It may have been because of all of that hoo-ha with my family last week but, on another uneventful day at the office doing some mind numbing coding work, I randomly wanted to look up information about the victim mentality and mindset. For starters, I know a lot of people use that term in an everyday way but I wasn’t even sure I understood it from an objective point of view. So I looked it up and found a helpful article about it. http://www.drshirin.com/victimme.htm
I wanted to share the first part here that explains what the mentality is.
”The victim mentality is characterized by pessimism, self-pity, repressed anger and a belief that life is beyond one’s control. Victims blame any and every available scapegoat (fate, circumstances, other people, even objects!) for their problems and disappointments. They often lead a crisis-ridden lifestyle, going from one trauma to another, never seeing the contribution they make in creating their own crises. According to them, nothing is ever their fault.”
I feel like there could be something here. I have spent the last year learning about BPD, how to recover, DBT, the causes of my BPD, exploring my childhood traditional psychodynamic style tears-and-all, and yes, it did help, but I know I have moved on from that. In a sense, what my therapist said to me last week about how others actions might have an effect on me, but are not about me, also goes to show that I control how I take things. There’s also so much blaming you can do. I can hate, and rage, and blame but it’s not going to take BPD away. I can cry and rage inside about how things are with my family but its not going to change them. I can complain about not being happy in where I am at in my life, but if I don’t do anything, it’ll stay that way and that’s what the site goes on to describe when it talks about moving beyond the mentality. So I wanted to examine and apply it to myself where I think I can.
Moving beyond the victim mentality requires courage and commitment. Changing patterns learned in childhood is a risk, since it requires looking at the world in a new, more personally accountable way. (DBT, check). Victims must learn to see how they contribute to (if not create) most of their troubles. That means recognizing that it’s not bad luck or fate or your spouse or your boss or anyone or anything else that controls your life: only you do. This is a biggie, yes people around me may act a certain way, but they don’t ‘make me’ feel anything or do anything. That is not out of my control, yes I may feel a certain way as a result of what other people say or do, but that is entirely my perception and if I don’t like how I feel or what’s happened, I still have control over what to do next. With BPD untreated, you just react. Someone said this, so I did that. An example from my past – if I had an argument at night with my ex husband I would stay up for hours crying hysterically. Now, that was in my control. Yes, I can feel sad, but it is up to me, to choose to instead, go and do something to calm myself down or feel better, or try to sleep. Since moving on from this mindset requires personal accountabilty it means it’s up to me to make the effort to do something about how I am feeling.
Such a shift in perspective can be difficult to achieve alone. A therapist can help by acting as a mirror in which you can look objectively at the negative thought processes and emotional responses that fuel the victim mentality. For victims, therapeutic change begins with the question, “How can I change my behavior and take responsibility for my own life regardless of what others do (or don’t do)?” So again, regardless of what others do or don’t do, sure, he could have done something that I then felt angry or upset about but regardless of that, it is up to me (the responsibility part) not him or anyone else to then take responsibility for my life, so in that moment, I choose how I want my life to go. Do I want to sleep/calm down/distract/regulate? I need to do that. I can’t stay up crying waiting for someone to ‘make me feel better’ (which was what would happen).
Once in therapy, victims need to:
· Focus on themselves and what they can do to improve their lives now. I am going to be acting on this one tomorrow, I’m unhappy with my work location and the changes going on in the organisation so I’m going to be applying to places closer to my home. I hope it works out 🙂
· Be realistic. Even with the best therapists, change will not come quickly. Therapy requires a lot of effort on the client’s part and you will only get out of therapy what you put into it.
· Avoid the urge to blame the therapist or assume change is impossible when results don’t come quickly enough or when therapy becomes a challenge. Victims tend to be easily defeated, so blame is a retreat to hopelessness and passivity.
I’m not saying I necessarily had the victim mindset, I just want to make damn sure that I don’t stay stuck in the ‘I hate that I suffer with this issue’ mindset. Lots of people have struggles of their own. I have done enough work to now realise I am a stage where it’s up to me. Bored? go and do something. Feeling upset? try something that I know makes me happy. And I’m finding it’s working. I had a great day today because instead of letting my mind run, I’ve been doing things that make me smile and laugh and it’s been great and that was entirely my choice and I didn’t need a single person outside of myself to do that. In short, I don’t need someone else for that, it is not up to anyone else to do that and it is entirely up to me to take care of myself. If I’m unhappy in an interpersonal situation or don’t like the way an interaction is going (I mention interpersonal situation because this is THE arena for BPD) then what can I say or do to help that?
I hope that she doesn’t mind that I shared this but one of my favourite bloggers wrote about how she’s managing to stay well;
‘But most most most importantly, I check in with myself constantly; I invest a LOT of time and energy into making sure I never get to the point of depressed, and hopeless, waiting for somebody to say or do something to make it better – because this, to me, was the trademark sentiment of BPD, the mind frame, in a nutshell, that kept me feeling victimized and codependent, caught in borderline cycles of abandonment and anger. If I’m feeling like no one is meeting my needs, I go above and beyond to meet my own needs that day – and I try to do that with as little bitterness/animosity as I can towards the people that I believe have “let me down” (by not meeting said needs… I’m not great at that part yet, but I’m slowly getting better).’
To me all of what she’s put here is talking about personal accountability. BPD loves to victimize, to make you feel like the victim of what other people are doing or saying, or what you’re perceiving they’re doing (you’re going out with your friends and abandoning me you monster?! how could you do that to me?! I hate you, now I’m going to go and self-destruct in whatever way I see fit because of you! – do you see what I did there? very BPD). When you rely on other people this way, no wonder I’d be angry or resentful, it’s a 24/7 job of ‘making’ and keeping me happy. What I think we need to be looking at instead is something along the lines of ‘I’m feeling afraid of abandonment right now, I’m feeling anger/sadness because of this, what do I need to make it better? What can I do to get me through this moment?’ Maybe it does sound self-absorbed, quite frankly, I don’t care if it does, it sounds more to me like self-care and a healthier way of living than the alternative. Maybe with BPD it means I have to put in more work than other nons would have to on a daily basis, but, it is what it is. I am willing to do that if it means I stay well and happy.