Victim mentality (VM) can explain a lot of cruel and crazy things that
in politics at every level, from personal relationships right up to
globalisation. It may even explain why humanity is having such trouble
solving such basic problems as global poverty and global warming. If
that is true, it may be worthwhile having a detailed look at
What is it exactly, what causes it, and what can we do about it?
|Victim Mentality, Self-Efficacy, and
, September 2012, revised September
What is VM?
People with VM tend to regard themselves as
victims of the negative actions of others. They tend to think, speak
and act as if that were the case - even in the absence of clear
evidence. VM thus depends considerably on habitual thought processes
and attributions. That suggests VM is primarily learned (acquired, not
example from family members and situations during childhood. It is a
cultural phenomenon, and each individual has a chance to bring it under
Unfortunately, control over VM can never be complete. The
quasi-universal occurrence of VM suggests that it has an
and perhaps even a genetic foundation. If VM is a part of human nature,
we may reasonably ask where it comes from, originally? We can see the
answer in interactions between parents and children. VM is how
children behave when they are encouraging their parents to increase
parental investment. This kind of behavior is strongly driven
by evolution (constraints on survival and reproduction), so it
probably happens in all animals. Humans are just one of
From this perspective, adults with VM are children
quite grown up. There is a bit of VM in everyone, just as there is a
bit of a child
in everyone. When we become aware of our VM, we can reduce it - to the
relief of the people around us.
The opposites of VM
Often it helps to understand something by considering its opposites.
What are the opposites of VM? There are a number of possible candidates.
altruism means doing someone a favor in the expectation that they will
someday return it. A person who repeatedly fails to return favors gets
a reputation for being a free rider, and the favors are replaced by
exclusion. Reciprocal altruism is related to the Golden Rule - a
quasi-universal moral-religious principle according to which we should
treat others as we would like to be treated ourselves. In
reciprocal altruism and the Golden Rule play an important role in
friendship, trust, gratitude, sympathy, suspicion, guilt, and
punishment. The political implications are enormous, because if
countries and multinational corporations applied the
Golden Rule to their everyday interactions, most of the world's
problems would be solved. If US-Americans did not want to be bombed,
they would encourage their government to stop bombing other countries.
If multinationals did not like people stealing from them, they
would stop stealing natural resources from developing countries.
Both reciprocal altruism and VM are learned
from cultural environments, but research in evolutionary psychology has
they also have a universal foundation: social groups work better if
they apply the idea of reciprocal
altruism, and children are more likely to survive if they
use VM to extract resources from their parents. As a result, there is a
constant tension in society between the "mature" forces of reciprocal
altruism and the "immature" forces of VM. People with VM tend not
to obey the rules of reciprocal altruism or to apply the Golden Rule,
because they feel that the exchange with other people is fundamentally
unfair. The internal irrational logic of VM can be so strong that
it overrides the natural tendency of every person to be
VM is also the opposite of self-efficacy:
the ability to independently complete tasks and reach goals, and to
realistically estimate the nature and extent of one's own abilities,
avoiding extremes of arrogance and self-deprecation.
Perhaps a more exact opposite of VM is something that could be
mentality": the sense of being accountable for any action, situation or
process to which one has contributed. Accountability implies an
obligation to pay debts, whether they be financial or moral, formalised
Another related personality trait is (psychological) hardiness,
which has been subdivided into commitment, control, and challenge
(Kobasa, 1979). Hardiness helps people to remain healthy under life
stress, and in turn depends on the coping mechanisms that people
develop to deal with different kinds of stress.
The above psychological attributes are generally positive, and
the people who
display them also tend to be happy, or to report that they are happy.
They also tend to have good relationships with other people. But people
with VM may construe these positive attributes as negative. That is
part of a general resistance to positive change - a general tendency
not to take responsibility for one's own life, behavior and attitudes.
Similar or comparable personality traits
be defined as general emotional stability or a generally enhanced
tendency to experience negative emotions. Psychoticism is characterised
by aggressiveness and interpersonal hostility.
VM has central features in common with both.
