The Psychological Impact of The Victim Archetype on Your Success

Key Point: When you are blaming or deflecting you are using the energy of your Victim Archetype

If you haven't already read the overview article first.

It seems to be bred in to us to blame others - whether it is people or circumstances - for what is occurring in our life. To act out, on some level, the role of Victim, refusing responsibility for our results.

Don't fool yourself with the thought, "I never play Victim". We all do. However, it's a bit like the volume control on your mp3 player; for some people their volume level is loud and blaring. For others it is a quiet hum in the background.

Even the strongest and most resilient of us, at some point in our lives will be caught up in our Victim!

You can recognize the energy of your Victim archetype whenever you catch yourself:

  • having a moment of self-pity
  • whenever you are blaming others for your situation or circumstances
  • when you are making excuses
  • when you are denying your contribution to an unfolding situation

Have you ever said something along the lines of, "It's not my fault that ..."? If you have, then that's been your Victim talking.

Or maybe you have caught yourself thinking something like, "I'd be a much better leader if I had better people". This is very much a Victim Statement ...

I Would be a Better Leader if Only...

Sam was a leader whose most frequent lament was, "I would be getting much better results if I had better people to work with." What he didn't understand was that he would be getting much better results if he were a much better leader.

He was insensitive to the needs of his people. He certainly did not honor or respect their input. It was 'my way or the highway.'

Within three months of his departure productivity improved by 70%. Nothing else changed just the leader. The new team leader was more open and engaging.

Don't be misled by the Work 'Victim'

The Victim archetype has a negative connotation for most of us. However, when you are aware of this archetype and you have a handle on your victim energy, the choices it offers to you can be one of your most powerful tools.

In its healthy state it enables you to see when you are about to fall into the Victim trap and make a choice to play that particular situation out in a different way. It is not about trying to change other people or circumstances necessarily, it is more about how you respond to the situation.

You come into real power when you choose not to lay blame on others. When you look at your life circumstances and decide I'm going to do something different here. I'm going to think or act differently or walk away from this situation.

The Victim archetype has a positive place in your life

The role of the Victim is to:

  • Teach you to claim (or re-claim) your personal power,
  • Discover that the external world has limited control over how you feel,
  • Accept responsibility for what happens in your life, and
  • Know when you need to put firm boundaries around yourself to protect you from others.

Personal power does not mean power over or manipulation of others. It is an inner power that enables you to know that you are the creator of your life situation and you have the inner strength to be, do and live, as you want. Claiming your personal power does not mean being rude or over-bearing to others. It is about having a deep and abiding respect for honoring your own needs whilst honoring the people around you.

Victims Live in Fear

A person with a strong Victim archetype lives in fear. Fear that things are going to be taken away from them. Fear that people are going to take advantage of them. Fear that they aren't good enough. They'll say things like, "I'm not able to because ... I am a woman, man, too young, too old, too shy, too black, too white, gay, etc."

Someone who has the volume control on their Victim turned way up, are often angry, hurt, resentful, and suspicious. They believe bad or critical things people say about them, and collapse into powerlessness and despair.

One of the biggest obstacles to your success lies not in your external world, but in your own self-doubts. It is your own self-doubt and low self-esteem that holds you back.

The victim operates from the perspective: "The results I get have nothing to do with me. It is the circumstances around me that cause my life to be as it is ... I am not responsible". These types of thought patterns stop you from creating the life and the outcomes that you want and cause you to give up your own personal power.

Psychologists call this the "Locus Of Control"

Many years ago, I was backing the car out of the garage, and Connor asked me to pass something to her. As I did so I pulled the steering wheel down a little to the right and almost hit the wall (this in a car that was less than 24 hours old!).

My immediate thought was "Bloomin kid, if she hadn't asked me to pass that to her I would never have nearly hit that wall". In that same heartbeat I thought, "Oh, hello Victim". You see, I could have waited until I'd finished reversing before I handed it to her. It would have been my responsibility if I'd hit the wall.

It was me who had made the choice to try and multi-task.

