Your friend or someone you know has gotten fired from every job they’ve ever had. Their dates always flake on them and their friends always betray them. The common theme: it’s never their fault and if you press them on it you’re the one to blame.
According to a team of psychologists in Israel, these types of people may have a toxic personality disorder called “tendency for interpersonal victimhood” (TIV), which they describe as “an ongoing feeling that the self is a victim, which is generalized across many kinds of relationships.”
People with TIV wholly and truly believe they are never wrong and that their victimhood is a core part of their identity.
How to tell if someone ‘plays the victim?’
Not everyone who feels victimized is toxic. Bad things do happen and it’s okay to be upset about it.
Rather, TIV occurs when someone constantly feels like a victim and they bring others down with them.
Rahav Gabay and her colleagues determined that people with TIV tend to have four dimensions:
Constantly seeking recognition
Of all the allegedly horrible things that happen to someone with TIV, people never apologize to them. Worse, they don’t even acknowledge their wrongdoing.
While apologies can be hard to come by, this only becomes an issue when the person who plays the victim is in desperate search of recognition for the supposed bad things that are done to them.
A sense of moral elitism
People with TIV are never wrong. In fact, their moral compass is better than everyone else’s and they use this assumption to manipulate others into their own perspective.
This behavior may be a defense mechanism as a way to maintain a positive self-image.
Lack of empathy for others
Everything that happens to TIV people is the absolute worst and no one else’s pain or suffering matters, or so they think. This can especially be toxic in a relationship as TIV people only care about their own problems, never others’.
The route of this behavior can be that since the person believes they have suffered so much, they don’t think anyone else deserves empathy for their suffering.
This lack of empathy can also show up in a group or national level in the form of “competitive victimhood” or an “egoism of victimhood” where members of a group cannot see things from another group’s perspective.
Rumination about past victimization
Since romantic relationships never worked out in the past for TIV people, there’s no chance they’ll work in the future. This is a fallacy as the past doesn’t dictate the future, but it’s a core belief of people who always play the victim.
Always ruminating about past grievances and thinking it reflects the future is something perpetual victims tend to do.
Why TIV is toxic
People who always play the victim are extremely difficult to deal with because they’re selfish and never wrong.
They’re also obsessed with seeking revenge for those who’ve wronged them and may punish others who had nothing to do with it just because they’ve been wronged before.
Forgiving is part of growth
We all play the victim from time to time. Sometimes bad things really do happen to us and it makes us sour.
The problem is when the victimhood because constant and when the person never learns from their mistakes. It’s also problematic when they never forgive others – you don’t know what everyone is going through and nobody’s perfect.
Ultimately, the problem with playing the victim is it doesn’t allow you to learn or grow from the past. If you don’t acknowledge your faults, how can you make adjustments for the future?
If you know someone who’s always playing a victim, it might be time to reduce your relationship with them or have a frank discussion about it. Life is too short to be surrounded by toxic people.
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