Moving beyond your past is difficult. The “path from victim to survivor to thriver” is a strategy to help you overcome the roadblocks that keep you locked in harmful thinking patterns. It takes some work, but it is possible. You can do it!
We know specific roles can dominate our psyche. If you stay in an unhealthy mindset long enough, it will alter the psychic structures of the brain. That’s the reason harmful perspectives are hard to break. The first step in increasing our health and well-being is going from victim to survivor. The goal is to thrive, not just survive.
Moving Beyond Your Past
Our culture has three prominent roles: the victim, the survivor, and those who thrive. These three mindsets are on a continuum. The least healthy is the victim. The healthiest is the mindset of a thriver. The survivor role is the middle ground. There aren’t hard lines between these roles. It is more like a rainbow with shades between the primary colors.
Each of these mindsets has particular characteristics which define its boundaries. To go from one to the next requires you to go beyond the limits of any role. It’s possible to get stuck in a thinking pattern and not realize it because these roles do not relate directly to your socioeconomic status. People with lots of money are still victims.
Similarities of Victim And Survivor
The Ego is in control when we assume the position of a victim. Moving beyond your past is the key. Pushing past mindset boundaries means getting out of our comfort zone. It takes some serious inner work. Both outlooks live on autopilot, which is how the Ego stays in control.
Something happens that causes us to adopt a victim mentality. If we want more freedom and peace, we must learn to survive, then eventually, we learn to thrive. Each step means we are “present” more than on “autopilot.”
Unfortunately, many people live their entire lives with this mindset. Some make it to a survivor’s position when they learn healthy ways to handle the underlying issues. The real victors are those that can learn to thrive. They are not just surviving but thriving. Let’s look at roles and mindsets.
What is a Victim Mindset?
A victim mindset uses unhealthy methods to handle underlying issues, causing pain and fear. These coping methods of the Ego are harmful because they harm others while masking the underlying issues. The fear and anxiety of the unresolved problems leak through as unhealthy coping processes.
These strategies manifest as harmful behaviors and harmful repercussions in their lives. It also affects everyone in their circle of influence. It differs from someone who suffers harm. People can be victims of crime without thinking of themselves as victims.
Moving beyond your past means dealing with the fear and misery that keeps us locked into these roles. If we can face and deal with the underlying issues, we can move on “the path from victim to survivor to thriver!”
What is a Survivor Mindset?
The survivor mindset is the frame of reference when someone is learning to overcome unhealthy coping strategies. It takes some people months of hard work to reach this point, but it is worth it. When stressed, it is easy to slip back into these bad habitual coping tactics.
One of the main similarities of victim and survivor is the tendency to slip back into harmful coping tactics when they are under stress. There is often a link between this slippery slope and some addiction.
What does it mean to Thrive?
People who find happiness have taken the “path from victim to survivor to thriver.” Thriving means we live by intent and can better handle our current situation, no matter what. The Ego has the least amount of control when we reach this point.
Our culture defines thriving as accumulating wealth, but having more money and stuff does not make us happy. You can thrive when you have very few possessions and material wealth. Thriving is flourishing, which means to grow or develop healthily or vigorously. It results from a positive mindset, not our surroundings or circumstances.
Taking The Path From Victim to Survivor to Thriver
Both mindsets result from adopting strategies to cover up unresolved issues or trauma. The Ego adopts these methods to remain in control. Most times, we do not choose these strategies on a conscious level. It’s the Ego mechanism that grasps something handy it can use.
The first step is to find out which of these strategies you use. Then, we need to face issues that made us pick these methods. It’s the best way to proceed from victim to survivor to thriver. The goal is to deal with the thought scripts that hold us hostage. Many of these are fears and misconceptions. It means moving beyond your past to a better future.
You can only do this if you use tools that help you identify the harmful thought scripts, then delete and replace them with healthy scripts. This is serious inner work.
The victim typology is hard to see when looking from the inside out. Other people can see them, but your Ego hides them from you to justify its actions. The term for this is fixation. Our attention is under the control of the Ego. All we want to do is to fulfill the needs of the Ego.
An excellent tool to help uncover this fixation is the Enneagram. Every personality type has its own weaknesses, which lead to this unhealthy mindset. There are three primary schools of thought about choosing an unhealthy strategy.
