Are you having a problem with someone who’s always playing the victim? Do you find yourself helping them most of the time, yet they are not doing anything to solve their problems?
Living or working with a person who constantly sees themselves as a helpless bystander can leave you incredibly frustrated and powerless, especially if they’re not taking responsibility for their own actions. However, it doesn’t have to remain this way.
According to experts, here are effective ways to deal with someone who always plays the victim:
Rapid Transformational Therapist | Hypnotherapist | Reiki Level II Practitioner
Playing the role of victim is an effort to express shame, oppression, discontent, or powerlessness to receive sympathy, attention, or a dose of the drama which they crave. When someone is always playing the victim, their inability to control their feelings, emotions and life shows up as an addiction to drama.
When things feel out of control in our inner world, it eventually plays out in our external world as struggle, problems, and habitual drama.
As others partake in the drama with the victim, they become active participants in what can be referred to as the “victim triangle.”
This “victim triangle” consists of three players:
Each role is essential to the victim triangle playing out as the persecutor is needed to provide the fuel for the victim’s inner fire, and the rescuer is needed to soothe the burn.
Recognize that they want to connect through drama
To deal with someone that is stuck in the victim role, you first must recognize it for what it is — connection through drama.
Just watch and listen to make them feel seen and heard
The next step is refusing to participate in one of the other two roles.
In other words, through self-awareness of what is likely to be played out as the victim triangle, you instead become the observer by watching and listening so that the victim feels seen and heard without rescuing them or finding fault and blaming them for their role as victim which would perpetuate what they are seeking (drama).
The more one chooses to become the observer without participating, the faster the victim will move on to someone else who will fulfill one of the other two roles and keep them engaged in their self-deprecating role as victim.
They will be forced to journey toward self-awareness
As the victim finds their inner circle becoming smaller with fewer people to engage with them in this drama triangle, they will be forced to embark on their own inner journey toward self-awareness and realize their habits of victimhood are really an attempt to engage and connect with another.
Connection is necessary for those playing the victim, yet they may not know how to effectively communicate this need.
Related: How to Get to Know Yourself Better (9 Self-Awareness Questions)
Hypnotherapy can help find the root cause of their inability to connect
Hypnotherapy can be an excellent remedy for the victim to find the underlying root cause of their inability to connect in a healthy way. As the current habits and patterns serve the victim less and less, they must find new ways to secure the connection they desire with others.
Journaling helps access their inner thoughts that are provoking the need to play the victim
Journaling is another healthy way to access the inner thoughts and emotions that are provoking the need to play the victim.
Ask questions like “What was I thinking just before this problem arose” or “What was I feeling right before I had this conversation that started off normal and then went south?”
Taking time to listen to our thoughts, the words we speak to ourselves and others, or our feelings by writing them down will leave clues as to our inner motives and desires.
They’ll feel an authentic human connection once you know “that” is their underlying need
Human contact and connection are essential to a healthy mind and body. While it can be difficult to engage with someone who always plays the victim, once you know their underlying need is a connection, you can choose to engage with them in healthier ways that leave them feeling an authentic human connection.
Once they realize that healthy connection is possible without the need to play the victim, their self-awareness will improve with each meaningful interaction.
Joan Hampton, MS, LPC-S, BC-TMH
Licensed Professional Counselor and CEO, Oasis Mental Wellness
Be able to recognize them; not everyone is consciously trying to play the victim
First of all, be able to recognize when someone is playing victim.
There are several signs that someone might be playing the victim role:
- They constantly blame others for their problems and never take responsibility for their own actions.
- They exaggerate their suffering or hardships and seem to enjoy being pitied y others.
- They often play the role of the victim in different areas of their life and seem to attract drama or negative experiences.
- They may manipulate or play on others’ emotions in order to get what they want.
- They may have a tendency to victimize themselves even in situations where they are not actually the victim.
They may do so out of habit or as a coping mechanism
It’s important to keep in mind that not everyone who exhibits these behaviors is consciously trying to play the victim. Some people may do so out of habit or as a coping mechanism for deeper issues.
If you are concerned about someone’s behavior, it may be helpful to have an open and honest conversation with them about your observations and offer support and resources if needed. Dealing with someone who plays the victim can be challenging, as it can be difficult to know how to respond in a supportive and assertive way.
