Some people have a strong tendency toward negative thinking. They blame others for their problems, or feel everyone and everything is against them. They may have what is referred to as a “victim mentality.”
If you wonder whether you have a victim mentality, ask yourself these questions:
Do you feel sorry for yourself a lot of the time?
Do you blame others for your problems?
Are your friends always trying to help you find solutions to your problems?
When your friends offer solutions, do you often find yourself saying, “yes, but.…”
Do you feel like you have no control over your fate?
Thinking like a victim usually comes from having been victimized. Bad events or circumstances, especially repeated over time, lead to a loss of hope and spirit. Eventually, one becomes used to thinking that life is always going to disappoint, and that there’s nothing to be done about it.
How do you change this thought pattern? In my experience, one first has to heal from having been victimized. This takes time. It usually involves learning self-compassion, and letting go of anger, regrets and disappointment. It may also involve forgiveness—of yourself, and/or of someone else. The guidance of an understanding therapist and/or support group can be very helpful to this process.
Some people find it difficult to let go of a victim mentality even though healing is progressing. Henrik Edberg writes (www.positivityblog.com) that a victim mentality has certain benefits which make it harder to change. For example, if you believe things will never work out or get better, you don’t have to take any risks and possibly fail. It also means you don’t have to take responsibility for your life, because in your way of thinking, everything is someone else’s fault. Victim thinking can even be a source of positive feelings coming from people who are always trying to help you out.
Dr. Judith Orloff, a noted psychiatrist, writes that one way to combat victim-thinking is to focus more on the positives in your life—even so far as thinking on a global basis about being free from genocide and starvation (www.drjudithorloff.com, “How to Deal with a Victim Mentality”). Edberg suggests the best way to change is to practice taking responsibility for your life. This means not blaming others and empowering yourself to take actions even if they might result in failure. I think it includes trying to say “yes” instead of “yes, but.” Most importantly, practice self-compassion by forgiving yourself for your own mistakes or inadequacies, and promising to try to do things differently, starting today.