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14 Signs Someone Is Always Playing The Victim

14 Signs Someone Is Always Playing The Victim

What do all humans have in common?

We have all played the victim before. How many of us have blamed our little sister or brother for breaking a family heirloom? I know I have. How many of us have pointed the finger at our co-worker for screwing something up at work? But, playing the victim is like eating bad food- it will only make you feel worse in the long run.

Here’s the bottom line: people that believe they are victims tend to push friends, family and coworkers away.

Let’s look at 14 signs that someone is playing the victim card and what they need to do instead:

1. They don’t take responsibility

This is a classic sign of victim behavior. A victim has trouble accepting they contributed to a problem and accepting responsibility for the circumstance that they are in. Instead, they point the finger, or simply ignore their role in perpetuating the problem. They are not overtly saying “I’m a victim”, but instead indirectly sending the message that they’re a martyr.

What’s the remedy here? Every circumstance, situation, and event in their life offers the victim an opportunity for growth. They may not be completely responsible for what has occurred, but they can always ask if they contributed somehow. Asking this question invites a person to be responsible, mature and cooperative. Plus, it will help them avoid similar situations in the future.

2. They are frozen in their life

Victims believe that they are at the mercy of everyone and everything around them. Usually, a victim will not make progress or advance in their life because they perceive that they are powerless. As a result, their life is stagnant. If you were to ask them why, they would respond by giving you a laundry list of reasons why they are stuck. The real sticking point here is that the victim will not usually tell you what they plan to do about their lack of progress in life.

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What’s the remedy here? The victim needs to see that small behaviors or changes in their attitude can reap big rewards. Try to help the victim make a list of small, achievable steps they can take towards a goal in their life. Hold them accountable and ask them to hold themselves accountable too.

3. They hold onto grudges

The victim likes to hang onto old grievances. They carry these around like weapons, just in case anyone ever tries to hold them accountable for something. A victim will bring up old memories and events in which they were probably legitimately hurt, but they use them as reasons why they can’t make changes to their attitude, their life, or their circumstances in the present. These hurts and grudges underpin the victim’s hobbled life. .

What’s the remedy here? This one is pretty simple. Let those grudges go! The victim needs to see that keeping grudges is only holding them down, and not doing anything to help anyone else either- although the victim may not believe this. The victim needs to recognize that freeing others of blame is actually returning all power and self-control back to the victim, so guess what? That means they no longer have to be the victim!

4. They have trouble being assertive

The victim does not truly believe they can control their life, so they struggle to state what they need, desire or deserve. The victim’s life will usually involve repeating patterns of submissiveness and passivity. This pattern is detrimental to self-esteem and personal development. The victim fails to break this pattern and suffers from potential anxiety or depressive disorders.

What’s the remedy here? A first recommendation is to seek help from a professional psychologist, counselor, or life coach. This is a chance for the victim to turn the direction of their life around. It could also be beneficial for the victim to read a book on assertiveness, commonly available in libraries or bookstores. Ultimately, learning to be assertive is not a quick fix. It will take time, practice, learning, failing, and trying over and over. In the end, however, the victim will no longer feel that gnawing sense of powerlessness and self-pity that has kept them down for so long.

5. They feel powerless

This could be a shadow behavior, meaning that the victim does not outwardly show that they feel powerless. Instead, the victim will try to be manipulative, coercive, and underhanded in getting what they need. You may have dealt with someone experiencing this kind of powerlessness. Usually, the victim is someone that is suspicious of others, feels insecure, and is constantly needing to know the latest gossip.

What’s the remedy here? First, do not play the game with them. Stay away from the game of sharing gossip, listening to their stories of manipulation, or their stories of insecurity. Let them know you’re there to support them and to listen to them, but not to contribute to their feeling of powerlessness.

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6. They don’t trust others

This issue is not only a problem of not trusting others. This is a problem of the victim not believing they are trustworthy themselves. The victim makes the assumption that other people are exactly like them – untrustworthy.

What’s the remedy here? Examine the evidence. Are all people untrustworthy? Probably not. There are trustworthy people in the world. There are people that want the best for you. There are people that want to help you. It is the job of the victim to begin revising their old assumptions about people.