A. The Fixation Relates to their dominant personality type
B. The Fixation Occurs at the point of disintegration
The Ego control thinking when we slide downward into unhealthy thinking patterns. Below is a graph showing each personality’s direction when it moves toward destructive thinking. For example, if your dominant personality type is an Achiever at point 3, you would move to point 9.
C. The Ego Selects One or More Strategies by Random
Here, the Ego picks one or more strategies without regard for personality type. It could relate to the specific trauma. Sometimes, it is a strategy they know because of family or social exposure. They observe it, so the Ego adopts a way to cope. It’s the case over 50% of the time. It sees someone else use a tactic and adopts it.
When the Ego controls thinking, it will pick any handy tactic, anything it thinks will work. It may have nothing to do with your personality type. It is more likely to be a random choice, something you’ve seen someone else use. Regardless of why we pick these tactics, they are always a bandaid to cover up fear or anger. So, find a victim typology from the list below which is familiar. Find out what emotions are attached. Here is where you begin “the path from victim to survivor to thriver.”
The best way to approach this is to review the typologies below and find those that seem familiar. Then look at your primary Enneagram personality type to see if it aligns with the type where you disintegrate into unhealthy thinking. To do this, you must find out your Enneagram type.
Chances are you learned the unhealthy tactics you use from your family or people you spend a lot of time. However, you can pick them up from any social interaction. Even if the strategy doesn’t align with your personality type, you use it because it is familiar.
If someone has a lengthy history in the victim role, they become masters at many tactics. When we use a particular thinking pattern, we normalize it, making it hard to identify. However, it’s most often the one they began using first.
Nine Unhealthy Coping Strategies
Below are the nine primary unhealthy coping techniques of the victim. These are the basic typologies. These types exist in several variations. Here’s how to use this list. First, scan them all, and see which one seems too familiar. Use your spiritual journal to talk about it. Ask yourself how you use it. Find examples of when you have used it, then list the consequences.
It’s important to remember these typologies may or may not correspond with your personality type. You can’t use victim typologies to identify your dominant personality type. Read through them with an open mind. Determine if one or more are familiar. If you use more than one of these strategies, select the one you use the most. If you have a long history of using the mindset of a victim, you’ll likely have more than one. These are the signs of fixation, the wake-up call for those ready to remove the unhealthy tactics of the Ego.
You must know your Enneagram Personality Profile type and instinctual stack. We recommend The Wisdom of the Enneagram by Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson.
Then find the Enneagram personality type that corresponds with your victim typology. Compare this to your Enneagram profile. Is this your dominant personality or the type in the position of disintegration? If so, use this as the starting point for your inner work. The harmful coping mechanisms can overlap or be used together with others so that you may find your variation in these themes. You will notice there are similarities of victim and survivor regarding the use of these unhealthy coping tactics.
1. Decision Paralysis
You give in or refuse to contribute to making the big decisions. If the significant decision is wrong, you didn’t make it. If it was correct, you didn’t get to let your opinion be a part of the winning formula. It’s giving up control to be the victim.
So, if you’re a type 8 challenger, this would be your least likely thing to do. You are generally decisive. So, by not deciding, it turns you into the victim. If you are a type 2 helper, your “direction of disintegration” is at type 8. When this occurs, you take control and become domineering, even hostile.
If you are a personality type 8, the antidote is allowing others to decide. It isn’t all or nothing; you don’t have to choose or refuse. There is a middle ground. For instance, if you are a 2, this translates to needy, self-seeking behavior.
2. Excuse Maker
You are the master of excuses, and you have such a deep and diverse catalog that people often believe you, and you think it too. You are a master of circular logic. So, you can find a reason not to try or fail and then explain it away.
So, it also has a lot to do with denial. Your excuses help you deny your genuine desires. As long as you can keep spinning the reasons, it works, but eventually, you realize it makes you the victim. It robs you of your “personal power.” This unhealthy coping mechanism is a favorite of all personalities, primarily type 1.
3. Self-Doubt and Self-Pitty
You seem like you are half-asleep. You purposely run yourself down emotionally and physically. This way, others need to feel sorry for you. If you aren’t having a significant crisis, you’ll relive the ones from your past.
