We have all found ourselves in a rut one way or another. There are moments when we feel like the situation we’re in is everybody else’s fault. This type of thinking is called the “victim mode” or “victim trap”. A person in victim mode blames other people or events for what’s happening to them instead of taking action or responsibility for it.
This challenging situation can be very strong and contagious. The victim trap has the power to suck the enthusiasm out of a whole team if they allow the negativity to consume them. This can also happen to anyone–your friend, a teammate, a family member. It is very important to do something about it as this can affect the way of thinking of others as well as the person in victim mode.
Here are some high level tips to take note of the next time you or someone you know goes down the victim trap.
When someone is upset or facing a challenge, we tend to say things like “Let it go” or “Don’t take it personally.” It’s in our human nature to want to help, but we often offer well-intentioned yet unhelpful one-liners.
What people in victim mode actually need is to have their feelings validated.
Validating one’s emotions will make them feel supported. Remember not to pile on to the negative conversation. Enabling the negativity will not help--this will make processing the feelings harder for the person. Instead, let them feel what they need to feel and validate those feelings.
Usually, victims cannot validate their own feelings. They need an external source to help them rearrange their thoughts. You can be that person to lead them out of victim mode.
The biggest problem in being in the victim mode is that the victim gets stuck in a rabbit hole. They don’t go looking for something to empower them and get them out. And as they continue to wallow in the hole they dug, they stay stuck without any help.
So what is the best way to take their hand and get them out? Plug the rabbit hole. Help them shift their thinking in order to change the direction of their thoughts. Ask questions that will guide them towards acting upon the situation. Below are a few questions that will do just that:
Show that you understand why they are feeling a certain way. Ask them questions that help them to move forward instead of spiraling down the rabbit hole. These questions to keep the conversation going towards a positive turn are not meant to nullify their feelings. Getting victims to think proactively will snap them out of their victim rut.
There is a big difference between complaining and venting.
Complaining is letting oneself be stuck in the victim rut. Every time you converse with a person in victim mode, you hear the exact same complaint. There is no progression in the story. The emotion is identical in every single conversation.
Venting, on the other hand, is a form of release. When someone is upset about something, they allow themselves to feel it. They talk about it, and as they continue, you feel the energy change. There is progression in their emotions, wherein after the release, they feel better. It’s as if they are talking themselves out of the negativity.
Venting is a very important part of processing one’s feelings. People need to feel the feels, but having that release is also very helpful. What people in the victim mode need is a safe space to vent, somewhere they feel understood and not judged.
These three handy tips are useful in helping a friend out of a victim trap. However, only the person in the victim mode can allow themselves to be pulled out. What we can do is to offer support, guide them into thinking differently, and simply be there.