Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez says she is in therapy following the “all-out, attempted coup” at the Capitol on 6 January.
Speaking to the weekly public radio show Latino USA on Friday, Ms Ocasio-Cortez said members of Congress effectively “served in war” during the traumatising event that had “deeply affected lawmaking” and impacted the legislative process.
“After the 6th I took some time and it was really Ayanna Pressley when I explained to her what happened to me, like the day of, because I ran to her office and she was like, ‘you need to recognise trauma’,” Ms Ocasio-Cortez said.
“And I feel like I learned this the hard way after my father had passed away when I was a teenager… That happened at a young age and I locked it away. You have to live with it for years.”
Asked if she was in therapy, she replied: “Oh yeah, I’m doing therapy but also I’ve just slowed down. I think the Trump administration had a lot of us, especially Latino communities, in a very reactive mode.”
Victimhood is defined in negative terms: “the condition of having been hurt, damaged, or made to suffer.” Yet humans have evolved to empathize with the suffering of others, and to provide assistance so as to eliminate or compensate for that suffering. Consequently, signaling suffering to others can be an effective strategy for attaining resources. Victims may receive attention, sympathy, and social status, as well as financial support and other benefits. And being a victim can generate certain kinds of power: It can justify the seeking of retribution, provide a sense of legitimacy or psychological standing to speak on certain issues, and may even confer moral impunity by minimizing blame for victims’ own wrongdoings.
Presumably, most victims would eagerly forego such benefits if they were able to free themselves of their plight. But when victimhood yields benefits, it incentivizes people to signal their victimhood to others or to exaggerate or even fake victimhood entirely. This is especially true in contexts that involve alleged psychic harms, and where appeals are made to third-parties, with the claimed damage often being invisible, unverifiable, and based exclusively on self-reports. Such circumstances allow unscrupulous people to take advantage of the kindness and sympathy of others by co-opting victim status for personal gain. And so, people do.
Newly published research indicates that people who more frequently signal their victimhood (whether real, exaggerated, or false) are more likely to lie and cheat for material gain and denigrate others as a means to get ahead. Victimhood signaling is associated with numerous morally undesirable personality traits, such as narcissism, Machiavellianism (willingness to manipulate and exploit others for self-benefit), a sense of entitlement, and lower honesty and humility.
A new personality construct has been defined that describes people who persistently see themselves as victims within interpersonal conflicts. The research was published in Personality and Individual Differences.
Study authors Rahav Gabay and team describe how the social world is satiated with interpersonal transgressions that are often unpleasant and seemingly unwarranted, such as being interrupted when speaking. While some people can easily brush off these moments of hurt, others tend to ruminate over them and persistently paint themselves as a victim. The authors present this feeling of being the victim as a novel personality construct that influences how people make sense of the world around them.
The researchers call it the Tendency for Interpersonal Victimhood (TIV), which they define as “an ongoing feeling that the self is a victim, which is generalized across many kinds of relationships.”
Through a series of eight studies among Israeli adults, Gabay and associates sought to test the validity of the construct of TIV and explore the behavioral, cognitive, and emotional consequences of such a personality trait.
An initial three studies established the TIV as a consistent and stable trait that involves four dimensions: moral elitism, a lack of empathy, the need for recognition, and rumination. A follow-up study further found that this tendency for victimhood is linked to anxious attachment — an attachment style characterized by feeling insecure in one’s relationships — suggesting that the personality trait may be rooted in early relationships with caregivers.