Playing the victim personality disorder

Victim Mentality: Causes, Symptoms, and More

Written by WebMD Editorial Contributors

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on February 03, 2022

In this Article

  • What Does a Victim Mentality Mean?
  • Why Be a Victim?
  • Signs You Have a Victimhood Mindset
  • How to Stop Being the Victim

We all have our ups and downs in life. Bad things might happen to you or people you know on a daily basis. But there are some people who claim it is never their fault. They argue that they have no control over the tough situations and problems they encounter. It is simply always happening to them. 

Victimhood can become a part of a person's identity, but it is a learned behavior and can be changed.  It often evolves as a defense mechanism to cope with adverse life events.

People who constantly blame other people or situations for the events in their lives have a victim mentality. 

What Does a Victim Mentality Mean?

"It’s not my fault. " Someone who acts from a place of victimhood claims things that happen to them are the fault of someone or something other than themselves. It might be the fault of their partner, family, co-worker, friend, or "the way the world is." They ferquently complain about the bad things that happen in their lives. They are reluctant to take personal responsibility, asserting that the circumstances aren’t in their control.

It’s not a martyr complex. Victim mentality can sometimes be confused with a martyr complex. They are two similar behaviors, but there are some differences. Victims take things personally. Even if a comment or statement wasn’t directed at them, they will still absorb it as if it was. "What did I do to deserve this?" is a common question for them.

On the other hand, a person with a martyr complex will often go out of their way to take on extra tasks for other people, even if they don’t want to. They sacrifice themselves for others yet often feel resentful after the fact.  

Unhealthy coping mechanisms. People who have a victim mentality have often suffered through trauma or hard times, but haven’t developed a healthier way to cope. As a result, they develop a negative view of life, where they feel that they don't have any control over what happens to them. Because they don’t think anything is their fault, they have little or no sense of responsibility for their lives. It just happens to them. 

If someone tries to help or offer solutions, they’re often prepared with a list of reasons why that will not work. People who try to help are often left frustrated and confused. 

Why Be a Victim?

Why do people behave this way? There are some benefits to adapting a victimhood mindset.

No accountability. Being accountable for your life means you’re in the driver’s seat. You take responsibility. That can be scary to someone who has a victim mentality. You would have to admit life isn’t just the result of the actions of others. Taking responsibility bursts the protective bubble of victimhood. 

Secondary gain. Some people’s problems continue because of the secondary benefits. Sympathy, attention, and access to medication or funds are common examples of secondary gain. Someone with a victim mentality might not even realize they are getting these benefits, and often feel truly distressed. 

Satisfies unconscious needs. People with a victim mentality, especially when it comes from past trauma, unconsciously seek validation and help from others. They play the “poor me” card consistently. This can generate sympathy and help from others. 

Avoid taking risks. Projecting blame on others is a key part of the victim mentality. It’s a way to avoid being truly vulnerable and taking risks.   

Signs You Have a Victimhood Mindset

It’s normal to be unsatisfied in some parts of your life. But it’s important to look at the bigger picture. If you notice similar patterns across different areas of your life, you might have a victim mentality.  

The first step to solving a problem is to identify and acknowledge it. Look for these signs in yourself to see if you might have adopted a victim mentality: 

  • ‌You blame others for the way your life is
  • ‌You truly think life is against you 
  • ‌You have trouble coping with problems in your life and feel powerless against them 
  • ‌You feel stuck in life and approach things with a negative attitude 
  • ‌You feel attacked when someone tries to offer helpful feedback 
  • ‌Feeling bad for yourself gives you relief or pleasure
  • ‌You attract people who blame others and complain about their life 
  • ‌It’s difficult for you to examine yourself and make changes

How to Stop Being the Victim

Victim mentality is learned behavior. 

In other words, it’s not something you’re born with. It's something you learn in a social environment. It could be learned from family members or the result of trauma. However, you have the power to overcome it. Take the first steps in the following ways. 

Take responsibility. You are the only one who controls your actions. You might not be able to control others, but you control how you react to them. You control who you spend your time with, and where. Realize your potential and get in the driver’s seat of your life. 

Self-care and compassion. Victim mentalities are subconsciously adopted as a way to cope, often from past trauma. Be compassionate to yourself in your recovery. Practice self-care and self-love. Journaling can be a helpful tool to work through your feelings. 

Start saying no. You can say no to something you don’t want to do. It’s okay. Even if other people feel you are letting them down, take care of your energy and prioritize yourself.  

Educate yourself. Read books about the victim mentality and how it affects your life. Consider seeking therapy. The more you educate yourself on the topic, the more likely you are to stay on track with your recovery and avoid going back to your old way of thinking.  

Victim Mentality: Signs, Causes, and What to Do

A victim mentality is where you often feel like a victim, even when the evidence says otherwise. Signs include frequently blaming others and having trouble accepting personal responsibility.

We all have days when we feel like the world is against us.

Maybe you try to connect with others, but they don’t seem to understand the extent of your pain — or when making positive changes, you might self-sabotage or give up quickly.

This is natural from time to time. But if this sounds like your situation most (or all) of the time, you may be living with feelings of victimhood.

A victim mentality can make it feel like life is unfair. You may even feel there’s nothing you can do to change your circumstances — but that isn’t true. There’s always something you can do. We asked two experts how to cope.

A victim mentality is when a person feels like a victim across situations, even when the evidence suggests otherwise. They may feel they have no control over what happens to them.

This outlook can impact many areas of your life — like relationships, work, and health.

Victim mindsets can develop as a coping mechanism for previous traumatic experiences, says Dr. Julie Landry, PsyD, a clinical psychologist in San Antonio, Texas.

