Victim Mentality

Acts of aggression are never isolated. One act follows another like a stream from a spring. It seems to me that one important aspect of that spring-like source of aggression is a sense of being or having been victimized. I think a sense of victimization can be easily identified as an essential ingredient empowering any form of aggression.

For instance, Israelis feel victimized, as do Palestinians. Therefore each aggressor feels justified. Christians feel victimized, as do atheists. Therefore each aggressor feels justified. All ongoing fighting is likely subject to this dynamic. So the more the victimized party exerts ‘power’, the more of a victim they actually become.

Wouldn’t it be reasonable then to say that conquering victim mentality at the source is true power? Ironically, this manifestation of power might seem like mere passivity to others. This is not necessarily an appeal to political pacifism by the way. Pacifists can be just as warlike as anyone else.

It serves as a rationalization for aggression. In (civilized?) society, it is considered bad form for the superior party to crush the inferior party outside of certain ritual environments, such as sporting events. On the other hand, the “Little Guy” standing up to the “Big Meanie” is a well respected trope, with numerous iterations of it being a “good” thing. Since we tend to identify ourselves with the good, it follows that when we engage in aggressive behavior, we would identify ourselves with the downtrodden party.

Another part of it is that we tend to score the pain others give us as higher than the pain we give others, even if they are at precisely the same level. That leads to conflict escalation, where party A inflicts some measure of pain (p=1) on party B, party B will respond with what it perceives to be equal force, but is actually more (p=2). This is then amplified by party A when they retaliate (p=4) and so on until the situation is an absolute mess.

I think the root of these two feelings is the same. You are smaller and weaker, fighting for the good against a larger, more aggressive, harder-hitting bad-guy.

I agree, and I especially like your second paragraph. That has long seemed true to me. But I think it’s not only a rationalization of aggression, but is also and largely pre-rational.

I certainly think the situation described in the second paragraph is pre-rational. I think the situation seen in the first paragraph is what happens when that pre-rational aspect is married to reason. Look at the complexity of the argument – in the second paragraph it is just “He hit me, so I’ll hit him back!” Pretty basic, the sort of thing you’d expect to be hard-wired. The first paragraph, on the other hand, offers a reasoned alignment of the side you belong to with the right/just. So it seems a little more derived to me.

I’ve once written about the “victim mentality” and especially about its effects in another language.

It’s a mental frame based on the impression of being victimized.
So, to maintain the mental frame, you can’t be the stronger, better person/tribe/country/etc.
And it can creates inferior complex, which, in turn, results in exaggerated efforts of self-assertion.
I see this in gay parades, some forms of feminism, and so on.

And i this mental frame, “the victims” are the good one without any doubt and oppressors (or whoever they take as the oppressors) are the wrong/evil/stupid/whatever-bad-and negative.
In other words, it produces self-righteous people of fanatic tendencies.
We can observe these in some of both Jews and Arabs, as well as Nazi and some of US folks.
Some of anti-NWO folks and ecologist may have similar tendencies, too.
Anyone who feels “weak” and “victimized” can fall into this mental cage, I guess.

From outside, it appears too obvious, but they can’t see because of stagnant and sticky mental frame they wish to hold so tightly.
Probably, they don’t want to let go of this absurd mental frame because it offers the absolute certainty (although false) that they are right/good/positive, and that makes them feel good … in a twisted way.

Another twisted side effect of victim mentality is really absurd and somewhat less frequent.
To maintain the status of “being victimized”, some of “victim mentality” folks can actually produce the situation where they can be victimized, or even they can make a show in which they can play the victim …
In the war, it’s common to attack own troop/people disguised as the enemy and then using it as the reason to make offensive moves.

And on top of these, the person (or community/tribe) in “victim mentality” CANNOT be totally happy.
If they become totally happy, they would forget about being victim and oppressed, and thus loose the basis of their victim mentality.
They are identifying with the horror, sadness, misery, and so on.
So, it’s normal if they can’t be happy. They prefer to be in trouble rather than worry free. They chose to be like that. :slight_smile:

Now, I think many of us have a bit of “victim mentality” somewhere in our consciousness/subconsciousness.
As any other tendencies of ours, it’s not always easy to notice. And it’s not easy to see the implication and absurdity, either.
I guess some of us need to taste it fully to get over with it, while others might be able to see the cause and effects of it and loose interests in holding such belief/mental-frame.