It’s more than a lack of self-confidence. You break things to make sure they don’t work. You ruin everything from the quality and quantity of your work to relationships. Self-doubt becomes self-destruction. The worst part is you find a sense of fulfillment in being inept. If self-doubt isn’t painful enough, you resort to self-destructive behaviors. It’s the crown achievement of the victim mentality.
4. The Blamer
It’s all about not taking responsibility and shifting it to others. Almost everyone with the victim mentality uses this one to some extent. Refusing to accept accountability and commitment leads to blaming others. It is one of the classic harmful coping mechanisms that are easy to spot. If you’re around one for any time, you will be blamed for something. This strategy is prevalent in our society. Politicians use it so blatantly that we don’t recognize it.
These tactics can be overt or covert and hidden. For example, allowing others to make significant decisions is a subtle way to blame. If things don’t work out, you can blame them. You find enjoyment in placing blame. It makes them responsible if things go wrong. But if things go okay, you can jump in and take credit.
An overt external example would be those with extremist religious beliefs. It gives the “chosen ones” special privileges to blame. Now you can blame in the name of your imaginary friend. Now your enjoyment is righteous. You blame people for being poor or born of any other ethnic group but yours.
Another more overt aspect of the inward focus is punishing yourself. You find creative ways to blame yourself for things you can’t control, like the weather. All the better if you make a mistake. But some people find fault by looking in the mirror. They don’t like what they see based on some unattainable cultural standards. Then they engage in self-harming behavior to punish themselves.
5. Energy Vampire
You emotionally drain yourself. Then you become so needy that you suck the emotional energy out of others. The Ego dominates your thoughts. It doesn’t matter which personality type you are; the inner critic turns up negative self-talk volume. You feel entitled to anything that you want because you want it.
Here you focus on negativity, seeking positive people to bring them down to your level. No one knows where the energy goes; you siphon it off because it does not satisfy you.
The victim purposely lives in the past. They pick the events where they were a victim, then pull that negative energy with them into the present.
7. Resentment Deluxe
If someone else has something, you resent them even if you don’t want what they have. Read that again. You resent people who have achieved things you don’t want. But if they have something you want, you resent them all the more. This negativity is palpable. Many victims use this to support their attitudes of resentment.
They will drive through neighborhoods looking at houses and cars while feeling resentment and scorn for everything. The Ego enjoys it. If you are an Enneagram type 7, this can be destructive. That’s because type sevens live for variety. So, they find more things to resent.
8. Worry Addict
Your outlook is beyond pessimistic. You are always talking about worst-case scenarios. Because of this, you empathize with every disaster. What’s worse, you look for crises and disasters. Because you expect bad things to happen, worrying about things dominates your time. This thinking makes you a victim of things that haven’t happened.
Worrying leads to the use of other unhealthy strategies. It becomes addictive by triggering the fight, flight or freeze reaction. Yes, it creates a high and disconnects us from our higher thinking centers. The downside is this leads to poor decision-making.
The worst thing you can do during an actual disaster is to obsess about adverse outcomes. You’ll need to look for solutions.
Many physical and emotional triggers push people to self-destructive behavior. Pain of any kind drives people to seek a way out. Drinking and drugs provide a temporary oasis from pain. But cause other health problems that start a vicious cycle. You seek relief but don’t or can’t face what is causing it.
When you don’t feel good about yourself, one unhealthy tactic is engaging in harmful behavior. Punishing or harming yourself is a vicious cycle.
Self-destructive behavior can be conscious and deliberate. It can also be the result of a habitual subconscious trigger. It triggers physical and mental addictions, risky behavior, affairs, or other self-defeating behaviors. You end up destroying yourself and ruining your life by running away from the pain that started the cycle. You must face the pain. It may never go away, but you can keep it from holding you in a victim mindset.
Holding Onto the Victim Mindset
Third-world countries have a small percentage of individuals who identify as victims. Underdeveloped countries have societies that are more cohesive and caring than the West. You find a larger percentage of people who identify with the role of the victim in the West. Most victims relate to being taken advantage of, lied to, abused, or betrayed. These events become the focal aspects of their identity.
We hold on to these roles because they are comfortable. The dominant cultural narrative reinforces it to dominate our thoughts and values. Religions control half of the population. So, they have a critical mass effect on our modern societies.
