As you no doubt know, bad things happen to good people from time to time. There’s no rhyme or reason for it and it’s not particularly fair, but such things do happen. Sometimes these events are quite awful such as serious traumas or illnesses. And when these things happen out of the blue, people often experience a huge wave of difficult feelings.

Emotions such as great upset, distress, anger, and despair are quite typical and frankly, normal at these times. It’s also pretty typical to find yourself railing about the unfairness of it all and the fact that you don’t deserve what’s happened. When these thoughts and feelings occur, generally the person will take on a new role in life—that of a patient or even a victim. And friends, healthcare providers, therapists, and family generally pick up the appropriate role of helpers.

Good helpers feel motivated to help. They usually feel sympathy and concern and they provide support as needed. They often believe it’s largely up to them to create improvement and healing for the patient or victim. And they rarely see the patient as to blame for their dilemma.

Society has created the roles of patient, victim, and helpers for good reasons. These roles facilitate the provision of help when something bad happens to people. And almost everyone we know has occupied the role of victim, patient, or helper from time to time. We actually see that as a good thing. At least in the short run.

However, occasionaly the roles of victim or patient evolve over time to the point that they become completely entrenched in the mind, almost chiseled in granite. As the belief in one’s status as a victim or a patient takes hold, sometimes people start focusing and dwelling on how unfairly life has treated them. They may begin to complain and feel enraged much of the time. They start to feel helpless and hopeless. They may feel that not enough is being done for them.

If you find yourself sliding down the slippery slope into entrenched victimhood, we suggest therapy for helping you learn a new, more productive role—that of a coper or perhaps even a rehabilitation patient. As is the case with patients and victims, both copers and rehab patients have had difficult things happen to them that they didn’t deserve. But at some point, they learn how to let go of their anger and rage and reach deep inside of themselves to find ways for productively dealing with what’s happened and put themselves on a path for improving their situation. At times, they may not find much they can do about their illness or horrific event, but they can usually find ways of coping better and finding meaning in their lives in spite of what’s happened to them.

Please also try to realize that letting go of your rage and focusing on coping by no means diminishes the importance or the horribleness of what may have happened to you. Rather, you can find new meanings from your efforts to cope. This shift from victim or patient to coper is rarely easy, but you’re likely to find it useful. And again, getting therapy to help you with the process is usually a very good idea.

 

 


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    Last reviewed: 12 Feb 2012

APA Reference
Elliott, C. (2012). When Feeling Like a Victim Hurts More than Helps. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 22, 2014, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/anxiety/2012/02/when-feeling-like-a-victim-hurts-more-than-helps/

 

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Laura L. Smith, Ph.D. and Charles H. Elliott, Ph.D. are authors of many books, including Overcoming Anxiety for Dummies and Child Psychology & Development for Dummies.

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