Are You Victimizing Yourself?

Self-imposed victimization, begins after the fact, when you continue to blame or bemoan the circumstances and therefore give up doing what you can to improve.
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If nothing else, these recent columns on complaining your way through life, our increasingly intolerant behaviors toward one another, and the growing penchant toward becoming a nation of victims have underscored how deeply divided we are on basic levels of compassion as well as how entrenched our mindset has become that any argument of any kind must be couched in terms of political persuasions.

Some commenters chose to label the most recent article on victims as something attacking the liberal side of the political equation. Some thought I was against health care!

And how about this dismissive response to Mitchell, the fellow who was burned over 65 percent of his body and then wound up paralyzed after having recovered from the first tragedy?

This is a ridiculous. The author is comparing different things and leaving out all the details. While I agree moping around and whining is a not constructive. Comparing W. Mitchell to people swindled by Wall Street is totally bogus. I might be making wrong assumptions, but I'm guessing 2 things about Mr. Mitchell. One he was a bit of an adrenaline junky, two as an ex marine he had good health insurance. Without good health care a burnt paralyzed man is going nowhere no matter how positive he is. Also while I don't know all the details here, if you do dangerous things like motorcycling and flying in a sport plane you're risking accidents. It's easy not to blame anyone if it wasn't anyone else's fault. - bob225

You gotta wonder what some people are thinking about - not sure how bob225 made the leap to comparing Wall Street to Mitchell, but there you go. Just for the record, Mitchell was run over by a person in a car who ran a red light. I'm not entirely sure if bob225 wants to think Mitchell was a victim or at fault or none of the above. But quite clearly, bob225 did seem to miss the point entirely about the difference between what happens to you and how you respond to it.

The real point of the story has less to do with what might have happened to you and much more to do with how you responded to it. Self-imposed victimization is the real focus here.

Self-imposed victimization begins after the circumstances and represent the response someone chooses going forward. Sure, grieving, anger, blame, depression and a host of other emotions understandably go with the turf when something tragic befalls you.

Self-imposed victimization, begins after the fact, when you continue to blame or bemoan the circumstances and therefore give up doing what you can to improve. There are alternatives to adding to the victimization experience.

Here's one example from skatoolaki:

This also has a very personal resonance with me. Years ago I was rendered partially disabled after a botched surgery. For two years afterward, I was mired in depression and grieving the life I had lost, the things I could no longer do, etc.

One day I realized that I simply had to change my perspective! Instead of mourning for what I'd lost, I rejoiced in the things I still had. Instead of bemoaning what I could no longer do, I was grateful for the things I could still do.

This simple shift in perception changed my entire life. I was able to focus on positive things instead of negative ones, and was able to get back some of my lost mobility. I will never get around like everyone else, I will always have a pronounced limp and need a cane to aid my walking (and a walker and/or wheelchair for longer walks, like around my beloved New Orleans), and I will live in pain every day for the rest of my life - but I am grateful, still, for what I can still do and for what I have. I have learned not to ever take anything for granted and it has helped me to become a more compassionate and empathetic person to the suffering of others.

Nothing could be as simple (though not easy!) as changing your outlook and working from a place of thankfulness rather than regret, from one of hope rather than despair. It is not at all easy, but the concept is quite simple - and it will change your life for the better. Take responsibility for your own life, fate, destiny, etc. and *make life work for you* - do no let it it bow you over and have its way with you, fight back and play the best hand you can with the cards you are dealt. Namaste - skatoolaki

"Everything that has ever happened to me, happened to who I was then. Not who I am now. "

And then Kelly wrote an email to me with one of the most profound pieces of understanding and self awareness I have experienced in this whole exchange:

We've all had crappy things happen to us: losing jobs, partners, loved ones, pets, possessions. Some of us have had horrible things done to us: assaults, robberies, frauds. Most seem to stop at that moment and never move forward again. They identify as this thing that happened to them and never get over it.

I was laid off a year ago and my unemployment benefits ran out 4 months ago. I suffered from depression and thoughts of suicide for years. I have been raped on three separate occasions, the last by a group of 5 men. My dog died of smoke inhalation from a fire that destroyed my apartment three years ago. I am the most content person I know.

Everything that has ever happened to me, happened to who I was then. Not who I am now. I'm not denying anything or avoiding anything. I grieved, I raged, I cried, I moaned, I complained, I broke things, I hid in my bedroom and allowed myself to do what I needed to, to go through what I needed to get over it. Sometimes it took a few days, sometimes a few weeks, sometimes a few months to get over what had happened. I've never forgotten any of the things that have happened, but I don't wallow in them. I don't wear them like a badge or like armor. - Kelly

My question for you: what do you do when something happens to you? What kind of response have you found most helpful? What would you counsel others to consider?

I'd love to hear from you. Please do leave a comment here or drop me an email at Russell (at)


If you want more information on how you can apply this kind of reframing to your life and to your job, about a few simple steps that may wind up transforming your life, please download a free chapter from my book, Workarounds That Work. You'll be glad you did.

Russell Bishop is an educational psychologist, author, executive coach and management consultant based in Santa Barbara, Calif. You can learn more about my work by visiting my website at You can contact me by e-mail at Russell (at)

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