Are you a Victim of the Victim Syndrome?

Working Paper, Technical or Research Report

Title: Are you a Victim of the Victim Syndrome?
Year: 2012
Authors Kets de Vries, M. F.

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
Language: English

Publisher: INSEAD
Publisher Location: Fontainebleau, France
Report number: 2012/70/EFE

Submitted by:
Manfred F.R. Kets de Vries
Distinguished Clinical Professor of Leadership Development

Corresponding author:

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