All three are associated with a relatively high frequency of negative
emotional states such as anger, sadness and fear. But the three traits
are also partially independent: for example a given individual may have
a high degree of VM and a low degree of neuroticism, in which case a
clinical psychologist is unlikely to regard her or him as needing
treatment. Conversely, a given individual may have a high degree of
neuroticism and a low degree of VM.
The features of VM suggest that is primarily or entirely
but the theory of parental investment also suggests it has an
evolutionary basis. The
and better-researched psychological constructs of neuroticism and
psychoticism have stronger biological or genetic bases, but of course
these behaviors are also partially learned. There is a constant
interplay between "nature" and "nurture".
There is a burgeoning popular literature on VM, but I could
little good psychological research. Possible reasons include (i) VM is
primarily learned, but many psychologists are more interested in
biological foundations; (ii) VM is largely sociological rather than
psychological; and (iii) VM has political connotations (the right wing
likes to accuse the left wing of VM, but the left can equally accuse
the right, see below).
Beliefs that underlie VM
To the extent that VM is learned, it is based on an
inter-related set of beliefs:
- Beliefs about oneself: Limiting beliefs about one's own
or influence a situation; a feeling of powerlessness. Recognizable
linguistic markers such as pretending not to be able to do something
("I can't..."), not to have choices ("I must..."), or not to know the
answer to a question ("I don't know"). Expressing uncertainty or
confusion by using the word "but" in a way that negates the previous
statement. For that reason, an exaggerated fear of risks and possible
- Beliefs about other people: Ascribing non-existent negative
intentions to other people (similar to paranoia; many other features of
VM may be consequences of this mindset); believing that others are
generally luckier and happier, and wondering why one has turned out to
be (or has somehow been chosen to be) the unlucky one ("Why me?").
- Beliefs about cause and effect: Failing or being unwilling
take responsibility for one's own actions or actions to which one has
contributed; instead, blaming others for a situation that one has
created oneself or significantly contributed to (in psychology this is
called external attribution, or situational attribution).
- Belief in state rather than process: The idea that if
the way they are, and especially if things are bad, they probably will
not change; or if people are the way they are, they probably will not
change (a belief in "nature" rather than "nurture"). This belief
reduces motivation to engage in processes that could lead to a
solution. For example, the idea that if one is bad at
singing or mathematics, then the problem probably has a genetic basis,
so no matter how hard one tries, the problem will never be solved. If
for example a marriage is going wrong, then there is no point working
on it, because it is going to end anyway.
- Beliefs based on misleading stories: Gaining short-term
pleasure from feeling sorry for oneself or eliciting pity from others;
eliciting sympathy by exaggerating the bad things other people have
done to the "victim" and forgetting the good things; developing
convincing and sophisticated arguments in support of such ideas and
using them to convince oneself and others of victim status.
of thinking, talking and behavior
The above beliefs may produce the following attitudes and behaviors:
- Stabbing oneself in the back: Complaining about situations which one has caused or to
one has contributed, while pretending not to be aware of this
connection. (This alone may be a good candidate for an operational definition of victim mentality.)
- A general tendency to focus on the bad rather than the good
aspects of a situation. A glass that is half full is considered half
empty. A person with a high standard of living complains about lack of
money. A healthy person complains of minor healthy problems that others
would ignore (cf. hypochondria). For that reason, a tendency toward
grumpiness or depression.
- Wallowing in problems rather than moving on
and solving the next one. "Crying over spilt milk" although the crying
is not going to achieve anything. In a difficult financial situation, a
reluctance to "cut one's debts" and make a new start. If there is a
choice between solving a problem or just
complaining about it, a preference for the latter, which can even
develop into a general dislike of non-VM people with a helpful,
problem-solving orientation. (Honest psychotherapists who really care
their clients know how to draw attention to this problem appropriately
and solve it at a higher level. Other therapists pretend that it is
better for therapeutic reasons to leave the problem alone, but in fact
use their clients' VM to prolong therapy and guarantee a stable income.)
- Not keeping agreements. Self-talk: "Why should I keep an agreement with
someone if they might fail to keep the agreement, making me a victim?"
