Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries, Professor of Leadership Development and Organizational Change at the INSEAD Business School in France, described a victim mentality in his working paper, “Are You a Victim of the Victim Syndrome?”
Prof Kets de Vries says that someone with a victim mentality feels that he or she is beset by the world, and is always at a disadvantage because of other people’s machinations or lack of consideration.
But it isn’t just fate that causes a “victim” to experience more difficulties than other people. He may seek out disappointment, because it can give him a “kick” that psychologists call a secondary gain. This is when not resolving a problem can actually have benefits.
For example, someone with a victim mentality can feel pleasure when she receives attention or pity as a result of her misfortune. She may also get a perverse “thrill” from showing off the injury caused by others and creating a sense of guilt. And refusing to accept responsibility for a problem can be liberating.
Prof Kets de Vries says that, although this behavior can be counter-intuitive, manipulative and damaging, a “victim” may be genuinely unaware of his own complicity in his problems, and his secondary gain may be subconscious.