with the recognition, and the commitment to making the change and taking the journey. We of course do advise counselling, as it helps so much with the victim mindset, which usually runs deep and goes back to childhood. But there are also great self help resources out there! Best, HT

My kids have been told outrageous stories about me and their father from his family. They eventually ended up going to live with them and we were denied any contact. Now they’re older and recently got into contact with us but their heads are full of these lies and for some reason don’t remember what life was really like with us before his family decided to interfere. They refuse to believe anything we say to them when we try to jog their memories and tell their friends and significant others about how bad their childhood was and how terrible parents we were. They choose to believe and live this false traumatic past rather than accept the loving family that has been here waiting for them all this time. It’s like they’re trying to punish us. When we’ve explained many times we have been punished for for something that didn’t even happen. For years. More than they could ever imagine. I finally decided I can’t go through this again. I just got to a place of peace and was moving on when they came back around. And it feels like I’m fighting for them all over again. Trying to prove everything all over again. I can’t do that or go through that again. So I’m just leaving them believe what they so very desperately want to believe and moving on, again.

Hi Patricia, what’s interesting here is that you are angry you have been put into the ‘bad’ chair, and yet you are using the exact same dichotomy yourself. You are making things into ‘right/wrong’ and ‘black/white’. You also are angry you were turned against when they are kids, and yet are now wanting them to turn against their father. Can you see how this might all be confusing to them? This sort of ‘me or him’ ‘I am right he is wrong’ energy closes down dialogue. We can’t control how others think or feel, particularly about the past. We can only show them who we are in the present. Wanting them to 100% just believe what you are telling them isn’t fair. It’s controlling, and not giving them agency over their own thoughts and feelings. Nobody likes being told what to think. What attracts people to your side, and makes them want to hear your side, is openness. Being ready to hear their side without taking it personally or getting offended or judging. Also note that angry energy, even if we think we are hiding it, is never well hidden. And if they sense all this anger that too might make them back off. To be honest, we think the place to start here is not with what they think, but with what you think and feel. We think it’s important and beautiful that this opportunity has come up for you, but that there are a lot of thoughts and feelings you need to work through, even with a counsellor if you have the courage, and that doing so would really help this relationship work. Cutting them out is an option, but it’s just going to mean you carry around this rage and sadness yet again. And we think you deserve better than that, don’t you? Best, HT.

Hello. I am very inspired by your clarity. I am outgrowing many behaviors, one of them victim mentality as you graphically describe it. I chose a husband and rather than divorce I put him down in a way that I was the victim… maybe he had mild Aspergers or was simply very introverted… and I felt trapped and broken that this was my mate and my fate. We suffered and struggled for 20 years, and with 2 gorgeous kids. We are seperated 3 years after an unnacceptable outburst by him that was a trend of pent up pains that he suppressed “inflicted” by my utter exasperation with who he is and how he functioned. we both came with baggage… Both victims and abusers in a convuluted way… I didnt love him and stayed for multidues of unhealthy reasons. mostly fear…we tried hard…and my kids sstill suffered the
abuse of Tension and unhappiness…that is enough… one doesnt need to have traumatic experiences. lack of genuine love and frustration and tension is enough to cause damage.
i now suffer a different dance. When I am happy, centered and thriving,, my kids are with me. I feel guilty and sorry for my husband. when my kids arent with me,,i suffer from feeling lost, lonely and guilty.. all repetitive, all historic…. all outgrowing…….
i have many friends. too many mothers, need abnormal amount of connection . which i recieve. I express and emote and connect to people authentically. In inimate relationships I seem to have been unable to accept imperfection and have been perpetually unhappy ( with myself) and have chosen men and couldn’t commit and build a life together….Since high school i do healing work: cranial work and emotional release, tai chi classes and am grateful since I am young i have been helping people. I used to feel the contradiciton of my emotional life with my professional life more painfully. now at an older age,.I see it is all a healing…. of myself and others.
I am emerging healthier.. it is a lifetime struggle to be a person… a healthy emotional person
I would love to have compassion for my husband, with lack of guilt. Allowing to be in my power and praying for his and others healing
i dream of having a real and healthy relationship.

I work on being “un codependent with my kids”, my X, friends. Trying not to manipule life so it goes my way… which it doesnt….I try to be a simple a person connected to myself and trying not make deisions based on others needs and reactions. I pray my kids are emotionally healthy….I work so hard to free them of my nuerotic stuff so they can be free living healthy boys.. is crazy hard.I do breathwork no among a multitude of healtings. ,,amaaing work.
questions: I need interactive drama to play our scenarios I learn best by real role models and experienceing the feeling of what Healthy feels like… intellectual stuff isn’t hard for me it doesnt usually translate to real life and real emotions and life stories.
any suggestions. any referrals….
I keep going, growing learning and healing,… the journey is sometimes devastating and sometimes joyous…
Searching for the next step.
Thanks for listening..with gratitude- Sofia


It Feels Familiar

If the connection between abuse and "love" is made early in life, the feelings of shame and anger, which naturally happen as a consequence of the abuse, can become mixed up with sexual feelings, leading to confusion in the person who experienced the abuse. These feelings may become interpreted as feelings of love and passion, and can lead to sexual arousal.

People who have been abused may not realize other, healthier, ways of feeling in relationships are possible.

They believe they are attracted to or feeling love for their abuser, sometimes even thinking they have a special connection to the abuser, as it taps into feelings of intimacy associated with the abuse, that were imprinted at a very early ago. So when they are later abused in an intimate relationship, they perceive the familiar feelings of shame and anger as love and passion.


Always shouldering blame

Along with sidelining their own needs, victims of narcissistic abuse are forced to shoulder the blame when things go wrong or their abusers make a mistake. In the narcissist’s world, they can do no wrong. Whether they make a genuine mistake, or are just faced with the natural challenges of life, they shift the blame to their partner. The victim is then forcedto internalize this blame in order to keep their abuser happy, or keep their relationship “alive”. It becomes a pattern, and one that can follow the victim even after the abuse has ended.


Gaslighting FAQ’s

Common questions about the term gaslighting and gaslighting abuse.

What are the signs of gaslighting or gaslighting techniques I should be cautious of?

Questioning their memory, emotional stability and/or competence. Bringing in a third party/the triangulation maneuver. Triangulation (in the context of gaslighting) can be used to confirm the abuser’s version of reality and shame you into believing that you truly are alone in your beliefs and perceptions.

Can gaslighting at work occur?

What is a “parent child relationship”?

A parent-child relationship is when one adult is treating the other with a lesser than intelligence or demeanor in hopes of educating them to a higher caliber or replicating a feeling of what’s missing from their childhood. Many psychologists believe that the relationships between parents and children are very important in determining who we become and how we relate to others and the world.

Can gaslighting happen in romantic relationships?

Absolutely. Gaslighting in relationships is quite common.

Is gaslighting a form of domestic abuse?

It should be. But it is not considered “domestic abuse” according to laws.

What is the perception of the person who is gaslighting people?

They are living in an altered reality that may be hard for you to comprehend. The warning signs of gaslighting are the following. Questioning their memory, emotional stability and/or competence. Bringing in a third party/the triangulation maneuver. Triangulation (in the context of gaslighting) can be used to confirm the abuser’s version of reality and shame you into believing that you truly are alone in your beliefs and perceptions. These are considered red flags.

Is gaslighting considered a form of psychological manipulation?

A Note About Gaslighting on a Societal Level

Gaslighting can also take place in contexts outside of intimate relationships. It can occur in the workplace, in family units, in schools, in politics, in cults and in society as a whole. Society often gaslights women, for example, by depicting them as “overemotional,” “unhinged” or “crazy” when they dare to be anything less than demure and submissive or when they ‘dare’ to be enraged about the way they’re being treated.

Society also routinely gaslights survivors of abuse or assault by interrogating them about their behavior and minimizing the impact of what they experienced. Politicians, lawmakers and court systems can dismiss the impact of emotional abuse by allowing it to fall under the convenient umbrella of “nonviolence” while setting the perpetrators free to commit more crimes that will never be prosecuted under a court of law.

Those who benefit from an enormous amount of privilege can condemn those more marginalized when they speak out about social injustices like racism, sexism and ableism because it threatens their positions of power and control. They may call those who fight for justice “divisive” or “hateful” simply because they’re calling out bigotry, prejudice or unjust laws. Institutions may “gaslight” disadvantaged populations any time they wish to maintain that power by shifting the focus onto the behavior of marginalized people rather than examining what they can do to better support these populations.

There are many ways and contexts where we experience gaslighting and it is not just restricted to an abusive relationship. It is up to us as individuals and as a larger society to tackle gaslighting when we see it. Whether it is done with malicious intent or unwitting naiveté, gaslighting bears dangerous consequences when it goes unchallenged. Gaslighting has the power to shape and rewrite our reality. It’s about time we take back the narrative and hold fast to the truth – unapologetically owning our stories as we do so.

Shahida Arabi is the author of Power: Surviving and Thriving After Narcissistic Abuse.

To learn more about gaslighting and covert emotional abuse, be sure to also check out:

In Sheep’s Clothing: Understanding and Dealing With Manipulative People by Dr. George Simon

The Gaslight Effect: How to Spot the Hidden Manipulation Others Use to Control Your Life by Dr. Robin Stern

The Sociopath Next Door by Dr. Martha Stout

Psychopath Free by Jackson MacKenzie

Should I Stay or Should I Go?: Surviving a Relationship With a Narcissist by Dr. Ramani Durvasula

Works Cited
Begg, I. M., Anas, A., & Farinacci, S. (1992). Dissociation of processes in belief: Source recollection, statement familiarity, and the illusion of truth. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 121(4), 446-458. doi:10.1037/0096-3445.121.4.446
Carnes, P. (2015). Betrayal Bond: Breaking Free of Exploitive Relationships. Health Communications, Incorporated.
Dreyfuss, E. (2017, June 03). Want to Make a Lie Seem True? Say It Again. And Again. And Again. Retrieved November 7, 2017.
Durvasula, R. (2015). Should I Stay or Should I Go? Surviving a Relationship With a Narcissist. New York: Post Hill press.
Geraci, L., & Rajaram, S. (2006). The illusory truth effect: The distinctiveness effect in explicit and implicit memory. Distinctiveness and Memory, 210-234.
Hasher, L., Goldstein, D., & Toppino, T. (1977). Frequency and the conference of referential validity. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 16(1), 107-112. doi:10.1016/s0022-5371(77)80012-1
Leve, A. (2016, March 16). How to survive gaslighting: When manipulation erases your reality. Retrieved here November 5, 2017.
Sarkis, S. (2017, January 30). Are gaslighters aware of what they do? Retrieved here November 7, 2017.
Simon, G. (2017, August 26). Gaslighting Victims Question Their Sanity. Retrieved here November 5, 2017.
Staik, A. (2017). Narcissistic Abuse and the Symptoms of Narcissistic Abuse Syndrome. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 26, 2018.
Stern, R. (2007). The gaslight effect: How to spot and survive the hidden manipulations other people use to control your life. Morgan Road Books.
Van der Kolk, B. (2015). The body keeps the score: Brain, mind, and body in the healing of trauma. NY, NY: Penguin Books.
Walker, P. (2013). Complex PTSD: From surviving to thriving: A guide and map for recovering from childhood trauma. Lafayette, CA: Azure Coyote.
Warshaw, C., Lyon, E., Bland, P. J., Phillips, H., & Hooper, M. (2014). Mental Health and Substance Use Coercion Surveys. Report from the National Center on Domestic Violence, Trauma & Mental Health and the National Domestic Violence Hotline. National Center on Domestic Violence, Trauma and Mental Health. Retrieved here November 5, 2017.
Wolford-Clevenger, C., & Smith, P. N. (2017). The conditional indirect effects of suicide attempt history and psychiatric symptoms on the association between intimate partner violence and suicide ideation. Personality and Individual Differences, 106, 46-51. Retrieved here.