It may feel like you have little control or impact over external factors in your life. She explains that it commonly stems from:

  • experiencing multiple situations where you lack control
  • ongoing emotional pain that leads to learned helplessness
  • betrayal by someone closest to you

People with alcohol use disorder or substance use disorder may find that a victim mentality keeps them in the spiral of addiction. They may feel helpless to change their circumstances, asking for support from others while feeling unable to support themselves.

A victim mentality can manifest in many ways, says Landry. It can involve feeling like the world is out to get you or having difficulty taking personal responsibility for what happens in your life.

The signs of a victim mentality include:

Behavioral signs

  • often placing blame on external factors or other people when things go wrong
  • having trouble taking personal responsibility or seeing how you may have contributed to a situation
  • being overly critical of yourself or others
  • self-sabotage
  • associating only with people who think like you

Mental (cognitive) signs

  • seeing the world as unfair or unsafe
  • cognitive distortions, like catastrophizing
  • harmful thinking patterns or pessimism
  • ruminating over past wrongs and hurts
  • thoughts of self-harm or suicide

Relationship signs

  • difficulty with intimacy and trust
  • emotional unavailability
  • limited empathy for others
  • mistrust of authority figures
  • keeping score in relationships
  • trouble accepting constructive criticism

Emotional signs

  • anxiety
  • depression
  • feeling unseen
  • guilt or shame
  • low self-esteem
  • resentment of others
  • social isolation

A victim mentality can affect your life in many ways, from stopping you from applying yourself at work to disrupting your relationship dynamics. You might also have trouble maintaining healthy lifestyle habits.

It’s hard to say if victim mentality is a symptom or a personality trait, as more research is still needed.

One 2020 study suggests that the victim mentality may be a personality trait, dubbed the “Tendency for Interpersonal Victimhood (TIV).” In this case, it spans multiple types of relationships and includes four patterns:

  • a desire for recognition as a victim
  • feelings of moral superiority
  • limited empathy for others
  • frequent rumination

A sense of victimhood may also be a symptom of another mental health condition, including:

  • borderline personality disorder (BPD)
  • major depressive disorder (MDD)
  • narcissistic personality disorder (NPD)
  • post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD)

To determine the root cause of your feelings, you may find it helpful to work with a therapist familiar with trauma.

If you’re ready to change how you feel, many strategies can support you.

Consider professional support

You don’t have to go through this alone. Therapy can help you process past trauma and increase your emotional intelligence, says Landry. “It can help you learn to choose to either leave a situation or accept it, and take responsibility for what you can control in life and how you react,” she says.

A therapist may also work with you on goal-setting and developing self-efficacy, so you feel more in charge of your life. To complement your work in therapy, consider journaling to process emotions and cultivating a gratitude practice, she adds.

Try to practice self-compassion

Take a moment to appreciate yourself for everything you’ve been through, says Katie Ziskind, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Niantic, Connecticut.

“Experiencing abuse can lead to shame, guilt, anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem,” she explains. “It’s really common for victims to think that they are the reason why someone has abused them, so counseling can help you build positive self-talk to remove any self-blame.

Consider shifting your self-identification

Research suggests that, in some cases, it can be difficult to overcome a victim mentality if there are incentives for staying in that role — for example, medical benefits, income, or another form of security.

You may find it helpful to change your language, says Ziskind. “Instead of calling yourself a victim, you can switch over to calling yourself a survivor of abuse which can be more empowering and help create emotional confidence for future relationships.”

Try to own your story

A 2021 study found that women who had experienced sexual violence were able to move from a victim role to a survivor mentality by:

  • securing social support
  • reclaiming their story
  • letting go of a set timeline for healing

There are many ways to own your story, like writing an article to help other people in a similar situation, volunteering with a nonprofit, and creating art, among other ideas.

It can be frustrating if you know someone who displays signs of a victim mentality, especially if you love them and want to see them stand in their power.

In this case, you may find it helpful to:

  • encourage them to seek professional support
  • remind them how strong and capable they are
  • set and maintain healthy boundaries
  • limit interactions that feel draining
  • resist the temptation to rescue others
  • learn about how to prevent codependency

Working with a licensed professional may help you feel more empowered, particularly if your challenges stem from trauma or a mental health condition. You may find it useful to use Psych Central’s How to Find Mental Health Support resource.

Remember: you are strong. You got this.

Victim Syndrome. Why do some people like being miserable so much

Statistics and psychology are difficult to combine, but experts say that according to the latest data, now every third person suffers from victim syndrome.

It was for these people that the self-isolation regime was most difficult, because, unlike many who found pluses in this “lifestyle”, they continued to live according to the principle - it was bad, but it got even worse. Browser "VM" talked with experts and found out how to deal with people who have everyone around to blame.

Everyone knows that living happy is better than living unhappy. Yes, but not everyone manages to be happy. But it's one thing - when some kind of tragedy, grief, from among the irreversible happens. Yes, only in most cases we are unhappy through our own fault. Often, the syndrome of the victim prevents us from living in harmony with ourselves and the world around us.

“She” will always take the smallest piece from the plate, deny herself everything, but later tell her friends how her family treats her in order to listen in response to an ode to her sacrifice and a confession that her talents were ruined by heartless people around her. “He” will be quiet at work and will not be promoted for years only for the reason, in his opinion, that “pathetic upstarts” are valued, and the authorities are unfavorable to him. Together they are undemanding to themselves and confident in their rightness, because they do not have self-criticism. They are people with the victim syndrome, and they have one thing in common: others are always to blame for their troubles.

Sad manipulators

In fact, psychologists assure, such people are both hostages of their syndrome and manipulators who skillfully “cut off” coupons from it.

- In a different situation, everyone is much more likely to try on the role of a victim, if only because sometimes people, especially those who do not have warm relations with others, it is important that they be pitied, reassured and taken a liking to, says psychologist Vladimir Kovalev. - You can consider this a manifestation of weakness, lack of will, childishness, but I assure you that this is only a consequence of our dislike for each other, a chronic lack of human warmth. So, episodically, moodily, the desire to feel like a victim should not particularly frighten anyone.

