Pathologies of Victimhood by R. Gunderman – The Dangers of Victimhood Mentality
I wanted to explain a few things before I paste in excerpts from the article about victimhood by Gunderman, so nobody will misunderstand my views upfront.
I do think there are actual victims out there in life, including in the Christian church context. I am not denying that.
I recognize that sometimes painful or unfair things happen to all of us in life, and sometimes those painful things are due to other people’s cruelty, incompetence, negligence, or sins against us, and not due to any personal moral failings or choices we make.
Sometimes bad things happen to good people through no fault of those people. One can be more sinned against than sinner.
A few years ago, there was a guy on Twitter with several accounts (he seemed to be a Christian), all of which were disgustingly used to mock victims of church abuse or of sexual abuse whose churches tried to cover up the abuse.
I think he later deleted these accounts, or his accounts received so many complaints from others that Twitter deleted them all.
One of his Twitter accounts used the name “Victim Princess,” as if to suggest that any and all women who spoke out against abuse they received by their churches or by Christians was nothing but entitled, petty whining with no merit. I was appalled by his account.
This guy would do things like actually tweet rude or nasty comments at Christian women on Twitter who discussed how their church covered up their abuse by other church members.
Politically, I am a conservative, and I do not agree with the vast majority of liberal or progressive “woke,” intersectional identity politics, which is largely based on victimhood mentality.
In progressive identity politics, different identity groups end up competing for “who is the most oppressed and biggest victim in life,” which creates (not solves) all sorts of problems.
However, while I do think that the “woke” go over-board with their grievance culture mentality, that does not mean that people who complain about having been hurt in life are always lying, exaggerating, or trying to get special accommodations.
Out of Knee Jerk Dislike of Wokeness, Among Other Factors, Sadly, Too Often, Too Many Conservatives Minimize Actual Abuse
While some progressives over-play the “victim card” to exploit and manipulate others, it is still wrong for conservatives to deny, minimize, or to reject altogether that churches do usually cover up sexual abuse in their midst or by their members.
It is wrong for conservatives to fail to acknowledge the reality that most pastors and churches do in fact fail domestic abuse victims and constantly enable abusers.
I do think that most churches are insensitive and incompetent at handling abuse among their members, and that should change.
There is such a thing as a victim. People can be exploited, hurt, and abused by other people – that is not something that “woke” liberals and progressives are making up.
I’m a conservative who has been taken advantage of and bullied through my life by school mates, my ex fiance, siblings, co-workers on jobs, etc., and this through no fault of my own.
Victims do actually exist.
Conservatives can and have been abused and mistreated on an individual and group level, whether by liberal and progressive persons and policies, or by their spouses or bosses on jobs.
At one time or another, we’ve all been bullied, abused, harassed, exploited, or on the receiving end of rude or cutting comments, regardless of our identity or political beliefs.
It is therefore unrealistic and cruel for conservatives to act like any and every person who claims victim status is a sensitive snowflake or is lying about it.
Flip Side of Coin: People Who Choose to Stay in Victimhood Status (yes, it’s ultimately a choice), Refuse to Move Forward
However, I have seen people, and groups of people, who – whether they are actual victims or not – wallow in victimhood status and victimhood mentality, and this is not acceptable, either.
Some of those still participating in the “exvangelical” (ex-evangelical) tag over on Twitter in 2022, which has been going on for several years now, are one example of this.
I’ve seen so many people, under that “exvangelical” tag, as well as non-ex-evangelical people I once befriended online,
or people (including family members I’ve had, real life friends and co-workers) who may have been honestly victimized and wounded in childhood or adulthood, but they remain “stuck” in their rage, anger, and hurt – they still think of themselves as victims, and they want to be viewed as victims.
They want to be endlessly coddled and validated.
