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Breaking out of the "victim mentality"

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DaddyDom posted 8/20/2018 15:32 PM

I'm finding that one of my overall struggles in "fixing myself" is breaking out of the "victim mentality" that seems burned into my brain. My wife and I had a "discussion" (cough) last night that ended up with both of us triggering. Rather than rehash the event however, I'd like to focus on my own major personal failure for the evening, which was getting stuck in the victim mentality. That has been an overarching theme since D-Day for me personally, and to be honest, I see it in other WS's as well. It is just so much harder to see in one's self, because the symptom masks the cause.

At one point last night, during the heated part of the discussion, my wife said something along the lines of, "Stop acting like you're a victim", to which I replied something such as, "You can't take my victimhood away from me". (Just to be clear folks, the victimhood I am referring to is my own FOO, not the affair. I'm the abuser in the affair, she's the victim.) After more discussion, my wife basically told me that the only person victimizing me right now is myself.

The thing is, I keep accusing her of various things. And the things I accuse her of are things which have been done to me in the past, or which I've observed or experienced. (Again, "in the past" refers to my entire life, not the marriage). As most BS's will tell you, triggers have this amazing way of taking a molehill and making it into an entire mountain range in your head, emotionally speaking. For example, a WS may innocently pickup their phone and start typing something for any one of a hundred reasons, but seeing that happen sometimes triggers a BS and zaps them right back to the time that their spouse was on the phone texting the AP, and from there all hell breaks loose. For the moment, it feels as if you are right back there again, in the thick of the A, and the pain is so overwhelming and "real" that you react and respond as if it were actually happening right now.

For me, since I come from a background of serious and constant abuse, anything that seems like someone else telling me that I'm worthless or broken or to just leave, etc., anything that sounds like a threat, and I go into protective/victim mode. While I think this is understandable, because trauma is trauma and triggers are the natural consequence of unprocessed trauma, what is not okay is that my "victimhood" has become my identity in life, and my "go to" for avoiding pain. It is the blanket I hide under.

What's worse is that it is hurting her. I've been trying very hard to keep the victimhood mentality under control, and most of the time I do, but when it comes out, it tends comes out in spectacular style. Her being angry turns into abuse and lies in my head. Her telling me how I acted in a given situation makes me feel like I'm being attacked and hated. I start to get the "poor me" thoughts of, "I can't do anything right" or "Nothing will make you happy" (Both of which are things her ex-husband said to her and so are HUGE triggers for her). All of these are thoughts that made a lot of sense when I was six years old and being abused. Not so much at 51 and just having had an affair. So my wife who has chosen to stay with me and try to R and has gone through personal hell while I still struggle to put on my big-boy underoos and move on without carrying the pain around like a suit of armor.

The bottom line is that I need to find a way to let this shit go already. It's killing me, it's killing her, it's killing our marriage and the family, work, life, everything. Everything in my life is has a grey haze over it because I see everything and feel everything through the eyes of the victim.

This morning I was looking up ways to break out of the victim mentality, and I found this - the difference between a victim and a survivor:

A victim asks how long it will take to feel good ó a survivor decides to feel good even if things are not so great.

A victim grinds to a halt ó a survivor keeps putting one foot in front of the other.

A victim wallows in self-pity ó a survivor comforts others.

A victim is jealous of someone elseís success ó a survivor is inspired by it.

A victim focuses on the pain of loss ó a survivor cherishes remembered joy.

A victim seeks retribution ó a survivor seeks redemption.

And most of all, a victim argues with life ó a survivor embraces it.

HardyRose posted 8/20/2018 17:45 PM

DaddyDom - are you working with your IC to change your inner dialogue and heal yourself so you can stop these programmed responses to situations?

You had an an awful childhood (I know that is an understatement) so your inner critic is going to be programmed to be negative. You need to actively and consciously seek support to change that programming.

Itís one thing to want to change - but you actually need to start moving toward change. Focus on your inner dialogue with your IC. Learn about the effects of abuse on your inner dialogue and then take it that one step further and actually get help to change your inner dialogue so that you arent a victim anymore.

You need to let go of your victimhood and become a survivor that is going to take courage, self awareness and professional support.

I believe that YOU are worth that effort.
I believe that YOU have worth and are strong enough to stop letting your abusers run your life.
YOU can do this DaddyDom.

