A Psychological insight on the culture of victimhood and more

[…] In my therapeutic work with mothers of teens and tweens, I am a frequent second-hand witness to children who, seeking to avoid the developmental demands of approaching independence, cling to their frailties[…]

Personal or collective attitudes that create an invitation to victimhood and infirmity can alter what we expect for ourselves. Embracing a status of oppression or affliction can be helpful, as it marshals needed care. However, when held onto too long, it can invite disengagement from life, and an avoidance of one’s fate. Worryingly, it also has negative implications for personal mental health, as it may foster a sense of helplessness.

Locus of Control

Thinking of ourselves as oppressed or infirm may inadvertently cultivate what psychologists call an external locus of control.[…]  Those with an internal locus of control experience themselves as able to influence outcomes that affect them. Those with an external locus of control feel that most of what happens to them is beyond their ability to affect.

I have never understood the appeal of claiming that you are helpless, a victim of the patriarchy or discrimination for example. Control is a much more attractive option and whether or not I am disadvantaged in some way it will not prevent me getting what I want out of life. It makes me more not less determined to succeed.

At the moment we have not one but three lawfare attempts in play against Whaleoil with the goal of shutting us down for good. Our reaction to the ongoing threat is to work our *****s off building our subscription revenue, adding services, making Whaleoil better and stronger.

[…] research has shown that having an internal locus of control is associated with less stress and better health, whereas having an external locus of control is correlated with anxiety disorders. Importantly, an internal locus of control appears to be a decisive factor in determining whether one will be psychologically resilient. As a society, therefore, it is in our interest to cultivate an internal locus of control, and indeed, the popular notions of grit and mindset are undergirded by locus of control theory. However, some environments are fostering its opposite.

Victimhood Culture

A mother in my practice recently shared that her child’s seventh grade year began with the teacher having students share their preferred pronouns. Immediately afterwards, this mother’s 12-year-old daughter began identifying as genderfluid and became preoccupied with her new status as a member of an oppressed minority. Though the teacher undoubtedly meant to communicate tolerance and acceptance, she inadvertently created an inducement to victimhood.

Some current cultural trends award increased social status to those perceived as victims. Sociologists have posited that a new moral culture of victimhood is developing on college campuses. […]

Embracing Illness

In addition to a moral culture of victimhood, a related tendency encourages us to think of ourselves as unwell. A recent piece entitled “Turning Childhood into a Mental Illness” in Spiked Online notes the trend to medicalize childhood by assigning diagnoses to ordinary distress, which encourages children to perceive themselves as ill:

[…] Many Tumblr users proudly list their mental health conditions in their profiles, including anxiety, depression, borderline personality disorder, and PTSD. Author Angela Nagle has named this Tumblr phenomenon “the cult of suffering, weakness, and vulnerability.”[…]


An October 2017 New York Times article entitled “Why Are More American Teenagers Than Ever Suffering From Extreme Anxiety?” looked at the rising tide of teen anxiety in the United States. […] the article implicated another factor as well – school cultures that enable young people to avoid those things that make them uncomfortable. Special educational 504 plans address student anxieties by allowing kids to leave class early, use special entrances, and seek out safe spaces when they are feeling overwhelmed. A therapist interviewed for the Times article worries that these kinds of “avoidance-based” accommodations only make anxiety worse by sending the message to kids that they are too fragile to handle things that make them uncomfortable.


Avoiding Our Fate

If anxiety is our chief malady, avoidance is its coddling nurse, always ready to assure us we need not risk confrontation with that which makes us uncomfortable. When we heed our fear, we stay safe, but we also stay out of life.[…]

Life calls us forth to independence, and anyone who does not heed this call because of childhood laziness or timidity is threatened with neurosis. And once this has broken out, it becomes an increasingly valid reason for running away from life and remaining forever in the morally poisonous atmosphere of infancy.[…]

[…]  When we suffer our fate rather than avoiding it, we become actors in our own drama. Suffering becomes part of our personal story, that with which we must wrestle. In the words of Rilke, it is a “harsh hand that kneads us,” changing us and leaving us “proud and strengthened,” even in defeat. When, on the other hand, we externalize and medicalize our pain, we run the risk of becoming its hapless victim.

This is why my favourite saying is…

The Hero’s Task

Thousands of years before anyone spoke of an “internal locus of control,” the poets and bards of earlier epochs knew the decisive importance of walking toward one’s fate. The one who did this was known as the hero. Whoever daily confronts uncertainty and fear, no matter how mundane the gesture, is heroic in the psychological sense. “We each have an appointment with ourselves, though most of us never show up for it,” […] “Showing up, and dealing with whatever must be faced in the chasms of fear and self-doubt, that is the hero’s task.”[…]

[…] Creating a society in which we are encouraged to confront anxiety and face difficult realities matters not just for the mental health of individuals, but also for our collective well-being. […] The challenges that loom ahead will require us to set aside timidity, weakness, and victimhood and claim instead agency and boldness, no matter how grim the odds.

You can read the full article here.

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