These are people who are very resistant to, or who refuse to take, the only avenue out of the pain, regret, anger, and disappointment and into joy, peace, and happiness – which includes, after a period of grieving and anger (that comes to an end and does not go on indefinitely),
- accepting, once for all, what happened to them,
realizing that remaining focused on external causes and other people (ie, their abuser or abusive church) is keeping them “stuck,”
- to make a deliberate decision at some point to move forward, whether they “feel like it” or not
(i.e., to no longer stew in anger, to ruminate, stew in past wrongs done against them, to dwell on how life is unfair, to dwell upon the idea they are a good person who didn’t deserve the abuse, etc),
- to realize in order to change their life for the better, they will have to look inwards,
which will allow them to get to the next healing point…
- take personal responsibility for their life, healing,
and realize if you want your life to change,
you will have to get active and make changes yourself
– sitting around all day doing things like watching TV or complaining to people on social media about how life, your former church, God, or your abuser, treated you so unfairly
(even if any and all those things are in fact true, ie, you WERE treated horribly and unfairly)
– won’t ultimately help you in the long run, it won’t make the necessary changes;
complaining frequently, and receiving validation that, yes, what happened to you was horrible and wrong, and yes, you were a victim who didn’t deserve abuse, will only offer temporary emotional relief but will not produce long lasting inner peace and happiness
Stewing in anger, hurt, and regret and enjoying or wanting to receive validation that one did not deserve to be abused, is all but a step in the overall journey of healing.
It is the first step… but too many victims want to stay in Step One forever and ever, rather than moving through the rest of the steps.
Yes, there should be time limits on how long you are angry, ruminating, and upset and wanting to receive validation – a lot of therapists and victims (and former victims) get upset when this view point is stated, but it’s true.
Maybe that time limit is different for each victim and should not be rushed – which is fine.
HOWEVER, I do not support any person staying mired in “victimhood land” perpetually.
Staying in step one – never getting over or past the anger and hurt, refusing to let go or from even considering to do so, being addicted to external validation like it’s a drug one craves and needs – is one huge component of what keeps people trapped in depression, anger, pain, and from enjoying the rest of their life.
If you feel perpetually wounded, hurt, or angry, as long as you keep shifting blame towards those outside you (even if yes, those others deserve that blame), as long as you continue to dwell on being angry at your abuser, at God, life circumstances, or former churches that treated you like trash, you’ll never be able to move on and enjoy life again.
You have to look inwards in order to move forward, and that is a choice one has to make, because it won’t instantaneously happen.
Furthermore, your emotions will never magically change on their own; you will never “feel” like getting up, making changes, and moving forward. It’s a matter or choice and self discipline.
So if your mindset is, “I will make changes and move on when I feel like it, when my emotions change,” that is never going to happen.
Moving on is more a matter of will.
While I do think there are actual victims out there (and anti-woke conservatives need to be sensitive to these persons),
I’m also aware of legitimate victims who cannot or who refuse to move on,
-and there are persons with Covert or Vulnerable Narcissism (a personality disorder – more about that on this blog (Link): here and (Link): here), a hallmark of which is holding a life-long self-pitying, victimhood mentality – these people, of their own accord, are mired in depression and misery of their own making, because they refuse to look inwards and take personal responsibility.
Covert Narcissists, for one, prefer to point the finger of blame for their misery at their family of origin, God, and / or their former church, ex-spouses, and so on. They never want to look at how their attitudes or actions keep them in a limited, unhappy situation.
Sorry for that very long intro, but I didn’t want anyone to get to the following link and excerpts and think by posting it that I am in denial that yes, at times in life, sometimes people have legitimate pain and grievances and can be honest to goodness victims.
I do believe there are honest- to- goodness victims out there and that these victims deserve compassion, empathy, and justice,
but – however –
I am also aware that, unfortunately, some people, whether legitimate victim or not, will milk and exploit a “victim” label to lash out at others, to demand special treatment (at the expense of others), and that clinging to a “victim” identity and view of themselves will cause them to remain stuck in unhappiness.
I have more commentary below this link with excerpts:
Pathologies of Victimhood – the Essay
(Link): Pathologies of Victimhood by R. Gunderman – Victimhood Mentality
by Richard Gunderman
November 13, 2022
[Piece opens by discussing the late Sacheen Littlefeather, who claimed to be a Native American but who was actually of Mexican descent. She wanted to be viewed as a Native American to depict herself as an undertrodden member of a victim class.
As someone who actually is part Native American, I don’t view myself as a victim, so I find her ploy strange]
…Everyone has experienced genuine victimization at some point in their lives. Some have been the victims of political persecution and violent assault, while others have suffered lesser slights, such as bullying, verbal insults, and interruptions when speaking.