[This message edited by HardyRose at 5:46 PM, August 20th (Monday)]

hurtbutresilient posted 8/20/2018 17:45 PM

Were you and your BS at my home last night? Seriously, your post comes on the heels on what my fWH and I call another "spinning" session, with both of us in the victim position at times. What a disempowering place to be! The good news is that both of us today realize the words we both said that triggered us and are working overtime to communicate better from the heart.

Our MC has been working on helping us remember to first stop and feel. Then communicate that. No "you" statements.

H and I also learned the RAIN technique at a retreat, and both like Tara Brach's explanation and meditation. Practicing RAIN helps our brains learn to pause and create a bit of space between the "Fight, flight or freeze" reptilian response. That pause us the chance to let our wiser more advanced brain help us formulate something more in keeping with the situation in front of us, not the one that our fear triggered. It seems to me that to get out of victim mode we need to give ourselves the pause, see beyond our hurts, and formulate an appropriate response.

MoreThanBroken posted 8/20/2018 18:21 PM

Daddydom, I think this something many people, not just WS deal with, there's a lot of comfort and ease being the victim. I know this mentality is often very manipulative as well, especially when it's something people have found to garner sympathy. This has been something my WS has been putting a lot of work on. When she gets heated, you see this mentality come out, but there's a big difference from dday to now. I think it's hard to break this because so many of our hurts are ingrained in our heads and we've already decided that we are the victim and that's how we will respond. When I read the wayward forums, this is probably one of the most common hardest to break mentalities, and fixing this will help acceptance, ownership, defensiveness and so on

gtflng posted 8/20/2018 20:38 PM

This will be a 2x4 sent with love. I sure hope I am within guidelines. I am pulling hard for you and for your wife. Iím not a BS who has it figured out and I am so far behind you and your wife that sometimes I feel ridiculous responding. But I still hope to offer a few comments, because I have followed your story and I see these cyclical patterns from you.

I feel like you spend a lot of time in your own head, and a lot of time offering very beautiful, spot-on, eloquent advice. Iíve said it to you before and I will say it again: I think you need to put that energy into working on your problems. You do a lot of identifying your shortcomings, and a lot of helping others. You need to help yourself. The problems are long-ago identified. And the advice you give to others must get tiresome for your wife. She continues to not get what she is needing from you. Your advice is probably helping other BSs. But not her. I hope you spend a lot of offline time working on your problems. And Iím sure you do. The cyclical pattern, though, indicates it isnít working. Whatever you are doing hasnít worked. Not well enough.

I see a few problems here.

One is that your abuse ended long ago. And being a victim is this identity youíre clinging to. You are choosing to remain a victim. You admit that here. I am not an expert or even a newbie in childhood trauma. But I assume others grow. You seem stuck.

Another I see is that you very recently made your wife a victim. And us BSí donít like to grasp that victim mentality. So we donít. We work hard. We reject the victim status. At least I see that in your wife. She can A) reject the victim mentality and B) offer grace to her abuser. I know A is not an easy task for you. But A + B isnít easy for her, either, I assume.

Another problem is you also keep failing her. Despite her willingness to give you opportunities. You are further victimizing her. She is just refusing to identify that way.

Youíve also been very eloquently posting here for some time. But yet, youíre still a victim. Youíre still not stepping out of that and becoming a healer to yourself and to her. That is problematic, as I touched on in my intro here.


I donít get that. If your wife, who was just made a victim, by you, is offering you grace grace grace - why squander it? What benefit are you getting from this? What does being a victim do for you? Shield you from fully owning what youíve done and keep doing? I donít see how else it serves you.

I also wonder why you offer this great advice when you know your marriage is failing. Not that I donít think youíre qualified. You write some of the best stuff here. But is there a motive there? Do you somehow absolve yourself in doing so? That you may fail her, but you get it and can help others? I donít know. Thatís a new thought from me. Not well-formed.


I know the odds are stacked against you and given your childhood you lack a lot of the tools your wife likely has. I donít at all minimize your childhood trauma. I donít think your wife does either. But I feel you will eventually run out of time here.

[This message edited by gtflng at 8:59 PM, August 20th (Monday)]

DaddyDom posted 8/20/2018 20:57 PM


Thank you for your wise suggestions and insights. Yes and no to your first question. I am currently seeing our MC in one-on-one sessions in addition to our couples sessions. She's a fantastic therapist and both ISSF and I love her and think she's helpful. But her therapeutic perspective is always focused on couples and relationships, not really on the individual so much. So I have been talking to her and ISSF about getting a recommendation for an actual IC who can help with things such as this which are not specifically "couples related" such as the FOO issues.