This includes not keeping agreements with oneself, e.g. an agreement to
give up smoking. Self-talk: "If I don't value myself, then why should I keep an
agreement with myself? And why stop doing something that can make me
look like a victim, which is a good way of attracting sympathy from
- Lying or distorting the truth. Self-talk: "Why should I
tell the truth to someone if they might lie back, making me a victim?
It's better to be on the safe side and lie or distort the truth before
they do." People with VM, when told that they are not telling the
truth, react defensively. They might not even realise that they are
lying or distorting the truth, if that is their habit and their
self-talk is deeply internalized.
- Not repaying debts, in the general sense of repaying any
act of generosity (but also including monetary debts). No matter how
generous other people are to
VMers, they still regard others as lucky and themselves as unlucky.
Therefore, there is no reason to return favors. This can lead to social
exclusion, reinforcing VM in a kind of vicious cycle.
- A failure to understand or implement the idea of accountability:
if you deliberately do a bad thing to another person, a group of people
or a whole society, or if you could reasonably have prevented the bad
thing from happening and did not, you are indebted to that person,
group or society, which implies an obligation to make up for the bad with good, to
clear your name. A failure to understand proportions: the bigger the
bad thing you have done, the bigger the good thing you have to do to
make up for it.
- A tendency to divide people into "goodies" and "baddies"
no grey zone between them. For that reason, a tendency to promote
conflicts rather than resolve them.
- Anger toward people who are basically innocent, coupled
convoluted attempts to explain their guilt and hence justify the anger.
More generally, a failure to take responsibility for one's own emotions
(both positive and negative) and instead attribute them to other people.
- An inability or reluctance to consider a situation from the
point of view of other people (including "goodies") or to "walk a mile
in their shoes". For that reason, a tendency to lack consideration for
other people (even in minor everyday events) and compensate by
promoting rigid rules of conduct, rather than developing a natural
feeling of responsibility toward others.
- Defensiveness in everyday conversation, reading a
negative intention into a neutral question and reacting with a
corresponding accusation, hindering the collective solution of problems
and instead creating unnecessary conflict. A tendency to reject
suggestions or constructive criticism from others, even those "goodies"
who listen and care; a general inability or reluctance to implement the
suggestions of others for one's own benefit. For that reason, a
tendency to discuss the same problems again and again, and even to
develop strategies to solve them but not implement them, so the
problems become chronic.
- A preference for hierarchical social structures, including
inability or unwillingness to work as an equal member of a team, or a
preference for ordering and obeying rather than suggesting,
compromising, negotiating, collective decision making, mutual support.
People with VM may experience problems of the following kind, or they
have these experiences more often than people without VM in similar
Common problems encountered by individuals with VM
- Unemployment or dissatisfaction with current employment.
people really are victims of an unfair socio-economic system or a poor
educational background. People with VM are not victims in that real
sense. Instead, they may have a good background and skills but miss
opportunities because of an exaggerated fear of taking risks or
experimenting with something new.
- Obesity or dissatifaction with current body weight or
appearance. It is true that some people are more likely to become
overweight for genetic reasons. But it is also true that environmental
causes (such as childhood habits) generally are generally more
important causes of obesity than possible innate factors. According to
basic physics, any overweight person can move toward a more appropriate
weight by small, sustained adjustments to daily habits that surround
exercise and diet. A common impediment to such changes is VM, which may
include misleading or exaggerated ideas about the genetic basis of
- Various forms of addiction. For example, the literature is
of advice on how to give up smoking, but perhaps the best advice is to
have a careful look at one's own VM (everyone has it).
VM in relationships
People with VM may attract each other, and the resultant relationship
may become co-dependent. VM
is not the only cause of co-dependency, but it may be an important one.
What does VM do to relationships? The following points are intended to
apply to any kind of relationship: colleagues at work, friends, lovers,
parents and children, and so on.
- Failing to balance giving and taking. At the start
relationship, a person with VM may overate the needs of the other
person while neglecting his or her own needs. As the relationship
proceeds, they may tend in the other direction. (In romantic
relationships, the change may happen when the initial passion wears
- Failing to take or give advice in an appropriate or
manner. If someone suggests to the "victim" that they do something,
they react defensively as if they were being attacked. They don't
realise the person was just trying to help. More generally, they don't
realise that listening to advice from people who care is one of the
screts of success and happiness.
