Common Traits of Victim Complex Sufferers

Persons diagnosed with a victim complex tend to dwell on every trauma, crisis, disease, or another difficulty that they have ever suffered, particularly those that happened during their childhoods. Often seeking a survival technique, they have come to believe that society simply “has it out for them.” In this sense, they passively submit to their unavoidable “fate” as perpetual victims as a way of coping with problems from tragic to trivial.

Some common traits of persons with a victim complex include:

  • They refuse to accept responsibility for dealing with their problems.
  • They never accept any degree of blame for their problems.
  • They always find reasons why suggested solutions will not work.
  • They carry grudges, never forgive, and simply cannot “move on.”
  • They are rarely assertive and find it hard to express their needs.
  • They believe everyone is “out to get them” and thus trust no one.
  • They are negative and pessimistic, always looking for the bad even in the good.
  • They are often highly critical of others and rarely enjoy lasting friendships.

According to psychologists, victim complex sufferers employ these “safer to flee than fight” beliefs as a method of coping with or completely avoiding life and its inherent difficulties.


Victim Complex vs. Martyr Complex 

Sometimes associated with the term victim complex, persons diagnosed with a “martyr complex” actually desire the feelings of repeatedly being the victim. They sometimes seek out, even encourage, their own victimization in order to either satisfy a psychological need or as an excuse to avoid personal responsibility. Persons diagnosed with a martyr complex often knowingly place themselves in situations or relationships most likely to result in their suffering.

Outside of the theological context, which holds that martyrs are persecuted as punishment for their refusal to reject a religious doctrine or deity, persons with a martyr complex seek to suffer in the name of love or duty.

The martyr complex is sometimes associated with the personality disorder called “masochism,” regarded as a preference for and the pursuit of suffering.

In this sense, psychologists often observe the martyr complex in persons involved in abusive or codependent relationships.

Fed by their perceived misery, persons with a martyr complex will often reject advice or offers to help them.


The Victim Identity

The belief systems of the person with a Victim identity fall along these lines:

  • Life is really, really hard.
  • Don’t get up, you’ll just get kicked back down again.
  • Beware, always beware of trickery; it’s around every corner.
  • You can’t trust anyone.
  • I can’t.
  • You just don’t understand how hard it is for me.
  • Everyone is always picking on me.
  • “They” are always bigger, badder and smarter than me.

These belief systems are in place to protect the Victim from ever having to really engage life and hurdle its hurdles. Doing so is just plain too risky.  No, the best way to cope is to just stay on the down-side of life, and never, never, never expect more.


Am I in a Relationship With a Victim?


If you typically get drawn into fixing other people’s problems, chances are, you’ve attracted numerous victims into your life. To identify if you are in a relationship with a victim, mark Yes or No to the following characteristics:

  • Is there anyone in your life who often appears inconsolably oppressed or depressed? Yes/No
  • Are you burned out by their neediness? Yes/No
  • Do these people always blame “bad luck” or the unfairness of others for their problems? Yes/No
  • Do you screen your calls or say you’re busy in order to dodge their litany of complaints? Yes/No
  • Does their unrelenting negativity compromise your positive attitude? Yes/No

The Signs And Effects Of Arrogant Victims

As mentioned in my last article in this series, a person demonstrates a victim mindset when he views negative outcomes as being due to the situation, another person or something other than himself. Brody is the personification of the arrogant victim, which can be identified by some definite attributes, including:

• A belief that they know what is best or the only way to do something

• Belittling of colleagues who do not have the same level knowledge or experience that the arrogant victims possess (even though the colleagues may, in fact, be capable people)

• Self-pity regarding the lack of results everyone/everything else allegedly prevents them from getting

Arrogant victims do have some things in common with doubtful victims. They are just exhibited in different ways. First, diminished self-confidence is involved in both forms of the victim mindset. With doubtful victims, the weakened self-confidence is more apparent by what they say and do. With arrogant victims, the diminished self-confidence is masked. Although arrogant victims give the impression of strong self-confidence, the arrogance is used in part to compensate for a lack of self-confidence.


Managing a Person With a Victim Mentality

Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries, Professor of Leadership Development and Organizational Change at the INSEAD Business School in France, described a victim mentality in his working paper, “Are You a Victim of the Victim Syndrome?

