"I should be the victim"
Everyone is dying to be the victim (including you)
When I say we are "dying to be the victim" I mean that in two ways.
#1 What we say and how we act (indicating we have a desire) often puts us in that role of being a victim (in contrast to seeing ourselves as a villain or some other non-victim role). Even though we may not consciously identify ourselves as a "victim" in a given circumstance, our behavior clearly indicates that we are "choosing" that role.
#2 The consequences of playing that role is that we deaden our vitality and our connection with others. In some circumstances, we are willing to literally die in order to prove that we are the victim.
Let's limit our focus here to just how we frame ourselves as a victim in our personal relationships
Although they overlap and reinforce each other, I am going to limit my intention to helping you understand first, how we frame ourselves as victims in our personal lives and second, the costs that we pay for doing that.
I am going to leave largely aside for now of how we frame ourselves as victims according to what group of people we identify with.
This expresses itself in the culture wars: the conflicts between social groups and the struggle for dominance of their values, beliefs, and practices. These wars are typically characterized by polarized differences in opinion on cultural, moral, and sometimes even political issues. Common subjects of the culture wars include abortion, gun rights, immigration, multiculturalism, freedom of speech, gender roles, sexuality, and religion (focusing on the culture wars in the USA). Culture wars can manifest in various ways, from media campaigns and public debates to legal battles and even occasionally in violent confrontations. They often reflect deeper societal divisions and historical contexts that shape public opinion on controversial issues.
Culture wars are all about who gets to win the prize of being framed as the victim.
This also expresses itself in wars between nations or factions within nations. Each side sees itself as the victim of the other. No exceptions.
Definition of "victim"
As used in this discourse, I use the word "victim," not in the sense of a legal-type of definition as the "murder victim," but as a mindset of how we see ourselves in a given circumstance in relationship with another ("She hurt my feelings") or even in relationship to reality ("I'm just unlucky").
It is possible to be a victim in a legal sense but not in the mindset sense. For example, I once knew a woman who was my friend who had been raped at knife point. From her sharing about the incident, I could tell, although she was definitely the victim of being raped and she didn't like the experience, she did not hold herself as a victim and was actually rather proud of herself (as was I) of how she viewed and handled the situation, both during and afterward.
The meaning of victim as a mindset is when a person has the tendency to view themselves as a victim, regardless of their actual circumstances. This mindset often involves perceiving oneself as being constantly oppressed, wronged, or facing insurmountable odds, even when evidence suggests otherwise. People with a "victim mentality" tend to blame external factors for their problems rather than taking personal responsibility for their choices and actions. They often feel powerless and believe they lack control over their lives, leading to feelings of resentment, bitterness, and self-pity. This mindset can prevent individuals from taking proactive steps to improve their situations and can strain relationships with others who might feel frustrated by the individual's refusal or inability to see their own role in their circumstances.
The problem with the above definition of "victim" for the purposes of life happiness and an empowered mindset, is in the phrase, "regardless of the actual circumstances." This definition implies that you don't have the victim mindset if the facts can prove you are a victim. Holding yourself as a victim, even in circumstances where most others would agree that you are "the victim," as in when your spouse has an affair and lies to you about it, only makes you feel bad and limits your ability to take care of yourself and still have the best possible relationship with others.
We not accustomed to using this distinction of victim as a trait that applies to ourselves. I assert, however, that it is a trait that applies with varying degrees to almost all of us, most often with ongoing chronic damage both to ourselves, to others, and to our relationships.
Here is a quiz which will help you assess to what degree you live inside the House of Good and Bad HOGAB and currently hold yourself to be victim (whether of others, of yourself, or of reality).
Legend: a score of 100% means the jail-bars and walls of the HOGAB have no effect on you. The only reason you're aware of it is by the stories that others tell who still live inside that world of wrongdoing and rightdoing. A score of 0% means you live and breathe as if you're a founding member and leader of the House of Good and Bad. Who you think you are is fully defined by the should and should not rules of that house.
Benefits of being the victim
To the extent that we're outside the HOGAB, it's easy to see all the costs that others who still reside there incur. But to the extent that we're inside the HOGAB, we can't imagine a life outside of it and often believe that it's only psychopaths and really bad, amoral people live in that world.
Our identity and sense of our self-worth depends on identifying with others who live inside the HOBAG, especially our particular version of it. For example, people who self-identify as Christians or Moslems, or as Democrats or Republicans, rely on their own set of self-defining belonging beliefs to provide their more unique identity and sense of self worth.
Have you noticed how, in right-wrong action movies, if we see the enemies of the good guys as fighting for "their country," however misguided, then we begrudgingly grant them a seat at the table of humanity? If however, those enemies are portrayed as psychopaths or are in it for their own selfish greed (think mercenaries), then we view them as monsters, undeserving of understanding or compassion.
Could you survive and thrive without the "protection" and "support" of the HOGAB?
It's almost impossible for those in the HOGAB to imagine how they could take care of themselves without the ability to see themselves as the victim so that they could justify their withdrawal from, toleration of, or defensiveness with others.
The biggest reason for this is that our "logic" inside the HOGAB automatically makes it impossible to prioritize taking care of ourselves and setting needed boundaries with others because then we are likely to end up looking like "the bad guy" if we do that. Inside the HOGAB it's also impossible to prioritize Now-Next Integrity because, paradoxically, you imagine that, if you didn't beat yourself up for not doing what you should do, that is, if you didn't make yourself a bad guy for things like procrastination, giving up, or being lazy, then you would be a "bad guy." We need to feel bad about ourselves in order to prove that we're a good guy.
To consider saying or acting on any of the following would stimulate your fear of others blaming your or you blaming yourself
"No, I'm not going to lend you that money you need even though my Others says it would be the kind thing to do."
"No, I'm not going to stay married to you because I have other happier options for my life even though my Others says it would be cruel to abandon you because you need me so much."
"No, I'm not going to work overtime because I don't know how to make that work with other parts of my life that are important to me even though my Others blames me for not being a team player."
"I'm going to quit my job because it's not fun even though my Next thinks that would be irresponsible."
"I'm not going to the gym today even though my Next blames me for breaking my word with myself."
Damned if you do and damned if you don't
When you're inside the HOGAB, where Others and Next are generally the "good guys," and Oneself and Now are most of viewed as the "bad guys" (when they try to or are able to overpower the good guys), whenever there is a Now-Next Conflict or a Oneself-Others Conflict, no matter which part of you "wins" in a given conflict, one part of you always loses and that means you (as a complete and whole person, including all four parts of you) lose.
"I wouldn't do that because I would feel guilty"
Often, when I ask a client to compare the costs, benefits, risks, and possibilities of two different courses of action, they often count as a cost of one course (usually a course that has more obvious benefits for either Now or Oneself or both), they say that feeling guilty would be a cost.
What they don't see is that that cost would not exist if they weren't deeply ensconced inside the House of Good and Bad where to "look good" and to "not look bad" can easily justify accepting huge costs in order to "do the right thing." In fact, to the extent that we're inside the HOGAB, it makes it difficult to clearly assess the pros and cons of the different courses of action before us.
The way out
AskDwightHow is more than 80% about the way to leave the HOGAB (FFI toolkit, NNI toolkit, OOI toolkit, HOGAB topics). There are many tools and contexts that can serve along this road to freedom. The most fundamental is the tool of Choosing Courage (all four steps): the courage to take the risk of "looking bad," even to yourself.