- More generally, failing to get or give help appropriately.
This applies to anything that either person may want for any reason. People
with VM may not realise that if you want something the first step is
just to ask for it, without expecting to get it.
This at least
gives the other person the chance to consider the request or the
if someone asks a person with VM for help, their first reaction might
be to say no, because they are afraid the other person will take
advantage of their generosity. The rational response is to take every
such request seriously and then to try to work together to achieve it.
If there is trust and both parties believe in the good intentions of
the other, it is amazing what can be achieved. If there is fundamental
lack of trust, it is amazing what simple things cannot be achieved.
- Inability to share. This is not just about getting equal
portions of the pie. A person with VM also has trouble making
collective decisions, i.e. decisions that are simultaneously made by
two or more people. S/he seems incapable of working together in a team
to solve a problem. S/he is more oriented toward a hierarchical
approach to decision making in which one person orders and the other
- Failure to apply a simple universal moral principle, the Golden Rule.
People with VM have the feeling that interactions with other people are
generally unfair. That makes it justifiable to do nasty things to other
people, pretend that you are innocent, and after that complain about
their negative reaction. In fact, that is a perfect way to start a
or emotional manipulation.
The "victim" feels that life has been unfair to him
or her, therefore it is justified to be unfair to others. That includes
dishonesty with others, but also dishonesty with oneself.
The worst thing you can do to a relationship is violence. There is
never any excuse for violence, except in clear cases of self-defense or
the defense of dependents. Hopefully, humans will one day realise that
this principle also applies to international politics (there is no
excuse for war except in self-defense, which can only happen at home,
not abroad) and law (there is no excuse for torture or the death
penalty, ever). Perhaps VM is the biggest hurdle standing in the way of
progress in this direction. The second-worst thing you can do to a
relationship is cheating on your partner. Cheating is only reasonably
possible if there is a prior agreement about it. Otherwise, there
is no excuse for it. The same applies to lying and cheating in
politics and law, and if you don't like the latter, you shouldn't do
the former. The cheat who realises his/her mistake and sincerely
regrets it has the chance to make up for the damage s/he has
caused, but to be plausible the attempt to make up has to be somehow equal in size to
the size of the original crime. This is called paying your moral debts, and
people with VM are not good at it. The same principle applies to
financial transactions, both
within relationships and in local, national and international
politics. In relationships, cheating is the best way to ruin everything
permanently. After that, you can complain for the rest of your life
about the consequences of what you did yourself, which is a typical
feature of VM.
- In romantic relationships, people with VM tend to mistake
"falling in love" for "true love" - a confusion that can be found in
countless love songs (so it obviously has universal appeal) and was
nicely explained by Erich Fromm in "The Art of Loving". For "victims",
love is mainly a feeling (determined by hormones?). It is not primarily
about doing things for the other person. It is more passive than
active. For this reason, VMers tend to abandon their partners when they
fall out of love, even if they are married and promised on their
wedding day (in a public ceremony in front of 100 friends) that they
would stay together through thick and thin. They don't understand that
commitment means not only promising to stay together, but also
promising to do what is necessary to keep the relationship alive and
happy - and doing that because one really wants to, because the
relationship is in any case a good thing that is worth maintaining as
it changes and develops. People with VM may also be fundamentally
scared of commitment because their partner might take advantage of
them. They construct stories to explain this attitude (e.g. commitment
is old-fashioned or religious). When things go wrong, they think:
What's the point of trying to maintain a relationship if in the end you
going to be a victim anyway? After the person with VM ends the
relationship, which is experienced as a great relief, s/he then
explains to others that it was their ex-partner's fault, and
forgets about all the wonderful things that the relationship brought
into their life. But this is just one of many possible outcomes. It is
also possible for a person without VM to end a relationship with a
person with VM who is too scared to change. In that case, the
separation may be better for all concerned. In any case, an
understanding of VM may make it easier to understand the situation and
choose the right course of action.
