We all know that person who is an incessant victim and makes everything about them. It is hard to be around them and we end up feeling guilty for sharing any of our own successes when they can’t be happy for us. Instead, anything positive in our lives is a reminder to them of their own shortcomings, and they make us pay. Or if we share our troubles with them, they have the need to outdo us with their own problems. This is a difficult thing to navigate, especially if we are looking for support, and can bring out frustrations on both sides.
People who make everything about them are usually not aware that they are doing it, and can amaze you with their skill to turn simple conversations into their own self-absorbed lack or victimization. In their interpretation of reality most things either happen to them or because of them and they find ways to insert themselves or turn a situation around to put themselves at the centre of it all, even though it may have nothing to do with them.
So what do we do when faced with this personality type / relationship dilemma in our family, coworkers or friends? In order to survive relationships with people like this, we need to understand what causes this behaviour – what mindset is behind it. Even though it can be aggressive, demanding, judgmental, disrespectful and demeaning, it stems from a place of lack in them. If their behaviour is unjustified (not a reaction to us and our own behaviour or provocation) then it is a result of their perception of life. They often possess deep sadness, a lack of self-worth, lack of presence, lack of inner peace and gratitude, loneliness and a distrust of relationships. They often have a tendency to be controlling which indicates a lack of inner control.
The only way to survive a relationship like this is to flee, or to learn compassion and decide not to take it personally. Try to imagine how difficult it would be to live in a mind with such low self-esteem. It’s a LOT of work to function in such a negative mindset and they probably have no idea how toxic their view of life is, or the effect they have on others. Even though everyone else sees their pattern and views it as attention seeking, they don’t realize that’s how they come across.
Calling them out on it might not be the best strategy, since you’re giving them exactly what they want: a conflict that’s actually about them, reinforcing their sense of victimhood. When you notice them twisting a situation in an effort to make it about them, you don’t have to engage at all. You can change the subject or walk away (without being rude) deciding you are needed elsewhere. If you cannot help but to engage (biting the bait) then it is best for you to limit your association and seek counseling for strategies of coping. It is not your job to fix them, and you are only responsible for your own reactions and what is going on in your own head. You can use the experience as a way to become self-aware of how you are triggered (sent into your own victim mindset).
Even though compassionate thinking and the decision not to ‘bite the hook’ is an ideal way to deal with any perceived narcissistic tendency in another, most of us react negatively and enter into a state of resistance by getting annoyed, defensive, frustrated, angry…, and often competing (fighting over who is the bigger victim). But knee-jerk reactions just fuel the fire. The person with the bigger victim attitude will expect a fight and may be prepared to defend their position with more irrational, and often irate, backlash.
When finding ourselves in a competitive state of resistance with someone who we find ‘impossible’ to deal with, we must notice our own thoughts and choose not to engage or fuel the negativity. Otherwise we become half the problem. The best option, in my opinion, is to mentally or verbally acknowledge to negative energy between both parties without laying blame, and withdraw from the situation thinking “I’m sorry you feel this way”. If you have a spiritual / mindfulness practice, this would be a good time to pray for loving guidance or focus on breath and meditation to get yourself out of your head and into your heart.
Next week I will address the other side of this coin – What if you think it may be you who has this problem of ‘making everything about you’ and ‘taking everything personally’.
Claire Nielsen is a health coach, author, public speaker and founder of www.elixirforlife.ca. The information provided in the above article is for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional health and medical advice. Please consult a doctor or healthcare provider if you're seeking medical advice, diagnoses and/or treatment.