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  • Writer's pictureCatherine Norton

Disaster Characters

Have you ever met someone whose life seems to be a series of disasters? Their circumstances are continually spinning out of control, and nothing ever seems to go right for long. They burn through family and friends because they are a hole where everyone pours energy, time, and attention. No matter how much help they receive, it is never enough.

Just when we finally helped them get back on track, disaster! Terrible boss, flooded apartment, the car we helped them buy is a lemon, their romantic partner stole the rent money, they lost their bus pass, they need people to drive them everywhere, and their cat needs expensive treatment for a rare medical condition, "I will die without Mr. Noodles!" They are back to their baseline of being broke, starving, and teetering on homelessness, and now they want to move in so we can take care of them.

The term "victim mentality" has been used in psychological circles. I think it's important to distinguish those with a lifelong pattern of playing a victim of circumstances from victims of crime, accidents, and disasters, who were doing well before a single incident.

We tend to regard lifelong disaster characters as weak, unfortunate, powerless, and pathetic. Why would anyone choose this role in life? Because there is power in it!


Disaster characters may seem miserable, but they are always at the center of attention. No one expects them to take care of themselves and they are praised for small accomplishments. People "work" for them - focused on helping them sort things out, get a job, apartment, car, give them money, food, etc. Being a disaster character is their JOB - this is how they get their needs met, just like someone putting 40 hours in at the office each week.

We employ disaster characters. So what function do they serve for us?

This is where the story gets interesting.

Image courtesy of the Canva pro media library.

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