Faith WoodDo you often feel helpless or believe the world is out to get you? Do people often mention they think you’re cynical or pessimistic?

It’s certainly possible you have what’s referred to as a victim mentality.

A victim mentality is a learned mental state in which you blame others for your problems and absolve yourself of all responsibility for anything that occurs in your life.

Think this sounds like you? Below are the most common signs you (or someone close to you) may suffer as a result of a victim mentality, according to Robert Leahy, the director of the American Institute for Cognitive Therapy.

You spend most of your time thinking of the past and refuse to forgive or forget

Contrary to popular belief, no one is born with a victim mentality. Rather, it occurs as a result of past trauma or with early childhood exposure to a parent figure who suffers from a victim mentality.

Either of these situations tends to lead to a thought process where the individual constantly thinks of all the bad things that have happened in their lives rather than focusing on the here and now, which may be substantially better than their past.

You think everyone in your life is trying to make life miserable for you

Even if you have great, supportive people in your life, you will constantly focus on the one individual who has hurt you. Or you simply believe everyone in your life is trying to ruin something for you, whether they actually are or not.

If you believe someone has wronged you in the past, you will refuse to forgive them and may go as far as to exact revenge.

You consider every event in your life to be a major catastrophe, and you tend to dramatize everything

You find yourself continually exaggerating the situations you find yourself in, even if they were just small misfortunes such as running out of an ingredient while cooking dinner.

Your life is always “over” and filled with never-ending drama.

You see the world as a bad place and think nothing will ever change for the better in your life or current situation

In your mind, the world is a dark place and nothing will ever get better. This doesn’t mean you don’t want it to get better; you just think it won’t. You refuse to accept you can make any changes to your life.

You don’t want to even consider that your perspective could be wrong or incorrect. You don’t want to see the world in a new light

Your way of thinking is clearly the only way of thinking. Even when people try to help you and show you the positives in your life, you shoot them down. And if someone else claims to have a problem, yours is always worse no matter what the situation may be.

If any of the above sounds like you, it’s important to know victim mentality isn’t a diagnosed mental illness; rather, it’s a learned process of thinking that can be reversed at any time.

If you have a victim mentality, this won’t be an easy task. You need to start challenging your thought processes by pointing out the possible error in your ways of thinking.

It can be difficult to do this on your own, but you can start by setting long-term goals for yourself and establishing limits on negative thoughts.

If your mind starts to go down a rabbit hole, get up and do an activity you enjoy. Don’t let yourself sit and wallow in your thoughts.

Faith Wood is a novelist and professional speaker who focuses on helping groups and individuals navigate conflict, shift perceptions and improve communications.  For interview requests, click here.

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