Comments on “Victim-think”

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motivation

James's picture

Hi, I’m glad to hear someone talking about this subject. Victim-thinking (or as I like to call it, self-victimization) is truly a miserable state to be in. I speak as someone who was previously very deeply stuck in that type of thinking, but now rarely ever believes it. (“It’s just a thought – and not a particularly convincing or reality-based one” is the newer attitude.)

I’m not so sure I would describe victim thinking as an intentional attempt to evade responsibility though. The responsibility evading behaviors come later, after the belief has set hold long enough to overcome the general societal expectation that people should be at least somewhat competent. (You have to be seriously convinced that you’re useless to challenge the expectation that you can and should be useful.)

It’s very believable that, e.g. someone who is faking a medical illness to get time off work is trying to evade responsibility. But that’s not really self-victimization, it’s malingering. A person who believes they’re too weak to be happy and resilient is probably not “trying” to do anything by the act of having that belief, at least not in and of itself. They’re simply convinced that this it’s a true statement, and they remember it because it’s useful to have.

In other words, the underlying motivation behind the cognitive act of developing and engaging a belief is simply the attempt to internally represent the way things work in one’s life. (If any motivation can be spoken of at all – one could argue that, at least in certain cases, an interpretation of previous patterns simply arises reflexively, much like a quadriceps contraction simply happens automatically when the patellar tendon is tapped.)

Now, a person who already believes they are too weak to get things done could very conceivably begin to engage in responsibility-evading behaviors, such as passive-aggression or intentional displays of weakness to others. But the belief came before that, not after. (Though if you’d object to that by saying “Those behaviors feed into the belief and reinforce it,” I’d completely agree! There is certainly a positive feedback loop between lack of self-efficacy and avoidance behaviors. Still, the belief is generally the core issue there. Those sorts of behaviors bring more problems than they solve, so they can’t really be called self-reinforcing. Attempts to change the behaviors generally rely on altering the beliefs, and improvements in productivity will follow soon behind the leading indicator of self-efficacy.)

I hope all of this doesn’t sound like an inconsiderate criticism of your site, and certainly not like any insult to your intelligence! Quite the opposite; I’m extremely impressed by your site and I have to admit that your Meaningness blog has got me rather interested in tantric approaches. I just hope for the chance to dialog a bit about the connections and differences between belief, behavior, and motivation because it seems highly relevant to some of the things you’re discussing.

Addiction, Behaviour, Belief

Now, a person who already believes they are too weak to get things done could very conceivably begin to engage in responsibility-evading behaviors, such as passive-aggression or intentional displays of weakness to others. But the belief came before that, not after. (Though if you’d object to that by saying “Those behaviors feed into the belief and reinforce it,” I’d completely agree! There is certainly a positive feedback loop between lack of self-efficacy and avoidance behaviors. Still, the belief is generally the core issue there. Those sorts of behaviors bring more problems than they solve, so they can’t really be called self-reinforcing. Attempts to change the behaviors generally rely on altering the beliefs, and improvements in productivity will follow soon behind the leading indicator of self-efficacy.)

Ah, but this is where Kierkegaard’s “leap of faith” comes in. Jung also noted that we behave before we understand explicitly (i.e. consciously) what we are doing (i.e., abstracted belief). I argue that while belief can alter behavior, it often seems that it is behavior that alters belief. Unless if you are referring to a deep, not well understood intuition that leads one to change one’s behavior versus one’s current beliefs, as ‘belief’ itself. This leads to cognitive dissonance as behavior and belief are misaligned, resulting in either the new and different behavior altering beliefs to match the behavior or the behavior reverting back in line with the original belief(s). Jordan Peterson and Carl Jung give very detailed descriptions of belief and the processes involved in it.

For myself I was guilty of having a video game addiction for most of my life. Ever since I was around 7 or 8 till just a few months ago (a year prior is when I began my process of self-change, and I knew intuitively something was wrong and I could be more, but for the past year I have mainly just been doing things and not thinking explicitly at all on the level of ‘formulated belief’).

I think the rest of your analysis/comment is good. Perhaps ‘willful blindness’ is a good way to put it. I have been guilty of it and continue to be at times. Its what Chapman describes as shifting through incomplete stances. In a way it is partially unintentional, but there are certainly cases I have reflected back on where I knew (at least intuitively felt or sensed) that what I was doing was wrong and did it anyway (or did not do anything when I should’ve). So it is odd, in that it seems that our mentality/attitude is both in and out of our control.

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