Most of us have also experienced situations where presumed victimhood stemmed from a mistaken assumption—for example, a driver who “cut off” a fellow motorist by abruptly changing lanes might appear to harbor malicious intent, but it might turn out that he was merely attempting to get to the hospital as quickly as possible to be with an ailing loved one.
Some among us, however, have a habit of adopting a posture of victimhood too easily and too often, a tendency that can damage communities, interpersonal relationships, and supposed victims themselves.
Victimhood transcends political boundaries. In American politics, a history of victimization, perceived or actual, is often treated as a credential that lends credence and moral authority to a particular person, group, or point of view. Members of minority groups, the poor, and the voiceless often lay a claim to it, but so too do members of various majorities, high-wealth groups, and prominent figures in our society.
Many grievances concern perceived disadvantages: structural racism, colonialism, gender binarism, ableism, and other forms of oppression by economic, social, and religious elites.
Yet even the billionaire former president of the US exhibits what might be charitably called a persecution complex, often rallying his supporters with the claim that “We’re all victims.”
A team of psychologists has recently described a psychological condition they call the “tendency for interpersonal victimhood,” which they define as “an enduring feeling that the self is a victim across different kinds of interpersonal relationships.”
We all know that some people take offense more easily than others, but those with this tendency consider themselves “the victims of others’ malevolent actions” and remain “preoccupied with having been hurt long after the event has ended.”
Specifically, individuals with a tendency for interpersonal victimhood feel victimized “more often, more intensely, and for longer durations” than those who do not share this psychological affliction.
The researchers outline four components of this tendency. The first is the need for recognition of victimhood. Such individuals need to have their victimhood acknowledged by others and expect them to express sympathy for what they are enduring. Failure by others to recognize their suffering only deepens their sense of having been wronged, which in turn psychologically embeds the tendency to victimhood even more deeply.
Above all, individuals with a tendency for interpersonal victimhood expect perceived perpetrators to take responsibility for what they have done and express remorse and a sense of guilt over their actions. The perceived perpetrator’s failure to acknowledge culpability often proves the most irksome slight of all, compounding mounting resentment.
A second feature of the tendency for interpersonal victimhood is moral elitism. Such individuals take their own “immaculate morality” for granted, just as surely as they are convinced of others’ malevolence. In comparison to those who have wronged them, they see themselves as fundamentally different and morally superior. ….
A third feature is lack of empathy. Individuals with a tendency for interpersonal victimhood feel their own suffering very keenly, but they tend to be oblivious to the suffering of others.
In a sense, such individuals are so attuned to their own sense of moral injury, like someone wearing high-volume headphones, that they cannot pick up notes of distress in others.
Those in the throes of victimhood might deny that they have a selfish bone in their bodies, but their inner monologue and dialogue with others, if soberly examined, would often strike others as aggressively self-centered.
It seems strange to say, but victimhood sometimes represents a kind of egoism, in the sense that afflicted individuals jealously protect their entitlement against others who claim to put forward their own grievances.
The final feature of the tendency to interpersonal victimhood is rumination…
Everyone recalls and sometimes relives past experiences, but some persons continue such revisitation long after events have passed and despite the fact that doing so perpetuates distress.
The goal of rumination is not to solve a problem or adopt a new perspective but simply to experience the situation over and over again.
…Unfortunately, the tendency to interpersonal victimhood is associated with many adverse consequences. Cognitively, such individuals tend to operate with what psychologists call an external locus of control, meaning that they believe they cannot do much to affect the course of their life and the reactions it provokes in them.
…We tend to find what we set out looking for, and when persons operate with the assumption that others are out to victimize them, their expectations tend to be fulfilled.
— end excerpts —
You can read the rest of that interesting and illuminating piece (Link): here, off site.
Blogs, You Tube Channels, and Social Media Accounts that Specialize in Abuse
I would like to see spiritual abuse bloggers discuss this type of issue more often.
In my opinion, to be of true service to your readership, if you have a spiritual abuse forum, group, or blog,
if you’re interested in seriously helping people who were abused in and by churches, you may want to periodically link people to material about healing…
Rather than just offer non-stop exposes in blog post after blog post on the latest sex abuse scandal cover up by Liberty University, John MacArthur’s church, bullying preacher Mark Driscoll, etc.
