Often becomes the victim

07.07.2020

Victimism is a type of mentality that, at extreme levels, can be considered pathological. Several studies have been carried out to try to approach this construct in a more scientific way, and next we will see a little more in depth what they say and what dimensions have been proposed for victimhood .

What do we understand by victimhood?

Social life is full of ambiguity . For example, it may happen that one day we send a message to our friend, see it and, instead of answering us, say nothing to us. It can also happen that we go down the street, we meet a stranger, he looks at us with a disgusted face and we ask ourselves why. These situations can be interpreted in many ways, depending on what our sociocultural context and our own personality characteristics have taught us.

We may think that our friend has not answered us because he is angry with us, or that we are bothering him. It may also be the case that the stranger who has looked at us with a bad face we have disgusted him, not being able to avoid showing us a grimace of disapproval. However, most likely, our friend has seen us forgetting to answer and the unknown gentleman has not even known what face he was putting or, at least, has noticed our existence.

Most of us tend to overcome socially ambiguous situations with ease , regulating our emotions and knowing that not everything has to mean something bad. However, there are people who tend to see themselves as victims of all kinds of misfortunes, perceiving the world as a terribly hostile and negative environment, and seeing malice in all the actions that those people who at some point have done to them do. offense.

Interpersonal victimhood has been defined by Rahav Gabay as the feeling of seeing oneself as a victim, generalizing in many types of relationships . As a result, victimization becomes a fundamental element of their individual identity. People who have this mentality tend to manifest a very externalized locus of control, that is, they attribute their "misfortunes" to phenomena that they cannot control, such as destiny, (bad) luck or the free will of other people.

The investigations that have scientifically deepened on this construct, mostly developed in the State of Israel, have raised the existence of four dimensions within victimhood :

  • Constant search for the recognition of victimhood
  • Sense of moral elitism
  • Lack of empathy for the harm and suffering of others
  • Constant rumination on victimization in the past

They have also tried to see how being a victim (victimization) affects the degree of victimization. An important finding has been that, although two phenomena are related, a person who has been the victim of a serious offense, both physically and aggressively and mentally, such as psychological abuse, does not have to develop a victimized mentality. . It is not necessary that a victimized person has been the victim of a great offense in the past .

Dimensions of victimhood

As we have commented, according to the investigations carried out by the investigative groups of Rahav Gabay, Emily Zitek and others, there would be four dimensions within the construct of victimhood.

1. Constant search for recognition of victimhood

People who score high in this dimension show a constant need for people to know their suffering , whether it is really serious or simply an exaggeration of lesser harm.

Generally, when a person suffers some type of offense, they seek emotional support and support in their closest circle. This is done because, after aggression or abuse, the vision of the world as a just and morally correct place is shattered. To recover it, it is necessary to go to someone who reaffirms to the victim that their damage has been unfair, and that morally correct people see it as a serious offense.

Furthermore, it is perfectly normal for a person who has been the victim of an offense to want the perpetrator of the offense to pay for their mistakes, acknowledging their guilt, repenting and receiving the corresponding punishment. The validation of the damage received and recognition by the offender has been studied in patients , seeing that, when the person who has done so recognizes their error and the environment of the victim empathizes with it, their recovery process in therapy is accelerated.

2. Sense of moral elitism

High scores in the sense of moral elitism imply a greater degree of self-perception as a person of upright and immaculate morality , viewing others as immoral beings. Victimists often accuse others of being wrong, unfair, selfish, and immoral people, viewing themselves as superior to them and trying to control them by complaining and reproaching their behavior.

It has been argued that moral elitism is developed as a defense mechanism against deeply painful feelings, as well as serving as a way to obtain and enhance a biased positive self-image. Although they may tend to be aggressive and destructive, people who score high on moral elitism project these traits onto others, and are always seen as persecuted , vulnerable, and morally superior people.

3. Lack of empathy for the harm and suffering of others

People who score high in this dimension are concerned with their own victimhood, forgetting that others can also be victims . It has been seen that the most victimized people who have really been victims tend to legitimize their aggressive and selfish behavior towards others, ignoring or belittling the suffering of others.

According to research by Emily Zitek's group, people with this type of victimhood believe they have suffered so much that they no longer have the need to respect or empathize with others . They are even able to refuse to help others because they consider that they do not deserve it, which is not so bad either. This has been called "egotism of victimhood."

4. Constant rumination on victimization in the past.

Often, the victimizers constantly ruminate on the offenses received, however few and slight they may have been. They go into an endless loop where they remember what they told you, the harm they did to you, or any unpleasant actions , instead of thinking or discussing possible solutions to the problem or trying to avoid it.

In addition, they put themselves at worst, thinking that this can happen again, and they stage how they will respond when it happens. It has been observed that the people who ruminate over the offenses received are less likely to forgive the one who hurt them, and more supporters to take revenge.

Consequences of this mentality

In an interpersonal conflict, all parties involved try to maintain a positive moral self-image . In other words, whether you are a victim or an aggressor, it is normal for everyone to see themselves as being right. Thus two subjective realities are created.

On the one hand, aggressors tend to minimize the damage they have done , while victims tend to maximize it, seeing in the actions of their offenders something arbitrary, meaningless, immoral and more serious than they are.

Gabay's group detected three types of biases that occur as a consequence of having a victimist mentality: interpretation bias, attribution of harmful behaviors and memory bias.

1. Interpretation bias

Interpretation bias has to do with the degree to which the seriousness of the offense is perceived in a social situation . The most interpersonal victimizers have been seen to view all offenses as genuine personal attacks, however slight. That is, they interpret them in a more exaggerated way.

2. Attribution of harmful behavior

It is a very common bias among people with high interpersonal victimhood to attribute harmful intentions to the actions of others, combined with some paranoia . In other words, they think that the world is going to end up hurting them.

3. Memory bias

It has been found that people with high victimhood tend to remember more negative events . This has been experimentally studied by looking at what type of vocabulary comes to mind for people who score high on this construct when presented with different stimuli, both social and neutral.

It was observed that they tended to remember more words that represent behaviors and feelings related to interpersonal damage, such as "betrayal", "anger", "disappointment", and they remember negative emotions more easily.

Causes of victimhood

There are several factors behind why a person is more a victimizer. As we have commented, having been the victim of an offense does not always imply ending up having a victimizing mentality, or vice versa. What has been seen is that these two phenomena could be related and, if they occur together, they would increase victimizing behaviors even more .

It has been seen that a factor that could be behind developing a victimizing mentality is having an anxious personality . These types of people tend to be very insecure and seek approval and validation from others. As they continually seek reaffirmation, they are full of doubts about their own social value, so that they perceive the least unpleasant act that others do to them as a personal attack and their emotional stability, which in itself is little, falls apart.

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