VICTIMIZING YOURSELF: an attitude in interpersonal behavior

21.12.2020

The tendency to interpersonal victimhood is a concept referred to a frequent behavior pattern in certain people. It's easy for all of us to quickly think of someone in particular.

With these paragraphs we will better understand what this attitude consists of, how we can identify it, what are the repercussions it normally has for the person in question and what is the way to deal with someone characterized by these behaviors.

What is the tendency to interpersonal victimhood?

When we speak of a tendency to interpersonal victimhood, we refer to those people who have some difficulty in self-regulation when faced with a situation of social ambiguity and therefore are overwhelmed by their emotions. They see themselves as victims affected by the events that have occurred , regardless of whether objectively it has not happened in such a way, since the weight falls on their perception.

This type of behavior can occur sporadically in anyone, depending on the specific circumstances of the moment, but when it is a clear trend and therefore a recurring behavior, we would be talking about a tendency to interpersonal victimhood, which is the type attitude that concerns us. Therefore, isolated victimizing behaviors would not fall into this category.

One of the characteristics of this type of person is that they constantly resort to an external locus of control. What does this translate to? In that most of the time they will claim that the control of the situation depends on factors beyond their control and therefore nothing they do will affect the final result , since they are taxpayers and victims of the events.

On the contrary, people with internal locus of control assume their ability to influence their own destiny through their actions and decisions. This profile of individuals are aware of the value of their behaviors and know when an event has been a consequence of them, either with a positive or negative result, both for them and for other people. This way of acting and thinking would be the opposite of the tendency to interpersonal victimhood.

Characteristics of this behavior pattern

Researchers like Rahav Gabay have found four characteristics in the personality of these types of individuals.

The first one has to do with the interest in making it clear to others that they are or have been victims of some situation . The second refers to the moral superiority that they usually possess, thus giving more importance to the ethical evaluations that they make compared to those that others may contribute.

The following characteristic is surprising, since it refers to the lack of empathy that they tend to show in situations of suffering in other individuals , that is, the opposite of what they ask for themselves, which is the constant recognition of their pain and the recognition of the fact that they are victims, as the first point dictated. The last of the characteristics would refer to the constant rumination about moments in which they consider that they have been victims in the past.

Another important point that these authors highlight in their studies is that the tendency to interpersonal victimhood is not necessarily caused by events in which the subjects actually become victims of a certain event and likewise, people who suffer these events do not have to develop a tendency to interpersonal victimhood, so that both phenomena do not have a causal relationship in one sense or the other.

So how do you generate this kind of mindset? Among all the variables that the authors studied in their research, there is one that stands out especially and is the type of attachment that the person developed during childhood . In this sense, if the person shows a type of anxious attachment, there will be a greater probability that they have a tendency to interpersonal victimization, since both variables show a statistical correlation.

Individuals with this attachment profile have as a characteristic the constant search for validation from other people, sometimes because of a poor self-concept. These people assume that they will be rejected by others before this happens and at the same time they need to be approved, because their self-esteem depends on it. This is where the tendency to interpersonal victimhood seems to come into play, as a mechanism to achieve such approval.

Thanks to this type of mentality, these individuals find a way to establish interactions with other people in which they receive the attention they need and capture the compassion of the rest towards their victimizing stories. In any case, this motivational explanation is valid for individual cases, but it is also interesting to observe the conclusions that were established regarding the groups.

In this case, Gabay and the rest of the researchers mention the phenomenon of collective victimization . According to them, all beliefs are capable of being learned and those related to the tendency to interpersonal victimhood would not be an exception. In that sense, these people could have learned the potential benefits of this type of mentality and therefore this would have favored their development.

Psychological effects of the tendency to interpersonal victimhood

We have already reviewed the characteristics and possible origins of the tendency to interpersonal victimhood. Now we must delve into the possible consequences that this behavior can have on the person who carries it out. We start from the fact that in every disagreement between two people, each of them will experience a unique experience that can imply a great difference between the views that both have of the same situation.

This also implies that the person will tend to remember the events experienced through the filters that they already have in their personality. This is where we can find a series of biases that are related to the tendency to interpersonal victimhood . Let's see them in more detail.

1. Interpretation bias

The first would be the so-called interpretation bias. What causes this phenomenon is that the person tends to interpret any social situation in a certain way, in this case as an offense . This bias also works preventively, before the event in question occurs.

In this way, the person would interpret that the situation is going to develop in a certain way in which they will end up being a victim, and may also fall into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

2. Attributive bias of harmful behaviors

The second bias that we find in people with a tendency to interpersonal victimhood is the one that attributes to others a propensity to maintain harmful behaviors towards others , which would justify that the former saw the possibility of being morally hurt more easily during social interactions.

With that predisposition, if they finally have a conflict, they will experience it much more intensely than those people who do not show that predisposition. In addition, this bias can also occur at the collective level , and can be attributed to individuals from groups outside ours, so that the victimizing individuals think that these people, because they are from another group, are going to be hurtful to them in some way.

3. Negative memory bias

Continuing with the different biases, the researchers also found negative memory. What this bias causes is that the individual who experiences it tends to remember more easily all the negative elements that have had to do with the situation experienced, to the detriment of those of a positive nature. This encourages people with a tendency to interpersonal victimization delve into the thought that the event has been especially negative.

This bias seems to be connected with rumination , being these the facilitators that individuals tend to remember especially the negative components of the situation they are recalling. The effect of negative memory bias can also be amplified by the group, since individuals can see their thesis supported by others, when both consider that they have been victims of someone outside their group.

4. Forgiveness

Although it is not a bias itself, the authors of this study also found another effect in people who suffer from a tendency to interpersonal victimization. It has to do with forgiveness, since these subjects seem to show a lower tendency to want to forgive others if they consider that they have been hurt . On the contrary, they would have impulses to take revenge for said affront, the opposite of forgiveness.

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