Here are a few suggestions for how a therapist might approach this issue:
Validate the person’s feelings
It’s important to acknowledge that the person’s feelings are real and valid, even if you disagree with their perspective. This can help to build trust and create an open and safe space for communication.
Encourage the person to take responsibility
Help the person understand that they have some control over their own actions and reactions, and encourage them to take responsibility for their own emotions and behavior.
Encourage the person to consider other perspectives
Help the person to understand that there are often multiple valid viewpoints and that it’s important to consider the perspectives of others.
Teach coping skills
Help the person to develop coping skills and strategies for dealing with difficult emotions and situations. This might include relaxation techniques, problem-solving skills, or strategies for assertive communication.
Encourage the person to seek support
Remind the person that it’s okay to ask for help and to seek support from friends, family, or other professionals when needed.
Therapy is encouraged for someone who plays the victim. It would be helpful to refer them to a licensed professional to help them with this.
Try cognitive-behavioral therapy techniques
There are several cognitive-behavioral therapy techniques that could be helpful for someone who tends to play the victim role:
One technique that may be particularly helpful is called “reframing,” which involves helping the person to reframe the way they think about and interpret events.
For example, if the person always sees themselves as the victim, the therapist might help them to identify other possible perspectives or interpretations of the situation. The therapist might also help the person to identify and challenge unhelpful thought patterns, such as blaming others or exaggerating the negative aspects of a situation.
Other techniques that might be helpful include:
- Assertiveness training
- Social skills training
It’s important to note that the most effective approach will depend on the specific needs and goals of the individual, and a qualified therapist will be able to help determine the best course of treatment.
Related: What to Look For in a Therapist (According to Mental Health Professionals)
Try not to use the word victim when addressing this person. It’s not helpful to label someone as a “victim,” as this can have a negative connotation and may not be accurate or fair.
Instead of focusing on the person’s perceived role, it’s important to listen to and validate their feelings and experiences and offer support and resources as needed.
Here are a few things you could say to a person who is struggling:
- “I’m here for you and willing to listen if you want to talk about what’s going on.”
- “I care about you and want to help in any way I can.”
- “I believe you and your feelings are valid.”
- “It’s okay to not be okay. Is there anything you need or anything I can do to help?”
- “You’re not alone in this. I’m here to support you.”
It’s important to approach the conversation with empathy and a non-judgmental attitude and to remember that everyone copes with difficult situations differently.
Author | Inspirational Speaker | Spiritual Teacher | Wellness Consultant
Listen mindfully to clue in why they see themselves that way
I believe it’s never a good idea to judge someone who ‘always plays the victim.’ I say this because no one but them knows the life they have traveled and their experiences, albeit traumatic in some cases.
The individual may not even know they are doing it, and if they do, may not know how to change that way of being, their thought patterns, and behaviors.
Take a compassionate approach
The mere fact that you are aware someone is playing the victim may well mean you are hearing what they have to say, whether directly or indirectly.
If directly, why not listen? Listen mindfully, as there might be a clue as to why they see themselves that way. This could be an opportunity, by taking a compassionate approach, to encourage them to look at things from a different perspective.
Paraphrase and mirror their body language
Listening is a two-way interaction, and by using some of their own words and phrases (including paraphrasing) and perhaps mirroring their body language to some degree demonstrates that you are listening. As much as this can be tiring and energy-consuming, it can also be rewarding.
So, why not sow the seed of opening their mind’s eye by asking some poignant questions, such as:
- “So what do you think you might or can you do about…?”
- “Is there anyone who could support you with… and if so, how?”
- “It sounds like there is a lot you need to share. Have you thought about…?”
- “When we last met, we spoke about how you might make a change with….how did you get on?”
Distance yourself gradually if they’re not making an effort to change
On the other hand, you could be opening yourself up to be continually bombarded with the individuals’ victim stories and being their sounding board with seemingly no effort on their part to make any changes.
It’s probably best then to gradually distance yourself from them or keep interactions to a bare minimum.
Dr. Kimberly Parker, LCSW, PhD
PhD Candidate, Psychology | Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Healthy Mind Counseling & Nutrition, LLC
Redirect the conversation when you start to feel overwhelmed
Whether it is a friend or family member, someone who is always playing the victim can be bad for your health.
You may ponder, “Well, how so?” This person may be manipulating you for their gain — gaslighting you!
