I can’t think of anyone who would like to admit that they have a victim mentality. Yes, some will say that they have been a victim of circumstances, but not many would ‘fess up to it being a way of life.
The victim of circumstances, (such as being burgled, raped, abused, retrenched and all the other things that are out of your control), may identify with being a typical victim. Although, that said, there are a number who prefer to frame it as being a survivor. As someone who has been given the label of complex PTSD by the psychiatrist, I have struggled with the idea that I have had trauma in my life and that I had been at the hands of more than one narcissistic abuser. Even with more than a year under my belt since this diagnosis, my body strongly rejects the statement that I was abused or the statement that I am a victim. My centre of “knowing” that sits in my torso finds that to be untrue and unacceptable, because I am not a victim. I am not a tragedy. I am a survivor and warrior. In my head, victims are unable to help themselves. They are preyed upon. I refuse to be in that place.
Now on the flip side, I have realised lately that I have the victim mentality. The “why me” syndrome and “what did I do wrong” lament crop up in my thinking much too much. It is about not taking responsibility for things over which I have control and taking responsibility for things not under my sphere of influence. Not to mention that if things are not going the way that I wish them to go, it is because life is so unfair and I have a good wallow in pity.
This mentality became a stark reality the other day when it dawned on me that I was behaving somewhat like my mother. (Bear in mind that I strive to emulate as little of my mother’s behaviour as I possibly can.) Things were not working out the way I wanted them to and in my head, it was because I was too annoying, wanting too much time. It was “my fault”. And in this victim mental state, I formulated an action plan, which included me exiting a friendship to spare the other person the burden of being my friend.
I was frustrated that a friend had turned down an invitation to meet up. It is not the first time that she has done this – sometimes it is due to prior commitments and sometimes it is just because she is not in the mood. A rational human being would accept that friendships are not about coercing someone else into doing things; they are about understanding that people have lives that are busy and are not always available to do things at a drop of a hat; that sometimes self-love and preservation is about saying no when you want to attend to your own needs; they are about accepting a friendship in the manner that it is offered, which may be significantly different to the way that you offer friendship. But instead of taking a step back and saying that it’s normal to prioritise your own needs, my reaction is to isolate myself from the friendship.
It is the isolation part that made me realise that this go-to position is not a healthy place. My mother used to lock herself in the bedroom when she was angry with the world or with us and things were not going her way. She would occasionally throw plates and glasses against the wall and eventually only come out after one of us had begged her and cajoled her to do so. (This normally entailed apologising for anything and everything and asking for forgiveness.) So me isolating is a similar tactic to my mother’s, especially as there is the thought pattern that goes with it of “maybe they will miss me and come looking for me. Maybe they will rescue me from this isolation.”
It dawned on me today that there is more to this cycle of self-isolation. There is also the need to be rescued. When I look at a number of the friends in my life, both current and over the years, there has always been the undertow of me wanting to be rescued. Of someone picking me up and telling me that I am enough as I am. I have not been able to accept that I am enough – I have always looked for outside validation. It makes me question my friendships and relationships. It makes me doubt my abilities as a parent, leaving me spending too much time worrying about being a good enough parent meaning that I am not always present to be that good enough parent. So my cycle is that I don’t feel good enough for someone or about something or other, which triggers me; I go into need-to-be-rescued mode; if the person who I want to rescue me doesn’t do it in the time or manner of my expectation, I head over to the isolation corner, where I lick my wounds wondering why I am not good enough to be rescued. Then perhaps that friend comes back in some manner that feeds my external need for validation and we are on again. Until that hit of being good enough wears off and the cycle starts again. Always needing those outside affirmations to give me the feeling that I am enough.
And my not good enough hole cannot be filled by someone else. It was created by a father who never rescued me from my mother, most probably because he was unable to do this. He wanted to keep the peace at all costs (and is still like this) and was therefore unwilling to “rock the boat” by going against whatever my mother was doing or saying at the time. He did not speak up or intervene to prevent her from carrying out these verbal attacks. He is not in a place where I can talk to him about this and considering he is an octogenarian, it is unlikely that he will ever be. The only person that can fill this void in my soul is me. And what a revelation this has been. To think that I have this cycle that has been going on for years in my life; me completely unaware that this is what I am doing and why I am doing it. Just my little child self trying to understand why I am not good enough to be rescued by my dad.
So here I sit, not wanting to be a victim and yet behaving like one. Time to fix that hole.