There’s nothing attractive or desirable about suffering a crime, cruelty, or oppression. However, there are attractions to casting yourself in that role, or staying in it if bad experience puts you there. Some of those attractions are more problematic than others in terms of impact on your own quality of life, and impact on people around you. I write this probably not exhaustive list all too aware that I’ve done at least one of these, and seen all of the others in action. That most reasons make sense (from a certain perspective) makes them all the more alluring. They tend to harm the victim more than anyone else.
- It’s the biggest thing that has ever happened to you, perhaps the only thing you consider to be of interest or note, the only thing anyone has given you attention for. It becomes tempting to stay, and easy to have it be the story that defines your life.
- Having little or no self-esteem means that victim status confirms that you are undeserving. This may be more comfortable than considering unfamiliar alternatives.
- It is the only way you have found to elicit compassion, kindness, help, comfort or attention.
- By taking the role of the victim, you guilt trip your elected oppressor so that you get your own way. Especially productive if you favour passive aggressive approaches to relationships.
- You are in a culture that competes to be the most martyred, the worst off, the most mired in drama, and so you feel socially rewarded for being a victim.
- You genuinely believe your life is ruined and/or entirely defined for the future by whatever has made a victim of you. (Especially likely in the short term after trauma, but possible to recover from nonetheless).
- Your spiritual path rewards martyrdom, or you see suffering as innately noble and therefore worth hanging on to.
- Your victim status is used to explain (at least to yourself) every other thing that goes wrong, or that you do not do. It becomes the ultimate, unassailable excuse.
There is a time, after any injury to mind or body when a person needs to hole up, whimper a bit, heal, grieve and generally get to grips with the experience as best they can. We are all wounded in some way and at some time in our lives. No one gets through unscathed. There is no universal right answer for how long that takes, or when you should start to feel safe and more functional again. Having time to take whatever healing journey you need is really, really important. There are some experiences that don’t heal readily, or perhaps ever, but there is a huge difference between carrying wounds and scars, and carrying your victimhood. With one, it is still possible to go on and make a life, with the other, it isn’t. Victimhood seeks pity. Wounds seek compassion. Victimhood seeks power over others, in slightly perverse ways. Scars seek peace.