Get the best of Thought Catalog in your inbox.

Sign up for the Thought Catalog Weekly and get the best stories from the week to your inbox every Friday.

You may unsubscribe at any time. By subscribing, you agree to the terms of our Privacy Statement.

About the author

Learn more about Thought Catalog and our writers on our about page.

Related

3 Powerful Ways To Heal From The Toxic Triangulation Of Narcissists

20 Diversion Tactics Highly Manipulative Narcissists, Sociopaths And Psychopaths Use To Silence You

A Book For Those Recovering From Narcissistic Abuse…

Remember— highly manipulative people don’t respond to empathy or compassion. They respond to consequences.

“I rarely write reviews but I’m so impressed by this book, I can’t recommend it enough for anyone who has suffered abuse by a narcissist or is trying to get out of an abusive relationship now. You deserve the best and more… so I strongly encourage you to get this book!” — Michelle Spurling

“This book was life changing. It completely validated everything from my experiences (suicide, anxiety, depression, “neediness”, literally everything). It took every detail from my past struggles and validated and helped make sense of everything. It’s like I was reading my own biography.” — Drew Rod


6 Reasons Why People Are Bullied at Work

Amy Morin, LCSW, is the Editor-in-Chief of Verywell Mind. She's also a psychotherapist, the author of the bestselling book ൕ Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do," and the host of The Verywell Mind Podcast.

Every day, employees are abused and bullied at work. In fact, the issue of workplace bullying affects nearly one-fifth of all employees at some point during their careers, or 60.3 million Americans every year, according to the Workplace Bullying Institute.  

If you have experienced workplace bullying, you may ask yourself “why me?” Here are some common reasons why people become targets of workplace bullies.


Well-founded personal reflections …

I will never forget my personal frustration with this whole incredible societal problem from my own case. I'll give you examples, but understand my case was not unique, and it happens everyday to countless victims:

When I reported his harassment and stalking, police and legal authorities said, "well, he may be threatening, but until he does something we can't do anything". Hello! - threatening and stalking are the first step in "doing something" by the abuser! I remember the sinking realization that I might have to be dead before anything got done.

The general public hasn't got a clue. This still amazes me. People I talked with while going through this horrible ordeal had no idea what domestic violence is and the cycle it involves. Even myself, an abuse victim for many years, was shocked and surprised to read how much that relationship had in common with the cycle of abuse. I found myself thinking, "It's so plain and clear, why haven't I ever seen this before?" Like most people today, I was educated and knowledgeable about many things, but not about domestic violence.

When my abuser continuously attacked, stalked, and harassed me, my family said, "Move! Move!" Well, it seemed to me that I couldn't! For as little as the legal system seemed to offer, at least I had some concerned neighbors and a police system that knew about the case. At least they could identify him, call police (neighbors) or "add it to the list" (in the case of police reports). Do you know how hard it is to bring evidence of domestic violence across State lines? I know, because I had to do it - plain and simple, it was nearly an insurmountable task. And worse, if I moved, it meant my family were sitting ducks! Once he couldn't find me, there was no doubt he would escalate violence against them. I certainly didn't want that!


Why Abusers Isolate Their Victims

Over the weeks, months, and years victims of domestic abuse tend to see most of their important relationships fall by the wayside. They become increasingly isolated from friends and family until one day, seemingly out of the blue, they find themselves on an island with few if any close human connections outside of their immediate nuclear families.

Abusers are happy to use the carrot or the stick to achieve this result. They’re especially happy if their victims believe their increasing separation from friends and family is their own choice or their own fault. But it’s the abusers pulling the strings, the abusers prompting this separation to come to pass. The reason why abusers isolate their victims from friends and family is that abuse is about control and victims are more easily controlled in mind and body when they don’t have trusted confidants to turn to.

Quite aside from threats, intimidation, and other aversive strategies control is predicated upon the belief in the controlee that the controller’s worldview represents objective reality. In a closed system this trick is more easily accomplished since in a closed system there aren’t any dissenting voices to present alternative points of view. The abuser’s word becomes law, as it were, and this law acts as the foundation upon which an unhealthy, dysfunctional state of affairs can be passed off as healthy and functional. Abusive behavior becomes normal behavior and the victim falls further and further under the abuser’s thumb.

The last thing an abuser wants is concerned, caring people in the victim’s corner. People who know the difference between healthy and unhealthy family environments might muck up the desired abusive state of affairs by calling a spade a spade, by casting doubt upon the supposed objective veracity of the abuser’s dictates and worldview. So again the best way to insure that control is maintained is to simply cut off all those relationships and that’s what the isolation a victim of abuse experiences is all about.


It Feels Familiar

If the connection between abuse and "love" is made early in life, the feelings of shame and anger, which naturally happen as a consequence of the abuse, can become mixed up with sexual feelings, leading to confusion in the person who experienced the abuse. These feelings may become interpreted as feelings of love and passion, and can lead to sexual arousal.

People who have been abused may not realize other, healthier, ways of feeling in relationships are possible.

They believe they are attracted to or feeling love for their abuser, sometimes even thinking they have a special connection to the abuser, as it taps into feelings of intimacy associated with the abuse, that were imprinted at a very early ago. So when they are later abused in an intimate relationship, they perceive the familiar feelings of shame and anger as love and passion.


Contents

Institutional abuse which is also known as organizational abuse, [16] is the maltreatment of a person (often children or older adults) from a system of power. [17] This can range from acts similar to home-based child abuse, such as neglect, physical and sexual abuse, and starvation, to the effects of assistance programs working below acceptable service standards, or relying on harsh or unfair ways to modify behavior. [17] Institutional abuse can take many different forms, some of them very small. An example of a small instance is insisting that the person in their care eat their meal or have their snack at the same time everyday, even when they do not want to.

Forms of Institutional abuse [16]

  • improper use of power
  • improper use of control
  • improper use of restraints
  • Taking away choices
  • Lack of personal possessions (clothing, items, trinkets, etc.)
  • No flexibility with schedules, particularly at bed time
  • financial abuse
  • physical abuse
  • verbal abuse
  • psychological abuse

Signs of Institutional abuse [16]

  • an unhygienic environment
  • an unsafe environment
  • rigid schedule
  • No privacy, respect, or dignity as a person
  • isolating from family and community
  • Lack of choices with food, activities, etc.
  • absence of respect for religion, cultural background, or beliefs
  • treating adults as children, particularly in small insignificant decisions

In England and Wales, Section 76 of the Serious Crime Act 2015 created a criminal offence for controlling or coercive behavior in an intimate or family relationship. [18] [19] For the purposes of this offence, behaviour must be engaged in "repeatedly" or "continuously". Another, separate, element of the offence is that it must have a "serious effect" on someone and one way of proving this is that it causes someone to fear, on at least two occasions, that violence will be used against them. There is no specific requirement in the Act that the activity should be of the same nature. The prosecution should be able to show that there was intent to control or coerce someone. [20] For relevant behaviour, it has been criminalised in section 77 of the Serious Crime Act 2015. [21] In 2018, Jordan Worth became the first woman to be convicted under this new law.

In the United States, to assist in preventing and stopping domestic violence with children, there have been laws put into place to mandate report in specific professions, such as teacher, doctor, or care provider, any suspected abuse happening in the home. [22]

According to anti-bullying author and activist Tim Field, bullies are attracted to the caring professions, such as medicine, by the opportunities to exercise power over vulnerable clients, and over vulnerable employees and students. [23]

Background Edit

The power and control "wheel" was developed in 1982 by the Domestic Abuse Program in Minneapolis to explain the nature of abuse, to delineate the forms of abuse used to control another person, and to educate people with the goal of stopping violence and abuse. The model is used in many batterer intervention programs and is known as the Duluth model. [24] Power and control is generally present with violent physical and sexual abuse. [25]

Control development Edit

Often the abusers are initially attentive, charming, and loving, gaining the trust of the individual that will ultimately become the victim, also known as the survivor. When there is a connection and a degree of trust, the abusers become unusually involved in their partner's feelings, thoughts, and actions. [7] Next, they set petty rules and exhibit "pathological jealousy". A conditioning process begins with alternation of loving followed by abusive behavior. According to Counselling Survivors of Domestic Abuse, "These serve to confuse the survivor leading to potent conditioning processes that impact on the survivor's self-structure and cognitive schemas." The abuser projects responsibility for the abuse onto the victim, or survivor, and the denigration and negative projections become incorporated into the survivor's self-image. [7] Control is the defining aspect of an abusive relationship. Catherine Hodes argues that while conflict is often found in these relationships, it is not the defining factor of abuse. Instead, an emphasis of power dynamics in domestic relationships is suggested to be the principle indicator. [26]

Traumatic bonding occurs as the result of ongoing cycles of abuse in which the intermittent reinforcement of reward and punishment creates powerful emotional bonds that are resistant to change. [7]

Gain trust Overinvolvement Petty rules and jealousy Manipulation, power, and control Traumatic bonding
The potential abuser is attentive, loving, charming The abuser becomes overly involved in the daily life and use of time Rules begin to be inserted to begin control of the relationship. Jealousy is considered by the abuser to be "an act of love" The victim is blamed for the abuser's behavior and becomes coerced and manipulated Ongoing cycles of abuse can lead to traumatic bonding

Tactics Edit

Controlling abusers use multiple tactics to exert power and control over their partners. According to Jill Cory and Karen McAndless-Davis, authors of When Love Hurts: A Woman's Guide to Understanding Abuse in Relationships: Each of the tactics within the power and control wheel are used to "maintain power and control in the relationship. No matter what tactics your partner uses, the effect is to control and intimidate you or to influence you to feel that you do not have an equal voice in the relationship." [3]

Coercion and threats Edit

A tool for exerting control and power is the use of threats and coercion. The victim may be subject to threats that they will be left, hurt, or reported to welfare. The abuser may threaten that they will commit suicide. They may also coerce them to perform illegal actions or to drop charges that they may have against their abuser. [29] Strangulation, a particularly pernicious abusive behavior in which the abuser literally has the victim's life in his hands, is an extreme form of abusive control. Sorenson and colleagues have called strangulation the domestic violence equivalent of waterboarding, which is widely considered to be a form of torture. [30]