I believe that YOU are worth that effort.
I believe that YOU have worth and are strong enough to stop letting your abusers run your life.
YOU can do this DaddyDom.

Maybe I should print that out and hang it on my bathroom mirror. Seriously, these are the things I can't really say to myself (and mean them). Once I can, I think everything will domino and change, for the better.

DaddyDom posted 8/20/2018 21:03 PM


Thank you - I've never heard of the RAIN technique but just started to look it up. Maybe ISSF and I will try it out as soon as we're done reading our current book. Currently we are doing EFT (Emotionally Focused Therapy) which is somewhat similar in nature. It helps to identify common "spinning" as you called it, so that we can then avoid it and take a more empathetic and loving approach to resolving emotional conflict.

DaddyDom posted 8/20/2018 21:14 PM


That's the thing, yes, it is something ingrained in some of us that, in a weird way, can be "comforting" even though it rips our guts out. I'm sick to death of feeling like a victim and if being sick of it were enough, we wouldn't be here right now. The thing that bothers me the most is that I find my own mind and "soul" clinging to the victimhood like a life vest. I am starting to be able to see it and understand, and that, to me anyway, feels like progress. I am not as tied to my wife's emotions as I used to be (not saying it doesn't still happen, just not as often or as strongly). I feel better about myself, a little. My defensiveness has been way down overall. It's all baby steps. But I can still trigger with the best of them. One of my IC's diagnosed me as having "complex PTSD" and that's part of the struggle as well.

DaddyDom posted 8/20/2018 22:07 PM


Of course you are correct about pretty much everything. After that post you mentioned, where you told me that I was spending too much time online helping other and not enough on my own marriage, that really hit me and I took it to heart. I'm not sure if you noticed but I was gone for a while, taking a break and doing just that... working more on our marriage, her safety and my issues. Now, you'll have to ask ISSF how she felt about that, but she started to talk to me about not being on SI much, and I think that she saw my absence as "not doing the work". I was lurking and reading, but honestly, I work my own shit out best when helping others. So I decided to get back on the wagon and make sure that I'm taking enough time to pay attention to my wife and my marriage and do the work there, but also to make sure to make the time to work on myself and continue my own progress. It's a balancing act.

If your wife, who was just made a victim, by you, is offering you grace grace grace - why squander it? What benefit are you getting from this? What does being a victim do for you? Shield you from fully owning what youíve done and keep doing? I donít see how else it serves you.

One of our MC's once described the healing process from trauma in a similar way to how a physical wound heals. Imagine we were talking about a broken kneecap. A kneecap takes a long time to heal, and a lot of pain in the process. There are things we can do to help speed up the process some, such as managing pain and doing physical therapy. But all the determination and and medicine in the world can't make the bones heal any faster than they are capable of doing. So we must sit in the pain, work through it, go through lots backslides, and just try to keep everything in place until it can all knit back together the right way. Emotional pain is like that too. I am aware that my healing is taking a long time, which might not be such a critical issue except that, as you said, it continues to hurt and victimize her. She's been holding in there so far, but it won't last forever, and every time there is a backslide, it makes it harder for her to trust me again. My hope is that she will continue to to stick with me, see me fighting to improve, fighting for her, so that I can be the man she fell in love with, the person who can comfort and sustain her, and stop being the broken man who I've been so far.

I'm not a therapist either, but you asked what I get from the victimhood? The answer of course is nothing, only pain and more hurt for everyone involved.

Here's the thing. I just wrote you this long, complicated explanation of why I'm so fucked up and how the Complex PTSD plays into this and so on... and in doing so, read it back and realized that I had just fallen right back into feeling like a victim, as identifying as a victim. Of course, it is hard to explain why I keep feeling that way without going into the whole thing, and I can't go into the whole thing without explaining what happened and how I felt about it... and I can't really do that without falling prey to all it entailed. If you want to hear the whole story I'm happy to oblige, but for now, I'll just say that it does nothing for me. Up until now it has been my identity, and that is a hard, hard thing to change. But as you said, it does nothing positive for me, and only hurts me and the people I love, so it is time for it to be over.