Once you realize that this person is always playing the victim, you can ask clarifying questions about their story or distance yourself. It depends on the level of the relationship you have with them.
Related: How to Respond to Gaslighting (According to 10+ Experts)
Let’s discuss signs that a person is playing this game of “Always the victim:”
- Their story is told in such a way that they are the one who is meek and humble.
- They’ll say, “I don’t know what they did to me. I’ve said and done nothing wrong.”
- The story does not add up in a manner where the actions do not correlate with the reaction. The person who claims to be the victim is oblivious to why the “aggressor” is upset with them.
- This is a repetitive cycle, and they do not like to be questioned about their story.
- Their side of the story has light detail, and they want to move on to another subject when they feel you are catching onto their lies.
How to deal with them:
- Limit your social interactions with them if possible.
- Redirect the conversation when you start to feel overwhelmed.
- If this is a person who does not live in your household, set an alarm before interacting with them, so this will remind you to dismiss yourself from their presence without being rude.
- You always have a conversation with the person about what you notice about their behaviors and how it affects you. Maybe this person isn’t fully aware that they are doing this; if so, they should be willing to seek help for change.
- You may need therapy to process your feelings about this person and to gain the proper tools to manage your feelings.
- If you notice that these behaviors are affecting your mental health, if possible, based on the relationship dynamics, then it may be time to end the friendship.
- If this is a child or a spouse, then converse with them about seeking therapy.
Aura Priscel De Los Santos
Clinical Psychologist | Specialist, HealthCanal
Some ways a person can deal with someone who always plays the victim are:
Don’t play along
This means not following through on the drama that the person playing the victim performs.
Victims seek attention and want others to play along when they complain, fight, or blame others for whatever happens to them.
Related: Why Do We Blame Others for Our Failures, Mistakes, and Problems? According to 13 Experts
Set boundaries to put a stop to who is playing the victim
Setting boundaries helps the person put a stop to who is playing the victim. A person who sets boundaries is taking care of the other person’s actions, teaching them that everything has a point, and playing the victim is one of them.
If you find yourself in a situation surrounded by someone playing the victim, put a stop to it. If you don’t, you can feel emotionally exhausted.
Stay away from that person
There comes a time when the person who is around someone who plays the victim can no longer deal with their victimization behaviors, and it is best to walk away.
Sometimes it is good to have distance because if this does not happen, the person can be very exhausted, depressed, and overwhelmed. When a person is negatively influenced, actions like these are necessary for their well-being.
Ketan Parmar, MD, MBBS, DPM
Psychiatrist and Mental Health Expert, ClinicSpots
Analyze the situation
The first step in dealing with a person who continuously plays the victim is understanding why they act this way.
It’s important to analyze their behavior and look for patterns or cues that indicate what may have caused them to become so dependent on playing the role of a helpless and powerless individual.
Once you have identified potential causes for their behavior, it will be easier to determine how best to address them.
Understand the mindset of a victim
When someone is playing the victim, it’s important to understand why they may act this way.
People who play the victim often feel as if they have no control over their circumstances and that outside forces are in charge of their lives. They also feel powerless to make changes and rely on other people to do things for them.
As a result, they come across as helpless and unable to take responsibility for their own actions or feelings.
Listen with empathy
When dealing with someone who always plays the victim, it’s important that you listen to them with empathy and understanding.
Avoid being judgmental or dismissive towards them, as this may further push them into a corner where they feel even less control over their circumstances. Make sure to validate their emotions without indulging in any pity parties or encouraging self-pitying behavior.
Share your observations of their current behavior
Once you have listened to the person with empathy, you can then share your observations on why they might be playing the victim role. Explain that while they may not have control over certain aspects of their life, ultimately, they have control over how they respond to it.
Furthermore, explain that engaging in a victim mentality will only lead them further away from any potential resolution or positive outcome.
Related: How to Recognize and Overcome Victim Mentality
Avoid blame tactics
It’s easy to start blaming when dealing with someone who always plays the victim; however, this can create an even more toxic environment. Instead, use empathy statements that show understanding and compassion toward the other person’s feelings.
For example, you could say: “I understand how frustrating this must be for you.”
When someone plays the victim, it can be difficult to get them to take responsibility for their actions or feelings.
Instead of pointing out their faults or trying to change their behavior, encourage them to take ownership by asking leading questions that help them explore different options and solutions.
