Victim Pattern


Doesn’t take responsibility for his life.

Doesn’t take action to improve his life.

Tendency to get into and stay in difficult or impossible situations.

Helpless. Whiney. Wants others to make his life better.

Blames others for his problems. May try to elicit guilt.

Invested in complaining and getting sympathy rather than getting what he wants in life.

Sometimes feels special and important because of his pain and difficulties.

Tendency toward sickness or accidents to enhance victim stance. May even try suicide to show the world how miserable he is and how they have wronged him.

Implied demand that people take care of him because he is in such pain

Tends to exaggerate his pain to elicit sympathy

Martyr. Others should feel bad because of all he has done for them and took how badly they are treating him.



Tries (unconsciously) to manipulate others into taking care of him by failing, being in pain, and sometimes blaming others for his situation.

This is also a way of expressing anger at what he didn’t get or what was done to him.

Wants others to feel sorry for him and guilty about not treating him better.


Core Issues

Deficiency or harm issues combined with indulgence (of weakness or blaming)

Entitlement, exploitation

Conditional valuing of weakness, difficulty



Child was given care only when in pain or difficulty and this was in the form of being taken care of rather than loved

Sibling who was in trouble got all the attention

Being overprotected, infantalized, spoiled.

Child was successful in laying guilt on parents

Child internalized irresponsibility of a parent

Learned helplessness

Natural child response of blaming parents which is projected onto others

Natural child response of deserving caretaking is used inappropriately


Conscious Statement

It’s your fault that I’m unhappy.

My situation is impossible.


Unconscious Thought

I will force you to rescue me by blaming you and being helpless.



Self: helpless, treated unfairly

Other: harmful, depriving, situation is impossible


Sees Others As

Potential rescuers


Healthy Capacities Blocked

Responsibility, assertiveness


Activating Conditions

Life difficulties that require responsible action


People who the person might expect to rescue him, e.g. parents, therapists, codependent people



The passive-aggressive person is motivated by autonomy issues and blames himself. The victim is motivated to get rescued and blames others.

The victim is entitled, but he acts it out in this specific way.

Compliant people will also have difficulty being responsible or assertive, but they don’t complain or blame. They may feel truly helpless rather than using it as a manipulation.

Vulnerability is a healthy capacity that involves feeling and showing pain and need and asking for help. However, there is no investment in the pain or need and no avoidance of responsibility.




Helpless victim

Can’t make his life work, because he isn’t really trying.


Angry Victim

Blames others for his problems and refuses to see his part in causing them or what he could do about changing them. This is combination with angry pattern.


Special Victim

Tragic romantic. Enneagram 4. Feels special and important because of depths of pain, feelings, and difficulties.


Combinations with Other Patterns

Needy: Tries to coerce nurturing. Demanding of caretaking because of his pain.

Suspicious: Feels victimized by the hostility he imagines or creates in others.

Entitled: Feels not only entitled to caretaking but other things as well.

Codependent: Martyr.




Related Technical Concepts

Help-rejecting complainer

“Yes-but” game

Common in borderlines


Group Role

Frustrating identified patient



Complains to therapist about his misery in unconscious attempt to get therapist to do it for him. Doesn’t take responsibility for his progress in therapy. Expects therapist to “fix” him.

Wants sympathy for his problems rather than change. Histrionic dramatization of pain, often mixed with real pain.

May blame the therapist for not helping him even though he couldn’t make much progress because he isn’t trying.

May look for special treatment, especially around the boundaries of the therapy.


Countertransference toward Victim Client

Sympathizing with the client’s pain and problems.

Encouraging the client and giving suggestions for actions to take. Attempted rescue.

Guilt about not meeting the client’s needs or about not helping the client.

Frustration and resentment toward the client.


Countertransference of Victim Therapist

If client challenges therapist, she tends to turn everything back onto the client as transference, without considering if any part of the challenge is valid.

If therapy is not working, therapist tends to blame the client (in talking to colleagues or supervisors) rather than examine herself. Sees the client as impossible.

If client is difficult, feels victimized rather than seeking consultation or working on treatment strategy.




Understanding Needed by Client

That he is invested in the victim stance.


Access (core issue)

Being spoiled (difficult)


Access (healthy capacity)

Desire to be in charge of his life.


Healing Reponses

Appreciation for responsibility and assertiveness


Other Interventions

Frequently the victim client must be challenged about his investment in being a victim. This must be done firmly and caringly, and often repeatedly. However, if an angry victim is blaming the therapist for his problems, then you can’t challenge him because it will just seem defensive.

Have clear, firm boundaries around the therapy.


Potential Problems 

Gratification can lead to regression.

Client may not have enough motivation to succeed in therapy.

Rescuing client reinforces pattern