7. They don’t know when to say enough is enough

In relationships, victims have no sense of limits. They don’t know when to say enough is enough.

What’s the remedy here? The victim needs to start creating their own boundaries. What is the maximum they are willing to take in a relationship, or in any given situation? It is the responsibility of the victim to decide these boundaries for themselves.

8. They get into arguments easily

The victim has trouble choosing their battles. To them, every battle is a war. To them, they are under attack all the time.

What’s the remedy here? The victim needs to realize that a difference of opinion, or a criticism is not necessarily about them. It could very well be about the other person. The victim must recognize they have a choice over whether they allow themselves to uncritically enter into petty arguments.

9. They feel sorry for themselves

Victim have a habit of pitying themselves. Their mirror reflects a defenseless child that cannot fend for itself. Since other people do not usually show them sympathy or empathy, they try to give it to themselves, only to potentially appear immature to others. This further traps them in the victim role.

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What’s the remedy here? Recognize that all people have tough days and experience bad events. Even the luckiest people experience unfortunate events. The victim must learn to avoid thinking that they are the only person in the world that has experience sad, difficult, or unfair circumstances.

10. They constantly compare themselves to others

The victim usually struggles with the habit of comparing themselves to others negatively. The truth is that we are all lacking in some respect compared to others. No one has it all.

What’s the remedy here? The victim needs to change their view. The victim must recognize that they have good qualities and likely have experienced privileges too. Yes, they’ve probably not always been super lucky, but it’s not all bad!

11. They see life as always lacking

Even when something good happens, the victim will seek out what’s lacking or what’s missing. The victim will complain about complaining and then complain that they can’t stop complaining. It’s a deadly cycle.

What’s the remedy here? They should count their blessings, The victim needs to treasure these blessings and develop a new habit of being positive and optimistic.They should aim to be the most thankful and hopeful person they can be.

12. They are a critic

The victim has a need to put others down and find fault in people. By doing these things, they get a fleeting sense of superiority.

What’s the remedy here? The victim should take all their energy and use it to build others up. This will reflect back on them in a positive way too.

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13. They think they are perfect

Ironically, when there is a chance that a victim could be caught in an error, they suddenly become perfect. This arrogance and narcissism closes the victim off from having truly trustworthy and cooperative relationships.

What’s the remedy here? They need to remove the word ‘perfect’ from their vocabulary, and accept that they are human and are not perfect. In fact, the victim needs to realize that the more they own their mistakes and failings, the more others will gravitate towards them.

14. They cut people out of their life

“I’ve had it – they are out of my life for good!” If you’ve heard that statement before and it wasn’t in reference to an actually dangerous or abusive situation, then you’re probably dealing with a victim. Rather, this statement was likely made in reference to everyday behaviors and relationship problems the victim finds challenging. In response to this, their default strategy is to cut people out of their lives. This highly emotional behavior creates chaotic relationships.

What’s the remedy here? Breathe. Stop the brain chatter for a moment. Take a walk.

The victim needs to recognize their pattern of cutting people off. Cutting people off usually doesn’t lead to the resolution of problems and conflict. They could always take a different, more positive approach, such as letting people know their feelings instead.

In the end, the victim will end up facing painful consequences in their life and relationships if they do not change their behavior.

As with most things in life, alternative options are there, we just have to be willing to look for them and make a start.

Featured photo credit: frustrated via freeimages.com

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Last Updated on June 12, 2018

Can a Dysfunctional Family Become Functional?

Can a Dysfunctional Family Become Functional?

A dysfunctional family is more than disagreement or constant arguments. Anything from plain neglect, to abuse and even verbal and physical violence is the everyday experience of those who are part of a dysfunctional family.

You know how this looks:

  • Parents constantly comparing children.
  • Siblings in conflict because of tolerated bullying.
  • Domestic violence.
  • Adultery…
  • And many others.

For all the members, this will mean emotional pain and even trauma; which, in case it doesn’t get resolved, will have a detrimental effect on the individual’s personality and development.

Needless to say, the younger members are the most vulnerable, but that doesn’t mean the parents are out of danger, as most commonly the parents play the roles of abuser-codependent, and in some cases, both parts inflicting pain on one another.

Most like to think these problems stem from deep-seated issues, and that therefore it’s pretty much impossible to deal with them.

