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Victim mentality

Counselling Adults, Children & Young People

Recognising your role in difficult situations

Victim mentality

Clients who do not recognise that they are putting themselves in a vulnerable or ’victim position’ often seek therapy for being unhappy. They can feel they are not part of a group and that they are repeatedly mistreated by others.

When appropriate, and in a very gentle, non-judgemental way, I use a creative exercise to help them recognise their own actions to allow them to make the changes required to improve their position in certain situations.

​From a large collection, I ask the client to choose a miniature figure (character) for themselves and also figures for the other people in their lives.

​I invite the client to set the chosen figures out on the coffee table in front of us. Then we explore what they have created. As the client is sharing their story, I move the characters to reflect their narrative.

​When the client makes the shift to victim position in the story, I remove their character from the coffee table and put it in the floor. At this point the client can relate to this move from the table to the floor very well as it reflects the way they felt at the time. However, I leave their character on the floor and we continue with the narrative.

After some time, the client recognises that they are still not on the coffee table, but on the floor, alone, and the other characters are on the coffee table above them.

At this point we have a discussion about the position of their character on the floor. Questioning. Who will rescue them? Who can notice them as they are no longer on the coffee table? How it feels to be alone, away from the others? Could they have stayed on the coffee table with the others? What else could they have done and how could they react when hurt by others or when mistreated? Looking at the character on the floor how does that feel to them?

This is a good time to re-check if this is how the client feels and reacts, allowing them to recognise being a ‘victim’.

How often do they end up in this position? And in how many different circles and different friend groups?

From this point, if the client would like to make changes, they could work on being assertive and managing feelings in situations so that they ‘remain on the coffee table’, staying in a positive position and recognising when they are falling into the ‘victim position’.

​I feel the visual aid in using characters allows the client to see the impact of their role and stores this image to help them in the future. This exercise has worked well with many clients (both adults, children and young people), allowing them to help themselves instead of being a victim and needing rescuing.

To protect confidentiality, all material here has been provided with consent, or has been disguised, adapted or several examples merged. Real names are not used. 

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