At its most effective, the abuser creates intimidation and fear through unpredictable and inconsistent behavior. [7] Absolute control may be sought by any of four types of sadists: explosive, enforcing, tyrannical, or spineless sadists. The victims are at risk of anxiety, dissociation, depression, shame, low self-esteem, and suicidal ideation. [31]

Intimidation Edit

Abused individuals may be intimidated by the brandishing of weapons, destruction of their property or other things, or use of gestures or looks to create fear. [29] For example, threatening to use a gun or simply displaying the weapon is a form of intimidation and coercive control. [32]

Economic abuse Edit

An effective means of ensuring control and power over another is to control their access to money. One method is to prevent the victim from getting or retaining a job. Controlling their access to money can also be done by withholding information and access to family income, taking their money, requiring the person to ask for money, giving them an allowance, or filing a power of attorney or conservatorship, particularly in the case of economic abuse of the elderly. [29]

Emotional abuse Edit

Emotional abuse includes name-calling, playing mind games, putting the victim down, blaming the victim, insulting, stalking, ignoring, discounting their feelings and experiences, [33] online harassment, isolating and controlling, [34] or humiliating the individual, private or personal. The goals are to make the person feel badly about themselves, feel guilt, or think that they are crazy. [29] Eventually the victim loses their sense of self worth, self confidence, the trust of their own thoughts and feelings, and who they are as a person. [33] Various studies done by psychologists, such as Angela Kent and Glenn Waller, as well as Hart and Bassard, have found more connections between emotional abuse in childhood being carried into adulthood in professional and personal lives. [35]

Isolation Edit

Another element of psychological control is the isolation of the victim from the outside world. [25] Isolation includes controlling a person's social activity: who they see, who they talk to, where they go, and any other method to limit their access to others. It may also include limiting what material is read. [29] It can include insisting on knowing where they are and requiring permission for medical care. The abuser exhibits hypersensitive and reactive jealousy. [25]

Minimizing, denying, and blaming Edit

The abuser may deny the abuse occurred in order to attempt to place the responsibility for their behavior on the victim. Minimizing concerns or the degree of the abuse is another aspect of this control. [29] They will sometimes tell them that they are too sensitive, it's not that big of a deal, or anything along these lines to minimise the feelings and experiences of the victim. The abuser also tends to blame the victim for the problems in the relationship.

Using children and pets Edit

Children may be used to exert control by the abuser threatening to take the children or making them feel guilty about the children. It could include harassing them during visitation or using the children to relay messages. Another controlling tactic is abusing pets. [29]

Using privilege Edit

Using "privilege" means that the abuser defines the roles in the relationship, makes the important decisions, treats the individual like a servant, and acts like the "master of the castle". [29]

Zersetzung Edit

The practice of repression in Zersetzung comprised extensive and secret methods of control and psychological manipulation, including personal relationships of the target, for which the Stasi relied upon its network of informal collaborators, [36] (in German inoffizielle Mitarbeiter or IM), the state's power over institutions, and on operational psychology. Using targeted psychological attacks the Stasi tried to deprive a dissident of any chance of a "hostile action".

The main objective for one type of serial killer is to gain and exert power over their victim. Such killers are sometimes abused as children, leaving them with feelings of powerlessness and inadequacy as adults. [37] Many power or control-motivated killers sexually abuse their victims, but they differ from hedonistic killers in that rape is not motivated by lust (as it would be with a lust murder), but as simply another form of dominating the victim. [38] (See article causes of sexual violence for the differences regarding anger rape, power rape, and sadistic rape.) Ted Bundy is an example of a power/control-oriented serial killer.

A power and control model has been developed for the workplace, divided into the following categories: [39]

  • overt actions
  • covert actions
  • emotional control
  • isolation
  • economic control
  • tactics
  • restriction
  • management privilege

Workplace psychopaths Edit

The authors of the book Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go to Work describe a five-phase model of how a typical workplace psychopath climbs to and maintains power: [40]

  1. Entry – psychopath will use highly developed social skills and charm to obtain employment into an organisation. At this stage it will be difficult to spot anything that is indicative of psychopathic behaviour, and as a new employee one might perceive the psychopath to be helpful and even benevolent.
  2. Assessment – psychopath will weigh one up according to one's usefulness, and one could be recognised as either a pawn (who has some informal influence and will be easily manipulated) or a patron (who has formal power and will be used by the psychopath for protection against attacks)
  3. Manipulation – psychopath will create a scenario of "psychopathic fiction" where positive information about themselves and negative disinformation about others will be created, where one's role as a part of a network of pawns or patrons will be used and one will be groomed into accepting the psychopath's agenda.
  4. Confrontation – the psychopath will use techniques of character assassination to maintain an agenda, and one will be either discarded as a pawn or used as a patron
  5. Ascension – one's role as a patron in the psychopath's quest for power will be discarded, and the psychopath will usurp a position of power and prestige from anyone who once supported them.

In the study of personality psychology, certain personality disorders display characteristics involving the need to gain compliance or control over others: [41]

  • Individuals with antisocial personality disorder tend to display a superficial charm that helps to disarm others, giving a good likable first impression. If someone likes another person, they're much more apt to comply with them. Because they lack empathy, they see other people as instruments and pawns. The effects of this lack of empathy essentially gives them a grandiose sense of self-worth. Due to their callous and unemotional traits, they are well suited to con and/or manipulate others into complying with their wishes.
  • Individuals with borderline personality disorder tend to display black-and-white thinking and are sensitive to others attitudes toward them. Being so averse to rejection may give them motivation to gain compliance in order to control perceptions of others.
  • Individuals with histrionic personality disorder need to be the center of attention and in turn, draw people in so they may use (and eventually dispose of) their relationship.
  • Individuals with narcissistic personality disorder have an inflated self-importance, hypersensitivity to criticism and a sense of entitlement that compels them to persuade others to comply with their requests. To maintain their self-esteem, and protect their vulnerable true selves, narcissists need to control the behavior of others – particularly that of their children seen as extensions of themselves. [42]
  • Individuals with sadistic personality disorder derive pleasure from the distress caused by their aggressive, demeaning, and cruel behavior toward others. They have poor ability to control their reactions and become enraged by minor disturbances, with some sadists being more severely abusive. They use a wide range of behaviors to inappropriately control others, ranging from hostile glances, threats, humiliation, coercion, and restricting the autonomy of others. Often the purpose of their behavior is to control and intimidate others. [43] The sadistic individuals are likely rigid in their beliefs, intolerant of other races or other "out-groups", authoritarian, and malevolent. They may seek positions in which they are able to exert power over others, such as a judge, armysergeant, or psychiatrist who misuse their positions of power to control or brutalize others. For instance, a psychiatrist may institutionalize a patient by misusing mental health legislation. [43]

Braiker identified the following ways that manipulators control their victims: [4]

    : includes praise, superficial charm, superficial sympathy (crocodile tears), excessive apologizing, money, approval, gifts, attention, facial expressions such as a forced laugh or smile, and public recognition. : involves removing one from a negative situation as a reward, e.g. "You won't have to do your homework if you allow me to do this to you." : Partial or intermittent negative reinforcement can create an effective climate of fear and doubt. Partial or intermittent positive reinforcement can encourage the victim to persist. : includes nagging, yelling, the silent treatment, intimidation, threats, swearing, emotional blackmail, the guilt trip, sulking, crying, and playing the victim.
  • Traumatic one-trial learning: using verbal abuse, explosive anger, or other intimidating behavior to establish dominance or superiority even one incident of such behavior can condition or train victims to avoid upsetting, confronting, or contradicting the manipulator.

Since the Technological Revolution, online communities have expanded, along with it, online psychological manipulation. Algorithms are being made to detect key phrases, words, images, or "gifs" that contribute to psychological manipulation happening in social media and within online communities. [44]

  • a strong need to attain feelings of power and superiority in relationships with others
  • a want and need to feel in control
  • a desire to gain a feeling of power over others in order to raise their perception of self-esteem.

Emotional blackmail Edit

Emotional blackmail is a term coined by psychotherapist Susan Forward, about controlling people in relationships and the theory that fear, obligation, and guilt (FOG) are the transactional dynamics at play between the controller and the person being controlled. Understanding these dynamics is useful to anyone trying to extricate themselves from the controlling behavior of another person, and deal with their own compulsions to do things that are uncomfortable, undesirable, burdensome, or self-sacrificing for others. [45]

Forward and Frazier identify four blackmail types each with their own mental manipulation style: [46]

Type Examples
Punisher's threat Eat the food I cooked for you or I'll hurt you.
Self-punisher's threat Eat the food I cooked for you or I'll hurt myself.
Sufferer's threat Eat the food I cooked for you. I was saving it for myself. I wonder what will happen now?
Tantalizer's threat Eat the food I cooked for you and you just may get a really yummy dessert.

There are different levels of demands – demands that are of little consequence, demands that involve important issues or personal integrity, demands that affect major life decisions, and/or demands that are dangerous or illegal. [45]

Silent treatment Edit

The silent treatment is sometimes used as a control mechanism. When so used, it constitutes a passive-aggressive action characterized by the coupling of nonverbal, but nonetheless unambiguous indications of the presence of negative emotion, with the refusal to discuss the scenario triggering those emotions and, when the source of those emotions is unclear to the other party, occasionally the refusal to clarify it or even to identify that source at all. As a result, the perpetrator of the silent treatment denies the victim both the opportunity to negotiate an after-the-fact settlement of the grievance in question and the ability to modify one's future behavior to avoid giving further offense. In especially severe cases, even if the victim gives in and accedes to the perpetrator's initial demands, the perpetrator may continue the silent treatment so as to deny the victim feedback indicating that those demands have been satisfied. The silent treatment thereby enables its perpetrator to cause hurt, obtain ongoing attention in the form of repeated attempts by the victim to restore dialogue, maintain a position of power through creating uncertainty over how long the verbal silence and associated impossibility of resolution will last, and derive the satisfaction that the perpetrator associates with each of these consequences. [47]

Love bombing Edit

The expression has been used to describe the tactics used by pimps and gang members to control their victims, [48] as well as to describe the behavior of an abusive narcissist who tries to win the confidence of a victim. [49] [50] In 2016, Claire Strutzenberg performed a study researching "love bombing" within the young adult age group 18 to 30 at college. She found in this study that this age group tended to communicate regularly at the start of the relationship, but as the relationship went on, one of the partners tended to passively push more toward being more dominant over the other partner gradually working toward "love bombing." [51]

Mind games Edit

One sense of mind games is a largely conscious struggle for psychological one-upmanship, often employing passive–aggressive behavior to specifically demoralize or dis-empower the thinking subject, making the aggressor look superior also referred to as "power games". [52]