I am not opposed to such exposes – they are clearly needed – but for regular readers of your social media, blog, Facebook group, or You Tube channel (many of whom are probably victims of some kind of abuse in or by churches),
it would be helpful to show victims of abusive marriages, families, or churches, that there is a way out of the emotional pain, anger, and resentment, and link them to competent material that discusses the way out.
Warning for Any Rescuers, People Pleasers, Empaths, or Codependents
And, side note here…
If you are a people pleaser or a codependent, it’s not your personal job or responsibility to fix and try to heal every wounded person and victim you come across!
I am a recovered Codependent, and I wasted years of my life, of my time, sanity, and energy trying to heal, validate, console, and help people (when that was their job to do, to seek out healing on their own, via therapy or self help books), all of which just left me exhausted, and it didn’t help those people at the end of the day.
Yes, those victims lapped up the affirmation I gave them, and they enjoyed and loved that I consoled them and gave them non-judgemental emotional support when they came to me wanting to discuss their hurt in life or previous abuse they have suffered… but they never moved on or even showed a willingness to do so.
These victims, and/or self-pitying chronic malcontents and chronic complainers, just wanted to keep phoning, e-mailing, or texting me with their complaints for months or for years and wanted me to continue soothing their hurt and validating them over and over and over – and it was exhausting for me (which they didn’t realize or didn’t care about).
Additionally, during the long time of my life (over three decades) I felt it was my duty to rescue, help, and fix every victim or sad and hurting person I came across, I kept attracting a lot of Vulnerable Narcissists in the process, which was very bad for me.
I discussed this situation (Link): in older posts on this blog, so please see that for more, if you like.
Learn from my mistakes so you won’t have to repeat them!
Additional Comments about the Essay
Suffice it to say, according to competent psychologists who specialize in Narcissism, this victimhood mentality the above piece describes is usually quite common and seems to be a central pillar of Vulnerable (also known as Covert) Narcissism.
Vulnerable Narcissism is very therapy-resistant (again, you can read more about that (Link): here, on this blog).
This may also be one problem in people with BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder). From what I’ve read about BPD so far, Borderline individuals frequently lash out at their friends and family when they have one of their emotional episodes and rarely take personal responsibility for their obnoxious or abusive behaviors.
Victims Expecting or Needing an Apology Before They Can Move On
If you are someone expecting, hoping, or demanding your abuser will apologize to you, to acknowledge the hurt they have caused you so that you can move on, I want you to realize that if your abuser falls into one of the Cluster B personality disorders or spectrum (such as BPD, or Narcissism, or Sociopathy, etc) you will never, ever get an apology – one from a BPD inflicted person might happen rarely, but as for the rest? No.
People with Cluster B personality disorders, even those on a low end of the spectrum, are incapable or unwilling of having or expressing empathy, and they do not have a conscience (this would be the psychopaths and sociopaths), so they do not CARE about your feelings, and they never will.
These Cluster B persons (if they are Narcissists and possibly BPDs) cannot admit to themselves that they hurt you, let alone admit to YOU that they hurt you.
As for the Narcissists in particular, who deal with their core shame by building a false outer persona, it would cut to the core of their psychological defense mechanisms to admit to themselves or to you that they made a mistake, hurt you, etc.
Therefore the Narcissist will never, ever admit to you that they abused or exploited you.
If the Narcissist does happen to admit to it (and one of the few scenarios which this might rarely happen will be because they are not ready to discard you yet; they still value using you to get their own needs met,
and they can see if they don’t offer a hollow apology, you will walk away and leave them forever) – they will justify their abuse of you by saying, falsely, that you did something to deserve it (when in fact you did nothing to deserve their abuse).
Going Little to No Contact
Towards the end of the essay, the author suggests several methods of how to deal with those with a victimhood persona.
At one point he writes:
Second, when confronted with persons who are unable to forgive, it is best to redouble efforts to be forgiving, since the only alternative is often ruptured relationships.
— end excerpt —
Personally, I am fine with having “ruptured relationships.”
After having spent 35+ years as a Codependent taking a lot of verbal (and other) abuse and lousy behavior off family, bosses, so-called friends, etc, I am FINE with cutting people out of my life, going no contact, or minimizing contact.
