Stress can be necessary or unhealthy. When we move, one skeletal muscle must stretch, the complementary muscle must contract. Thus, created physical stress moves our limbs.
Then there is unhealthy stress. It comes from experiences in real time, and more often, that originate sometime in the past. Stressors that have life of their own are commonly triggered by emotional trauma. Such events as abuse, domestic violence, addiction, war, early loss of parents, poverty, grave illness, or bullying create hurtful emotional memories that may become imprinted in us.
A caveat here: I am in no way minimizing trauma of any sort. These are real and debilitating events that often define a portion of a person’s life. Yet victims of trauma need not live that trauma and stress for the rest of their lives. Recovery is possible with professional help.
The stress produced by trauma gets relived every time our bodies, minds, or spirits encounter a similar experience. Thus, the emotional stress that seems to come from nowhere, but has a hidden origin in our memories.
Repeating stress and trauma memories often lead to an ongoing feeling of being victimized. These are some reactions of people stuck in a victim mentality: constant grumpiness or complaining, unreasonable expectations of self or others, attachment to outcomes, jealousy, resentment, anxiety, codependent, dead-end relationships, addictions, and victimizing others.
Maybe you’ve met such people, are partnered with them. or see them in the mirror in the morning. They often complain about how things “should” be. They have trouble with change. They feel anxious when not in control. They think their life is worse than everyone else’s. Anger or sadness are their go-to emotions. They hold onto resentments.
Such ‘victims’ use their pasts as fodder for the “story of their lives.” This story defines them in detail, rehearsing over and over the offenses others perpetrated. This keeps the familiar harmful feeling alive and justifies their feeling like a victim. often places blame on others for the predicament they are in.
The victim mindset affects everyone. At work they think the rules do not apply to them or they apply exclusively to them. They may blame others for not being able to get their work done. Colleagues are afraid to ask, “How are you doing?”, dreading the inevitable twenty-minute tirade. People who live out of a victim mentality may be extremely competent, but their emotional landscape is toxic.
Can victims of trauma grow away from a victim mentality? If this sounds like you (and it had been me for decades), be ready for a lot of internal reworking of your stories. You must realize that everything you’ve tried up until now has not worked. You must trust your spiritual guides to keep you safe in this process. You must be willing to give up your old story for a new one that expresses an authentic and confident self-identity.
6 Steps Away From Victimhood
1. You are your own best rescuer. People living as victims are crying out for someone to help them, change them, rescue them. No one can do this but you.
2. What are your stories really about? Do they run along the lines of being taken advantage of, envy, revenge, broken relationships, resentments, justifiable anger?
3. Who’s holding you accountable? Imagine if when you launch into your victim story, you hear yourself, stop the triggering of victim feelings, and change the subject. Discover a new peace when you do.
4. What is your support system? There are lots to choose from: non-guilt-based spiritual communities, twelve step groups, therapists, or life coaches.
5. Your body remembers. Be patient with yourself because you’ll be coming across words, music, feelings, and events that trigger your victimhood. It will take time to rewrite your stories.
6. Dare to be different. Many of your friends and family have gotten used to your moaning and groaning. What would it be like if you wove a new story of gratitude? Surprise them with a new ‘you’, who has been released from permanent victimhood!
Recovery from being a victim takes effort, and results in a happier life, a life of feeling like a success despite past adversity. Yet the most difficult part is taking responsibility for yourself and stop expecting others, even God, to fix you. This is not a course in miracles. It is a process of self-awareness and decision-making that will bring balance and joy to you and everyone around you.
Need to talk? I’m here for you. firstname.lastname@example.org or text me at 813-449-3904
My book can help: Life Interrupted: Taking Charge After Everything Has Changed