In intimate relationships, mind games can be used to undermine one partner's belief in the validity of their own perceptions, [53] often referred to as 'gaslighting'. Personal experience may be denied and driven from memory [54] and such abusive mind games may extend to denial of the victim's reality, social undermining, and the trivializing of what is felt to be important. [55] Both sexes have equal opportunities for such verbal coercion, [56] which may be carried out unconsciously as a result of the need to maintain one's own self-deception. [57]

Divide and conquer Edit

A primary strategy the narcissist uses to assert control, particularly within their family, is to create divisions among individuals. This weakens and isolates each of them, making it easier for the narcissist to manipulate and dominate. Some are favoured, others are scapegoated. Such dynamics can play out in a workplace setting. [58]

The use of coercion by perpetrators and traffickers involves the use of extreme control. Perpetrators expose the victim to high amounts of psychological stress induced by threats, fear, and physical and emotional violence. Tactics of coercion are reportedly used in three phases of trafficking: recruitment, initiation, and indoctrination. [59] During the initiation phase, traffickers use foot-in-the-door techniques of persuasion to lead their victims into various trafficking industries. This manipulation creates an environment where the victim becomes completely dependent upon the authority of the trafficker. [59] Traffickers take advantage of family dysfunction, homelessness, and history of childhood abuse to psychologically manipulate women and children into the trafficking industry. [60]

The goal of a trafficker is to turn a human being into a slave. To do this, perpetrators employ tactics that can lead to the psychological consequence of learned helplessness for the victims, where they sense that they no longer have any autonomy or control over their lives. [60] Traffickers may hold their victims captive, expose them to large amounts of alcohol or use drugs, keep them in isolation, or withhold food or sleep. [60] During this time the victim often begins to feel the onset of depression, guilt and self-blame, anger and rage, and sleep disturbances, PTSD, numbing, and extreme stress. Under these pressures, the victim can fall into the hopeless mental state of learned helplessness. [59] [61] [62]

Children are especially vulnerable to these developmental and psychological consequences of trafficking because they are so young. In order to gain complete control of the child, traffickers often destroy physical and mental health of the children through persistent physical and emotional abuse. [63] Stockholm syndrome is also a common problem for girls while they are trafficked, which can hinder them from both trying to escape, and moving forward in psychological recovery programs. [64]

Oppression is the exercise of authority or power in a burdensome, cruel, or unjust manner. [65]


Always shouldering blame

Along with sidelining their own needs, victims of narcissistic abuse are forced to shoulder the blame when things go wrong or their abusers make a mistake. In the narcissist’s world, they can do no wrong. Whether they make a genuine mistake, or are just faced with the natural challenges of life, they shift the blame to their partner. The victim is then forcedto internalize this blame in order to keep their abuser happy, or keep their relationship “alive”. It becomes a pattern, and one that can follow the victim even after the abuse has ended.


The Victim Mentality – What It Is and Why You Use It

Last reviewed by Sheri Jacobson April 26, 2016 Counselling, Self Esteem 40 Comments -->

What is a ‘Victim Mentality’?

Having a a ‘victim mentality’ means you blame your challenges in life on others around you, even if you can’t prove their negative actions.

You might also blame many things on circumstances, which you see as always unfair.

Being a Victim vs Self Pity vs Victim Mentality

Bad things can happen in life. You might be the victim of a crime, such as fraud or even 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 erroneous thinking.

It’s also perfectly normal to feel sorry for yourself every once in a while, or feel powerless in the face of a challenge like a bereavement or divorce .

But if you have a victim mentality, you will see your entire life through a perspective that things constantly happen ‘to’ you. Victimisation is thus a combination of seeing most things in life as negative, beyond your control, and as something you should be given sympathy for experiencing as you ‘deserve’ better. At its heart, a victim mentality is actually a way to avoid taking any responsibility for yourself or your life. By believing you have no power then you don’t have to take action.

A healthy person, on the other hand, recognises that beyond random bad occurrences, many things in life happen because of choices they themselves made, and that they have power to choose differently. And they understand that when misfortune does happen, it is nothing to do with personal value or ‘deserving’ or ‘not deserving’.

[Not sure you do or don’t have a victim mentality? Sign up for alerts so you don’t miss our upcoming connected piece, ‘How to Tell if You Have a Victim Mentality’].

Why would I choose to always be a victim?

Constantly acting a victim can actually have a lot of perks. These can look like the following:

  • you don’t have take responsibility for things
  • you have the ‘right’ to complain and receive attention
  • others feel sorry for you and give you attention
  • people are less likely to criticise or upset you
  • others feel compelled to help you and do what you ask for
  • you can tell stories about the things that happened to you and seem interesting
  • there is no time to be bored because there is so much drama in your life
  • you can avoid ever feeling anger as you are too busy being sad and upset.

If you look at the above statements, you might already see the pattern of what the true benefits of being a victim can be. They are:

  1. attention,
  2. feeling valued,
  3. power.

The Secret Power Behind Being a Victim

Surprised that playing the victim gives you power, because you’ve convinced yourself that your life is so awful you have no power at all? This is what a victim tells his or herself.

But having others feel sorry for you can easily be a way to manipulate them into meeting your needs and wants. This can be something small, like someone always going to the shops for you, or can be deeper and more insidious, such as meaning your ‘poor me’ act leaves another forced to treat you nicely and never yell at you, or to not leave you even if they feel they should.

An example of victimhood as a form of power is a codependent relationship , such as the one between an alcoholic and their partner. The ‘caregiver’ can play a victim, putting up with the alcoholic’s terrible behaviour and sacrificing their own needs to care for them, only to one day use guilt, complaints, and ‘poor me’ tirades to then attempt to control the alcoholic.

On a darker note, the role of victim can also be a common way for abusers to take power, called ‘playing the victim’ in psychology. A less unconscious form of victimhood, this can look like an abuser who constantly puts their partner down then fixates on the one time the abused party snapped back and called them a monster, making out that they are in fact the ‘attacked’ one. Or an abuser will say that it’s not their fault they hit the other person when that person is so annoying and stupid and they have to ‘put up with them’. In this way an abuser uses the ‘poor me’ mentality to defend their sociopathic behaviour.

Why am I the sort of person who plays the victim?

What makes you more likely to be the sort that lives your life from a victim mentality?

Like most behavioural patterns, a victim mentality is a learned behaviour that can be traced back to childhood.

You could have learned to play victim because you watched the adults around you doing so. It your mother or father, for example, always felt the world was out to get them and complained daily about all the people who wronged them, you would take on board this was the way to gain personal power and attention.

It’s possible you had a codependent relationship with one of your parents. You would have felt responsible for their wellbeing, either taking care of a sick (mentally or physically) parent, or being led to believe you are in charge of their happiness. The message a child can take on here is that not only do you have to ‘earn’ love, but that if you are sick or weak others take care of you. Both can lead to patterns of victimisation as an adult.

Or, you might have learned to be a victim because it was a way to survive your childhood. As a child, we all require attention and love, and if it’s not offered freely by our caregivers, we are left to find ways to receive it. Perhaps, in your family home, the only way to receive attention and care was to be sick, or to act weak, or to allow bad things to happen to you.

Many people who live life from a victim mentality were sufferers of abuse as a childhood. This is often sexual abuse . The helplessness a child feels, combined with the deep shame abuse causes, can mean you grow into an adult who has no self-esteem and who sees the world as a dangerous place they are lost in.

What should I do if I recognise that I suffer from victimisation?

On a good note, because a victim mentality is a learned behaviour, you can indeed ‘unlearn’ it.

It is, however, a process which takes time and can be quite intense, especially if it is connected to childhood trauma like abuse or neglect.

And dealing with victimisation means you must then face the anger , sadness, shame and fear that playing the victim protects and hides you from.

It is therefore recommended to seek support when dealing with facing your victim mentality. A trained and experienced counsellor or psychotherapist can create a safe, non-judgemental space for you to explore why you act a victim, and what childhood events led to such behaviour as an adult. They will then help you learn new ways of thinking and seeing the world that are more helpful to you.

Do you have a question about victim mentality? Ask below, we love hearing from you.

Related Posts

Im concerned for my son. How can i get the right help for him.

It’s important to tell someone you feel they need help in the right way or they can move further away from you and other support. We’ve written a great article about letting a loved one know they might need help – read it here https://www.harleytherapy.co.uk/counselling/tell-friend-loved-one-need-counselling.htm

Omg. I had no idea what I was doing. Yes, I’ve had unfortunate things happen to me but I realize bad choices and just plain lack of knowledge! Thanks soo much. This the nicest way I’ve encountered of setting a victim straight!

janette
I’m in a relationship with a sex addict. He says the things he did aren’t so bad they could of been worse. He minimizes what he did. He says my grief and anger are wrong. I’m not allowed to talk about how I feel and work through my emotions. He uses gas lighting techniques to control situations. And make it seem like I am unstable. I think I have gotten stuck in a victim mentality. And can’t seem to figure out how to have a voice and explain what has happened to me without coming across as a victim. I have been victimized. I want that to be validated by my husband. Which he refuses to do. Or is just simply unable to do. I spent 5 weeks away from him. Now I’m back. And had my old feelings of being controlled and having to do everything according to his timing his way. I’m supper anxious. How do I deal with this in an emotionally healthy way.

Hi Janette, thanks for sharing this. The thing with relationships is that they are two ways, so you both need to want to work in the same direction. Without knowing you or your husband, or exactly the details of what has happened, we can’t say what direction that is. But if you have a lot of sadness and anger and feel lost, are developing anxiety, and feel unable to leave a situation that is making you unhappy, then it is definitely a good idea to seek support. Would you consider counselling?

I just wanted to say that it’s nice that you guys take what other people judge and rather than judging, you guys try to help people get out of the unhealthy thinking pattern instead. Unfortunately for me, the victim mentality or being a hero are seemingly the only two ways I really know how to get close to people and make friends, but it’s definitely something I’m working on

Thanks for this. We do try to help! It sounds like you have real clarity on what you are dealing with which is good and means you are already on your way forward (even if if it doesn’t always feel like it, personal growth can so often feel circular!). Victim/hero can be a tough pattern, often coming from ways of relating learned as a child. For example, if your parents rewarded you for being ‘good/strong/quiet’ but you didn’t feel loved and accepted on days you were sad or upset, and of course if a parent was not well mentally/physically and as a child you were a caretaker. If you are finding it really hard to breakthrough, this issue is more than enough to seek counselling over, should you so desire. While progress can be made with self help books and research (Codependent No More is a classic and worth reading although you might have already), support makes the process way faster. We wish you courage!

My husband suffers from victim mentality and it’s draining me so much that the thoughts of leaving him flow through my mind almost daily. We have a child together so I rather try to fix the situation before I choose to leave but he refuses counseling and ignores me when I try to help. My concerns are that our daughter will develop this mentality or that he may snap one day and hurt someone. Can you make any suggestions??

I think the victim mentality fits my younger sister. I’m borderline. How can I help her realize she is walling herself up inside a victim mindset and not come across like I am picking on her? She is raw. She cannot afford counseling. If I bought her a book to work through she would turn her back on me for months, even years. I would be the monster and this will make me feel rejected.

