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How to End Victim Think


Many clients were victimized in their dysfunctional families when they were children or adolescents. They had no choice. Even if they wanted to run away, they lacked the means or ability. Children and other powerless people are true victims. Though the Oxford Language Dictionary defines victim as someone “harmed, injured, tricked or duped,” are you really a victim as an adult when you can avoid something happening? 

Perhaps that’s where the confusion comes in. Some people put themselves in situations where they’ll more than likely get “harmed, injured, tricked or duped” and choose to do so repeatedly. There’s a difference between a car veering off the road and hitting you and standing squarely in front of the car so it can’t miss you. In the former case, you’re not choosing to put yourself in harm’s way by standing at the bus stop with everyone else, while in the second you’re going out of your way to make sure you get hit.

So, yes, if your abusive partner goes out drinking and comes home and throws their keys across the room at you when you confront them about the lateness of the hour, you are technically a victim if the keys hit you and if this behavior is way out of character for them. But are you really one if you’ve been living with this partner for years and keys are the least lethal object they’ve thrown at you? Debatable.

If your family has always been emotionally abusive to you because they have mental health problems, you were a victim when you had no choice but to live and be in contact with them. However, (in my humble opinion) you are no longer one when you can live on your own and choose other supports in your life, but still hope they’ll treat you well. Are you really a victim when you place yourself in harm’s way when your friends (and therapist!) continually warn you about the company you keep and your unrealistic expectations that certain people will suddenly treat you better than they have before?

I aim to validate clients feeling mistreated by others, while at the same time give them the powerful message that they could avoid mistreatment by having minimal or no contact with people who emotionally abuse them. Side-stepping abusive situations transforms you from victim to victor. Here’s how you want to think. Remind yourself that someone is hurting you because 1) they’re unhealthy and 2) you allow it. Opt out of familiar patterns where you end up harmed by people because that is just how they operate. Stop playing the victim to get support from others and either stand up to offenders (if it’s safe to do so) and put a stop to how they mistreat you or end the relationship. Always choose health, choose health, choose health.