Unraveling the Mindset of Victimhood
Focusing on grievances can be debilitating; social science points to a better way
By Scott Barry Kaufman on June 29, 2020

...Social life is full of ambiguity. Dates don’t always respond to your text messages, friends don’t always smile back at you when you smile at them, and strangers sometimes have upset looks on their faces. The question is: How do you interpret these situations? Do you take everything personally or do you consider that it’s more likely that your friend is just having a bad day, your new date is still interested but wants to play it cool, and that the stranger on the street was angry about something and didn’t even notice you were there?

While most people tend to overcome socially ambiguous situations with relative ease—regulating their emotions and acknowledging that social ambiguity is an unavoidable part of social life—some people tend to see themselves as perpetual victims. Rahav Gabay and her colleagues define this tendency for interpersonal victimhood as “an ongoing feeling that the self is a victim, which is generalized across many kinds of relationships. As a result, victimization becomes a central part of the individual’s identity.” Those who have a perpetual victimhood mindset tend to have an “external locus of control”; they believe that one’s life is entirely under the control of forces outside one’s self, such as fate, luck or the mercy of other people.

Based on clinical observations and research, the researchers found that the tendency for interpersonal victimhood consists of four main dimensions: (a) constantly seeking recognition for one’s victimhood, (b) moral elitism, (c) lack of empathy for the pain and suffering of others, and (d) frequently ruminating about past victimization.
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At the group level, research suggests that increased attention to an in-group’s victimization reduces empathy toward the adversary as well as toward unrelated adversaries. Even just the priming of victimhood has been shown to increase ongoing conflicts, with the priming leading to reduced levels of empathy toward the adversary and people being more willing to accept less collective guilt for current harm. In fact, research on “competitive victimhood” shows that members of groups involved in violent conflicts tend to see their victimization as exclusive and are prone to minimize, belittle or outright deny their adversary’s suffering and pain.
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Those with a tendency for interpersonal victimhood were also more likely to attribute negative intentions on the part of the offender and were also more likely to feel a greater intensity and duration of negative emotions following a hurtful event.

These findings are consistent with work showing that the extent to which people find an interaction hurtful is related to their perception that the hurtful behavior was intentional. People with a tendency for interpersonal victimhood may experience offenses more intensely because they attribute more malicious intent to the offender than those who score lower in a tendency for interpersonal victimhood.

This bias has been found to exist at the collective level as well. Social psychologist Noa Schori-Eyal and colleagues found that those who scored higher on a “Perpetual In-group Victimhood Orientation” scale—measuring the belief that one’s in-group is constantly being victimized and persecuted by different enemies and in different time periods—had a greater tendency to categorize out-groups as hostile to the ingroup and responded faster to such categorization (suggesting it was more automatic). High scorers on this scale were also more likely to attribute malevolent intentions to out-group members in ambiguous situations; and when primed with reminders of historical group trauma, they were more likely to attribute malevolent intentions to the out-group.

A group that is completely preoccupied with its own suffering can develop what psychologists refer to as an “egoism of victimhood,” whereby members are unable to see things from the perspective of the rival group’s perspective, are unable or unwilling to empathize with the suffering of the rival group, and are unwilling to accept any responsibility for harm inflicted by their own group
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The researchers also found that people with a high tendency for interpersonal victimhood were less willing to forgive others after an offense, expressed an increased desire for revenge rather than mere avoidance, and actually were more likely to behave in a revengeful manner.
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Similar findings have been found at the group level. A strong sense of collective victimhood is associated with a low willingness to forgive and an increased desire for revenge.
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Seeing reality as clearly as possible is an essential step to making long-lasting change, and I believe one important step along that path is to shed the perpetual victimhood mindset for something more productive, constructive, hopeful and amenable to building positive relationships with others.
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More: https://www.scientificamerican.com/a...of-victimhood/