Above, Sigmund Freud
"The victim role is the hardest to give up," claimed a Freudian analyst in my psychiatry residency training. That assertion has stuck with me, and I've seen its truth in myself, associates, and the world at large, especially lately.
It seems there is enormous competition to be the biggest victim. Although the current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) does not list "masochism" or "sadism" as diagnoses, Sigmund Freud and subsequent psychological literature have addressed and analyzed these traits. The upshot is the masochist cannot or will not accept responsibility for personal circumstances or events, and seeks to blame outside forces or other people for his/her plight. "Blame" is the key word here. "Blame" becomes a coping mechanism, a self-defeating one, that keeps the victim in a perpetual underdog position. This is easier than taking personal responsibility for one's life and choices. To grow beyond the victim role--without succumbing to the opposite trap of cynical sadism--is an empowering challenge for those who dare to risk it.
Another masochistic trait is provocation, such that the habitual victim will provoke the perpetrator into a sadistic response. One strategy is to "push buttons," until the other person is enraged enough to retaliate. In cases like this, the innocent-appearing victim can point fingers of blame and receive the gratification of sympathy and support from others.
I claim that we live in a sado-masochistic society, stuck in Freud's anal-retentive stage of psycho-sexual development, emotional two-year-olds. The sado-masochistic mindset leads to power struggles between top-dog and under-dog, with the baton of power passing over the table and under the table from one to the other. Addiction is one possible example of the power struggle between the overly controlled vs. out-of-control behavior that characterizes the addict. Call me a masochist for drawing fire by making these claims, but consider these examples.
First, let's look at the US Congress. Stagnation, blame, and personality politics rule the day. Where is the maturity we hope for and expect from our leaders? Who is saying, "Yes, we have problems. Anyone could have caused them, but we can all learn from them, and let's work together to solve them or at least learn how to cope with them."
Look at our rule-bound society that claims to be free. While many would argue for rules and laws, to control the other guy, how many of these people believe they need the laws to control their own behavior? "I'm fine," the thinking goes. "It's the other guy who needs to be restrained."
Every law limits freedom and creates outlaws. In a sense, then, laws cause crime. It is said by some that Prohibition gave rise to organized crime. Drug laws now may reflect the government's fear of individual freedom and of the individual's rights of self-determination.
The Freudians will tell you about "identification with the aggressor," such as the abused child who grows up to become the abusive parent. In cases like this, the child knows nothing else, so assumes (unconsciously or otherwise) that abusive or violent behavior is normal for adults. Maturity often requires us to un-learn what we were taught, by words or example, as children.
The masochist, who often cannot oppose abuse directly, may cope by passive-aggression or passive-resistance to authority. A child will "act out," for instance, by misbehaving at school. A teenager will drink or use drugs, get in trouble with the law, or drop out of school. An adult may sabotage his company's success, or steal from the workplace. With masochistic personality traits, they want to be caught and punished.
We are victims or masters of our own choices, individually and collectively. It is arguable whether I chose to be born in this place and time, but as long as I'm here, I have to deal with it the best way I know. I like believing I am growing beyond the sado-masochistic dynamic that surrounds and infects me with its vitality-depleting parasitism. Those who seek to judge and control are acting out of their own fear and insecurity, I figure, and it's best to avoid or ignore them. It helps to maintain a sense of humor, limit toxic infection from the frenzy of Humanland, and look to nature for peace, tranquility, and guidance.