Another thing, the specialist explains, is that we play various games more often than we would like. Playing the victim is dangerous, because it can drag on and change life beyond recognition. But the main thing is that the external image of the victim, if its demonstration is delayed, never lets go of the one who tried it on for too long, and changes the quality of a person's personality.

— The main feeling of a person suffering from the syndrome of the victim is that circumstances rule over me and my life, which always decide things not in my favor, — explains Vladimir Aleksandrovich. - There is no attempt to control one's life, and there is no concept of happiness or even a rudimentary stage of optimism in such a person. He is a complete pessimist, his life is painted only in the darkest tones, from everything that happens, he expects a dirty trick. Even a normal offer from another person - they say, let me help you - can cause shock and harsh denial: no, why do you need this, and what will I have to do later, and so on. By the way, the devaluation of the value of human relations is one of the post-components of the syndrome we are analyzing, because, by changing the fabric of personality, it also distorts everything that surrounded and surrounds this personality. Such a person is sure that nothing good will happen to him simply by definition, and happiness so precisely bypasses his house. Moreover, this distorted perception cannot be changed in any way, no matter what arguments you bring to prove the opposite.

After such words, it would be a sin not to think - do I have a victim syndrome? Especially if now you are being pursued by a black streak, which, as you know, are many in life. But psychologists say: a temporary drop in mood is a period of recharge, that is, in fact, the norm. But the victim syndrome is a completely different matter. Such people are fueled by their own negative emotions and feelings.

“But the trouble is that people with victim syndrome suffer from their misfortune not alone,” explains Kovalev. “They do not just constantly complain, blame others for their troubles and problems, but in every possible way contribute to the growth of such feelings as aggression, violence, devaluation of the value of other people, intolerance.

As a result, these “unfortunates” are in fact the same manipulators, communication with which poisons the lives of those around them.

“The victim syndrome is a kind of personality disorder,” says psychologist Irina Bestemnaya, “whose characteristic feature is the search for a fictitious external cause of persecuting failures. The victim of the syndrome believes that he is a hostage of circumstances or the negative actions of outsiders. It is clear that under the influence of these thoughts, the behavior of such a person also changes, he sees malicious intent in everything and is suspicious beyond measure. But where does this trouble come from and why is it so often talked about today?

Origins of the problem

— It is now believed that the victim syndrome does not have a hereditary factor, however, of course, if a family has a tendency to develop certain mental illnesses from generation to generation, then the next representative of the family “sleeve” may manifest the syndrome more likely,” says Irina Bestemnaya. - Of course, a certain mental trauma can affect the development of the syndrome. This usually happens at an early age, when the emotional background of a person has not yet been completely formed and is extremely susceptible and even vulnerable to external factors. Let's say a child gets physically hurt. Of course, they pity him, but if this regret acquires hypertrophied features, if a certain “buffer zone” has now been created around the child and everything is allowed for him, he endlessly hears that he is the most unfortunate and poor, then, of course, when the causative factor disappears, the attitude towards the situation remains the same, it is already fixed in his mind that he is the most unfortunate, and he, as it were, legally continues to demand hyper-love for himself and hyper-care, feeling himself a victim of circumstances, even if he does not yet know such words. And he will try to attribute everything that follows to the previous cause.

Another important point is excessive guardianship, which many modern parents, who have read popular books, sin so much. The children of "hens", in fact, irresponsible mothers, grow up in an atmosphere that is not conducive to the cultivation of an adequate personality, psychologists are sure. Parents' worries about children are understandable and correct, but when they become an obsession, the personality grows unhealthy. Children get used to the image that overly busy mothers impose on them, and even adults cannot get rid of it. A typical example is given by Irina Bestemnaya explaining this cause of the problem:

— Friends of my parents raised their son in love. His father, alas, died early, his mother remained. The son, naturally - the smartest, most beautiful, but also the most unhappy, because everyone has a dad, but he doesn’t - grew up selfish and narcissistic, which, however, did not negate his positive qualities - he is still not a complete pessimist. However, after a short unsuccessful “student” marriage, destroyed, among other things, because of his egocentrism, the mother explained to her son that now he is definitely the most unfortunate, and the only person who will definitely not offend him is, of course, only she, mother, to whom he should be grateful for everything. As a result, he lived his life around her, the career failures that haunted him, his mother explained by the villainy of his colleagues and superiors, and not by the inertia of his son, and only after her death did he suddenly find personal happiness. No matter how terrible it sounds, but his life was "stuck" by his own mother, who simply did not let him live his life, but forced him to live his own, feeding the victim syndrome inherent in his son.

In addition, Irina Aleksandrovna notes that the formation of the syndrome, albeit to a lesser extent, is influenced by family circumstances - when, for example, under the heel of a domineering husband or under the heel of a domineering wife, the psyche of their unrequited, downtrodden and eternally guilty "halves" is formed .

Well, if fate did not go according to the scenario that it seems it should have followed, and a person, for example, is not nominated for the position he was counting on, many “break down” and take on the image of a victim of circumstances, which very beneficial in this situation. They cannot give a sober assessment of what happened, and aggravating the situation allows them to completely remove responsibility for what happened and appear as a victim of intrigue, counting on compassion.

How to recognize "illness"

Is there a way to distinguish between victim syndrome, "pity pressure", temporary weakness?