Unfortunately we can’t make someone go to therapy or change. The only person we have power over is ourselves. This can feel really hard when a child is involved and our dream of a happy family unit is feeling a nightmare. But what would happen if you took the focus off of all that is wrong with your husband and put your focus and energy on you? What is there to find there? What has led you be in this relationship in the first place, for example? What is keeping you there, beyond having a child? There feels to be a lot more going on here, and it’s to do with you, not your husband. Hope that helps.

Hi Mary, thanks for sharing. Unfortunately you can’t change the way someone thinks or feels, they have to decide they want to change. Really we can only accept people as they are and take it from there. And the only actions we can change our our own. So the focus has to be on you, not your sister, otherwise it’s energy wasted. So you can only look at how you act and respond around her, and go from there. And if truly is borderline traits that are sabotaging your relationship with your sister, it’s a good idea to seek professional help. Schema therapy and dialectical behaviour therapy are two great therapies for BPD. Hope that helps.

Hello,
I am writing my own story about my cancer journey and what I’ve learned along the way. I would love to use your definition of a victim (specifically the first paragraph in italics on this website) in my chapter on the types of patients. Would you consider this request?
Thanks for the consideration. Jan

Hi Jan, if it’s for print, you can quote us and just attribute it to us. If your article is for online, we are generally okay with small amounts of our content being used as long as it is quoted and listed as from Harley Therapy, with a link back to the piece. Otherwise we do chase up people for duplicate content! Thanks, and good luck with writing your story.

I want to say I suffer from having a victim mentality. But in saying that does that make me looking more like a victim? I’ve gone to a lot of emotional mental and physical abuse as a child but the year the sexual abuse I feel is haunting me. I want to change and so many ways but I don’t know how. I’ve been in a relationship that in a couple days we will have been together for a year. It’s been a rough year he stuck by me and stuck through things with me that most would have ran for the hills for. I appreciate his insight but at the same time I despise it. He believes I could b a overt narcissist. A lot of Articles I’ve read about this topic says that narcissist can’t change. Particularly this kind of narcissist. If they can’t recognize it or take accountability. I have a lot of Errors of thinking in my mind and I really want to change what do I do?

First of all, it’s an opinion that some diagnosis makes someone unable to change, and not one we’d agree with. Second of all, it’s quite harsh that a partner is trying to diagnose you. Is he a psychiatrist? If not, how can he give a mental health diagnosis? Finally, if you were a covert narcissist, it’s unlikely you’d be googling trying to find help. We all have narcissist traits (traits being very different than narcissistic personality disorder) at times. It’s called being human. And if we have experienced trauma we can have these traits to protect our fear of being hurt again. As for saying you have the victim mentality, not at all. As what you are doing by recognising that is facing yourself and aiming to take back your power. What to do? Reach out for proper support. Sexual abuse leaves the best of us with misguided coping patterns that are simply too hard to break alone. A professional therapist will create a non judgemental space for you and they are not invested in your choices like your partner is, they only are invested in your improvement. Google for a therapist with experience with abuse survivors. If you are on a low budget, ask if they offer sliding scale. We wish you courage!

I still have no idea whether I have a victim mentality. My childhood was tough. I was regularly beaten and called names. I was constantly told my life was worthless. So I grew up, never learned to trust anybody. I never had any relationship. I developed crushes and was regularly heartbroken when my crushes fell for others. So, I blame my parents. I constantly suspected even my best friends and lost one friend after another. So, I blame my parents. I developed a habit of confessing some friends about my problems. They left, one after another. So, I blame my parents. Is that a victim mentality? I think yes.

But whatever happened, happened. I am a survivor, not a victim. I have a choice. I have a choice to tell my crushes how I feel about them. I have a choice to keep my unfounded suspensions to myself. I have a choice not to rant and annoy my friends with my endless problems. I always have a choice.

So far, it’s the best article I have read. Other articles show no compassion and try to blame the people with victim mentality, labeling them as “toxic” or whatever. Nobody does so deliberately. A little compassion goes a long way.

We are so glad to hear that this article was useful. That means a lot to us. When we read what you write, it sounds like there is a lot of intellectualising, like you have sorted it out in your head. But the thing about trauma is that it needs to be experienced, felt, not just understood intellectually. Otherwise we are left being really hard on ourselves, for understanding something but still not being able to be some perfect person we imagine we should be. Yes, you have choices now. But as children we don’t. And that child inside of us needs to have her misery, rage, and fear heard. You are not toxic. You are human and hurting from what we sense. We are not here to push therapy down anyone’s throat, but we just want to say that if you did have the courage to try, it does create a really safe container to let all those feelings out, without fear of being rejected or told you are toxic or annoying. A therapist understands that you are just hurting and processing and that you are actually a powerful, interesting person who just has some issues to work through. We wish you courage.

Could you tell me how to counsel a person with victim mindset?

Hi, really sorry but that’s a huge question and is too big of a generality for us to answer via comment. It depends on the person, the type of therapist/therapy, etc. Are you a student? We advise students to do their own thorough research.

I just read this article𔅿 years after it was written. In a recent session with my counselor, she told me she will help me get out of the victim mentality. It is good that we have a trusting relationship… Her “tough love” approach could very well be what I need.
I’m an ACoA admittedly codependent, who hit bottom about 10 years ago after a narcissistic injury, getting fired from a job and the loss of friendships with anyone mutually associated w/ the narc. I recently over stepped my mother-in-law/grandmother boundaries, when my DIL triggered me. I’ve stepped back, swallowed my pride and apologized. Seeing my grandsons grow up is more important than anything else. And at 67 yo, it is time to just enjoy life (be happy). I’ve started EFT tapping and I know I need to journal. What is your suggestion for healing my developmental trauma lack of self esteem etc. etc. ?

Hi P, our suggestion would be, continue the journey. Keep showing up and working with what sounds an excellent therapist, keep committing to being honest with her, keep up the other techniques that support you like EFT and journalling. Don’t see it as a ‘destination’ but a journey. The day never comes when we think ‘this is it! I am healed!’. We just get more and more comfortable being ourselves until we forget that was the original goal. All the best.

HI my partner of two years is always the victim when he tells his stories of childhood right through to adulthood. He says he cannot work for anyone, he cannot take orders from people who are not as intelligent as him, so he doesnt work. He has double standards what hes allowed to do i cannot do. He dont remember the awful things he says to me, but when i counter him and argue back …hes the victim in the things i say to him that hurts him never recongnising the things he says to me. Hes nice one minute and wakes up in a mood and wants to argue. Ive given up everything for this man. My home kids and work to move away with him and i cannot make him happy. He tells me he will never change. But i dont want to change him i just want him to stop telling stories about how hard done by he is. He has gone to the doctors for help…. they refered him to counselling cognatitive theaphy, he didnt go because he wanted the help there and then and couldnt wait 3 months for the appointment.
I made him go back to doctors again ..they gave him tablets to take… he refused to take them also…excuse after excuse. he believes the problem are me stressing him out and im not understanding him. I have had enough he is wearing me down, and i am no longer happy.
were can i get him theaphy at low cost as money is the Key.

Hi Janet, if you are so unhappy, why are you staying in the relationship? And just to point out this bit here, ” Ive given up everything for this man. My home kids and work to move away with him and i cannot make him happy.” First of all, it’s a clear example of victim mentality. Second of all, we think you might want to read about codependency, which means we stay in miserable relationships and suffer as we take our sense of self by trying to help and change others. In summary, you can’t help or change him, he’s right. The only single person you can change is yourself. If you can’t seem to leave a very unhappy relationship, perhaps you yourself could benefit from therapy to look at where this belief that life and love should be endless suffering comes from. Good luck.

Hello- Thank you very much for your positive information, reading your article I had a lot of ah-ha moments, and unfortunately I seem to fit into the definition of having a victim mentality. Learning to heal and develop better coping mechanism is a lot for me right now but I defiantly don’t want to become someone who is always see’s themselves as the victim. I am an Adult Survivor of Childhood Sexual Abuse, when I was 2-3 the weekly molestation began, and continued on until I was almost 13. Usually twice a week for over 10 years. Even though it sounds strange, I knew I was always molested in childhood but somehow was able to lock it away in my head… until about 2 years ago… happily married with 5 children (only 2 still at home) I had my first flashback. It was a silent black and white movie playing in my head, which made me physically ill. It’s been along two years…. and I know I have so much more to go. My question is…I have a hard time finding counseling… I’m not sure if I should see a therapist or a physiologist…. I honestly don’t know the difference between them. I’ve been to two therapists (both did not specialize in childhood sexual abuse) and haven’t found one that I am comfortable with. The thought of having to tell my “life history” to another person has made me not want to even try. I am currently using workbook, and researching and reading as much as I can learn through the internet. I feel like I have taken a few steps forward in healing, but as an adult I have developed habits to numb feelings, and push myself to be a perfectionist and people pleaser. I realize I can’t heal myself and need additional help…. what kind of counselor should I look for? Seems like I need a broad spectrum specialist, for all the manifestations I seemed to have. Any help is appreciated…. thank you again for your article and positive words.

Hi Kimberly, first things first, give yourself some huge credit. It’s very powerful that you are committed to healing and not being a victim – many survivors of sexual abuse get trapped in victimhood for life as they refuse to be brave enough to see they are. Secondly, it’s amazing you have a marriage and family that is working, that is a good sign, often abuse means we are too disconnected to navigate healthy relationships, so that is great you have that stability. The first stage of facing sexual abuse can be heaps of shame. But we promise you that you are far from alone – stats are at 1 in 4, with reality probably higher – and that you did nothing wrong and there is no reason to feel ashamed, particularly with a therapist. That said, shame is powerful, and it takes time to work through it and it is normal to feel shame even if you tell yourself you needn’t. We would say to really look for someone who has worked with abuse or is even a survivor themselves. Note that some abuse survivors find therapy triggers their trauma response – this might not be you, as it doesn’t seem you are experiencing complex PTSD, but if so it is an idea to do a round of CBT first, a short term therapy that doesn’t dive into the past but focuses more on getting on top of negative thinking and stabilising yourself. And then start a longer form of therapy after. Note that as someone who has gone through abuse you will not like or instantly trust any therapist, because trust will be an issue, so give a therapist 4 sessions before deciding. The type of therapy can be less important than feeling comfortable, but if you prefer a warm supportive environment you might want to steer clear of traditional psychoanalysis. Many abuse survivors like therapies that focus on relating, which has a stronger client/therapist connection http://bit.ly/findlovetherapy but again, relating doesn’t seem your issue. So you might find that you enjoy a more general type of therapy to start, which focuses on helping your build inner resources, such as one of the therapies from the humanistic school of thought. As for the difference between psychotherapist and psychologist, it depends on what country you are in, but you can learn about the difference here in the UK here https://www.harleytherapy.co.uk/counselling/the-humanistic-approach.htm. Finally, healing from abuse is a journey. Don’t expect quick results, go easy on yourself, and take it one step at a time, even if sometimes it feels like you go backwards to go forwards. Best, HT

My daughter says I play the victim and sent me this article as a resource. I lost a beloved husband 14 years ago. Over 4 years my son completely abandoned me, and my relationship with my daughter is bad. she has a lot of resentment. Won’t say exactly why. She doesn’t call, invite me up, or spend time with me on holidays. I initiate all the visits. I walk on eggshells fearing further abandonment. My child hood was very good, stable loving parents. I was molested by my uncle twice at age 11 and had therapy that really helped. My friends see me as upbeat, strong and resilient. My daughter, usually at the worst possible time when Grief comes back strong, accused me of being needy and a victim. She has always been focused on herself and is a super achiever. She’s a perfectionist. Plays a heroic role in her community – always compassionate and loving to all. I think I’m beginning to really dislike her. I’ve had a terrible fight with her. So discouraging. Thankfully, I have a fantastic adopted family and they are really central to my life, loving me easily and unconditionally. I live in a different town than my daughter. Do you think I’m a victim?