To blame Connor was unproductive and undeserved.

With awareness of your Victim archetype, and reclaiming your personal power, you have the opportunity to move from blame and 'woe is me' to "I am responsible for my life, and I am willing to take responsibility for living it to the very best of my capability".

The People Who Failed to Let Their Victim Archetype Take Over

It was extraordinary for Nelson Mandela to spend 27 years of his life locked up and not give up and become totally evil. You would expect him to want to kill every white person. To unfairly, unjustly have stolen from you a quarter of a century of your life and to come out of prison and say "Hey guys let's focus on how to help the country" is pretty extraordinary.

He was asked: How did you suffer through that?

He response was:

I didn't suffer through it I was preparing myself. Sooner or later, one of two things was going to happen. Either I would die and that would inspire my fellow men to do whatever it took to change our country for the betterment of our people. Or I would live and once I got out I would lead my nation and I wanted to lead it well.

So I chose to I focus on making myself a better a leader. I read whatever I could lay my hands on to I learn how to lead men and women of all colors well."

He is a very ordinary man who had an extraordinary impact, simply because he remained focused on what was ultimately most important and chose not to cast himself as a victim.

Another equally amazing person, whom you may not have heard of is Viktor Frankl.

In his book Man's Search For Meaning Viktor Frankl wrote about his experiences in Concentration Camps during World War II.

His conclusion was that, "no matter where we find ourselves, no matter the circumstances that surround us in our life, the one thing over which we will always have power is the freedom to choose our attitude".

Are You an Above the Line or Below the Line Person?

The people who live above the line are the winners in life. They take ownership for their life, they take responsibility for the feelings, thoughts and emotions they dwell upon, and hold themselves accountable for their results.

People below the line are the Victims in life. These are the people who blame, make excuses, justify, are in to denial, playing the role of Victim.

Accepting that you are responsible for the results in your life is often times a concept that people struggle with. You might say well, it isn't my fault that .... The company went broke, My husband cheated on me, I have heart disease, the other car smashed into me, I was abused, the house was robbed, my father was a bully and so on.... It is true, it may not have been your fault.

However, anytime that you believe your control over a problem is wholly outside of yourself, you have moved below the line and turned yourself into a Victim.

The very best way to get different results, claim your personal power, to move above the line and minimize the Victim within, is to ask yourself question such as:

  • What can I do differently to stop this from happening?
  • How am I contributing to this event unfolding?
  • What did I do that encouraged/enabled this person to treat me this way?
  • What am I doing to stop a past history/event rule my life today?
  • What can I do to claim my inner power in this situation?

Do Not Let Yourself Play Below the Line

Most people, when they stop and think about their life circumstances today (good, bad or indifferent), find that in some way, they have played a part in bringing about each of the circumstances (health, money, relationships, work, etc.).

It may be the things they did prior to the event. It may be the things they did or didn't do during the event. Or, it may be how they have dealt with life after the event.

For example, maybe you have a very mean boss. Certainly, you might be forgiven for thinking that you didn't ask for that. But, what you are responsible for is:

a) How you deal with it emotionally and
b) What you do about it.

A person with a strong victim archetype will stay in that situation. Feeling trapped, and probably complaining to family and friends about their mean boss.

A person taking personal power, might well stand up for themselves and tell their boss: "This is unacceptable."

Often times when you claim your personal power, these types of people back right off. 

And, if the worst comes to worst and this boss fires you ... won't you be in a better place?

But I hear you saying, "Yes, but this is the only job on offer where I live. I HAVE to work here. I HAVE to put up with my boss" -- This is still your Victim speaking!

Use your personal power to take control of your emotional state

If you choose to view this situation through the lens of personal power, then you'll take responsibility for your emotional state. You'll not let the boss get to you ...  while you are searching alternative ways to create an income (for example, you could do, what I did and start a business online!)

Remember, as Viktor Frankl said, "the one thing over which we always have power is the freedom to choose our attitude".

Sure, there's no denying this is not easy to do in these types of situations.