For example: “What steps could you take to address the issue?”
Provide alternatives and suggest healthier coping strategies
In order to help the person break out of their victim mentality, you should provide alternatives and suggest healthier coping strategies. Encourage them to take responsibility for their actions and accept what they can and cannot control.
Suggest ways in which they can take action and make changes that are within their power. Reassure them that by taking control of the situation, rather than playing the role of a helpless individual, they will be better equipped to move forward productively.
Be supportive; strive to help them look at things from a different perspective
The journey to breaking out of victim mentality is a long one, and it requires patience, understanding and support.
Be there for the person throughout their journey; provide guidance and listen to them when they need someone to talk to. Acknowledge their efforts in trying to change the situation for the better and strive to help them look at things from a different perspective.
Dealing with someone who always plays the victim can be difficult and emotionally draining. But if approached correctly, it’s possible to help them break out of this mindset and regain control over their circumstances.
It will require dedication, understanding, and patience, but it can be done. With this article, we hope you have gained insight into how best to approach such a situation.
Understand the person’s history
It is necessary to understand why someone may be playing the victim role. Often, people will take on this kind of behavior if they’ve had a traumatic experience in the past.
For instance, if someone has been bullied or neglected as a child, they might resort to playing the victim as a means of self-protection.
Speak honestly and respectfully
Be honest and respectful when communicating with someone who plays the victim.
Avoid blaming or shaming them, even if they are engaging in negative behavior. Instead, focus on how their behavior impacts those around them and emphasize that it isn’t acceptable.
Focus on solutions
Rather than focusing on the person’s behavior, try to focus on solutions to help them overcome their issues and move forward.
Encourage them to take responsibility for their actions and be open to constructive feedback. Doing so can help them build their self-esteem, confidence, and sense of control.
Related: What Is the Difference Between Self Esteem and Self Confidence?
Offer support and encouragement
Show the person that you care about them and are willing to help.
Listen to their issues non-judgmentally and offer support and encouragement when they take positive steps towards changing their behavior or mindset. Doing this can help them build resilience, making it easier for them to cope with future challenges.
Set clear boundaries
When dealing with someone who plays the victim role, set clear boundaries — let them know that their behavior is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. Explain that while you are willing to offer support and help, they must take responsibility for their actions and make an effort to change.
Related: How to Deal With Someone Who Doesn’t Respect Boundaries
Show them you that you understand while emphasizing the need for them to take action
In addition, you should show your understanding of their situation but also emphasize the need for them to take action. Demonstrate that you are willing to listen and guide them in the right direction.
Encourage and motivate them to pursue their goals and objectives with a positive attitude or provide resources or point out helpful strategies to help them succeed. Be patient and firm but sympathetic at the same time.
Director, Bankless Times
Dealing with someone who constantly plays the victim can be challenging, as it can be difficult to resolve conflicts and problems when the person refuses to take responsibility for their actions.
Here are some tips that may help you when dealing with someone who always plays the victim:
Establish and communicate clear boundaries
It’s important to establish and communicate clear boundaries in any relationship, including with someone who plays the victim. Be clear about what behaviors are acceptable and what are not, and hold firm to those boundaries.
Don’t enable the behavior
Avoid enabling the victim mentality by not constantly rescuing or solving problems for the person. That can be tough, as it may feel like you are abandoning the person when they are in need, but it’s important to allow them to learn to solve their own problems and take responsibility for their actions.
Focus on the facts of the situation
When discussing a problem with someone who plays the victim, try to stay focused on the facts of the situation rather than getting caught up in emotional responses. That helps avoid getting sidetracked and keeps the conversation more productive.
Encourage the person to take responsibility for their actions and consider their behavior’s impact on others. That can help them to develop a more realistic and healthy perspective.
Seek outside support such as counseling
If you find it difficult to communicate with someone who plays the victim effectively, it may be helpful to seek outside support, such as therapy or counseling. That can provide a neutral space for discussing and resolving conflicts and issues.
Founder and CEO, Impact Recovery Center
Listen; allow the person to vent
Sometimes, people who play the victim love to do it in front of other people. It can be incredibly difficult to listen to someone constantly expressing how terrible their life is, but it is important that you do listen to them.
If someone comes to you with a problem, the best thing that you can do is just listen. Don’t offer advice or solutions; instead, allow the person to vent and process their feelings. Remember that listening to someone does not imply that you agree with everything they are saying or doing.