- Yes, do not confuse two different concepts. It's one thing to want understanding, it's another thing to evoke pity. The victim syndrome can, of course, have different manifestations, in rare cases it is buried so deeply that it will not be noticeable to the unprofessional eye at all, - says Vladimir Kovalev. - But still, several of its most characteristic manifestations can be distinguished. For example, a very significant feature is the non-recognition of any own defeats, the denial of one's wrongs, reaching the extreme. It may seem strange, but in fact you will understand how logical it is. A person with a distorted picture of the world is used to believing that he is a victim of circumstances, intrigues, and malicious intent. It has no self-criticism at all. Of course, even without this syndrome, it is extremely difficult for people to admit they are wrong, but with the victim syndrome, the degree of self-justification increases. What is curious is that a person with the victim syndrome can be very timid in life, but, trying to justify himself, finds the strength to “raise his voice”, and even more so, he gladly finds the guilty person or shifts the blame on someone, because it is very logically enters into the concept of his life order.

Such people, continues Vladimir Alexandrovich, are egocentric to the limit, only their own reasoning is important for them.

- If you try to convince such a person of anything, he will either not listen to you, or will frankly ignore all your arguments. If you are persistent, I assure you that a real hysteria awaits you, because this is how a person will prove to you that he is right, the specialist adds.

Among other features of the “victims”, Vladimir Kovalev especially singles out pessimism and suspicion, the expectation of “setting up” by colleagues and acquaintances, obsessive thoughts that everything is fine with everyone except him: other people live happier, richer, they “ fortite".

“It is often said that people with the victim syndrome are hostages of their character,” adds Irina Bestemnaya. But the “victims” are also a kind of abusers, in their own way, “mirrored” from the classic abusers. With their alleged non-resistance, eternally sour face, suffering, they oblige those around them to treat them somehow differently, not like everyone else.

And Vladimir Kovalev adds to the “portrait”:

— Pedaling the theme of their misfortune in all possible ways, such people set themselves the only goal — to do everything in order to deserve recognition. They need it like air, and it is necessary to appreciate their every step, even the smallest one. If this does not happen, a person with the victim syndrome becomes depressed and doubts whether everything was really done as it should, and therefore he was not rewarded according to his deserts, and will suffer until he receives public (the size of society is not so important) recognition .

Another feature characteristic of people with the victim syndrome, according to Kovalev, allows us to talk about the scale of the spread of this syndrome. This is an evasion of responsibility - from the banal unwillingness to clean up toys in childhood to the unwillingness to get married for fear of taking responsibility for the family.

— Since the position of a victim seems attractive to immature minds, and the removal of responsibility from oneself is a cult state for many, the manifestations of this syndrome are growing and in our time are manifested in many very young people, the psychologist notes. - At first, of course, they only manipulate the situation and others, but then they get used to the role and feel great in the “I don’t know anything, I don’t answer for anything” niche. In addition, it is typical for such people in a conversation to point only to the negative aspects of life, to see only the bad in everything, as well as a complete inability to refuse anyone's requests. They are afraid that they will be offended because of the refusal, which will give rise to a new wave of their criticism. Moreover, in fulfilling a request, even unpleasant for them, people of such a device will show unjustified, stubborn independence. This trait of nature leads to the fact that stubborn people are left without help even when they need it.

And, Irina Bestemnaya adds, they will always take the blame, demanding for this respect and a high assessment of their moral qualities...

How to get rid of the problem

The life of a person with victim syndrome is painted with gloomy colors. He has few reasons for joy, he is in constant suffering. Moreover, they are not able to get out of this state on their own, because it is convenient. And only if a person is at least partially aware of the problem and agrees to leave the imaginary comfort zone, changes are possible.

So experts say that the first step towards change is to admit that there is a problem. This is difficult, because, as already mentioned, people with victim syndrome are manipulators. The next step is to gain determination, to agree that universal recognition and love cannot be the meaning of life, and success comes not as a merit for suffering, but as a reward for working on oneself. You will have to learn to be responsible for your actions, convincing yourself that this is a great pleasure, and also to overcome the desire to please everyone in yourself.

Relatives play a special role in changing the situation. It is not help to listen to complaints about life and feel sorry for a person if you understand that he himself is to blame for his troubles. Do you want to help him be happier? Stop supporting his weaknesses, take him out of the world of illusions, which sooner or later will turn him into a deeply unhappy person with a crippled psyche.


Specialists identify several types of the victim syndrome, the most typical and common in modern society. These, of course, are women who are victims of violence by domestic abusers, but who justify the cruelty towards them of their spouses or partners, finding a lot of explanations for their actions and behavior.

In addition, these are the children of excessively cruel parents who nurture a victim complex in themselves from an early age. Alas, it is precisely such children at the age of adolescents who sometimes commit violent crimes - in the event that the scope of the victim syndrome becomes small for them.


The victim syndrome is more common among women. Experts have established that the disease is not congenital and is not inherited. In the development of the syndrome, risk factors play a certain role, directly or indirectly capable of influencing it, but its only or main trigger has not yet been determined.


Psychologists call the so-called Stockholm syndrome one of the most unusual manifestations of the victim syndrome. Now this term in psychology describes "a protective-unconscious traumatic connection, mutual or one-sided sympathy that arises between the victim and the aggressor in the process of capture, abduction and / or the use of threat or violence." The term was coined by criminologist Niels Bejeruth, analyzing the situation with the hostage-taking in 1973 in Stockholm.

Before Beyeruth, such behavior of the victims (understanding, compassion and even protection of the aggressors) was described in 1936 by Anna Freud, who studied the psychological defense mechanism underlying this syndrome. In the Stockholm episode, the hostages treated the bank robber who captured them well, justifying his behavior by hopelessness, and after their release they asked for mercy. True, experts say that the Stockholm syndrome disappears after the murder of the first hostage.

