Are You a Victim of the Victim Syndrome?

25 Pages Posted: 24 Jul 2012

See all articles by Manfred F.R. Kets de Vries

Manfred F.R. Kets de Vries

INSEAD - Entrepreneurship and Family Enterprise

Date Written: July 24, 2012

Abstract

People who suffer from the victim syndrome are always complaining about the 'bad things that happen' in their lives. Because they believe they have no control over the way events unfold, they don’t feel a sense of responsibility for them. One moment, they present themselves dramatically as victims; the next, they morph into victimizers, hurting the people trying to help them and leaving would-be helpers with a sense of utter frustration. People with a victim mentality display passive-aggressive characteristics when interacting with others. Their behavior has a self-defeating, almost masochistic quality. The victim style becomes a relational mode - a life affirming activity: I am miserable therefore I am. In this article, I present three examples of people with this syndrome and a checklist that can be used to identify sufferers. I also discuss the concept of secondary gain - the 'benefits' people get from perpetuating a problem - and the developmental origins of the victim mind-set. The article ends with advice on how to help people who suffer from the victim syndrome.

Keywords: victim syndrome, rescuers, masochistic, passive-aggressive, self-defeating behavior, blame game, secondary gain

Suggested Citation

Kets de Vries, Manfred F.R., Are You a Victim of the Victim Syndrome? (July 24, 2012). INSEAD Working Paper No. 2012/70/EFE. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2116238 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2116238

Manfred F.R. Kets de Vries (Contact Author)

INSEAD - Entrepreneurship and Family Enterprise ( email )

Fontainebleau Cedex, F-77305
France

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