This is only true for families not willing to do what it takes, for if only a single member is determined and knows how to do it, the whole family can do a lot of progress.

In this article, I’ll break down for you the basic steps of fixing a dysfunctional family. Although it may seem hopeless, it is possible to turn things around.

If you have ever felt in this position, or if you know somebody who is, this article is for you.

How to fix a dysfunctional family

In a few words the solution for a dysfunctional family lies in dropping the ego, focusing on the solution, switching blame for responsibility and doing the work as a unity, for the good of the whole family.

And this will accomplish things you once only saw as a dream.

Dropping the ego? Switching blame for responsibility? Doing the work? What does all this mean?

It’s simple. In a nutshell, it’s that which will allow you to turn a dysfunctional family into a functional one.

Let’s take a look at how exactly this can be done. And near the end we will also talk about what you can do in a dysfunctional family with cynical traits.

Dysfunctional families where not only problems are well-known, but also nobody seems to want a fix or openly decide to perpetuate the harmful behaviors. Such as the case of abuse and physical violence.

There is also a solution for these, it’s just not what you are expecting…

Dysfunctional… Or just average?

Most families are dysfunctional, though at varying degrees of dysfunctionality.

The milder cases, are just marked by “typical” comically-shrouded bullying or lack of interest in other members’ development or wellbeing.

You can know a family is dysfunctional if their interactions are anything different than cooperation, solidarity, care and support. But let’s get more specific…

A dysfunctional family is one in which members directly or indirectly suffer emotional and/or physical harm inflicted by other members of their family. Most commonly, perpetrated by the parents.

Even harmful actions as “passive” as neglect, which is inflicted by inaction rather than action, signifies a dysfunction within the family.

Dysfunctional families have conflicts such as:

  • Unrealistic expectations
  • Lack of interest and time spent together
  • Sexism
  • Utilitarianism
  • Lack of empathy
  • Unequal or unfair treatment
  • Disrespect towards boundaries
  • Control Issues
  • Jealousy
  • Verbal and physical abuse
  • Violence and even sexual misconduct or abuse

You may think a dysfunctional family has very little or nothing to do with personal productivity, but you would be wrong in thinking this way…

If a person is not emotionally well, she will not be able to perform as desired, as the emotional harm that has been inflicted will hinder everyday performance in the way of inability to concentrate, lack of mental clarity and low levels of inspiration, motivation and discipline.

Having a functional family does exactly the opposite: It creates productive members with no emotional baggage.

How to turn it around

When you’re part of a dysfunctional family you know it. You can quickly identify in other members the behaviors and conflicts that create the dysfunction.

But just in case you’re having trouble telling functional from dysfunctional I will tell you the following:

One of the easiest ways you can recognize if you are in a dysfunctional family is to survey your won feelings.

We often overlook this, but have you stopped to ask yourself how you feel?

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As cheesy as it may sound it really sheds a lot of light on the subject.

What behaviors, actions and attitudes in your family you wish were better?

Do you think certain behaviors and actions from your family marked you in the past?

Sadly, we cannot go back to the past to correct it. But we can do a lot in the present…

Correction is possible

In order to fix a dysfunctional family, you must start by putting an end to the behaviors and actions that are affecting you.

Verbalize it.

All members of the dysfunctional family have one issue in common: They don’t put a stop to the harm.

Whenever you feel your boundaries being overstepped there is just one single word you have to remember: STOP.

This is the door to a better, more functional family, because after this, comes the fix.

But first you have to identify and make others know where exactly lies the problem.

So go ahead and fearlessly start with “Stop”, followed by your expression of dissatisfaction.

Putting it to work in real life

In real life it would be something like this:

“OK, stop! Every time you belittle me I feel you don’t care. I need attention and respect, and it is your responsibility as my family to provide them to me”

Or:

“Stop. When you compare me with my cousin it hurts, I feel like I don’t matter and that’s not ok. I ask you to stop doing it.

Or:

“Please stop. When you start yelling all respect is lost and it turns into a battle of who can do it louder. Don’t raise your voice and let’s work this out the way humans do”.

As you can see, here you start by putting a stop to the toxic behavior when it arises. And afterwards you verbalize why it’s wrong and what needs of you need to be fulfilled.

