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How Confronting My Victim Mentality Allowed Me To Begin To Genuinely Heal & Stop Manipulating People

Updated: Mar 15, 2023



By Mel Francis, Lighthouse Global Associate Elect 


No one wants to feel like a victim, not really. If we could choose, who wouldn’t want to lead their life feeling strong, confident and with high emotional intelligence to be able to handle all sorts of difficult and stressful situations?


I for one always loved the idea of becoming this powerhouse of a woman, like a bad*ss you would not want to mess with. I certainly built that idea into my ego over time and liked projecting this idea out of myself. However the reality was that I felt nothing like a powerhouse, I spent so much time feeling fragile and vulnerable. Society and social media seemed to tell me it was “the patriarchy” but I struggled to form relationships with women way more than men, so I didn’t know what was going on, I felt like I wasn’t striking at the root of why I was feeling small and why my self-confidence felt so conditional, as in it was heavily reliant on who I was with, what we were talking about, how I was feeling about myself, how others reacted to me and what they thought of me. 


Manipulating Trauma For Attention Doesn't Work

I don’t really know when I started doing it, but I would guess in my teens. I started to realise, that the pain and suffering I had gone through, whatever it might have been - my parent’s break up, a relative dying, a pet dying, depression, stress, overwhelm, traumatic experiences, “triggers” - didn’t need to all be for nothing. I could use it to my advantage, or so I thought. When I told people about things I went through and they sympathised or felt sorry for me, I would feel better about what happened, or even good about it. If someone was nasty about it for whatever reason, then I could distance myself from them on the proviso that they were ‘not a kind person’. I mean, this seemed like an absolutely foolproof plan! I didn’t have to suffer my experiences, I could use them and evaluate other people’s character at the same time, brilliant! 


But my foolproof plan was not quite so foolproof, because traumatic memories were still traumatising. In fact, I would have more flashbacks, more triggers, more unhappy memories, more depression, which I then used for even more sympathy. So I ended up feeling more sorry for myself and in more pain if there was no one around to give me sympathy.

It became like this addiction, when I needed a fix of attention to make myself feel better about things, I would go and talk to someone and feel sorry for myself. Or, more perniciously, I would try and get someone to admire me and my bravery at overcoming such adversity, or trying to, and hope that people would like me that way because they would see me as this ‘strong powerhouse’ I wanted to be. Or appeared to be.


Victim Mentality Means You Stay a Victim

As a result, I ended up desensitising myself to what had happened to me because I was so caught up in “owning” my story, which in my mind meant using it to my advantage narcissistically. Even my own sexual assault, I spoke about it like it was something I had transcended and spoke about it like I was going to be a spokesperson for the #MeToo movement. But it was a lie and I was deceiving myself. I was no stronger for it having happened at all. In fact, whilst I was using my trauma to gain social mileage I was standing in my own way to fully process what had happened to me. I had to learn how to afford myself the opportunity to actually sit in my pain and not try and manipulate it as a defence mechanism, not put on this show like I had transcended something I hadn’t even processed.


With the help of my mentor over a number of sessions talking in-depth about my experience, I was humbled to recognise that I was actually disrespecting myself by treating my own experiences like pawns in a chess game of my life, but also I was disrespecting anyone who has seen true hardship and risen out of it with great valour, genuine strength and fortitude; prisoners of war, survivors of the Holocaust in Nazi Germany, families who lost children in school shootings - who had really witnessed some of the biggest horrors and atrocities ever committed by human beings to other human beings. Where was my humility?


Where was my genuine appreciation for being alive, for being healthy and to be gracious with that? After weeping in empathy for what human beings had endured which far exceeded what I had gone through, I came to the very sobering realisation that if I didn’t stop wearing my suffering like a badge of honour using my victim status for my own gain, I was living an embarrassment of a life. 


Letting Go of The Victim Mentality

I was stood at the drinks table at our Chairman’s house recently, chatting to a fellow associate from Lighthouse and before I even fully realised I was saying it, out it came: “Well you know, you say that it takes courage for me to share as openly as I do as part of this community, but this hasn’t always been a healthy thing for me. You know I used to do what is called ‘floodlighting’, which is when you overshare, you tell someone your story who has not earned the right to hear it and you gauge their reaction to determine whether you can trust them or not. I used to be much more manipulative”. 


To some, even that would have been a bit of an overshare in and of itself, but the reason it wasn’t was the quality of the relationship I have with the person I was sharing it with. I really had come to realise how destructive my approach to my own sharing had been because you can’t have a healthy relationship with trauma if you’re milking it for sympathy. It was one of the most painful lessons I have learned, and am still learning to fully appreciate but the humility and groundedness I have been able to genuinely feel off the back of developing myself to let go of that old programming is immense.


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5 Comments


Valerie Nash
Valerie Nash
Feb 02, 2022

Mel, this is so valuable! thank you so much for finding the right mentor that would help you cope into the fullness of your power authentically, without the need to manipulate situations as a way of an attempt as to whether this person was kind or not, and distance yourself when needed. Wearing the trauma like a "badge of honour"... I can see Mel that I used it as an honourable discharge from the world after my trauma... an excuse to trust anyone, or even to contemplate loving someone. It was really unhealthy, and OH...I felt like a survivor...I wasn't and it needed my mentorship here and these first class relationships to enter the world of people, rather than my…

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tomhasker
tomhasker
Feb 02, 2022

Your honesty has helped me to see and learn about where I have used a victim story to gain sympathy for my own gain or gratification. I've noticed Monty Python's '4 Yorkshiremen' mentality come through in myself and others to try and make out 'my life is worse than yours' just to gain that sympathy from someone. There is no strength, no leadership and nothing upbuilding when that stance is taken, and if the true pain that we feel is ignored and left to fester. That is where the real harm will be done to us in the long run.

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jatindersingh4
jatindersingh4
Feb 02, 2022

Thanks Mel - I’d never heard of floodlighting before. I can see where I’ve done it and seen it in others and where I’ve looked for sympathy from past challenges and traumas. i really appreciate your honesty because it helps me see where I’ve been guilty of keeping myself in victim mode rather than building value from it. Particularly in a society which is giving sympathy rather than empathy for those that have challenges.

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Wow, cheers for sharing Mel, I really appreciate your honesty and indeed love for yourself here, seeing yourself as sacred. I was smiling as I was reading your article, I thought "she's really building a strong foundation here through a paradigm shift". A paradigm shift that would have been more difficult to attain if ruggedly individualistic or without the power of community and a mentor who genuinely has your best interests at heart, sympathetic when legitimate. Reality and intention questioning are key here I believe, awesome article.

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Diane Cubitt
Diane Cubitt
Jan 24, 2022

Mel, thank you so much for sharing your personal experience, opening up and just being honest more with yourself as to where you were and the damage that you were causing yourself. I can relate to that, being an attention seeker, looking for that fix of ‘oh you pore thing’ that quick fix, that feeding of sympathy. It became an addiction, and is still there to a point, that victim in me. Like yourself, speaking with my mentor helped me to see the level of abuse that I was causing myself and also to others, for it is in a way a lie, lying to them about how I feel just to get that little pat on the shoulder and…

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