Read also: The Boy Stricken with Hate

Read online “The World of the Narcissistic Victim. Relationships in the Context of Modern Neurosis”, Anastasia Dolganova – Litres

Narcissism, Narcissistic Personality Disorder —

a personality disorder characterized by a belief in one's own uniqueness, special position, superiority over other people; inflated opinion about their talents and achievements; preoccupation with fantasies about their successes; expectation of an unconditionally good attitude and unquestioning obedience to others; seeking the admiration of others to confirm their uniqueness and significance.

Narcissistic injury -

a specific trace in the personality of those who were brought up by narcissistic people or simply had too much traumatic experience of interacting with them. It represents an increased vulnerability to shame, as well as difficulty in maintaining boundaries between oneself and others. Most people with narcissistic trauma either, like narcissistic personalities, put a lot of effort into maintaining a sense of their super-importance, or tend to meekly comply with the whims of others, afraid to face their wrath.

Meanwhile, unlike individuals with pathological narcissism, narcissistically injured people retain a sufficient level of reflection to be able to realize their own envy, shame and guilt.

Narcissistic victim -

90,002 people in a relationship with a person with pronounced narcissistic traits (narcissistic relationships).

The era of narcissism

There is such a thing as "modern neurosis". This means that in every time, in every century, the history and culture of human civilization develop in such a way that children born at that time will have common features, patterns in behavior that have appeared in connection with a special style of upbringing and development conditions. Our age is considered the age of narcissism, when the manifestation of narcissistic traits is found in the majority. There is even talk of an “epidemic of narcissism.”

We modern adults who seek and enter into relationships are children of the same era, of the same culture. I think that this is true only for children of Europeanized countries. The culture of Asia or Africa, the culture of small, detached from general trends, nationalities has its own specific features. They certainly have their own special neuroses.

The epidemic of narcissism is a pro-civilized society that can use all the modern achievements of science and technology, with blurred boundaries, great freedom, and the availability of a wide variety of knowledge. A huge information field, which is available to every modern person, influences him, whether he wants it or not. This information field has goals to strive for, values ​​to rely on, patterns of behavior to follow. They are told to us by parents, teachers, peers. We occupy a place in society according to how we correspond to these patterns, and we can only claim in the world what we deserve, based on our “rightness” or “wrongness”.

A striking example of the world's narcissistic demands is the "American dream." An American can consider himself successful when he has reached a certain level of wealth. The United States, interestingly, is moving away from this stereotype: decades of psychotherapy habits are taking their toll. But the message itself is very tenacious: you need to go from an ordinary person to someone who decides the fate of the world, because he has a lot of money. Neither Steve Jobs nor Henry Ford would have been so popular if the material component was removed from their stories. They would have remained brilliant, bright personalities, but they would not have been so interesting. Modern idols are the rich.

There is a fairly simple pattern that suggests a scheme of action for enrichment: take risks, work hard, do everything perfectly, be a leader. In general, these four pieces of advice are given in most self-development books, more specifically. This template is not feasible because it describes a flat reality, assuming that a person only needs to make an effort and he will change. Millions and billions of people blame themselves for laziness, considering it the only reason for their inadequacy.

This template is full of holes. What to do with fatigue? With negative feelings? With a lack of resources? With mistakes and defeats? In general, with the whole psychic reality that does not fit and will never fit into a template that is too small for it?

There is a category of clients who come to psychotherapy not to know themselves, but to force themselves to be someone else. Often these are entrepreneurs, high-level managers, self-employed professionals. They see themselves as ineffective and need to remove the hindrances in their personality.

Denis, for example, comes for coaching: he wants to understand why his goals are not being met or are being met slowly. He is a top manager and works under a lot of pressure. He is very thin, it is clear that he does not sleep much, he always takes notes and always refuses tea. His goals are not met because they are inadequate: he wants too much, too quickly, and hates himself too much for failing. He recently had a third child in his marriage, which he does not like. His father is seriously ill. Denis is very ill, and he goes to work, including in order to be distracted. Work stress, feeling like a failure, thoughts that his life should be different, in fact, are not only and not so much about work, but when they are projected onto it, they are easier to bear. The idea of ​​professional success becomes super significant because it looks the simplest. If Denis realizes that this is impossible in the form in which he imagines it, then he will have to rethink other aspects of his life and live a lot of pain, from which he is so well removed.

Lena comes to therapy with a question about knowing herself and her destiny. It seems to her that she would be more successful, she would not have doubts and laziness, if she knew exactly what she was intended for. The search for such a thing is to a large extent connected with the culture in which she lives: her circle of friends is “people interested in self-development”, roughly speaking, a psychological and esoteric party with average requirements for how to live correctly. A lot of books read, a lot of attended trainings, a lot of confidence that it is already conscious and developed. Only Lena does not have a sense of her destiny, but according to the requirements she should be. For the sake of this very mission, Lena does not get enough sleep, because she meditates in the morning, goes in for sports to train willpower and uses all sorts of affirmations. As a result, she moves further and further away from hearing herself real, with her real feelings and needs, and the question of destiny does not budge.

And Kostya heard in the company of young entrepreneurs about a business guru who changes consciousness, and people become billionaires. Kostya has no money for this guru yet. He tries to keep and develop his first business while his acquaintance opens branches all over the country after meeting this same guru. Kostya ignores the fact that his friend's father is a big businessman and they have completely different input resources. It seems to Kostya that if he had been more diligent (and also, of course, if I had worked better), then he would have been like that.

Since the world is narcissistic, it offers competition as the main form of interaction between people. Competition permeates every area of ​​life, replacing other forms of interaction: intimacy, learning, partnership, collaborative exploration. In any relationship, there is always a question of comparison. We compete with friends for who is better at coping with difficulties, with lovers for power, with strangers for the right to social attention and approval. Parents compete with the help of their children. Children - with the help of toys, clothes, parents. Later, you can compete through ratings or the number of friends, even later - the amount of money and the ideal family on the pages of Instagram. In the absence of obvious competitive qualities, one can compete in the number of problems, in illnesses and misfortunes.

