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Saturday, March 2, 2024

Unraveling the Mindset of Victimhood

Scott Barry Kaufman
Scientific American
Originally posted 29 June 2020

Here is an excerpt:

Constantly seeking recognition of one’s victimhood. Those who score high on this dimension have a perpetual need to have their suffering acknowledged. In general, this is a normal psychological response to trauma. Experiencing trauma tends to “shatter our assumptions” about the world as a just and moral place. Recognition of one’s victimhood is a normal response to trauma and can help reestablish a person’s confidence in their perception of the world as a fair and just place to live.

Also, it is normal for victims to want the perpetrators to take responsibility for their wrongdoing and to express feelings of guilt. Studies conducted on testimonies of patients and therapists have found that validation of the trauma is important for therapeutic recovery from trauma and victimization (see here and here).

A sense of moral elitism. Those who score high on this dimension perceive themselves as having an immaculate morality and view everyone else as being immoral. Moral elitism can be used to control others by accusing others of being immoral, unfair or selfish, while seeing oneself as supremely moral and ethical.

Moral elitism often develops as a defense mechanism against deeply painful emotions and as a way to maintain a positive self-image. As a result, those under distress tend to deny their own aggressiveness and destructive impulses and project them onto others. The “other” is perceived as threatening whereas the self is perceived as persecuted, vulnerable and morally superior.

Here is a summary:

Kaufman explores the concept of "interpersonal victimhood," a tendency to view oneself as the repeated target of unfair treatment by others. He identifies several key characteristics of this mindset, including:
  • Belief in inherent unfairness: The conviction that the world is fundamentally unjust and that one is disproportionately likely to experience harm.
  • Moral self-righteousness: The perception of oneself as more ethical and deserving of good treatment compared to others.
  • Rumination on past injustices: Dwelling on and replaying negative experiences, often with feelings of anger and resentment.
  • Difficulty taking responsibility: Attributing negative outcomes to external factors rather than acknowledging one's own role.
Kaufman argues that while acknowledging genuine injustices is important, clinging to a victimhood identity can be detrimental. It can hinder personal growth, strain relationships, and fuel negativity. He emphasizes the importance of developing a more balanced perspective, acknowledging both external challenges and personal agency. The article offers strategies for fostering resilience