Hi Susie, we can’t tell anyone what they are or aren’t over a comment. People are far more complicated than that. And we can be one thing with some people, something else with others. You might be one way with friends, another way entirely with family. It’s best you took a few sessions with a counsellor who could get to know you, and could help you look at your disrupted family relationships. It is interesting though that you have posted a long list of all the difficult things that have befallen you in such detail. We are glad to hear you sought therapy over the abuse, good for you. Did you seek support for the grief that you mention still hits you? As 14 years is a long time to still be grieving, it might be what’s termed ‘complicated grief’. It’s generally recommended to seek support over grief if it’s gone on for more than six months, as it can have become either complicated grief or depression.

I’m a massage therapist/holistic therapist. I find the majority of people who seek me out seem to have victim mentality and don’t want to change. During the consultation where I ask basic health questions to ensure it’s safe for massage etc, I’ve found they actually want me to provide a free counselling session where they offload ALL their life story on to me, even if it’s not at all relevant to the appointment/service they have booked or the question I am asking. When I try to guide their thoughts back to the relevance of why they are here and the question I asked they try to take it back to offloading on me. When I stop them from doing this by explaining that I can not counsel them and remind them that they are here for massage/Reiki etc which can begin to help with their wellbeing, but to speak to their GP or that I can direct them to a service which can provide counselling after the session, they look stunned, aggrieved and don’t come back! I find being confronted with these people very draining and frustrating, they actually don’t want to adopt better self care or change their mindset, when I talk to them about the benefits of massage etc, they are disinterested! They just want to offload on someone and that’s not what I offer and state I don’t offer counselling on my website etc, so they know this from the offset but it doesn’t stop them from trying! I seem to have one of those personalities that attract people offloading their whole life story and problems on to me within the first minute of setting eyes on me. It happens all the time, at bus stops, in shops etc, but at least I can make my excuses and leave in those scenarios. During work when it happens, I do say, I have limited time and will need to speed up this consultation process, which again these people don’t like and feel aggrieved by! How is the best way to deal with such people within my work and why do they book a massage when it’s very obvious they want a counselling session!?

Hi Zoe, would we be correct in assuming your price point is low? First thing might be to raise your rate. People who truly want to invest in themselves are less likely to be victims. Second thing can be to make sure that you yourself are not being a victim in any place in your life and make sure your own boundaries are in place and your self-esteem is high. You might here people on the internet talking about ‘aligning your energy’ or what not, but psychological research would instead show that we all, without realising it, give off signals with body language and face movements and even tone of voice that let people know what we do and don’t put up with, and that tends to attract certain types of people again and again.

I’m starting a podcast about toxicity in our society today, and my first episode is on the victim mentality and I would love to have a professional come on my show and be interviewed by me and discuss this topic further. Is this at all possible?

Hi Kayla, you can send a request to press@ڊrleytڎrapy.co.uk. But we admittedly receive many such requests and tend to only work with established press outlets as many of our therapists don’t like to be distracted from their client work and we do have to compensate them for all their time including that spent doing press. Best, HT

I was told several times by a leader at church that I have a victim mentality but never did he elaborate or tell me how to overcome. I never knew what he meant and I wondered about it occasionally for approx 15 years now. I felt shame and guilt about having this and anger at not knowing how to fix it. Please advise. Thank you. Jannie

Hi Jannie, it sounds like you feel a victim of this situation, which is interesting, isn’t it? Did you read the article? It is useful in and of itself and explains best way forwards at the bottom? Also read our adjoining article on how to tell you use the victim card https://www.harleytherapy.co.uk/counselling/live-life-like-victim-12-ways-tell.htm.

Yes, I can see I have lived my life with a victim mentality. The heading” Why do I live like a victim” I could relate to all 4 sub headings…
Relationships with men to date have been filled with drama, high anxiety and feeling overwhelmed by another’s needs. Realise that I am constantly searching for someone to rescue/ take care of me… which leads me to feel shame and guilt for not being an adult.

Hi Bernadette, seems like this article has hit home. We’d just say that all these things can change, they are not set in stone. It starts with the recognition, and the commitment to making the change and taking the journey. We of course do advise counselling, as it helps so much with the victim mindset, which usually runs deep and goes back to childhood. But there are also great self help resources out there! Best, HT

My kids have been told outrageous stories about me and their father from his family. They eventually ended up going to live with them and we were denied any contact. Now they’re older and recently got into contact with us but their heads are full of these lies and for some reason don’t remember what life was really like with us before his family decided to interfere. They refuse to believe anything we say to them when we try to jog their memories and tell their friends and significant others about how bad their childhood was and how terrible parents we were. They choose to believe and live this false traumatic past rather than accept the loving family that has been here waiting for them all this time. It’s like they’re trying to punish us. When we’ve explained many times we have been punished for for something that didn’t even happen. For years. More than they could ever imagine. I finally decided I can’t go through this again. I just got to a place of peace and was moving on when they came back around. And it feels like I’m fighting for them all over again. Trying to prove everything all over again. I can’t do that or go through that again. So I’m just leaving them believe what they so very desperately want to believe and moving on, again.

Hi Patricia, what’s interesting here is that you are angry you have been put into the ‘bad’ chair, and yet you are using the exact same dichotomy yourself. You are making things into ‘right/wrong’ and ‘black/white’. You also are angry you were turned against when they are kids, and yet are now wanting them to turn against their father. Can you see how this might all be confusing to them? This sort of ‘me or him’ ‘I am right he is wrong’ energy closes down dialogue. We can’t control how others think or feel, particularly about the past. We can only show them who we are in the present. Wanting them to 100% just believe what you are telling them isn’t fair. It’s controlling, and not giving them agency over their own thoughts and feelings. Nobody likes being told what to think. What attracts people to your side, and makes them want to hear your side, is openness. Being ready to hear their side without taking it personally or getting offended or judging. Also note that angry energy, even if we think we are hiding it, is never well hidden. And if they sense all this anger that too might make them back off. To be honest, we think the place to start here is not with what they think, but with what you think and feel. We think it’s important and beautiful that this opportunity has come up for you, but that there are a lot of thoughts and feelings you need to work through, even with a counsellor if you have the courage, and that doing so would really help this relationship work. Cutting them out is an option, but it’s just going to mean you carry around this rage and sadness yet again. And we think you deserve better than that, don’t you? Best, HT.

Hello. I am very inspired by your clarity. I am outgrowing many behaviors, one of them victim mentality as you graphically describe it. I chose a husband and rather than divorce I put him down in a way that I was the victim… maybe he had mild Aspergers or was simply very introverted… and I felt trapped and broken that this was my mate and my fate. We suffered and struggled for 20 years, and with 2 gorgeous kids. We are seperated 3 years after an unnacceptable outburst by him that was a trend of pent up pains that he suppressed “inflicted” by my utter exasperation with who he is and how he functioned. we both came with baggage… Both victims and abusers in a convuluted way… I didnt love him and stayed for multidues of unhealthy reasons. mostly fear…we tried hard…and my kids sstill suffered the
abuse of Tension and unhappiness…that is enough… one doesnt need to have traumatic experiences. lack of genuine love and frustration and tension is enough to cause damage.
i now suffer a different dance. When I am happy, centered and thriving,, my kids are with me. I feel guilty and sorry for my husband. when my kids arent with me,,i suffer from feeling lost, lonely and guilty.. all repetitive, all historic…. all outgrowing…….
i have many friends. too many mothers, need abnormal amount of connection . which i recieve. I express and emote and connect to people authentically. In inimate relationships I seem to have been unable to accept imperfection and have been perpetually unhappy ( with myself) and have chosen men and couldn’t commit and build a life together….Since high school i do healing work: cranial work and emotional release, tai chi classes and am grateful since I am young i have been helping people. I used to feel the contradiciton of my emotional life with my professional life more painfully. now at an older age,.I see it is all a healing…. of myself and others.
I am emerging healthier.. it is a lifetime struggle to be a person… a healthy emotional person
I would love to have compassion for my husband, with lack of guilt. Allowing to be in my power and praying for his and others healing
i dream of having a real and healthy relationship.

I work on being “un codependent with my kids”, my X, friends. Trying not to manipule life so it goes my way… which it doesnt….I try to be a simple a person connected to myself and trying not make deisions based on others needs and reactions. I pray my kids are emotionally healthy….I work so hard to free them of my nuerotic stuff so they can be free living healthy boys.. is crazy hard.I do breathwork no among a multitude of healtings. ,,amaaing work.
questions: I need interactive drama to play our scenarios I learn best by real role models and experienceing the feeling of what Healthy feels like… intellectual stuff isn’t hard for me it doesnt usually translate to real life and real emotions and life stories.
any suggestions. any referrals….
I keep going, growing learning and healing,… the journey is sometimes devastating and sometimes joyous…
Searching for the next step.
Thanks for listening..with gratitude- Sofia


People who were told they weren’t good enough as children or had to placate the adults in their life to avoid outbursts of abuse or anger often grow up to be chronic people-pleasers.

Victims of verbal forms of abuse will often be terrified of confrontation, and so as they grow up, will attempt to avoid conflict at all costs. If this sounds like you, the idea of a confrontation generally induces immense anxiety and will activate the fight-or-flight response — and you’ll almost always choose flight.

Subscribe to our newsletter.


11 Signs Youre the Victim of Narcissistic Abuse

Imagine this: your entire reality has been warped and distorted. You have been mercilessly violated, manipulated, lied to, ridiculed, demeaned and gaslighted into believing that you are imagining things. The person you thought you knew and the life you built together have been shattered into a million little fragments.

Your sense of self has been eroded, diminished. You were idealized, devalued, then shoved off the pedestal. Perhaps you were even replaced and discarded multiple times, only to be &lsquohoovered&rsquo and lured back into an abuse cycle even more torturous than before. Maybe you were relentlessly stalked, harassed and bullied to stay with your abuser.

This was no normal break-up or relationship: this was a set-up for covert and insidious murder of your psyche and sense of safety in the world. Yet there may not be visible scars to tell the tale all you have are broken pieces, fractured memories and internal battle wounds.