Such competition is based on anxiety, a person worries that there will be no place for him in this life if he does not become the best.

The guarantee of such a place is given only by a win with a margin, that is, a win that is not even in doubt, because everyone else was left far behind. This makes competition unhealthy: in normal relationships there is competition, but it does not involve winning in the absence of other participants. Narcissistic experience, on the other hand, dictates the need to crush, devalue, and destroy rivals in order for the gain to be unequivocal. With unstable self-esteem, the presence of a competitor - at least in the line of sight - means that victory is doubtful.

Unhealthy, compulsive competition will play a large part in narcissistic relationships. The prize in this competition is a narcissistic sense of self-righteousness, which reduces anxiety.

Anya is in a relationship with Vlad, and this is a narcissistic relationship. A bright narcissist is Vlad, Anya perceives herself as a victim of narcissism. A lot of things are difficult for her in these relationships: to endure his ridicule or fits of anger, to meet the requirements, to withstand magical thinking. She tries to teach him to be more tolerant and rational. Every time his omens and superstitions don't work, she takes notice and makes fun of him. Even publicly, she can make a comment like: “Well, Vlad is wearing a lucky shirt today, let him negotiate a discount.” Vlad, of course, is furious, and this is not safe for Anya, but she does it anyway. Anya feels that he treats her like an uneducated simpleton. Vlad feels like he's being treated like a fool. They compete with each other for who among them has the right to be considered a full-fledged person.

And Nastya and Zhenya compete for friends: when friendly companies meet, there are always outbreaks of quarrels between them - Nastya cries, Zhenya leaves in a rage. Nastya, left alone with other people, complains a lot about her life and exposes Zhenya's secrets, exposing him as a rapist and gigolo. Zhenya acts more directly, at the next meeting, obviously controlling Nastya's alcohol under the sauce "get drunk again and act like a fool." At the same time, alone with each other, they are quite capable of respect and mutual devotion. They become enemies only in the presence of spectators.

Narcissistic family

Narcissistic trauma can also occur in relationships with parents. The experience of rejection of children and children's needs in parental families is diverse and can be dictated by situations that are very different in context.

A mother or father may make impossible demands on their children because they make impossible demands on themselves. These are the so-called "facade" families. For them, the impression they make from the outside, the social assessment of family life, is very important. Children in such families are a threat: a living and real child inevitably communicates information to the world that adults would like to hide. This happens both in words and in behavior: a child can simply talk about the fact that his parents quarrel, or he can often get sick or study poorly, which also exposes the real state of affairs in such a family. Therefore, the child is required to maintain the facade - an illusion created by adults, at the cost of abandoning real feelings and needs. Often children in such families do not have the right to be tired, should not have social or developmental difficulties, should not be dirty, affected or sick. Little perfect touches to the portrait of an ideal family - that's what their function is.

It happens that such a message does not come from both parents, but only from one. Then the child finds himself in the same boat with the second parent and theoretically can turn to him for support, but in reality it happens that by the time the children appear, the second spouse is overwhelmed by the partner’s desire to maintain apparent ideality. Often, after some time, he begins to consciously or unconsciously rebel, demonstrating socially unacceptable behavior (staying late at night, drinking), losing a stable income, or becoming seriously ill. This does not improve the life of the child, but vice versa. The swaying ideal picture increases the demands on the remaining controlled family member (the child), and the pressure on him only intensifies.

It turns out that such a child can feel needed and loved only by demonstrating the behavior necessary for his mother or father. The rest must be abandoned. Correct behavior is met with jubilation, praise, pride when the child is told “you are the best”, or a reduction in tension within the family. Misbehavior is met with frustration, coldness, aggression, and "I'm ashamed of you" comments. Disintegration occurs: the child can feel either wonderful or terrible.

Liza's father, as she grew up, drank more and more and moved away from the family more and more, becoming inadequate both when drunk and when sober. Mother reconciled, fought, regretted, heroically saved, gave birth to new children. The father became more and more difficult over time, the mother became weaker, and naturally, part of the care and rescue functions fell on the eldest daughter. Lisa remembers how her mother thanked her with tears for her help in bringing her insane father home, how she told her daughter “how would I be without you.” Lisa was proud of it. At the same time, she was forbidden to have at least some difficulties in her life, since her mother already had enough problems. Liza has a medal, red diplomas, sports cups. Ignoring her true feelings, in her adult relationships she is masochistically silent about needs and narcissistically believes that she always does more for the relationship for the partner. Mentally stable men do not get along with her. This kind of worries Lisa, but not really: her main function is still “mother's pride” and “a reproach to her father, because her daughter turned out so wonderful without his help.”

Everything is simpler with Vova - he just can't do anything. You can’t get sick, angry, get carried away with something, you can’t quarrel with someone, and you can’t become attached to someone either. He is the heir to the family business, he must study well and live up to expectations. But exactly what expectations should be justified is not entirely clear. If he studies for one five, he is a nerd, if he has difficulties with his studies, he is a moron. If he works a lot, then he ruins himself, if he rests for the series, he is mediocre. Vova is used to the fact that any of his contact with his own family brings pain, and has "grown" armor that makes him immune not only to the words of his parents, but to everything in general. He looks lifeless and feels the same way. He cannot be happy, sad, empathize with someone. Only affects remained: envy, rage, jealousy. He is not interested in other people because he does not have an inner life that would fill the relationship. He is a selfish and manipulative leader, an indifferent and demanding partner. The main content of his life is the tension associated with trying to do at least something to silence the inner criticizing voice. Sometimes, if by chance he reproduces the desired behavior, he is praised, and for a few hours he can relax. Then everything starts all over again (usually with the saying "it was only worth praising you").