Everyone has a certain amount of VM. In fact, one could say
certain amount of VM is normal and healthy. There is no point trying to
be a martyr. But it is also normal to try to keep VM to a minimum or
If VM is mainly learned, it is always possible to
VM, or at least to reduce excessive levels. The victim role is
essentially just that: a role. Shakespeare was right that "All the
world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players". Getting rid
of VM should be as easy as changing roles in a play.
But as every actor knows, changing roles is not easy. Nor is
to shake off habitual or chronic VM. Essential prerequisites include:
- The ability to think about one's own habitual thinking
processes, sometimes called metacognition.
I might think to myself: What do I think about that motivates me to do
a certain thing? Which thoughts lead to which other thoughts?
- The right kind of motivation. The desire to change must
from within. A change in attitude may be provoked by an extraordinary
situation or crisis. Since rejecting suggestions is a general
characteristic feature of VM, a person with VM will generally not
respond positively to everyday attempts by another person to draw
attention to the problem and its possible solution.
People who identify aspects of VM in their own thinking in
that they would like to get rid of, and other people who support them
(including therapists), may find the following strategies for "breaking
- Focus on the positive aspects of your situation, such as
positive things that you do and have done, both for yourself and others.
- Become aware of the emotional need that is fulfilled by
and receiving pity from others; explore other ways of fulfilling that
need (possibly with therapeutic support).
- Brainstorm about possible solutions to a given problem,
evaluating different possibilities, and implementing the best available
solution. Try to shift attention away from the problem itself and
toward the possible solutions.
- Thank your friends for their support, kindness, trust;
oneself similarly. Gratitude means ascribing positive intentions to
other people, whereas VM involves ascribing negative intentions to
- Look for new opportunities rather than focusing on the
aspect of a difficult situation, for example relishing opportunities to
learn things from negative situations that one would not otherwise have
- Tidy up your house and your office. Wear clothes that make
you look and feel good and reflect good aspects of your personality.
- Be tolerant of VM in others, because in fact everyone has
tendency. Be patient when others seem unable to perceive their own VM
and in fact may never do so, let alone solve the problem. They may be
"victims" (or victims of VM) for life - but they may also be wonderful
people in other ways for which we can be grateful.
Intellectuals might like to read Jean-Paul Satre's existential
philosophy and consider his concept of freedom. Conscious beings are
free by definition - we do not have a choice between freedom and
non-freedom. It follows that we must take responsibility for our
decisions and that victim behavior is hiding from (or distortion of)
Politics, history, and offender-victim
(aka "blaming the victim"; in German: Täter-Opfer-Umkehr)
VM can explain why kind, generous and caring people sometimes
support political parties whose policies are the opposite
of kind, generous and caring. In this way, VM can
explain one of the great paradoxes of political behavior when viewed
from a moderate left-wing viewpoint. "Kind conservatives" might simply
have had disastrous dealings with one or more people with VM, and
concluded that some people just cannot be helped.
Their experience with VMers may have convinced them that there is no
use being generous to people at the political level, because the
generosity will never be repaid.
This conclusion is correct in one
respect and incorrect in another. It is true that there are people out
there with VM who never seem to learn, and it is true that governmental
generosity (e.g. in the form of welfare payments) toward such people
can be wasted. However, this is a statistical question and one has to
consider the big picture. First, if the
government is generous toward everyone, a certain percentage of those
people will waste the money that they were given, but if things are
carefully planned and managed, a larger percentage will put that money
to good use, so that the net social benefit of the policy is positive.
Second, the amounts of money lost to governments by tax evasion or
failing to tax the rich appropriately are orders of magnitude greater
than the amounts of money lost by welfare fraud: if we are talking
about the difference between millions and billions, the ratio is a
thousand to one. If "kind conservatives" understood these two simple
points, they might switch
sides and become more supportive of responsible left-wing or
politics, which would have net benefits for everybody. For example,
they might support the idea of universal basic income combined with
flat income tax (UBI-FIT),
clinging to the paranoid idea that governments have to
control every bit of money they give away - so much so that the cost of
administration exceeds the cost of the benefits. The force that causes
conservatives and nationalists to cling to irrational beliefs and
attributions rather than embrace positive change is emotional rather
than logical, and the idea of VM may be the best way to understand it.