The cultural narrative in the West fosters competition above compassion. It promotes a caste system of race, ethnicity, and social and economic inequality. It is easy to be victimized in a society like this, but we do not have to take on the victim role.
There are also people in the world who are even more unfortunate. They are refugees of war, climate change, and economic despair. People in this group are seeking refuge and struggling for their very lives. So, you’d think they would be the ones who be the most likely to have a victim mentality, but they don’t. They are often more grateful to be alive. They do not perceive themselves as victims. Instead, they see themselves as survivors. We hear stories of the survivors of World War II concentration camps. Those who lived took on the survivor’s role, and later they learned to thrive.
So, circumstances aren’t necessarily the determining factor for people to fixate on the victim role. The primary reason is your Ego. It wants to maintain control. So, it takes any opportunity to move along the pathway of disintegration to its unhealthy type and puts the Ego firmly in control. It doesn’t care how unhappy you are or what pain you experience. It will do anything to maintain control. When this happens, it manifests in one of the typologies listed above.
Learning to Thrive!
The misconception is that those who thrive have abundant material things and resources. But this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Most people who see themselves as thriving are not financially wealthy and simply content. To thrive is to live with conscious intent. To feel fulfilled and satisfied.
So, thriving, it’s not about money or possessions but peace of mind. Chances are, we will need to deal with the programming from the cultural narrative. Learning to thrive is different for everyone. One thing is common and they can accept new ideas more readily. You might call them freethinkers or healthy skeptics.
It raises several questions. How does this fixation occur? What thinking or behaviors do we associate with them?
When we fixate, we become stuck in a particular mindset that affects our lives. It shows up in our self-talk, values, and behaviors. Surviving is the first point on the road to your goal of being able to thrive. Here’s a process you can use to move beyond the victim mindset:
1) Identify the Coping Strategy of the Victim Mindset
Our first step on this journey is to identify coping strategies. Read the nine main unhealthy coping strategies’ descriptions and find those you use. If there is a favorite, this is likely your primary strategy.
2) Find How this Strategy Fits with Our Personality
Use the Enneagram to identify your personality and instincts. The unhealthy methods you use to cope will more than likely relate to the dominant personality type and the personality type at the point of disintegration. Here is where you can find the thought scripts that run the show. Now, you know which ones you need to delete.
3) Deal with the Original Fear and Pain
Dealing with your fear is the hard part of the whole process. The best strategy is to use the Enneagram and find the self-talk scripts hiding the pain point or points. These are the issues we need to face. Facing your pain points is where the real inner work begins.
You must use the proper approach to dealing with the underlying pain and fear. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all process to do this. Many people need help in this process.
Another tool you can use that gets below the conscious level of the mind is a process we call comparative analysis. It helps you see your cultural programming by comparing your beliefs with similar ones in other systems.
Identifying Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms
The transition from victim to survivor is an important step. It’s possible to slide back and forth from the survivor to the victim mentality. Be mindful of your self-talk and habitual behaviors. The Enneagram of Personality profile can help you see how you leverage these coping mechanisms.
The movement along the path of disintegration happens for two reasons. First, something threatens the control of the Ego. Or, second, when we are under mental or physical stress. So, learning about default personality and its tendencies is an excellent way to find emotional equilibrium.
If you only identify with one of the above victim typologies, you will have a good idea of your default personality type. However, many victims identify with more than one. It is another of the similarities of victim and survivor. So, although you initially disintegrate within your basic triad, your Ego will continue around the circle adopting tactics to ensure it maintains control of your awareness.
Enneagram of Personality Directions of Disintegration
To do this, you will need to know your Enneagram default personality type. Then you can research how your Ego is using unhealthy coping strategies to compensate. You can find a free online Enneagram Test, but the more accurate versions aren’t free. The more precise versions have between 140 and 150 questions to cross-reference the nine types.
Beyond Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms
Going from a victim to a survivor is a significant step, but it’s not the goal. Learning to thrive, no matter your life situation is possible. First, you must identify where you are on the continuum of mindsets and then identify any unhealthy coping strategies you use. The last step is the challenging part. Now, you must face the fear and pain behind your mindset.
No one has a perfect life. Things happen which are out of our control. Sometimes we compound this by making the wrong choices. So, we can pick up unhealthy coping mechanisms to get by.