I keep posting here because, as you said, I think I have something to offer others, and working through issues with others helps me to work on myself and clarify my understanding. I'm a computer guy, and one thing I've learned over time is that sometimes, the best way to learn something, is to teach it. Even if it is not helping me directly, to me, that is not a reason to not help others. One of the non-selfish qualities I can claim. :)

gtflng posted 8/20/2018 22:23 PM

I get you. I hear you.
Iím sorry if my precious (edit: previous**. leaving it up because itís too funny not to. what an arrogant difference one letter makes) post resonated with you in a way that negatively impacted your marriage.
And Iím glad you acknowledged you went right back into victim mode. Because as you started explaining healing to me with kneecap metaphors and all, I started to hear ďblah blah blahĒ in my head and maybe my eyes rolled. Full disclosure. Not because you arenít right. But because you already know all that. And I already know you already know all that because youíve articulated it all here before. You seem to have further latched onto ďWell, this is how a victim deals with being a victimĒ. Okay. Howís that working?

I appreciate your intelligence. And your kindness to others. And I absolutely get why writing things out here helps you. Itís why I post, too.
In this eloquent post you just wrote, this topic, you did not actually ask for help.
Do you see that? You didnít ask for advice. You will get it anyways, as evidenced by the responses.
But the fact you didnít ask for help makes your post land as naval gazing to this BS. And I think thatís exactly your problem. You are inside your own head too much.

You already get it. You already know your issues. You can articulate your shortcomings better than anyone else on here.
That just isnít enough. Being very aware of your faults is not enough. Further explaining you understand your faults is not enough. No action comes from that. I donít think you have recently gained much more insight by posting here because of *the way* youíve been posting here. That is not meant rudely OR to discourage you from posting. I just mean what I just said: you already know your issues. And I think you have for awhile. So start doing. Start asking for and ACCEPTING advice. The external introspection isnít always needed. The back and forth isnít always needed. The contemplation isnít always needed. Not when youíve been contemplating the same thing for .. a year? You have the necessary insight. Focusing just on your shortcomings isnít working. Focus on getting help for them.

Anyways. Not to hijack your post.

I think you finding your own IC will be huge. Doing some EMDR or some CBT. Something beyond talk therapy. I think you talk too well for that, if that makes sense.

[This message edited by gtflng at 10:26 PM, August 20th (Monday)]

HardyRose posted 8/20/2018 22:30 PM

DaddyDom - you are doing it again.... hiding behind your FOO and CPSTD as why you keep hurting ISSF

I am not comparing traumas with you but I have been diagnosed with CPSTD - and that doesnít give me an excuse to hurt others.

It means I need to be more aware. I need to stop and think when I am triggering what is triggering me.
It means I am emotionally exhausted so I chose to focus on making small changes at a time.

I means I need to change my inner critic, and my coping skills so that I am moving towards being a normal healthy adult.

Please DD - stop making excuses as to why you are a victim and start taking positive action towards thriving.

[This message edited by HardyRose at 10:56 PM, August 20th (Monday)]

gtflng posted 8/20/2018 22:59 PM

When Iím rehashing something in counselling or to a friend, and I catch myself saying ďhe did this TO meĒ or ďIím like this BECAUSE of himĒ... I stop. Not because those arenít valid feelings. But because I refuse to identify as a victim. Because victims are sad and stuck, and identifying as a victim disempowers me. Iím absolutely not going to marginalize myself, even though itís easy and justified. I am more than his choices. I am not defined by my abuser. And you shouldnít be either.

You know?

Itís a choice I make. And it gets more natural the more I make it. I know your road has been much more complicated. But itís an in-the-moment choice and you CAN make it. Especially if youíre as motivated as you state you are.

Whatís holding you back?
Actually - donít answer that.


Add: To quote your own profile (and the amazing Brene Brown) - are you living your values or simply professing them?

Food for thought.

[This message edited by gtflng at 11:11 PM, August 20th (Monday)]

onlytime posted 8/20/2018 23:34 PM

you asked what I get from the victimhood? The answer of course is nothing, only pain and more hurt for everyone involved.

I think you need to dig a heck of a lot deeper here, as your answer is very superficial. You do get a benefit from clinging onto the victimhood, so what is it? Does it allow you to avoid being truly responsible and accountable for yourself and your actions? Are you using it as another means to get validation, rather than learning to validate yourself? Do you use it as a means to avoid difficult situations, emotions, etc?

What scares you about letting it go? Are you afraid of not having an identity (sense of self) without it? Who are you without the victimhood?

I too have been diagnosed with C-PTSD, as well as BPD, due to the traumas I experienced in my life, and I had a serious victim mentality for a very,very long time. Getting to the root of why I clung onto my victimhood and uncovering the fears I had of letting it go, was how I was finally able to make progress and move towards being more empowered.