I have rarely seen someone in victim mentality coming out, easily.
Rather, I see more people (scared people, for example …) getting into the victim mentality, and some people might be intentionally guiding mass into it, using scare tactics, as well.
It works surprisingly well on relatively simple minded people …

Although I agree that it would contribute to better mental health and world peace, I don’t think many people would conquer victim mentality.

One remedy for the victim mentality might be accepting the total uncertainty of this world.
With it, we don’t need to “justify” ourselves, we don’t have to identify ourselves in any way, we can’t be good nor bad, inferior nor superior, and so on.
But again, I don’t think it’s an easy thing for most of us.

Excellent posts Xunzian and Nah. Thanks. I especially liked that phrase “exaggerated efforts of self-assertion”.

Oh, there is another remedy. I forgot about that.
It’s a laughter. A good whole hearted laugh on all and everything including all stupidities of oneself and others.
It’s just like the gas that makes us laugh. You can’t really concentrate and maintain victim consciousness when we are in a huge laughter. :smiley:

But we can’t force someone to laugh.
And tricking someone to laugh may bring the person even further in the victim position, once it cools down.

Tying to help someone in the victim mentality would simply enforce their inferior complex.
Anything offensive would help them to think they are right and they are the victim.
So, I would just leave them in their suffering as long as they want.
And i don’t think they will blame me much for that, as they love to be the one who cry in the misery. :smiley:

Why me? Again? That’s how they prefer to see, lost in the misery, again and again.

But it’s a bit understandable in some cases, or even many cases.
Let’s take the example of gay people. They have been treated as sicko, wacko, sucko and what else I don’t know.
It’s more or less normal if they feel that they were oppressed, as there were and there are still lots of discriminations and prejudices.
But as long as they see the oppressing people as someone more powerfully/strong/intelligent/etc, they are defining themselves as weaker bunch and that condemns them to the psychological misery.
And in turn, they would try to see themselves as superior/better/etc, but it’s still the mentality based on same baseless premises.

Probably, feeling that receiving oppression made them miserable, I guess they tend to think (subconsciously) that giving oppression would make them happy,. And they become “aggressive” in certain cases.
Abused children becoming the abusive parents/adults … Jews becoming like Nazi and putting people in the huge concentration camp …

We can see it as a problem of “self identification”.
In a way, they are creating their own “reality” by defining and CONFINING themselves, subconsciously.

And I’m coming back again to the problem of subconsciously implied absoluteness and our tendency of baseless thinking.
The way they take themselves as victim, inferior, and weak is an evaluation without clear conscious basis and strongly tainted with implied absoluteness in my opinion.
If they were totally aware that self-identifications and evaluations are all based on arbitrary basis and completely relative, I’m not so sure that they can indulge so much in the mental image of being poor victims that much.

So, the third remedy might be the awareness of the nature of all identification and evaluations.
But again, many people are having trouble in keeping the awareness, even in the forum like this.

All in all, I don’t expect to see the eradication of this dis-ease, namely the victim mentality, very soon. :slight_smile:

I made a graphic (with graphvis) for victim mentality.

I’ve noticed Christians are often immune to victim mentality. Many see injustice (personal or cosmic) as a God-sent test, so instead of feelings victimized, they often see it as a self-empowering experience. They may be onto something -if one sees adversity as an opportunity to test his own character and with that, to grow, one is less likely to feel victimized and is more likely to be proactive about it.

I guess it depends on the basic attitude of each person.

If someone is physically attacked (or worse if loved one is attacked), it may cause lots of reactions including emotional one like fear and anger/rage/hate directed to the attacker.
Depending on the tendency of the person, s/he may remain focused on the fear/hate and go into victim mentality or do something that would release/consume emotional energy.

Victim mentality is like depression. While many people would not remain negative thought/emotion pattern, some people remain focused on certain perspective and go into the vicious circle.

I do think Christianity has some teaching against hateful/revengeful attitude of Judaism, focusing on love, etc.
So, some people may be successfully using it, at least to certain degree.

However, I saw many many Americans, including Christians, in typical victim mentality after 911, for example.
Also, I think Christians still tend to see themselves as intelligent, chosen by god, and so on.
These are not helpful in avoiding victim mentality and getting out of it if one is trapped.

