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Victim playing (also known as playing the victim or self-victimization) is the fabrication of victimhood for a variety of reasons such as to justify abuse of others, to manipulate others, a coping strategy or attention seeking.
Victim playing by abusers is either:
It is common for abusers to engage in victim playing. This serves two purposes:
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 another. 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.
Victim playing is also:
The language of "victim playing" has entered modern corporate life, as a weapon of use even for the most competent of professionals. To define victim-players as dishonest may be an empowering response; as too may be awareness of how childhood boundary issues can underlay the tactic.
In the hustle of office politics, the term may however be abused so as to penalize the legitimate victim of injustice, as well as the role-player.
Transactional analysis distinguishes real victims from those who adopt the role in bad faith, ignoring their own capacities to improve their situation. Among the games Eric Berne identified as played by the latter are "Look How Hard I've Tried" and "Wooden Leg".
R. D. Laing considered that “it will be difficult in practice to determine whether or to what extent a relationship is collusive” – when “the one person is predominantly the passive 'victim'”, and when they are merely playing the victim. The problem is intensified once a pattern of victimization has been internalised, perhaps in the form of a double bind.