In these stories there is at least a reward for doing the right thing, where the child can actually feel loved, even if not for very long. It happens that a significant adult, in principle, is not able to love, or it is difficult for him to love this particular child.

This happens when pregnancy and birth happen by accident, or with the wrong partner, or when the birth of a child changes life dramatically for the worse.

The maternal instinct that makes a woman love her child, no matter what the circumstances, is a myth.

A woman may not want children at all, because it interferes with her freedom and career, but she can agree to her husband's persuasion and public pressure. Or she may love another man and get pregnant by accident. Hormonal failure after pregnancy can be superimposed on the stress associated with serious and irreversible changes in life, and then the depression and apathy of the mother will not allow her to feel joy and love in contact with the child. Whatever he does and whatever he is, the child may not be able to change the mother and teach her to feel differently.

Good feelings for a child may also be unavailable if traumatic experiences are associated with it: violence, for example, or a husband's infidelity during pregnancy. In this case, feelings are transferred to the child that are unsafe to experience towards the source of injury: fear, anger, contempt, hatred. These feelings can be so strong that the mother cannot cope with them and transfers them into her relationship with her children.

Likewise, there is no place for love when the birth of a child actualizes the mother's or father's fear of death. This happens when pregnancy is associated with a difficult physical condition and a threat to life, when the appearance of a new family member complicates the situation to the level of survival, when there is someone nearby who poses a direct threat. Past experience can also be frightening: the children and grandchildren of the blockade of Leningrad or participants in hostilities often talk about the fear of death that was passed on to them by their ancestors - in unbearable conditions, the appearance of children really reduced the chances of an adult surviving.

Ira's grandmother is a witness of the Battle of Kursk. It is a terrible experience, an experience of mass death, an experience of survival on the edge. She can no longer be normal: a broken psyche does not allow her to experience feelings that require security - affection, tenderness, love. Peace for her is military action. She brings up her daughter, Ira's mother, in this way. So she brings up her granddaughter Ira when she is born. Every day a little girl watches the war between her mother and grandmother, a war of life and death, in which she has no place. Ira is torn between the desire to attract all the same much-needed attention to herself and the need to freeze so that a stray bullet does not kill her. As they grow older, the patterns do not change: Ira either freezes in fear, or attracts attention with her brightness, eccentricity, and talent. She has many fears masquerading as outward confidence. She is a fan of control, a tyrant and despot in her own family. If something does not go the way Ira wanted and planned, then a wave of anger rises from within her, in the depths of which there is always a fear of death. Ira has no children.

And Sonya is the rapist's daughter. Her mother's Tatar family kicked out the young girl for shame, inflicting a double trauma: a rape victim, she did not meet support and help, she was punished and expelled. Several times she tried to get rid of the pregnancy, then - from the child. Did not work out. Mother reconciled with Sonya, but she never learned to feel anything for her except anger. To the relief of both of them, mother and daughter no longer communicate. But Sonya still cannot stand the slightest discontent: she still seems to feel that she could be killed at any moment. Sonya's main goal is to protect herself and save her life.

The father can also inflict narcissistic injury. He can be detached, immersed in business, work, hobbies, alcohol or illness. The rejection of a child may not be direct: a father may demonstrate to his daughter or son the joy of their existence, a willingness to play or help, but it may simply be very little. The child, with his magical thinking, interprets the constant physical or emotional absence of his father as a rejection, the cause of which is in himself. The detached mother also gives the child a narcissistic experience.

A child of the 1990s, Olya, has all her memories of her childhood - anxiety attacks for her absent mother and father. To earn money, dad sold meat, mom was a taxi driver, both returned home late. On TV and in the newspapers they talked about lawlessness. Olya spent every evening at the door to the apartment waiting for the sound of the elevator and did not understand why she was left alone and why taking care of her endangered the lives of her parents (as my mother said: “you need books for school and new clothes, so we dad should work). Olya, who has grown up, does not allow herself to be taken care of, does not recognize her weakness, and can do everything in the world herself. She cannot stand closeness and dependence on another person. She hates women for weakness, men for risk, the world for injustice.

Our own feelings can also hurt us. On the way of our development, each of us meets a new world, for the knowledge of which an adult is needed: to tell the names of objects and their functions, to teach behavior that will ensure our safety, to orient in society. Everything is new to a newborn, and for the rest of our lives we will encounter something that is not in our experience. If there is someone nearby who can guide us, then this new thing can be made part of a safe world and learn how to use it.

A child's own inner world, the world of feelings and emotions, is also something absolutely new for a child. Faced with their emotional reactions, children do not know if this is normal or abnormal and what to do about it now. If an adult nearby is not ready to explain, console, regulate, then emotions become frightening and the psyche seeks to suppress them. For example, very often this happens with a sense of shame: instead of supporting and comforting, an adult increases shame. This is also a narcissistic injury: shame, which tells us that something is wrong with us, cannot be experienced and therefore is repressed, and we begin to make efforts to create a person who will be devoid of shame.

Colin's father left the family when his son was still small and did not communicate with Kolya anymore. The mother remained in a strong offense at her ex-husband, but he was inaccessible, and Kolya was within reach. The mother's need to repent and apologize to her led directly to the cultivation of shame in this family: the slightest mistake of the son was perceived by his mother as an opportunity to carry out educational measures, to make Kolya ashamed and thereby grow out of him a better person than he was. father. The measures, of course, had the opposite effect, and now Kolya is running around out of shame (and responsibility). The mother is disappointed, the father never showed up, and Kolya does not have the opportunity to become happier - too much effort is spent on maintaining the illusion that everything is already so good and he has nothing to be ashamed of.

