Casting yourself in the role of the victim in your inner world and in your public persona is a straight shot to pain, disappointment and ineffectiveness. This misguided approach marginalizes your ability to live a fruitful, powerful and rewarding existence.

People who find themselves trapped in this prison of helplessness may be eager to shed the shackles, but they simply do not know how to make the changes that will enable them to be in charge of their own lives. The first step in this process is to write down the beliefs and expectations that relate to your feelings of inadequacy and victimization. In doing this self-assessment, it's important to be objective and honest. Answer each of the following and explain your answers:

o What happened that precipitated your feeling like a victim?

o Who or what do you think is responsible for your victimization?

o Why do you believe that what happened had such a strong impact on your functioning?

o Describe your feelings of victimization. Do you feel angry, scared, frustrated, etc? How do these feelings restrict your options in your life?

o How much time and energy do you devote to this role of victimization? Do you talk on and on to others about your difficulties? Do you think about the unfairness of what has happened often? Does it dominate your life?

o Do you believe in general that your problems are caused by others or by circumstances? Do you believe that you are helpless in overcoming the abuse or victimization that has occurred or continues to occur?

o Do you believe that you are helpless in making your life as you'd like it to be?

o Do you believe that your decisions and actions have little or no effect on the way things turn out for you?

o Do you believe that you are unable to get beyond the hurt?

o Do you believe that you need others to take care of you because of what happened?

o Do you think a lot about how people or life has treated you unfairly? Do you believe life "should be fair?"

o Do you feel entitled to feel resentful? Do you believe that you're powerless to stop your feelings of resentment?

o Do you believe that others should feel sorry for you?

o Does being in the victim role make you feel special?

o Do you expect less of yourself because of what has happened? Do you expect others to be more understanding and less demanding because you've been victimized?

o Do you believe you should punish the person who did this to you?

o Do you believe that due to your being a victim it's acceptable to avoid setting goals, and making decisions that are uncomfortable for you?

In Part 2 of this series, I discuss techniques that will help you change your problematic beliefs and expectations to more optimistic, adaptive, empowering cognitions.

Copyright 2009. Sharon S. Esonis, Ph.D.

Author's Bio: 

Sharon S. Esonis, Ph.D., has spent close to three decades helping individuals thrive and improve their lives through her work as a licensed psychologist, author and life coach. An expert in human behavior and motivation, Dr. Esonis specializes in the burgeoning field of Positive Psychology, the scientific study of optimal human functioning and the core strengths that can lead to the achievement of one's personally-defined goals.

Her most recent book, "It's Your Little Red Wagon... 6 Core Strengths for Navigating Your Path to the Good Life (Embrace the Power of Positive Psychology and Live Your Dreams!)," is Dr. Esonis's contribution to the field of Positive Psychology, presenting proven success factors and strength-building techniques that can lead individuals to a life of purpose, motivation and happiness. It is available on

Dr. Esonis earned her doctoral degree at Boston College and currently maintains a life coaching practice in the San Diego area. She also teaches Positive Psychology in the Extended Learning Program at California State University San Marcos. To learn more about the power of Positive Psychology and to order her latest book, visit her website at