This is what you have to remember:

1-Stop.

2-Why it’s wrong?

3-What you need.

And this will also work well in case you need to do it for another family member.

It’s a family thing

A dysfunctional family cannot be fixed by one member alone.

Yes, a single member can initiate progress and be the leader of the change. But in order to completely become functional all members must contribute to the solution.

In other words, you will need cooperation…

So don’t be afraid of asking for it!

Approach your family member and ask to be listened.

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We sometimes feel our needs are “not that important” or we simply believe they won’t listen. But thinking like this would be like being defeated at an unfought battle.

You will be amazed by how much people listen when you voice your needs, especially if it implies showing yourself open, vulnerable and in need.

It’s not a free-for-all battle

In order to get your family to cooperate, first you must fix your individual relationships with every member of the family. Remember: Relationships are always between two people, and two people only.

No matter how complex, the quality of a multi-member relationship (like a family) will always depend on the quality of the individual relationships.

Once you have straightened the relationship with every member of the dysfunctional family you will be able to better communicate with other members and help in the betterment of their individual relationship.

And this is where we will talk about the fix itself. The one I mentioned in the introduction…

The method

1. Drop the ego

Wherever there is conflict there is ego.

You cannot fix a relationship where there is ego, because the ego will want to win. Always. Yours and the other person.

Ego craves control and satisfaction, and in many cases, to establish dominance.

What does this have to do with a dysfunctional family? Everything. Ego will interfere with every plan you have to fix it.

It will make people suborn and defensive. And it will also make them drop responsibility. This is why, the first step is to drop the ego.

After you make sure you are not going to allow your ego to interfere you must work to make the other person do the same. How? By speaking from the heart…

Tell the other person how important all this is to you.

Tell the other person that it’s not a matter of arguing, but just working things out together.

Point out how it is not possible for you to do it alone.

And ask for sincere attention without any desire of opposition, because what you are doing is by no means in the hopes of harming the other person, but just to better the relationship and stop the damage being dealt to you.

You will have to point out the mistakes you need corrected, that’s for sure. And that leads me to the next point…

2. Not blame, but responsibility

When talking about others’ mistakes we often use an accusatory tone. And that’s natural, it’s what things should be like if ego was not present.

But since we are all creatures of ego, this immediately brings the shields up. And then unsheathes the swords…

When we blame others they automatically enter a defensive state, and this only leads to a failed negotiation.

What you need to do is to shift from blame to responsibility. And even that will have to be done carefully!

Instead of telling them off or demanding change or complaining, calmly point what the problem with their behavior is.

As much as this feels contradictory, also make them feel understood. You know how difficult it is to accept a mistake, so just make them feel it’s no big fuzz… which does not mean it’s ok, but it takes tension off.

You will do something like this:

“Hello dad. Can I talk with you for a minute? I really need to tell you something.

I have been feeling pretty sad lately and I know this is something you do care about.

You see, whenever I talk about my accomplishments you mention something else that makes my achievement pale in comparison.

I know you don’t do this intentionally and I know you might have not realized this until now, but I want to let you know this really brings me down.

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It would mean a lot to me if you could stop doing it, and it would help better our relationship, because this has already forced me to distance myself from you. And I don’t want that, I want a good, healthy relationship with you”

What happened here?

We started off with making it something important, something that needs both time and attention. Then we openly show ourselves vulnerable, just as we are.

We also mention why he should listen, and shove our feelings there again, because they are important.

We describe the issue with no attachment and with no hostile intention. It’s just a description.

And then we take the blame off. Just before we assign responsibility without actually saying it.

You are not blaming him directly, but you are pointing out the inevitable fact that his actions are causing a dysfunctionality. He is now responsible for changing.

This is what “switching blame for responsibility” means. What comes next? Doing the work!

3. Doing the work

What would any of this mean if, in the end, nothing changes? Exactly, nothing!

This is why you must follow up with every change that needs to be done.

Do so in a manner that is not hostile. Bring it up in a casual manner, and emphasizing how you both reached an agreement and how that is important to the family.

If the person doesn’t follow up don’t hesitate to bring it up again, and tell them you feel disappointed that your honest try at it was not listened.

