Is Being A Victim Only In My Mind?
Have you ever felt like you’re a victim? I definitely have! Consider my post from March 29, entitled, “Is Stealing, Purloining, Filching, Lifting, Pinching Or Swiping Ever Justified?” If you read it, I’m sure you will notice the “victim” coming out of the writing. :-)
Does it help, if you admit that you feel like a victim? Probably not! You see, if you admit that you feel like or are a victim, then you are giving yourself the victim label. I think when you admit to others that you are a victim, then you feel that something happened to you and that you are not responsible for it. On the surface, that seems fine, but if you think about it in a more fair-minded manner, then there is a good chance that you share with the victimizer(s) at least some of the responsibility for being a victim.
Of course, you might be a victim and not have any responsibility for it. But, usually, when looking for someone to blame for being victimized, you’ll find that you have a fair share. In the first paragraph, I mentioned a post where I wrote about being a victim and, yes, I do have some blame for what happened. For example, I knew a security system was a good idea, but I just didn’t get around to it until after I was victimized. If a security system had been installed before the “victimizing incident,” then I’m sure the incident wouldn’t have happened. I could have avoided the problem by doing something that I knew should have been done. Besides the security system, there are other “things” I could have done that I now think, because I didn’t, make me partially responsible for being a victim. Ouch!
The point is that we often find ways to blame others for our problems. We ignore our own responsibility and then, when we have a problem, we look for others to blame. I knew, before I was victimized, that I wasn’t being as responsible as I should. But, when the incident occurred, I immediately started looking for someone else, besides myself, to blame. Of course, since my house was broken into, it was easy to shift ALL blame to the burglar(s). In this case, everyone, including the police, seemed to agree with all blame being assigned to the burglar(s). I guess this is an example of, “The majority isn’t always right.” :-)
The problem with feeling like a victim is that I act like a victim. I feel and act like I have less power than before. I feel and act like I’m helpless when facing everyday problems. You see, I start thinking “poor me, everyone is against me, and why does everything happen to me?” when instead, I should be focusing on solving MY problem(s).
Really, we need to look at our problems, not as who is the victim, but who doesn’t share in our culture. For example, in my culture, we don’t burglarize, but in the burglar’s culture they do. This is true for relatively small problems like the burglarizing of my house and big problems like global warming. When crime is a problem, we all have at least some responsibility. When global warming is a problem, we all have at least some responsibility.
When feeling like a victim, let’s look for a way to share ownership of the problem instead of only finding blame. What do you think?
Hi Ron –
Good, thought provoking post. I agree that we all know of people who spend time in the “victim” mentality – blaming others for our problems when we may do well to look inward as well. I also see the cultural angle to a degree, but I think it’s a slippery slope. Point being society couldn’t function if we simply said “well – the burglar has a culture different than my own so we shouldn’t punish him or her, but simply try to understand”. There’s probably value in doing both to some degree.
I would also say that the way I read your post, it seems to presume power symmetry between the perpetrator and victim. But, this isn’t always the case. Take children for example – they are completely (or at least largely at the mercy of adults – and perhaps even other kids). So, I would argue kids can be and are victimized and it would be appropriate for them to feel like victims. Same logic would follow for African Americans involved in the slave trade, Native Americans throughout our history, Jews during the Holocaust, etc. All were basically powerless and open to exploitation by others who had more power.
I would also suggest that perhaps in your example you are assuming too much responsibility for the burglary in this post. In onther words, it’s true that you could have installed an alarm and maybe (stress maybe) avoiding the burglary. But, you could have the best alarm money can buy and it might not have mattered.
At the end of the day, I agree that one’s attitude is critical in dealing with being a “victim” in most cases. And, that’s true for a lot of things in life.
I thank you for your thoughtful comment.
You provided good examples where it is extremely difficult to “shake-off” the label of victim. On the other hand, my point was to help the victim get rid of the feeling of being a victim.
I know that I probably lack some clarity in what I wrote. I am attempting to use my writing to help me learn. I wanted to learn how to get rid of the feeling of being a victim. My conclusion was to share responsibility.
Now, expecting a child to share responsibility for being victimized is sometimes an impossible expectation. Expecting the Jews to share responsibility for the Holocaust, the African Americans to share responsibility of the slave trade, etc.. might also be impossible expectations.
On the other hand, I have read of cases where some of the Jews were responsible for some of the atrocities that took place during the Holocaust, that some Africans were responsible for the slave trade, etc. Yes, it is a slippery slope!
Again, my intention was to help with getting rid of the negative feeling of being a victim. In many ways, the problem that lingers after being victimized IS in the mind.
How can a “victim” get rid of those negative feelings? How can a “victim” learn how to not be a victim in the future? Perhaps, one way, is to look for ways to share the responsibility, treat it as a lesson learned AND like the Jews and African Americas, vow to have it never happen again.
Perhaps, in my example, I am assuming too much responsibility, but I do know that since I have assumed some responsibility, I feel much better and more in control. As James Brown used to sing, “I feel good!” :-)
Thanks again for your great comment.