VM can cause violence - either physical or verbal. The
believes him- or herself to be a victim of the person being attacked,
which justifies the attack. This can lead to a reversal of offender and
victim, in the mind of the offender. The true offender is presented as
the victim, and the true victim is presented as the offender.
Confusions of this kind are common in harassment (aka bullying and
mobbing), making it difficult for investigators to get a clear picture
of who is causing what. Such confusions are also typical of persecution
and, in extreme cases, genocide.
VM has been associated with repressive political regimes. If
leaders of a country, and the citizens who support them, collectively
feel like victims of neighboring countries (e.g. following past border
disputes), those leaders may be more likely to advocate violent
conflict resolution or suppression of freedom of speech. Nazi Germany
is a well-known example: In "Mein Kampf", Hitler presented himself and
the Germans as victims of Versailles (which had some justification) and
of the Jews, who he believed had caused the depression (which was
nonsense). The European Jews had been been victimized in for
centuries, but as a group (if it means anything to talk about such as
diverse group) they were obviously innocent. No matter, an increasing
number of Germans were looking for scapegoats. This case of
offender-victim-reversal paved the way for the Holocaust - the worst
crime humanity has ever witnessed.
In everyday politics, offender-victim reversal is typical of
populist publicity campaigns of extreme-right political parties.
Constructed social groups such as "foreigners" or "Muslims" are turned
into scapegoats by fabricating or exaggerating stories about their evil
ways. This increases the incidence and intensity of discrimination
against them. In fact, they are the true victims, and the political
are the true offenders. A related tendency may be observed in the
conflict between Judaism and Islam in the Middle East. The Israeli
government has repeatedly justified its deadly attacks on Palestine by
posing as an innocent victim of the Palestinians, knowing that
could rely on US support. In fact, in just about every conflict, the
number of Palestinians killed has been far greater than the number of
Israelis killed. Even disregarding the violence, the Palestines are
suffering much more than the Israelis from poverty and lack of freedom.
Objectively speaking, it is clear which side is the main victim and
which side is the main perpetrator, even if the distinction is often
blurred. It follows from these clear and uncontroversial observations
that the primary responsibility for resolving the conflict lies with
Israel - and with Israel, the USA and the West. (The reason why I am
mentioning this here is that I personally identify with the West, and
hence with USA and Israel. In this sense I am "on Israel's side"
and feel a sense of shared responsibility.)
Offender-victim reversal can also be observed in a more subtle
in moderate rightwing politics. Many moderate rightwing voters and
politicians believe in the myth of the "self-made man". According to
this myth, people (normally understood to be men, strangely enough) can
"make it to the top" by their own efforts and without any support from
the government. And of course this really does happen, or seem to
happen, quite often. It follows from this somewhat myopic logic that
people receiving social security benefits or free health insurance are
too lazy to fend for themselves, and if they claim to be victims of an
unfair system, they must have VM. The big picture looks rather
different. Most "self-made men" got all kinds of help from other people
on the way, most of which they do not acknowledge - or perhaps did not
even notice. They could never have "made it" without the everyday
infrastructures that only government can provide and only taxation can
make possible. Conversely, people on welfare benefits often come from
poor families, received an inadequate education, had poor role models
and so on.
Moderate conservatives are displaying VM when they
- complain about paying normal and necessary rates of tax,
- describe wealth taxes as "dispossession" (provoking the
paranoid fear of communism; in fact, every form of tax is
- blame leftwing governments for economic problems that were
fact caused by rightwing governments (for example, all recent
Republican governments in the USA increased the national debt and all
recent Democrat governments reduced it), or
- feel no particular responsibility toward the society that
ultimately made their comfortable lifestyle possible, and hence no need
to give back what they received, directly or indirectly.
Since leftwing politics represents people who are more likely
true victims of an unfair socio-economic system, it is more
understandable when leftwing politicians and voters fall into the trap
of VM. But it is also in their best interests to recognize these forms
of thinking and behavior for what they are, and try to move beyond
them. That strategy would benefit leftwing politics and ultimately the
whole of society. That is one of the aims of this page.
