Observations & Analysis on Toxicity & "Haters": Self-Victimizing, Self-Proclaimed "Heroes" Against Perceived "Villians"

Note: I am not a psychologist or anything of the sort. However, I do love observing, studying and learning to understand people and have since I was a child, and have always immersed myself in psychology courses, books and information. These are my opinions and observations and personal feelings based on my perspective and experiences with these types of people. I wrote the essay first and then did a little psych research and was surprised to find the essay was backed up by existing psychological concepts.

I’ve also added in some links on the psychological concepts I touched on if you’re interested. I’ve linked them both within my writings and at the end of the essay for ease of access. This site touches on so many traits that I think everyone should be aware of, and I’ve selected a few that I personally encountered from individuals like the one mentioned here. Additionally, I believe that now people who are victims of these traits can empower themselves with knowledge to protect themselves. I put this together for own reference as well, in teaching myself how to interact with these individuals in the future. I hope this can help you as well.

Trying to understand others perspectives is something I’ve naturally done all my life. Because of the interactions I’ve had with some antis/haters lately, I’ve been trying to understand the size of the ego that is required for you to try and force others into seeing things into your perspective...all while twisting the fact that you're in the minority in your belief into meaning that must mean you're one of one of the only special, chosen ones who can see the true state of how things are, and should be.  

To be honest, that sounds like every hate group to have ever existed, though. 

It really fascinated me how these people’s minds worked. Name calling, obsession with my every decision and action, harassment and baiting and mocking me across all social media to do with me, false accusations with little truth sprinkled in, and non-stop shaming all aimed for the purposes of hurting me - in the end, they all said they didn’t even care about the game or company. I’m pretty sure I even heard something about me being a cult leader. They even attacked fans simply for continuing to like me and my work and tried to persuade them otherwise in an effort to alienate me, as if the fan’s perspective were somehow invalid because it wasn’t theirs. In some cases, they succeeded in turning people.

It’s the kind of anger you’d expect from someone if you’d personally stabbed them and killed their pet - not just existing as an indie game developer who as a newbie had communication errors, delays and made some project handling mistakes, but didn’t personally know any of them, nor did they know me. That sort of thing happened when they weren’t hiding behind a thin veil of passive aggressive questioning or trying to justify why it was they needed to act terrible by blaming their toxic behavior on the things I had done and that they believed I did, and who they believed I was.

I couldn’t help but try to understand these people. But, logic proved no useful tool as I realized the majority people did not behave like this. And these were emotional reactions, not logical ones. Not to mention, they had began to harbor a cult-like mentality of trying to convert people against me and supporting each other whenever they said even the smallest thing. I then realized these behaviors must come from a mix of mental illness (which is not to say all mental illnesses are harmful to others, but individuals exhibiting these behaviors tend to be) and a past filled with insecurity and pain. A lack of love present in their childhood and past, coupled with rejection, resulting in a lack of self-love.

My research that I did after writing this suggests that individuals with these traits typically have personality disorders. And they tend to react violently to the suggestion that they may have one or may need mental help, taking it as a personal attack. After I wrote this essay, I found out that Self-Aggrandizement is “A person engages in false accusations, smear campaigns, distortion campaigns, character assassination attempts and malicious gossip.” I had no idea there was actual psychological trait associated with the concept of “haters”, but it’s great to find out that this isn’t going unnoticed and that both victims and perpetrators can get help for it.

For anyone familiar with BTS, I recall Namjoon telling his haters to love themselves. And I believe I understand, now. People who have nothing in their life but their hate for others, and dedicate their precious energy and limited time on earth focusing on what they hate, rather than what they love, truly hate themselves more than anyone else could. 

I can’t imagine leading a life wanting to cause harm to others and spread negativity, personally, when I could focus on enjoying and spreading love, and growing into a stronger, more compassionate person, and leave whatever conflicts with those goals behind. And so, I think ‘the hated’ have it better than ‘the haters’, despite their bullying. I believe the haters subconsciously know that, which only spurs their hate further. So rather than anger, I think pity is the emotion that is left the most after interacting with them for me, and a wish for their self love and inner peace.

Self-Victimization & Becoming a “Hero” In One’s Mind

It’s seen in so many people who bully others: we often find that they were bullied themselves. Their past status as a victim, and subsequent self-loathing over their past powerlessness gives rise to the desire to constantly victimize themselves. These individuals generally have a sense of entitlement, that the world owes them something for their past hurts, so it’s extraordinarily easy to do something they consider “unfair” and become the oppressor in their head - and they’re always looking out for you to do so.

Once in a victim position, they can then empower themselves as an imagined champion of justice, the unique and special hero, an underdog and the chosen one who is the only one who can see what's actually happening, and the only one who can stop it. Doing this seems to be an eternal loop of subconsciously re-enacting their past trauma, except this time, they believe they will be able to create a positive ending where they finally triumph over the “villain” (who is really just a placeholder for their abuser).

Unfortunately, subconsciously wanting to always be a victim means they lead toxic, defensive lives where they see the world as potential enemies out to get them, and anything they dislike or that frightens them is perceived as a threat and personal attack on who they are. Without stopping to see the reality for what it is (rarely ever, are these stimuli exactly as they see it), they have an extreme emotional response to the perceived threat..

They refuse to be put into what they perceive as a powerless position again (the past trauma) and they become the chosen hero again (thereby gaining confidence, and a false sense of self love)... Although most of the world just sees them as hateful, obsessive people whom they can't understand, or just outright bullies. These “bullies” perceive the world as either with them or against them, as black or white, and attempt to force others to see their perspective in order to feel supported. 

