Do you have a chronic complainer in your life, a person who is always “woe is me”? These types of friends, relatives, or co-workers chronically feel as if they are the direct victims of other people’s negative actions while never acknowledging their part in the situation. People with victim mentality never take ownership or responsibility for their choices and they don’t take positive advice. You may make a suggestion about how to deal with the cheating boyfriend, the callous spouse, or the over controlling boss, and they will respond with “no that wouldn’t work” and then have a list of reasons why. Dealing with never ending complainers is exhausting as they have a limitless whine list.
How do you engage with a person with victim mentality when you are a loving, caring individual and find it difficult to say no? First remember, setting boundaries is critical with this type of person or they will take advantage of your kindness. You can be clear that you have a certain amount of time to listen then you have to either get off the phone, get back to work, etc. Otherwise, you will end up frustrated, annoyed, and ultimately being a victim yourself. You can say, this is not a good time to talk, I just got in from a challenging day and I need to unwind, call me tomorrow. If it’s a friend or relative they may balk at your refusal, stick to your boundary setting.
People that have a chronic victim mentality find it hard or impossible to see the part they play in the problem. For example, a male friend who complains about his angry wife yet he refuses to acknowledge that he never says, “stop” or “enough” or “you are making me nervous.” Rather he keeps allowing his wife to be verbally abusive. You can suggest that when you are ready to talk about resolutions that you are more than happy to hash it out, to listen. It is okay to be clear that the broken record of complaints and no actions ever taken to change, is old. You can reassure the person that you will be there to help support their efforts to break the patterns, but that you don’t want hear their constant grumbling.
Your time and energy is as equally valuable as the person who has victim mentality, but often chronic complainers have a hard time with other people’s needs. They tend to be obsessed with their own suffering, even when in part, they are causing it. You can remind them that you have a family, a life, work, whatever and although you empathize with them, you can’t solve their situation. Beware of insidious co-dependent tendencies you have particularly if you are dealing with victim mentality. You can’t fix other people; they have to do that themselves.
It is possible to be empathetic without being co-dependent, again, by setting defined boundaries. Draw on your empathy, you’re ability to understand that the person suffering from victim mentality is stuck in their negative thought patterns. And although it is not your fault, you remain understanding, while realizing you are not responsible for their attitudes or situation. For example, you may have a friend who complains a lot, and in their past they experienced trauma. You can be loving and still set your boundaries, suggest counseling, therapy…but remember, you are not the therapist, you are the friend.
Most of us, at one time or another, have experienced a “why me” moment where we feel victimized or slated unjustly. This is different from the person who has victim mentality. When those moments happen to you, there are several ways to get out off the pity pot. Remind yourself of all that is right in your life. That you are not in a worn torn country, you don’t to fight for your basic right to eat or to live. Also, remembering that despite an immediate difficult situation, circumstances change and yours will as well. Lingering in a funk is no good for you or those around you. Get out of the house, take a walk in nature, watch a comedy, or have lunch with a friend.
The next time you encounter victim mentality, recognize it and remember these simple tips.