Geeks Vs Loneliness: victim addiction

This week in our Geeks Vs Loneliness column, Jo shares her thoughts on victim addiction...

Welcome to Geeks Vs Loneliness, our place on the site where we try and natter about things in life that may be affecting you, or people around you. No miracle cures are promised, just a few thoughts that we hope may one day prove useful to one or two of you.

This week, we’re handing over to Jo Challacombe to chat about The Victim Addiction…

Life hasn’t been easy. Your childhood wasn’t the nurturing environment it should have been and you were given reasons in the past to feel afraid and unloved.

You were blameless and it was unfair.

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You were a victim.

Today, you suffer the aftermath of these experiences in some way; anxiety, fear, depression, isolation.

But maybe you are experiencing another effect of the past, one you might not even realise – the victim addiction.

An exercise

Imagine a person who is overly defensive. Trying to talk to this person can easily upset them and make them feel attacked.

Criticism of this person’s behaviour, even if they have behaved unacceptably, results in you becoming the “bad guy”.

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Their emotional sensitivity is hard to handle.

You’re left feeling so uncomfortable around this person, you have no choice but to walk away.

This person is addicted to playing out the role of the victim – chances are, they’re not even aware of it.

They’re stuck in “fight mode” and can’t get out of it.

What if I told you this person was me, and it might just be you too?

My name is Jo and I have a victim addiction

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I have a personality disorder that is notorious for symptoms that are drama-inducing; Borderline Personality Disorder, also known as Emotional Instability Disorder.

Its defining symptom is difficulty regulating emotional reactions, especially ones that make the person feel attacked or abandoned.

I know first-hand what it’s like to feel like a victim. To feel constantly attacked, to feel like everyone is against me, and to feel all alone.

I have to work very hard on my self-awareness to stop my victim addiction from swelling out of control.

You don’t have to have a mental health condition to end up with a victim addiction however – victim habits can form from any trauma in the past.

Overcoming the inner victim

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It’s not your fault if you have developed a victim addiction. Genuinely bad things did happen to you at some point, no matter how big or small, or people from your past were hurtful.

To overcome your trauma, like me, you have to learn to stop punishing yourself and recognise you were a victim of these bad people or situations.

Learning how to be a victim got you through the tough times.

The problem is, now you don’t know how to stop feeling like a victim. It’s your automatic response to stress and challenges.

Now, even if you act wrongly, your victim addiction will want to spin it around so that it’s not your fault. 

You can easily become defensive and angry towards anyone who doesn’t agree that you are the victim in a situation.

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The question is, is this habit helpful or hurtful?

I bet it’s tough, right?

I bet you spend quite a few days feeling angry and bitter about people who have wronged you.

I bet you play out situations in your mind, wondering why these things keep happening to you – feeling that it’s not fair.

I bet you fall out with and make up with friends, co-workers and family regularly.

I bet you feel persecuted more often than you don’t.

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And, I bet this constant fight response is pretty exhausting and stressful to you and you just want to be a relaxed and happy person.

Am I right?

Learning to let go

The best antidote to a victim addiction is letting go.

Letting go is hard work. It requires you to completely relinquish the ego; the part of you that needs to “win” the fight and protect yourself.

To let go successfully, you have to accept that you are not in the past anymore and the situation you are angry about now is not the same situation that hurt you before.

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It means accepting that you may (note the “may”) have contributed to a current problem through your own behaviour or by making a mistake (which is okay and doesn’t make you a bad person).

Balance is key

Next time you feel a knee-jerk reaction rising, ask yourself these questions:

Q. Is it possible these feelings of anger/defensiveness are being triggered because this situation reminds me of hurt from my past?

Q. Is it helpful or harmful in this situation for me to go into “attack mode”?

Q. Is this person who has upset me really completely at fault? Could my own behaviour have contributed to the situation?

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Q. Before I post this statement online/text this message/speak to a colleague, am I 100% sure that I am not wanting to create conflict because I feel abused?

Q. Will this action make me feel peaceful, or irritated and angry?

Your “Tough Love” talk

You are no longer a victim. You are responsible for keeping yourself out of genuine danger, but this does not include working overtime to attack every person who challenges you.

Let your wounded self have a rest. Find the peace in your interactions and learn balance and self-awareness.

These aren’t easy things to learn and you may require the help of a qualified professional. What’s important is that you are willing to begin.

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Finally, I want you to know that you are an amazing person – taking responsibility for a victim addiction is very brave.

It feels uncomfortable to step out of the “blame game”, but throwing away the victim addiction t-shirt is one of the healthiest things you can do for yourself and your relationships with others.

Thanks, as always, for reading.