Victim Mentality

What is victim mentality? What does it to do a person? What limitations/benefits does it have? How can one get past the victim mentality?

Stressed Businesswoman — Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis28

I come at this both behaviorally and as someone who survived a stalking and had to deal with restraining orders, court hearings and all that comes with it.

In domestic violence situations, the “victim” is conditioned by the abuser to respond to them in certain ways. The variable nature of the abuse actually strengthens the tie between victim and abuser and makes it harder for them to leave. It also distorts their sense of “normal.”

The other thing to realize is that prolong abuse can cause trauma which can rewire the brain and create pathways so that certain triggers immediately illicit certain conditioned responses that the “victim” doesn’t really have control over. This is the essence of PTSD. I am not an expert on it – but I have received professional help to overcome my PTSD that resulted from my stalking.

In order to recover you first have to end the trauma that is being experienced. Then you set to work retraining the brain so that the fight/flight response that gets triggered, is no longer triggered. Most people need professional help to do this.

Your question – how do you get past the victim mentality? With a LOT of work and steady progress and most of all a refusal to live in the fear cage that your abuser created for you.

I think I did as well as I did in getting out and staying out of my emotionally abusive situation because I had a pretty good understanding of the behavioral dynamics that were playing out. What caught me off guard was just how strong variable reinforcement is. It was the oddest thing knowing the right thing to do and NOT being able to do it because the behavioral conditioning was that strong.

People working with “victims” I think really need to understand and appreciate how behavioral conditioning effects our behavior and how hard it is for our rational selves to assert control in situations where we are being actively and aggressively conditioned by an abuser. I literally don’t view DV issues the same way anymore. I’ve been through it and can tell you – you don’t have control of what your body and brain is doing and it’s really scary. “Victims” need help to re-assert control – behavioral conditioning and knowledge of WHY they are responding the way they are despite their desire not to – is very very very helpful.

To learn more about how behavioral conditioning effects our responses, get my book, or join the website to take advantage of all the free material on it. And please share this material with others.