This is what narcissistic abuse looks like.

Psychological violence by malignant narcissists can include verbal and emotional abuse, toxic projection, stonewalling, sabotage, smear campaigns, triangulation along with a plethora of other forms of coercion and control. This is imposed by someone who lacks empathy, demonstrates an excessive sense of entitlement and engages in interpersonal exploitation to meet their own needs at the expense of the rights of others.

As a result of chronic abuse, victims may struggle with symptoms of PTSD, Complex PTSD if they had additional traumas like being abused by narcissistic parents or even what is known as &ldquoNarcissistic Victim Syndrome&rdquo (Cannonville, 2015 Staggs 2016). The aftermath of narcissistic abuse can include depression, anxiety, hypervigilance, a pervasive sense of toxic shame, emotional flashbacks that regress the victim back to the abusive incidents, and overwhelming feelings of helplessness and worthlessness.

When we are in the midst of an ongoing abuse cycle, it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly what we are experiencing because abusers are able to twist and turn reality to suit their own needs, engage in intense love-bombing after abusive incidents and convince their victims that they are the ones who are abusers.

If you find yourself experiencing the eleven symptoms below and you are or have been in a toxic relationship with a partner that disrespects, invalidates and mistreats you, you may just have been terrorized by an emotional predator:

1. You experience dissociation as a survival mechanism.

You feel emotionally or even physically detached from your environment, experiencing disruptions in your memory, perceptions, consciousness and sense of self. As Dr. Van der Kolk (2015) writes in his book, The Body Keeps the Score, &ldquoDissociation is the essence of trauma. The overwhelming experience is split off and fragmented, so that the emotions, sounds, images, thoughts and physical sensations take on a life of their own.&rdquo

Dissociation can lead to emotional numbing in the face of horrific circumstances. Mind-numbing activities, obsessions, addictions and repression may become a way of life because they give you an escape from your current reality. Your brain finds ways to emotionally block out the impact of your pain so you do not have to deal with the full terror of your circumstances.

You may also develop traumatized inner parts that become disjointed from the personality you inhabit with your abuser or loved ones (Johnston, 2017). These inner parts can include the inner child parts that were never nurtured, the true anger and disgust you feel towards your abuser or parts of yourselves you feel you cannot express around them.

According totherapist Rev. Sheri Heller (2015), &ldquoIntegrating and reclaiming dissociated and disowned aspects of the personality is largely dependent on constructing a cohesive narrative, which allows for the assimilation of emotional, cognitive, and physiological realities.&rdquo This inner integration is best done with the help of a trauma-informed therapist.

2. You walk on eggshells.

A common symptom of trauma is avoiding anything that represents reliving the trauma &ndash whether it be people, places or activities that pose that threat. Whether it be your friend, your partner, your family member, co-worker or boss, you find yourself constantly watching what you say or do around this person lest you incur their wrath, punishment or become the object of their envy.

However, you find that this does not work and you still become the abusers target whenever he or she feels entitled to use you as an emotional punching bag. You become perpetually anxious about &lsquoprovoking&rsquo your abuser in any way and may avoid confrontation or setting boundaries as a result. You may also extend your people-pleasing behavior outside of the abusive relationship, losing your ability to be spontaneous or assertive while navigating the outside world, especially with people who resemble or are associated with your abuser and the abuse.

3. You put aside your basic needs and desires, sacrificing your emotional and even your physical safety to please the abuser.

You may have once been full of life, goal-driven and dream-oriented. Now you feel as if you are living just to fulfill the needs and agendas of another person. Once, the narcissists entire life seemed to revolve around you now your entire life revolves around them. You may have placed your goals, hobbies, friendships and personal safety on the back burner just to ensure that your abuser feels satisfied in the relationship. Of course, you soon realize that he or she will never truly be satisfied regardless of what you do or dont do.

4. You are struggling with health issues and somatic symptoms that represent your psychological turmoil.

You may have gained or lost a significant amount of weight, developed serious health issues that did not exist prior and experienced physical symptoms of premature aging. The stress of chronic abuse has sent your cortisol levels into overdrive and your immune system has taken a severe hit, leaving you vulnerable to physical ailments and disease (Bergland, 2013). You find yourself unable to sleep or experiencing terrifying nightmares when you do, reliving the trauma through emotional or visual flashbacks that bring you back to the site of the original wounds (Walker, 2013).

5. You develop a pervasive sense of mistrust.

Every person now represents a threat and you find yourself becoming anxious about the intentions of others, especially having experienced the malicious actions of someone you once trusted. Your usual caution becomes hypervigilance. Since the narcissistic abuser has worked hard to gaslight you into believing that your experiences are invalid, you have a hard time trusting anyone, including yourself.

6. You experience suicidal ideation or self-harming tendencies.

Along with depression and anxiety may come an increased sense of hopelessness. Your circumstances feel unbearable, as if you cannot escape, even if you wanted to. You develop a sense of learned helplessness that makes you feel as if you dont wish to survive another day. You may even engage in self-harm as a way to cope.As Dr. McKeon (2014), chief of the suicide prevention branch at SAMHSA notes, victims of intimate partner violence are twice as likely to attempt suicide multiple times.This is the way abusers essentially commit murder without a trace.

7. You self-isolate.

Many abusers isolate their victims, but victims also isolate themselves because they feel ashamed about the abuse theyre experiencing. Given the victim-blaming and misconceptions about emotional and psychological violence in society, victims may even be retraumatized by law enforcement, family members, friends and the harem members of the narcissist who might invalidate their perceptions of the abuse. They fear no one will understand or believe them, so instead of reaching out for help, they decide to withdraw from others as a way to avoid judgment and retaliation from their abuser.

8. You find yourself comparing yourself to others, often to the extent of blaming yourself for the abuse.

A narcissistic abuser is highly skilled at manufacturing love triangles or bringing another person into the dynamic of the relationship to further terrorize the victim. As a result, victims of narcissistic abuse internalize the fear that they are not enough and may constantly strive to compete for the abusers attention and approval.

Victims may also compare themselves to others in happier, healthier relationships or find themselves wondering why their abuser appears to treat complete strangers with more respect. This can send them down the trapdoor of wondering, &ldquowhy me?&rdquo and stuck in an abyss of self-blame. The truth is, the abuser is the person who should be blamed &ndash you are in no way responsible for being abused.

9. You self-sabotage and self-destruct.

Victims often find themselves ruminating over the abuse and hearing the abuser&rsquos voice in their minds, amplifying their negative self-talk and tendency towards self-sabotage. Malignant narcissists program and condition their victims to self-destruct sometimes even to the point of driving them to suicide.

Due to the narcissists covert and overt put-downs, verbal abuse and hypercriticism, victims develop a tendency to punish themselves because they carry such toxic shame. They may sabotage their goals, dreams and academic pursuits. The abuser has instilled in them a sense of worthlessness and they begin to believe that they are undeserving of good things.

10. You fear doing what you love and achieving success.

Since many pathological predators are envious of their victims, they punish them for succeeding. This conditions their victims to associate their joys, interests, talents and areas of success with cruel and callous treatment. This conditioning gets their victims to fear success lest they be met with reprisal and reprimand.

As a result, victims become depressed, anxious, lack confidence and they may hide from the spotlight and allow their abusers to steal the show again and again. Realize that your abuser is not undercutting your gifts because they truly believe you are inferior it is because those gifts threaten their control over you.

11. You protect your abuser and even &lsquogaslight&rsquo yourself.

Rationalizing, minimizing and denying the abuse are often survival mechanisms for victims in an abusive relationship. In order to reduce the cognitive dissonance that erupts when the person who claims to love you mistreats you, victims of abuse convince themselves that the abuser is really not all that bad or that they must have done something to provoke the abuse.

It is important to reduce this cognitive dissonance in the other direction by reading up on the narcissistic personality and abuse tactics this way, you are able to reconcile your current reality with the narcissist&rsquos false self by recognizing that the abusive personality, not the charming facade, is their true self.

Remember that an intense trauma bond is often formed between victim and abuser because the victim is trained to rely on the abuser for his or her survival (Carnes, 2015). Victims may protect their abusers from legal consequences, portray a happy image of the relationship on social media or overcompensate by sharing the blame of the abuse.

I&rsquove been narcissistically abused. Now what?

If you are currently in an abusive relationship of any kind, know that you are not alone even if you feel like you are. There are millions of survivors all over the world who have experienced what you have. This form of psychological torment is not exclusive to any gender, culture, social class or religion. The first step is becoming aware of the reality of your situation and validating it even if your abuser attempts to gaslight you into believing otherwise.

If you can, journal about the experiences you have been going through to begin acknowledging the realities of the abuse. Share the truth with a trusted mental health professional, domestic violence advocates, family members, friends or fellow survivors. Begin to &lsquoheal&rsquo your body through modalities like trauma-focused yoga and mindfulness meditation, two practices that target the same parts of the brain often affected by trauma (van der Kolk, 2015).

Reach out for help if you are experiencing any of these symptoms, especially suicidal ideation. Consult a trauma-informed counselor who understands and can help guide you through the symptoms of trauma. Make a safety plan if you have concerns about your abuser getting violent.

It is not easy to leave an abusive relationship due to the intense trauma bonds that can develop, the effects of trauma and the pervasive sense of helplessness and hopelessness that can form as a result of the abuse. Yet you have to know that it is in fact possible to leave and to begin the journey to No Contact or Low Contact in the cases of co-parenting. Recovery from this form of abuse is challenging, but it is well worth paving the path back to freedom and putting the pieces back together.

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, be sure to call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at1-800-273-8255.You can also reach the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1?800?799?7233.

Bergland, C. (2013, January 22). Cortisol: Why &ldquoThe Stress Hormone&rdquo is public enemy no. 1. Retrieved August 21, 2017, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-athletes-way/201301/cortisol-why-the-stress-hormone-is-public-enemy-no-1

Clay, R. A. (2014). Suicide and intimate partner violence.Monitor on Psychology,45(10), 30. Retrieved August 21, 2017, from http://www.apa.org/monitor/2014/11/suicide-violence.aspx

Canonville, C. L. (2015). Narcissistic Victim Syndrome: What the heck is that? Retrieved August 18, 2017, from http://narcissisticbehavior.net/the-effects-of-gaslighting-in-narcissistic-victim-syndrome/

Carnes, P. (2015).Betrayal Bond: Breaking Free of Exploitive Relationships. Health Communications, Incorporated.

Heller, S. (2015, February 18). Complex PTSD and the realm of dissociation. Retrieved August 21, 2017, from https://pro.psychcentral.com/complex-ptsd-and-the-realm-of-dissociation/006907.html

Johnston, M. (2017, April 05). Working with our inner Parts. Retrieved August 21, 2017, from https://majohnston.wordpress.com/working-with-our-inner-parts/

Staggs, S. (2016). Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.Psych Central. Retrieved on August 21, 2017, from https://psychcentral.com/lib/complex-post-traumatic-stress-disorder/

Staggs, S. (2016). Symptoms & Diagnosis of PTSD.Psych Central. Retrieved on August 21, 2017, from https://psychcentral.com/lib/symptoms-and-diagnosis-of-ptsd/

Van der Kolk, B. (2015).The body keeps the score: Mind, brain and body in the transformation of trauma. London: Penguin Books.

