Manipulators often play the victim role (“poor me”) by portraying themselves as victims of circumstances or someone else’s behavior in order to gain pity or sympathy or to evoke compassion and thereby get something from someone. Caring and conscientious people cannot stand to see anyone suffering, and the manipulator often finds it easy and rewarding to play on sympathy to get cooperation.
While portraying oneself as a victim can be highly successful in obtaining goals over the short-term, this method tends to be less successful over time:
- Victims’ talent for high drama draws people to them like moths to a flame. Their permanent dire state brings out the altruistic motives in others. It is hard to ignore constant cries for help. In most instances, however, the help given is of short duration. And like moths in a flame, helpers quickly get burned; nothing seems to work to alleviate the victims’ miserable situation; there is no movement for the better. Any efforts rescuers make are ignored, belittled, or met with hostility. No wonder that the rescuers become increasingly frustrated — and walk away.
Victim playing is also:
- an attention seeking technique (see for example Münchausen syndrome).
- a strategy used by alcoholics to elicit constructive criticism, rescue, or enabling behavior from others.