But you do have choices available to you:    

  •  Say nothing and be miserable
  • Say nothing, and whine to others
  • Say something and get the problem fixed 
  • Say something and find yourself looking for 'new opportunities'

These are all valid choices. But as you can see the later two claim more personal power than the former. 

It is simple to pivot from Victim to Power

It is interesting. When I am working with clients, who are falling in to Victim mode and I encourage them to think of a different way to react to the situation and/or take different action - (turning them from Victim mode to Power mode) - invariably they start to find all sorts of creative solutions to fixing the problem and improving their emotional response to the situation.

You are responsible for every single feeling, thought, emotion you have and dwell upon. Critically, your thoughts and feelings drive your results.

For every choice there is a consequence

Throughout our lives we constantly make choices. Sometimes the choices we are faced with aren't always pleasant. You've heard the saying “the better of two evils!” Yet the truth of the matter is we still have choices.

Every choice has risks. But as a person accountable for your own sense of peace and fulfillment, you are responsible for weighing up the risks and deciding what you want for yourself.

Every choice we make leads to a consequence.

It is your responsibility to accept the consequences of each choice you make.

Imagine this: You are working in an environment full of restrictive rules and ill-tempered people who are very controlling and joyless. It is a toxic work environment that you dread walking into each day. But you need an income and there aren’t many other jobs around.

As we have discovered, if you take responsibility for your life you can no longer blame your Manager or your co-workers for how you feel about your workplace.

You'll pivot your results when you change your thoughts to something more powerful such as: "I'm not enjoying working here. In fact, it is sapping my energy. So, what am I going to do about it?" Now choices can begin to unfold for you:

  • You may decide to do something to change the way people treat each other, or
  • Maybe you decide to leave and risk not having as great a materialistic lifestyle for a while (but a much more peaceful one), or
  • You could choose to change the way you respond to and feel about this workplace, or
  • You might decide to do nothing, stay there and be miserable

As you shift from Victim to Self-responsible, your mindset shifts from "I'm hating this, but there's nothing I can do" to something like:

"It is up to me to turn this around. No point in blaming. If I want a different result then I need to change what I think, feel, believe and do. At times it may be a bit scary. I may be afraid to stand up and be counted. To take responsibility for changing the way I think, feel and act. Whatever I choose, I willingly accept the consequences of my choices and the results I get in my life."

event thoughts emotions results

Recognizing and handling the Victim at work

The victim archetype is prevalent in many workplaces. Wouldn't you like a dollar, for each time you have heard: "It's their fault" or "They won't let us do it"?

It doesn't really seem to matter whether, 'their' or 'they', are the executives on corporate row, or the people at the front-line.

How do you know that your business has a thriving victim population?

Here are a few tell-tale signs:

  • People doing the bare minimum on the job
  • People blaming other people or departments or the economy for poor performance
  • People wanting guaranteed wages rather than performance based wages
  • Rule based vs principle based
  • Lots of complaining
  • Graffiti
  • High workers compensation claims

When you hear others around you playing below the line, don't let them get away with it. Introduce this information to them at a time when they aren't in the grip of a Victim attack.

Share this knowledge so they can make the choice to operate above the line. Help them to see how their thoughts could be limiting their behavior, which leads to limiting success.

Most people are crying out to be helped to play a bigger game in life. As a high performance leader, it is your role to assist people to align to their potential.

Be consistent in holding yourself, and others, to being above the line. In time they will come to see what a great gift you have given them. They will come to see that you cared enough about their success.

When you, the leader, claim your power over your own inner victim, you become much stronger at helping the people around you to move from a victim mindset to a powerful performance mindset.

Breakthrough Reflection

For a short period of time (week or two will be plenty) keep track of:

  1. 1
    How often you blame others for your circumstances
  2. 2
    How often you spend time in self-pity
  3. 3
    Whether you feel victimized by others, when situations don't work out the way you wanted them to
  4. 4
    Identify any patterns, circumstances, and or events that trigger your victim type of responses
  5. 5
    Spend time writing out how you would like to feel. What it will feel like to feel powerful and living above the line.

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