Good points Pandora & Nah.


The Palestinians are nice people but a bit dumb. Seriously. Hamas?
The Israelians are fucking assholes but they are intelligent. The military must prevail and so the USA and Israel cannot let Hamas get its UN seat. Nuclear war is preferable to that humiliation.

Nah, what do you mean by this?

Jesus, a Jew, taught a New Covenant based on love and ‘turning the other cheek’ to an aggressor. You can call that Christianity. But where do you get the adjectives “hateful” and “revengeful” when it comes to Judaism? If his was the New Covenant, was the Old Covenant hateful and revengeful? What I’m trying to say is that the Old Covenant was to follow the Word of the Lord as written in the Ten Commandments and to show fealty through circumcision–a practice followed by people even earlier peoples–the Egyptians, for example–because of their environment.

I’m really questioning your use of extremely volatile adjectives, otherwise my reply might be considered too religious for this thread.

One theory I’ve heard is to do with environment, specifically hot, barren, desert climates vs. temperate climates with abundant resources. Though perhaps the emphasis is less on hot/cold and more on resource availability. Islam started off extremely belligerently in a Saudi desert climate, but then Christianity didn’t arise that much further north of the equator and it preaches passivity. Though Buddhism is also passive, coming from a background of richness and cooler climes.

In short, aggression - not just to do with religion, mind you - does seem to have a significant correlation with environment.

Such aggression would have resulted in long running retaliation, which may have inspired victim mentality amongst many who ended up worse off because of such conflict. Those who felt they had gained might not have developed the same victim mentality, though as a whole, belligerent societies/cultures are looked down upon by peace-loving nations who are often more populous as a result. So maybe unpopularity might spread a victim mentality in general. But I wouldn’t go as far as to say that victim mentality started it all - I side with the environment explanation. Though any victim mentality might go some way toward continuing aggressive behaviours. It may be all that’s left with regard to conflicts between rich peoples who live in temperate climates - such as with any bickering between Christians and Atheists in America.

I’ll close with a Nietzsche quote from the Gay Science, 13, that seems to support the OP:

It’s mainly from my personal experiences/observations with Jewish people and Judaism.

Although I’ve read some part of bible books, it’s not really from them.

I do think Jewish people absorbed many things from cultures where they were enslaved.
Many things they believe/claim to be their cultural thing can be of Egyptian origin, for example.
As for the circumcision, I don’t think it’s needed, these days.
And it might have the adverse psychological effect (lasting one) on the victim of genital mutilation. Babies and young kids definitely feel the pain, I would say.
Early childhood trauma can stay very deep in the subconscious mind and I think it can cause subtle but important side effect, such as increasing the sensibility to the fear and contributing to the development of victim mentality.

Religion/culture has strong impact on how we see thing. So, it’s related to the formation of victim mentality.
In the case of Judaism and Jewish culture, victim mentality is an important par of it.
I mean, the identity of Jewish people is being victim. Victimized by silly god, snake, brother, wife, son, and other stronger tribes/nation/culture. Their festivity (at least some of them) are centered on the memory of being victimized.
And they have been victimized/prosecuted. So, their “reality” is confirming their fear.

I think the hot sun may play important role. It boils brain and some (or more) people become hard boiled fanatic.

I’ve met some Jewish people and Arab folks exported to Canada, and they seem to be less hateful compared to the one living in the desert.
Probably it’s damn too cold to hate each other. Any heat source (even enemy one) is welcome in such climate. :smiley:
And you don’t feel like to go outside setting bomb when it’s freezing below 0 F or -32 C.

Good thread. Good responses. I remember the old 1960s beach-bum & bunny movies(Annette & Frankie) in which the foil, leader of the “Rats” motorcycle gang, always ended up riding over a cliff and exclaiming in mid air, “Why me?”
The questions should be,“Why not me?”
Castineda has his hero, Don Juan, discover that the petty tyrant who persecutes him is actually a lesson in the type of spiritual growth that rises above the dead-end retributions required by feeling victimized.

This is very wise.

The victim mentality could cause one to justify aggression. I think that It could also provoke aggression. A bully who sees someone with a victim mentality sees a weakness. So an individual with victim mentality would not only be more aggressive, but also be more likely to experience aggression towards himself. (aggression could mean something as soft as being taken advantage of)