Walker, P. (2013).Complex PTSD: From surviving to thriving. Lafayette, CA: Azure Coyote.


Why Abusers Isolate Their Victims

Over the weeks, months, and years victims of domestic abuse tend to see most of their important relationships fall by the wayside. They become increasingly isolated from friends and family until one day, seemingly out of the blue, they find themselves on an island with few if any close human connections outside of their immediate nuclear families.

Abusers are happy to use the carrot or the stick to achieve this result. They’re especially happy if their victims believe their increasing separation from friends and family is their own choice or their own fault. But it’s the abusers pulling the strings, the abusers prompting this separation to come to pass. The reason why abusers isolate their victims from friends and family is that abuse is about control and victims are more easily controlled in mind and body when they don’t have trusted confidants to turn to.

Quite aside from threats, intimidation, and other aversive strategies control is predicated upon the belief in the controlee that the controller’s worldview represents objective reality. In a closed system this trick is more easily accomplished since in a closed system there aren’t any dissenting voices to present alternative points of view. The abuser’s word becomes law, as it were, and this law acts as the foundation upon which an unhealthy, dysfunctional state of affairs can be passed off as healthy and functional. Abusive behavior becomes normal behavior and the victim falls further and further under the abuser’s thumb.

The last thing an abuser wants is concerned, caring people in the victim’s corner. People who know the difference between healthy and unhealthy family environments might muck up the desired abusive state of affairs by calling a spade a spade, by casting doubt upon the supposed objective veracity of the abuser’s dictates and worldview. So again the best way to insure that control is maintained is to simply cut off all those relationships and that’s what the isolation a victim of abuse experiences is all about.


Well-founded personal reflections …

I will never forget my personal frustration with this whole incredible societal problem from my own case. I'll give you examples, but understand my case was not unique, and it happens everyday to countless victims:

When I reported his harassment and stalking, police and legal authorities said, "well, he may be threatening, but until he does something we can't do anything". Hello! - threatening and stalking are the first step in "doing something" by the abuser! I remember the sinking realization that I might have to be dead before anything got done.

The general public hasn't got a clue. This still amazes me. People I talked with while going through this horrible ordeal had no idea what domestic violence is and the cycle it involves. Even myself, an abuse victim for many years, was shocked and surprised to read how much that relationship had in common with the cycle of abuse. I found myself thinking, "It's so plain and clear, why haven't I ever seen this before?" Like most people today, I was educated and knowledgeable about many things, but not about domestic violence.

When my abuser continuously attacked, stalked, and harassed me, my family said, "Move! Move!" Well, it seemed to me that I couldn't! For as little as the legal system seemed to offer, at least I had some concerned neighbors and a police system that knew about the case. At least they could identify him, call police (neighbors) or "add it to the list" (in the case of police reports). Do you know how hard it is to bring evidence of domestic violence across State lines? I know, because I had to do it - plain and simple, it was nearly an insurmountable task. And worse, if I moved, it meant my family were sitting ducks! Once he couldn't find me, there was no doubt he would escalate violence against them. I certainly didn't want that!


Gaslighting FAQ’s

Common questions about the term gaslighting and gaslighting abuse.

What are the signs of gaslighting or gaslighting techniques I should be cautious of?

Questioning their memory, emotional stability and/or competence. Bringing in a third party/the triangulation maneuver. Triangulation (in the context of gaslighting) can be used to confirm the abuser’s version of reality and shame you into believing that you truly are alone in your beliefs and perceptions.

Can gaslighting at work occur?

What is a “parent child relationship”?

A parent-child relationship is when one adult is treating the other with a lesser than intelligence or demeanor in hopes of educating them to a higher caliber or replicating a feeling of what’s missing from their childhood. Many psychologists believe that the relationships between parents and children are very important in determining who we become and how we relate to others and the world.

Can gaslighting happen in romantic relationships?

Absolutely. Gaslighting in relationships is quite common.

Is gaslighting a form of domestic abuse?

It should be. But it is not considered “domestic abuse” according to laws.

What is the perception of the person who is gaslighting people?

They are living in an altered reality that may be hard for you to comprehend. The warning signs of gaslighting are the following. Questioning their memory, emotional stability and/or competence. Bringing in a third party/the triangulation maneuver. Triangulation (in the context of gaslighting) can be used to confirm the abuser’s version of reality and shame you into believing that you truly are alone in your beliefs and perceptions. These are considered red flags.

Is gaslighting considered a form of psychological manipulation?

A Note About Gaslighting on a Societal Level

Gaslighting can also take place in contexts outside of intimate relationships. It can occur in the workplace, in family units, in schools, in politics, in cults and in society as a whole. Society often gaslights women, for example, by depicting them as “overemotional,” “unhinged” or “crazy” when they dare to be anything less than demure and submissive or when they ‘dare’ to be enraged about the way they’re being treated.

Society also routinely gaslights survivors of abuse or assault by interrogating them about their behavior and minimizing the impact of what they experienced. Politicians, lawmakers and court systems can dismiss the impact of emotional abuse by allowing it to fall under the convenient umbrella of “nonviolence” while setting the perpetrators free to commit more crimes that will never be prosecuted under a court of law.

Those who benefit from an enormous amount of privilege can condemn those more marginalized when they speak out about social injustices like racism, sexism and ableism because it threatens their positions of power and control. They may call those who fight for justice “divisive” or “hateful” simply because they’re calling out bigotry, prejudice or unjust laws. Institutions may “gaslight” disadvantaged populations any time they wish to maintain that power by shifting the focus onto the behavior of marginalized people rather than examining what they can do to better support these populations.

There are many ways and contexts where we experience gaslighting and it is not just restricted to an abusive relationship. It is up to us as individuals and as a larger society to tackle gaslighting when we see it. Whether it is done with malicious intent or unwitting naiveté, gaslighting bears dangerous consequences when it goes unchallenged. Gaslighting has the power to shape and rewrite our reality. It’s about time we take back the narrative and hold fast to the truth – unapologetically owning our stories as we do so.

Shahida Arabi is the author of Power: Surviving and Thriving After Narcissistic Abuse.

To learn more about gaslighting and covert emotional abuse, be sure to also check out:

In Sheep’s Clothing: Understanding and Dealing With Manipulative People by Dr. George Simon

The Gaslight Effect: How to Spot the Hidden Manipulation Others Use to Control Your Life by Dr. Robin Stern

The Sociopath Next Door by Dr. Martha Stout

Psychopath Free by Jackson MacKenzie

Should I Stay or Should I Go?: Surviving a Relationship With a Narcissist by Dr. Ramani Durvasula

Works Cited
Begg, I. M., Anas, A., & Farinacci, S. (1992). Dissociation of processes in belief: Source recollection, statement familiarity, and the illusion of truth. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 121(4), 446-458. doi:10.1037/0096-3445.121.4.446
Carnes, P. (2015). Betrayal Bond: Breaking Free of Exploitive Relationships. Health Communications, Incorporated.
Dreyfuss, E. (2017, June 03). Want to Make a Lie Seem True? Say It Again. And Again. And Again. Retrieved November 7, 2017.
Durvasula, R. (2015). Should I Stay or Should I Go? Surviving a Relationship With a Narcissist. New York: Post Hill press.
Geraci, L., & Rajaram, S. (2006). The illusory truth effect: The distinctiveness effect in explicit and implicit memory. Distinctiveness and Memory, 210-234.
Hasher, L., Goldstein, D., & Toppino, T. (1977). Frequency and the conference of referential validity. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 16(1), 107-112. doi:10.1016/s0022-5371(77)80012-1
Leve, A. (2016, March 16). How to survive gaslighting: When manipulation erases your reality. Retrieved here November 5, 2017.
Sarkis, S. (2017, January 30). Are gaslighters aware of what they do? Retrieved here November 7, 2017.
Simon, G. (2017, August 26). Gaslighting Victims Question Their Sanity. Retrieved here November 5, 2017.
Staik, A. (2017). Narcissistic Abuse and the Symptoms of Narcissistic Abuse Syndrome. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 26, 2018.
Stern, R. (2007). The gaslight effect: How to spot and survive the hidden manipulations other people use to control your life. Morgan Road Books.
Van der Kolk, B. (2015). The body keeps the score: Brain, mind, and body in the healing of trauma. NY, NY: Penguin Books.
Walker, P. (2013). Complex PTSD: From surviving to thriving: A guide and map for recovering from childhood trauma. Lafayette, CA: Azure Coyote.
Warshaw, C., Lyon, E., Bland, P. J., Phillips, H., & Hooper, M. (2014). Mental Health and Substance Use Coercion Surveys. Report from the National Center on Domestic Violence, Trauma & Mental Health and the National Domestic Violence Hotline. National Center on Domestic Violence, Trauma and Mental Health. Retrieved here November 5, 2017.
Wolford-Clevenger, C., & Smith, P. N. (2017). The conditional indirect effects of suicide attempt history and psychiatric symptoms on the association between intimate partner violence and suicide ideation. Personality and Individual Differences, 106, 46-51. Retrieved here.

Get the best of Thought Catalog in your inbox.

Sign up for the Thought Catalog Weekly and get the best stories from the week to your inbox every Friday.

You may unsubscribe at any time. By subscribing, you agree to the terms of our Privacy Statement.

About the author

Learn more about Thought Catalog and our writers on our about page.

Related

3 Powerful Ways To Heal From The Toxic Triangulation Of Narcissists

20 Diversion Tactics Highly Manipulative Narcissists, Sociopaths And Psychopaths Use To Silence You

A Book For Those Recovering From Narcissistic Abuse…

Remember— highly manipulative people don’t respond to empathy or compassion. They respond to consequences.

“I rarely write reviews but I’m so impressed by this book, I can’t recommend it enough for anyone who has suffered abuse by a narcissist or is trying to get out of an abusive relationship now. You deserve the best and more… so I strongly encourage you to get this book!” — Michelle Spurling

“This book was life changing. It completely validated everything from my experiences (suicide, anxiety, depression, “neediness”, literally everything). It took every detail from my past struggles and validated and helped make sense of everything. It’s like I was reading my own biography.” — Drew Rod


6 Reasons Why People Are Bullied at Work

Amy Morin, LCSW, is the Editor-in-Chief of Verywell Mind. She's also a psychotherapist, the author of the bestselling book ൕ Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do," and the host of The Verywell Mind Podcast.

Every day, employees are abused and bullied at work. In fact, the issue of workplace bullying affects nearly one-fifth of all employees at some point during their careers, or 60.3 million Americans every year, according to the Workplace Bullying Institute.  

If you have experienced workplace bullying, you may ask yourself “why me?” Here are some common reasons why people become targets of workplace bullies.