Why I wrote this page
I wrote this page for several reasons.
1. I could not find good psychological literature on VM,
either that it has somehow been neglected or that I am not using
standard psychological terminology. A further possible problem is that
the listed features of VM are not necessarily associated with each
other - some people might have some features and others have other
features. An empirical study on this question would be interesting! In
any case please send me references to relevant psychological
literature. My email address is on my main page.
2. VM is a candidate for a fundamental explanation
("Urerklärung") for the repeated failure of humankind to
solve obvious and pressing problems. Today, people who care about
global poverty, global warming, global economics, global biological
diversity, global peace and so on are constantly and creatively
developing realistic solutions to these problems. At the same time,
these solutions are constantly being blocked by other people. The end
result: the problems are not solved and the efforts of those who care
are wasted. The blockers are often apparently sensible people
presenting apparently good arguments. They are often intelligent,
successful, and popular. How can we explain such behavior? Maybe they
are simply suffering from VM. At some
level, they think that life has been fundamentally unfair to them,
which in their minds justifies their attitudes, even when others
suggest to them gently that they are perhaps being selfish, stupid or
blockers are actively blocking progress, but we should also consider
passive resistance. Many well-educated middle-class people understand
very well what is happening and may even realise that they are part of
the problem, but they are doing nothing about it. If you ask them why,
their reply is often a variation on "I can't". "Realistically", they
say, these problems are simply too big, so they give up. That may seem
logical on the surface, but the underlying reason may be a form of VM.
The problem could be addressed by trying to reduce VM and increase
self-efficacy in the entire population. Self-efficacy can be taught at
all educational levels from kindergarten to university. Students need
activities that improve their self-efficacy such as sport and music,
and they also need to learn about self-efficacy and VM in order to
better understand themselves and others.If this kind of explanation is
valid, the problem of global poverty and global warming is shifted to a
newlevel. How can we increase awareness for VM in the next
generation? Should it be part of high-school philosophy or values
3. I have lived in different countries and I have
aware of VM in other people, and the consequences for me personally
have sometimes been serious. In such situations I was often tempted to
the club" and regard myself as a victim along with the rest. I now live
in Austria. Many Austrians seem to think there is more victim mentality
in Austria than elsewhere, but I am not convinced.
studies of happiness suggest that Eastern Europeans have more victim
mentality and Carribeans less; perhaps there is a grain of truth in
that, but it is dangerous to generalize. Both the Israelis
and the Palestinians regard themselves of victims of the other side;
the conflict could be resolved if both sides became
more aware of the irrationality of this position. How about the "Tea
Party" in the
USA? They advocate strict adherence to the
US constitution; an exaggerated love of law and order is typical of VM.
They want to reduce social services, because they regard taxation as
generally unfair. Taxation
causes the rich to suffer. The poor rich! They have worked so hard for
this country and look how we are treating them! In fact, the rich do
not, on average, work any more or less than the poor, and those rich
people who worked exceptionally hard did it for themselves, not for the
country. They may have worked twice as hard as others, but (based on
good education and contacts) were able to earn 10, 100 or 1000 times as
much money. So much for the victim theory.
I created a Wikipedia
page on this topic in September
2012 and copied the content from this page. Since then, both texts have
changed. It is very interesting to see what others have contributed to
Caroline M Apovian (2010). The causes, prevalence, and
obesity revisited in 2009: What have we learned so far? American
Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 91, 277S-279S.
Isaac Prilleltensky and Lev Gonick (1996). Polities change,
oppression remains: On the psychology and politics of oppression.
Political Psychology, 17, 127.
Christopher Peterson (2006). A Primer in Positive Psychology.
Oxford University Press.
Janet Lehman: "It's Not Fair!" How to Stop Victim Mentality
Thinking in Kids and Teens.
Henrick Edberg: How to Break Out of a Victim Mentality: 7
Thomas J. Nevitt: The Victim Mentality.
For an independent analysis of this article see:
Jeff Boone (2014). Victim
Mentality and Negative Human Outcomes.
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