It is not worth it to me, my sanity, my happiness, or mental health to keep placating, walking on eggshells, or trying to make amends with someone who is deep into a permanent, not- likely- to- change personality disorder.
We only get a small number of years on earth before we die, and I don’t want to spend (actually, more correctly, I mean I don’t want to WASTE) any more of my time and life on people who will only misuse me or take me for granted, or trying to fix people who are un-fixable, who refuse to get help for themselves and who refuse to work on their OWN pain, hurt, and problems.
Maintaining abusive, unrewarding, fiery, unstable, volatile, or draining relationships is not worth it to me as I age.
As a low key, quiet, introvert, I prefer peace and quiet in my life, not non-stop drama and literal noise with a constantly crying or self-pitying person (wanting me to cheer them up and validate them all the time) individual, or with screaming, angry, shouting persons, or a person prone to such unpredictable, angry outbursts.
I’d rather cut these people out of my life and be done with them, not expend exhausting time and effort to “salvage” a friendship with a continually rude, selfish, or idiot person,
or with a person with a disorder that makes them prone to swinging into unpredictable angry outbursts that are directed at yours truly…
– and if you’re dealing with a narcissist or a sad sack person, believe me, assuming you are more or less psychologically healthy yourself and you do NOT suffer from BPD, Narcissism, etc, all the work of “salvaging” the crummy relationship will fall to you.
The other person (who is mistreating you, and/or exploiting you, in these situations over the course of your relationship with them) will either be too lazy, selfish, and/or pathological to put forward any effort; they will expect YOU to do all the constant heavy lifting and relationship work and maintenance(*).
I’ve been there before with these types of people – co-workers, family members, etc., and it is exhausting, and there will be no benefit in it for you. You are better off without these people in your life.
If you must be around them, you will be better off and more healthy if you detach from them, don’t internalize their pain, don’t make their problems your problems. Keep these people at arm’s length, if and when you must associate with them.
If these people try to corner you and talk your ear off about how hard they have life or whatever, quickly acknowledge their comments but excuse yourself as quickly as you can from that line of conversation – tell them you must get back to work, or get them to change topics to discuss neutral topics.
*If you’re a woman, this goes double for you – our culture has this sexist expectation that women are supposedly responsible for making even the most horrid of relationships work.
It’s not worth it, not to me.
I do agree with much of the rest of what the author had to say, and I agree with him that Victimhood is not a virtue, and that learning to be resilient is far better (for one’s mental health and well being and in maintaining relationships) than being mired in a Victim identity over one’s life.
A lot of progressive woke culture revolves around victimhood mentality.
I am fine with people wanting to discuss perceived issues with racism and sexism, and being victims of such, but when done from a far left, woke, intersectional, victim mindset, it perpetuates – or sometimes worsens – problems it was meant to solve. Progressives should discard it.
It is also damaging at the individual level. Individuals harboring an on-going victim identity won’t ever find lasting joy or peace; they have cut themselves off from that possibility.
Very relevant to this post:
1. Friends and family
…Researchers have also warned that “loneliness and social isolation can be as damaging to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day,” whereas friendships can “reduce the risk of mortality or developing certain diseases and can speed recovery in those who fall ill.”
“The ability to forgive frees you from the burdens of hate and other unhealthy emotions that can negatively impact your happiness quotient,” says Chopra.
…“I have no bitterness, I have no resentment. Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies,” Mandela responded.
Anyone who’s ever felt they’ve been mistreated (most likely each and every one of us) knows that the act of forgiving can be challenging.
But Karen Swartz, director of the Mood Disorders Adult Consultation Clinic at The Johns Hopkins Hospital, says that “making a conscious decision to let go of negative feelings whether the person deserves it or not” can lead to more than just increased happiness.
Studies have found that it can also lower the risk of heart attack, improve cholesterol levels and reduce blood pressure, anxiety, depression and stress.
— end excerpts —
(Link): When You’re in Imbalanced, Unfair Relationships – You’re the Free Therapist, The Supportive, Sounding Board Who Listens to Other People’s Non-Stop Complaining, But They Don’t Listen to You – re: The Toilet Function of Friendship