It may even be a subject in itself, and therefore the need for another conversation.

“When you go back to old habits it shows that you didn’t really care about what I said. But back in real life you just reinforce how much contempt you show towards me and my feelings.

I talk with you because I care. Because although it would be easier for me to just distance myself from you I rather do my part in nurturing this relationship.

But there is just so much I can do, if you refuse to do your part I can do nothing else.”

You need very clear and positive communication in order to make this work.

Love is all you need

You must remember that in order for a dysfunctional family to become functional, all the work needs to stem from love.

That is the single one requirement for all this to work: Love.

And what happens if it simply is not there?

What happens if, nobody is willing to do what it takes?

What happens if a member of the family refuses to change and is happy with the harm he or she is dealing?

There is only one thing you can do:

To break away.

Let’s be honest, people, especially adults, are very difficult to change.

There is a Jewish proverb that I love, which sums it up like this:

“We spend the rest of our lives trying to unlearn what we learned before we were 7”

If you find it very hard to change the very traits that make your family dysfunctional or if it’s simply impossible, you still have a card up your sleeve…

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Although nobody likes to beak away from family members, we must remember we have a responsibility with ourselves as individuals, before any relationship with anyone.

You have the responsibility of making yourself happy and free. Because you matter as an individual, regardless of any relationships you have, be it family, friendship or romantic.

Putting distance

So in case you are dealing with a family member who is simply unwilling to change take both physical and emotional distance.

What do I mean?

Learn, first, to take their damage in a detached manner.

Don’t let it hurt you further. Instead take a deep breath and distance yourself emotionally.

Don’t be attached to feelings such as “Why doesn’t she love me?” or “What did I do to deserve this?” or “If he wasn’t like that my life would be perfect”.

Simply refuse to keep participating in the emotional downward spiral and accept, even if it’s painful” that there is nothing you can do. Accept that even without that relationship you are whole, you are worthy of love and respect.

They are their responsibility and you are yours. So decide what is best for you.

Realize it only comes down to two possibilities:

I keep the relationship and therefore accept the abuse. Or…

I choose my peace of mind.

And don’t let your mind fool you. We often think that since we all are imperfect, we must take the good and the bad behaviors of people. And we are especially forgiving towards our family…

Well, guess what? We are also responsible adults who are aware and must own to their acts. Never excuse abuse or violence or transgression towards you or anybody else.

Choose your happiness and if possible, also distance yourself physically, as it will increase your peace of mind tenfold.

How to prevent it

There are two key concepts you must bear in mind in order to prevent the dysfunctionality of a family:

  • To be completely aware of one’s own mistakes and not allow them to impact others and…
  • To make sure our SO’s are also on the same channel before creating a family (i.e. having children)

Dysfunctional families are the product of irresponsible paternity, for the decades-long unresolved emotional conflict ends up surfacing in the family inevitably, and it will for sure harm those who least deserve it: Innocent children.

You may notice we went from talking about family, to talking about individual relationships, to talking about you. We went from “them” to “us” to “me”.

Why? Because in the end you have the power to fix a dysfunctional family. To correct the mistakes you have in yours and to prevent dysfunctionalities if you don’t have a family but plan to create one.

Priorities and clear thought

You may be part of a dysfunctional family, but that does not mean you are powerless or that you have to suffer the consequences.

You learned today how it’s all a matter of priorities and thinking clearly.

You learned that, if love exists, everything is possible. You learned that even when there is no love and no fix for your dysfunctional family, there are still things you can do. It’s a matter of choosing your peace, because you deserve it.

Everything will be better if you apply this knowledge. If you talk to that problematic family member. If you help them see the harm they are doing. If you make sure they do change and treat you the way you need to be treated…

If you choose yourself over that toxic family member. If you refuse to justify the harm that others can do to yourself. If you realize the most important relationship you have is with yourself.

And lastly, that you also have to be aware of your actions and be open to criticism. Because we might be unknowingly harming others. And that would be us creating a dysfunctionality. Don’t allow it to happen.

Dysfunctional families are not impossible to fix. It just takes love, cooperation and responsibility.

But if you tried and those elements are not present, just choose yourself instead.

Featured photo credit: Photo by Juliane Liebermann on Unsplash via unsplash.com

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