Try seeing things through their eyes
It can be very difficult to be around people who only see the world one-dimensionally and are constantly playing the victim. This is because they often have such a grave outlook on life that it’s nearly impossible for others to relate to or understand them.
The best thing you can do when someone you care about is playing the victim all the time is to try to understand where they are coming from. Try putting yourself in their shoes and seeing things through their eyes.
“Halen” out of their drama
If you have someone in your life who is constantly playing the victim, you will likely not be able to fix their problems or help them get out of this negative mindset.
To protect yourself, it may be best to try to distance yourself from this person, so they no longer affect your life. This can be difficult, but only you can decide what is best for your well-being.
Don’t be afraid to say something
Sometimes, people who are playing the victim need a little tough love in order to snap them out of it.
Consider gently confronting this person and letting them know that you care about their well-being and don’t want them to suffer unnecessarily. While it may not work, sometimes a person needs someone to point out when they are stuck in a negative mindset.
Related: 45+ Signs of a Negative Person (According to Experts)
Frequently Asked Questions
What Are Some Warning Signs That Someone Is Playing the Victim?
Some warning signs that someone is playing the victim include:
• Blaming others for their problems: The person consistently blames others for their issues and never takes responsibility for their own actions.
• Exaggerating or lying about their experiences: The person may exaggerate or lie about their experiences in order to gain sympathy or attention.
• Refusing to take responsibility: The person refuses to take responsibility for their own mistakes or choices and always looks for someone else to blame.
• Demanding special treatment: The person may demand special treatment or privileges, often under the guise of being a victim.
• Constantly seeking attention: The person may constantly seek attention and sympathy and become upset if they don’t receive it.
Is Playing the Victim a Form of Manipulation?
Yes, playing the victim can be a form of manipulation.
By presenting oneself as a victim, an individual can elicit sympathy and support from others and shift the blame for their actions or circumstances onto someone or something else. This can be used to avoid responsibility, gain attention, or manipulate others into doing what they want.
However, it’s important to note that not all individuals who present themselves as victims are doing so in a manipulative manner. Sometimes people genuinely experience difficult circumstances or have been wronged and may turn to others for support.
It’s also important to recognize that manipulation can take many forms and that playing the victim is just one of them. It’s crucial to be aware of these behavior patterns and approach them with caution and critical thinking.
Is Playing the Victim the Same as Gaslighting?
No, playing the victim and gaslighting are not the same.
Playing the victim refers to a behavior where a person portrays themselves as wronged or oppressed, when in reality they may be responsible for their situation. This behavior is often used to gain sympathy and avoid taking responsibility for their actions.
Gaslighting, on the other hand, refers to a form of psychological manipulation where a person or group makes another person question their own memories, perception of events, or sanity. This is done by denying that certain events took place or by presenting false information to deliberately confuse the other person.
How Can I Avoid Being Manipulated by Someone Who Plays the Victim?
• Know the warning signs: Look out for individuals who constantly play the victim and seem to always have a sob story. This behavior is often a sign of manipulation.
• Don’t take responsibility for their problems: Don’t let the manipulator make you feel guilty or responsible for their problems. Remember that everyone is accountable for their own life and decisions.
• Keep emotions in check: Manipulators often try to exploit your emotions to get what they want. Try to stay calm and rational in their presence.
• Set boundaries: Be clear about what you will and won’t tolerate. Don’t be afraid to say “no” when you feel uncomfortable or manipulated.
• Ask for evidence: If someone is claiming to be a victim, ask for evidence to support their claims. This can help you determine if their claims are genuine or not.
• Seek outside support: Consider reaching out to a trusted friend, family member, or mental health professional for help and guidance in dealing with the manipulator.
• Stay aware: Stay alert and aware of the manipulator’s tactics and behavior. This will help you recognize when they are trying to manipulate you and allow you to respond appropriately.
Is It Possible to Change Someone Who Constantly Plays the Victim?
It can be difficult to change someone who constantly plays the victim, but it is not impossible. However, the person must be willing to recognize their behavior and take responsibility for their actions. They need to be open to learning new coping strategies and ways of thinking about their experiences.
It’s essential to approach the situation with empathy and understanding rather than blame or criticism. Encourage the person to focus on their strengths and accomplishments, and help them see the power they have to change their circumstances.
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