Prof Kets de Vries says that someone with a victim mentality feels that he or she is beset by the world, and is always at a disadvantage because of other people’s machinations or lack of consideration.

But it isn’t just fate that causes a “victim” to experience more difficulties than other people. He may seek out disappointment, because it can give him a “kick” that psychologists call a secondary gain. This is when not resolving a problem can actually have benefits.

For example, someone with a victim mentality can feel pleasure when she receives attention or pity as a result of her misfortune. She may also get a perverse “thrill” from showing off the injury caused by others and creating a sense of guilt. And refusing to accept responsibility for a problem can be liberating.

Prof Kets de Vries says that, although this behavior can be counter-intuitive, manipulative and damaging, a “victim” may be genuinely unaware of his own complicity in his problems, and his secondary gain may be subconscious.

Source: Managing a Person With a Victim Mentality: Dealing With Team Members Who Won’t Take Responsibility


Do you have to “pay back” your parents?

This topic came up in another thread, and I have been pondering this. Someone mentioned that it is very western and white to believe that you do not owe your parents anything for raising you. Whereas many other cultures believe you are to help your parents. Do you think this is true or false? I wonder if this falls along cultural lines or if this falls along NPD lines.


Would you Support your Financially Negligent Parents?

Parents who don’t make conscious decisions to invest in their retirement and live below their means DO have a choice. They are choosing present or future financial entitlement and opting to think about themselves instead of the family members that they eventually become dependent on.

Taking that a step further, what if they were 100% capable of earning an income to delay withdrawing from a tiny nest egg, but instead choose to not work at all and live now off of their paltry savings, knowing full well that in a few years they would be 100% dependent on their children or other family members? Do you still owe it to them to support them and that behavior?


Why Do People Stop Talking to Their Parents?

1. The Parent Disrespects the Adult Child’s Spouse

Like me, many consider their parents’ behavior normal until they marry. Looking at your parents from your significant other’s perspective can be eye-opening.

Not having grown up under your parents’ manipulations, as a new daughter- or son-in-law, your spouse may be unwilling to participate in the dysfunction that feels so natural to you. The parent who has always controlled you also expects to control your spouse, and when this fails to happen, it often results in contention, smear campaigns, and petty complaints designed to either force the new son- or daughter-in-law into compliance or get rid of them entirely via divorce.

Parents must respect their adult children and their spouses, regardless of whether they like them or not, even if you have differing expectations about family roles. You do not get to choose whom your children love. Respecting your son/daughter-in-law does not mean condoning or agreeing. Whether you want to admit it or not, you are not—nor can you ever be—the most important person in your adult child’s life at all times. He cares about other people just as much as he cares about you. The sooner you understand that, the better off you’ll be.

2. The Parent Refuses to Apologize

To paraphrase the late Albert Einstein, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. This applies to the relationship you might have with your parents. You’ve been running for years and yet you’re still in exactly the same place as you were as a child. You might realize you have to get off the hamster wheel.

3. Overbearing and Undermining Grandparenting

A disordered parent sees their child as an extension of themselves, not as an individual, and grandchildren are but one more step on the ladder of “me.”

4. The Parent Plays Favorites Among Siblings

In early childhood, siblings in disordered families are assigned roles as either a scapegoat or a golden child. A golden child seldom suffers consequences for misbehavior and is often praised and applauded, while the scapegoat shoulders the blame for the family’s dysfunction and suffers the brunt of the consequences.

5. Ignored Boundaries

Last but not least is the refusal of the older generation to respect the boundaries of the child/parent relationship. Because disordered minds struggle to understand boundaries, I believe this reason is better explained with examples.


The Psychology of Asking for Forgiveness and Forgiving

Now what if a person is committing regrettable acts over and over again, and keeps asking for forgiveness? At what point does an apology become pointless? At this point, actions speak louder than words. When the person is hearing the same apologies and false promises over and over again, the words become meaningless. IF there is any chance for forgiveness, or another chance, the person needs to start demonstrating that they are capable of the changes they are claiming. It might take quite some time to build this trust back and have the person believe you, and your words again. You have watered down your credibility at this point. When your actions start to match your words, you start to rebuild the trust you have broken.