To ever admit that they are wrong, or even could be wrong, and that things are not as they first appeared would cause them to have to face the fact they were:

1. Wrong in any way

2. Affected by their trauma in a much deeper way than they had thought (from which comes the fear that they may be “broken”, rather than just seeing it as a mental health issue to address)
3. The bully in this scenario...In other words,  the one thing they were trying to fight.

Their already fragile psyche is often unable to deal with a painful and harsh reality, and instead, their subconscious protects them by continuing to twist and tweak all events to fit the world they have subconsciously created, or in some cases, they outright try to run from anything that would threaten them and pretend it doesn’t exist. They may not even be able to truly see that it does exist in particularly egregious cases, as the subconscious is protecting them. They, instead, surround themselves with other like-minded individuals that would encourage them and support their reality, thereby making it more real, and making them feel something like a shadow of being loved and having self love.

Our brains always try to make sense of things in the safest way possible, so rather than faulting these individuals, I personally feel it's tragic. Getting out of this “victimizing, self-elevating yourself to hero” state while judging another person to be a villain, this black and white thinking that does not allow shades of grey for their own mental protection...It requires the person to be strong enough to acknowledge that it's happening, and even stronger to want to change it. 

I believe this can only be done from within, although a professional therapist would surely be a great aid in this over the course of regular sessions. However, I believe there is nothing anyone else outside of that can do or say to change these people’s minds, as people have to want to change themselves. These types of people are best avoided or kept at a distance for the sake of your own mental health, because sooner or later, you will be dragged into their world, as their black and white thinking maintains that they need to know on which side you stand. There is no neutral. And if you don't agree, you will become their next enemy.

They will obsessively follow their "villain" to the ends of the earth, trying to conquer them in the way they could not conquer their past trauma. They will expend all energy trying to vanquish this villain, and revel in the shallow bonds they make with people who support them. Nothing the “villain” could do or say could actually make them stop...The problems they claim they have with the “villain” are unsolvable, because they come from within themselves.

The Willingness to Question & Correct Oneself

If you're sitting here reading this and wondering "Do I do that?" I seriously doubt that you do. Being willing to question to question yourself is a sign of a healthy mentality. It shows you're willing to face yourself, acknowledge anything that you may have been unknowingly doing, including hurting others, and probably at least have the desire to fix that if so. It's when you don't question yourself, that you're so certain in your actions that we as humans run into problems (just think of dictators). 

People who actually do the thing in question also tend to turn it around on whomever is talking about it as well, believing that the person in question is doing it without questioning themselves. They focus on attacking them, because they feel attacked (because they subconsciously know that it resonates). It’s projection, and another defense mechanism of the ill brain to protect itself from too much pain from reality.

Questioning myself is a state I used to think I would grow out of, as a kid, but honestly, now I never want to. Confidence in your actions is necessary to move forward, but being unwilling and unable to question yourself is narcissistic at best, and harmful to others at worst. If your first action with anyone suggesting you may be wrong is to defend yourself and lash out against them in anger, then you'll never be able to even stop and think about if they may be right or not.

When we interact with people, we should think about not how we want to be treated, but how they want to be treated. If someone is telling you that you're hurting them, or that you're violating their boundaries, their comfort zone and safe space, the first step to resolving the problem is to listen to them. 

Getting angry, defensive, or running away suggests that you are unable and/or unwilling to put others needs before your own. This again, is both narcissistic and entitled. By reacting defensively to someone saying you did something to them, it suggests an egotistical view where you think about you and your feelings first and foremost. The best first step is to apologize, try to understand where you went wrong, and try to figure out together how you can avoid it in the future.

If you've misunderstood someone, then listen to them. Intent matters as much as actions. An action viewed in a vacuum, with no context, is meaningless. If I say a man killed a man, you may think him an evil murderer who should be punished.  But if I tell you he did it by accident, you may think the event unfortunate. If I say he did it in self defense, you may think he deserves to go free. In mentally healthy individuals, context and intent changes the perspective, the lens through which we see the world. We can’t expect to be able to make a decision about how we truly feel about something without it.

If you decide not to listen to all the facts and perspectives of a situation, then you’re refusing to change your perspective and choosing your reality over what would be the closest thing to the objective truth. Nothing in this world is black and white. There are shades in between transitions to colors. If you're willing to observe, listen and look deeper, you'll find that behind every event or action, is a complex thread of thoughts, feelings and events that led up to them - the shades of gray. 

It's only when you have gotten all the information directly from the sources involved that you can even start to think about coming to a somewhat accurate conclusion, and deciding how you feel, much less casting an actual judgment on someone. And even then, how you feel is not necessarily valid for anyone else. 

Trying to convince or force someone to change their opinion just based off how you feel just shows how un-confident you are in your perspective, that you feel you need someone to support you, and you’re uncomfortable that someone else holds a different opinion from you. Not to mention it also suggests you think your opinion is superior to them, and that you yourself are superior to them as surely they can’t think for themselves since they don’t agree with you.

The truth is, we can’t make anyone change. It’s a waste of energy to even try. People are defensive of who they are, what they believe and feel and think, even if the majority think that it’s wrong, and a great deal of people have mental illness they aren’t even willing to acknowledge. But we can focus on ourselves. We can surround ourselves with an environment full of mentally healthy people with similar goals. We can observe, be open to new perspectives, question ourselves and the world around us, try to understand, educate ourselves to protect ourselves, and be willing to change ourselves in order to grow and the overcome adversity, whether it’s from events that happen to us, others around us, or from within.

Traits Referenced