Keep digging deeper.

gtflng posted 8/20/2018 23:38 PM


Unless youíre a masochist, you wouldnít cling to victimhood if it only brought you pain.

Thatís why I asked. You must get something from it. Which is not exactly healthy.

Onlytime is beyond right in suggesting you find out what that is.

Edit to add; I also think professional help is the way to go. The list you posted is a nice reminder, but I donít think you have the tools to move from victim to survivor on your own. You have complex PTSD.

[This message edited by gtflng at 8:59 AM, August 21st (Tuesday)]

Iwantmyglasses posted 8/20/2018 23:59 PM

I am seeing something else here. ďMy wife was upset I wasnít posting.Ē Why does she need to be upset?. Why canít it be a simple, I need to post for my continued growth?

This is the whole problem. You do not realize you are an adult. You are not a child. You are a grown up. Parents make their children clean up a room, do their homework.

You are around 50 years old. Your FOO has given you an internal language. I am a hurt person, I am a fractured person.

How about I am an adult? I will do x y z to proceed in this day as an adult.

[This message edited by Iwantmyglasses at 12:01 AM, August 21st (Tuesday)]

HardyRose posted 8/21/2018 00:08 AM

One more quote for your bathroom mirror -

ďIf the rules by which you have lived have brought you to this place what use are those rules?Ē

assjack posted 8/21/2018 06:36 AM

A book that might help is Just One Thing" by Rick henson.

Also onlytime is spot on. It seems like posting is for you and it is not helping ISSF. It might be good to ask yourself everytime you post or want to post; is/can this helping ISSF? Do you really need to PM?

Additionally for me it was very helpful to write out my shit to get it out there. I did not want to do it, as how could I hide who I was or what I had done.

One other thing i told my BS and myself is that "i will no longer denigrate myself."

[This message edited by assjack at 12:05 PM, August 21st (Tuesday)]

Chaos posted 8/21/2018 06:59 AM

DaddyDom - I'm going to be a straight shooter here and not mince words.

You are wearing your FOO victimhood like a child wears a security blanket. You hide behind it when the world gets tough. Then get mad at the world when they point out you are hiding behind your security blanket. Then scream and cry and push out at the person who tells you to man up, get out from the damn blanket and deal.

DaddyDom - you give excellent advice. You need to start practicing what you preach.

I'm not belittling your FOO issues. But you can't hide behind them. You are married with children. They are your family now and quite frankly you are throwing them aside to wallow in FOO memories and then getting angry at them for drawing you back into the world and issues of NOW.

Your FOO issues may explain your issues but they are not an excuse for your behavior.

I say this with love and kindness - but DaddyDom - man up, get your head out of the past and the past and deal with the here and now. Or you will be left alone with neither, sitting like Conan - king of his kingdom - all alone in his chair, crown all askew, wondering "what the f*** happened"

shellbean posted 8/21/2018 07:24 AM

I can't offer much more here than what has already been said by so many insightful BS in this thread.

I don't post in Wayward often, but want to say this you: The answer to "WHY?" you continue to fall back on your "victim status":

Because it's comfortable, because it's familiar, because it's easy, because you can.

One other thing: Your tag line about you "being floored" your W's grace and forgiveness...
Why did you delete it? IMO, it was totally premature (and arrogant) for you to have that tagline so soon after dday, but to delete it now? hmmm

**ETA: I see your tagline is back now. Not sure if there was a technical glitch or what

[This message edited by shellbean at 7:54 AM, August 21st (Tuesday)]

Zugzwang posted 8/21/2018 08:16 AM

You need to work through your FOO issues and you need to practice mindfulness. You got to stop transferring your wife into that role of your parents. What have you done to understand your FOO issues? Did you get "closure" on that? I will tell you the big thing that made a difference was a frank all out discussion (well more like I talked and she got defensive) with my mother. There is a ton of injustice there. You need to get it out. Next, my wife was fantastic in understanding the dynamics and seeing things I never saw with how dysfunctional my mother was and still is. We limit contact. I am talking like once or twice every several months. My relationship with my sister is stronger. We talk about shit and injustice from our childhood. Currently my mother and sister haven't spoken in several years. You are angry and lashing out. Your wife isn't the cause of that. You really have to be mindful. Talking to a therapist about that stuff didn't work for me. It was BS. He couldn't give me closure. I needed to talk to people that knew my mother. Knew my deceased father. I had to talk to my mother.

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