Not only the absence of love can injure, but also too much love. In families of single mothers, for example, it may seem to a woman that she no longer wants a relationship with a man: they are unsafe, painful. In this case, all unrealized excitement is placed in the child-parent relationship. The same thing happens when the marriage is not very successful and the mother or father chooses to build relationships with children, and not with each other.

Then the child becomes the concentration of adult hopes for an ideal partner. He must please the parent, not argue with him, not anger or upset, always be available for the needs of an adult, must admire him, must first of all want to spend time with him. Such love is violent. It denies the right of the child to feelings and needs that are unbearable for the parent.

Masha, for example, must be in love with her dad. Mom left the family when her daughter was already thirteen. Rather, the parents divorced, and the teenager was offered to choose with whom to live. Masha chose her father - either out of pity, or because there was already a special relationship between them at that time, in which there was no place for the mother. For many years they lived together, and now, when Masha has her own family and two daughters, she buys him an apartment nearby so that dad can help her with the children. Dad has no life of his own. Masha, in general, too. She has no right to even think about it, even to admit that she wants to spend time alone with her family. For this reason, Masha is distant from her husband and children, but to understand this means to jeopardize relations with her father, so Masha accuses her husband of coldness and other family problems. This confused woman is tormented by the need to choose a father, wants closeness with her husband and children, but the choice has already been made. She can only devalue her real partner and consider dad the main source of happiness, so that at least this choice is justified.

Children with a protracted difficult life situation in childhood may also develop narcissistic traits as a defense that helps them survive in poor conditions. For example, if the parents are constantly quarreling and the situation is close to divorce, the child may take full responsibility for what is happening. This is also narcissism.

Every child has a magical thinking based on his feeling that he is the center of the world. When relations between parents are bad or complicated by a situation that adults cannot cope with (lack of money, illness, failure, depression), then it is the child who may feel obliged to resolve it. He cannot do anything real, but he can use magical thinking, inventing peculiar “deals” with reality. If I study well, my mother will get better. If my father comes home today, then I will behave myself and never say a bad word to him again. If I only wear this dress, then everything will be fine.

Sometimes God is present as the second side in such ideas, but not necessarily. Cause-and-effect relationships invented by the child, in which the behavior of adults depends on his behavior, help him feel the illusion of control, perform the function of self-soothing when adults are not able to take care of him. Normally, the ability to take care of oneself is a good quality, but here it is tied to the idea of ​​grandiosity, hyper-responsibility. When the child grows up and the situation in which this perception developed disappears, the patterns remain. Often, adult manipulative strategies are added to them, and the very reason - the perception of the world as fragile and completely dependent on behavior - goes deep into the unconscious.

Yulia, who survived the divorce of her parents, cannot bear most of the feelings of the people around her. She feels bad if someone nearby is upset, angry, sad, offended, disappointed, in despair. It seems to Yulia that these feelings will surely lead to a catastrophe, to the breakdown of relations. Therefore, she does her best to make people close to her happy - or rather, demonstrate happiness to her, because in fact it is impossible to be happy all the time. She is persistent in this to the point of violence, forbidding her family from any negative experiences. She has a wide range of tricks, from introjections about positive thinking to manipulation of her health and outright aggression. For example, for the sake of her husband, who was depressed by failure at work, Yulia launched a whole campaign. At first, she organized a joint vacation for him in a sanatorium, where she constantly attracted him to recreational activities. Then she dragged him to a lecture by a famous lecturer, where they talked about how bad thoughts attract bad events. For days on end, Julia chirped, laughed, invited her husband to dance or paint, and when he finally broke down, she fell ill from frustration. Her husband, not amused by her activity, nevertheless portrayed elation for her out of guilt. At the same time, Yulia considers him ungrateful, incapable of emotions and empathy, possibly a psychopath.

Narcissism, which is based on the distortion of reality, also develops in children of rapists, people with mental disorders, addicts, terminally ill people. The same is typical for those who found themselves in a difficult life situation: they ended up in an orphanage, in the epicenter of hostilities. The reality in this case is too complicated and painful. For children, in principle, it is typical to go into fantasies, which help to survive difficult moments with little or no harm to the psyche. But if there is shame in this reality, then fantasies can take on a hypercompensating character, helping the child to suppress this experience.

These may be revenge fantasies, innocence fantasies, superpower fantasies. Children fantasize about being able to fly, that they can shoot laser beams out of their eyes, or that they can run the fastest. The modern culture of superheroes provides a lot of food for such fantasies, the main thing in which is the invulnerability of the hero to his offenders and the ability to create retribution with impunity for those who offend the small and weak. True, it happens that already in childhood, in an invented image, there are no traits of generosity and concern for the weak, but there is only a function of aggression and destruction.

As they grow older, these fantasies become less and less harmless and can turn, for example, into fantasizing about oneself as a superman, a genius, about someone who is destined to play a big role in world history. Often this serves as an excuse for aggressiveness and inappropriate behavior. Often a grandiose idea contains an element of mediation: then a person is not God, but the voice of God, the one who hears his voice and is called to inform others about it. Prophets, assistants to sect leaders, religious fanatics are people often raped or traumatized in childhood, who are thus freed from the aggression accumulated in a painful childhood. In this case, material gain is not so important (unlike the same psychopaths, for whom this issue is paramount).

Such ideas always contain aggression. Even if this is the idea of ​​a Savior, he is with a fiery sword.

Sasha is a man of the world, he lives in India, Nepal, Vietnam, Laos. A strict vegan yoga practitioner, he has been celibate for the past twenty years. For his students and followers, this is part of the purification practice. In fact, Sasha has the intention to conceive a divine being, for which he needs another ten years to live in austerity. He is already choosing a mother for his divine son, creating around him an environment of young and beautiful women who provide for and serve him. He does not have sex with them, but exploits them to the fullest. They all live together and do practices together; these women are forbidden to be with other partners.

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