Beware the Victim Loop

“Between stimulus and response there is a space,” writes Nazi Holocaust survivor Victor Frankl. “In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

One of the recurring themes of Rise with Drew is happiness and success have less to do with what happens and more to do with the meaning we make about what happens.

Awareness of this reality is a superpower that is available to all of us.

This idea is powerfully demonstrated in the victim loop vs. the accountability loop as outlined by Mark Samuel and Sophie Chiche in The Power of Personal Accountability.

“Life is going to come at us with difficult or even terrible circumstances sometimes. It is its nature.” Mark and Sophie write. “But these events aren’t what make us a victim. What makes us a victim is how we respond to these events.”

We believe we become a victim because we have no choice in what happened, write Mark and Sophie. In actuality, we choose to become a victim by not making a choice.

None of us are immune to “the victim loop.”

Imagine a challenging situation presents itself. If our inclination is to ignore or deny the problem, we are entering the victim loop.

As the pressure builds, we resist getting involved: “Sure, there’s a problem, but it’s not my problem.”

Next, we point fingers. Someone else is to blame and they need to take care of it.

Danger ahead. What happens when we blame someone else? We often get blamed back.

Step four is to rationalize and justify: “I have evidence,” we say. We reach out to friends to support our side of the story. Meetings are called. In reality, the time it takes to prove it’s not our fault could be used to solve the problem!

When all else fails, we get upset. This part of the victim loop is when conflict and irrational action escalate.

The final step of the victim loop is to hide from it. This may involved being busy or being confused. We agree this situation must be resolved but “we don’t know what to do…” We act like we care. But we don’t.

Mark and Sophie tell us the victim loop is a downward spiral: “It takes a lot of work to create new ways to blame people, resist being accountable, and find good hiding places.”

The key to getting out of the victim loop?

Step one: realize we are in it.

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Reflection: Think of a specific situation recently when I was in the victim loop.

Action: Identify possible patterns when I fall into the victim loop. Is there a person or situation which triggers this thinking?

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  1. Last night I was reading the Hunger Games with my two youngest boys while my wife was cooking dinner. We had a good Sunday evening planned; as we were just about finished with the book, we were all going to watch the movie for the first time. I’m excited. Right as my wife is dishing up plates, my boys get into a fight – not an argument, a fist fight. One is blaming the other, who is somehow blaming my older son. Victim mentality abounds, including me because their inability to control themselves has likely jeopardized the family evening I had been looking forward to. Instead of gaining an understanding of what happened and using it as an opportunity for all of us to learn something, I lose my patience and temper. The underlying problem was hot tempers, and dad loses his instead of solving it – some example! Talk about a “victim loop”…fortunately, I was able to collect myself, apologize and have the necessary discussion so we could move on with our evening, but I was close to sending them to bed and blaming them liked they blamed each other.

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