I'm wondering about this in relation to the notion of a "culture of victimization", when people want to garner sympathy and/or discharge their guilt by being considered victims.

The phrase "culture of victimization" refers to the situation of many people having that desire and not to the desire itself. "Masochism" is close I suppose, but somehow not quite right.

  • 1
    Reminds me of the book, "I'm OK; you're a pain in the neck." Commented Mar 13, 2012 at 23:34

3 Answers 3


The expression self pity is perhaps more accurate than "masochism".

Masochism has certain additional connotations, quite separate from the desire to garner sympathy or discharge perceived guilt.


Some friends have suggested "martyr complex" and "victim complex". Those are pretty good, let's see if any other suggestions come up.

  • 2
    You'll presumably be aware that martyr and victim have significantly different meanings. "Martyr complex" is quite a well-established term in psychology, but in common speech they're almost interchangeable, and I think you may actually be more likely to hear "victim complex" in general conversation. Commented Mar 13, 2012 at 23:09

While technically the act rather than the desire, "victim playing" seems to be a good fit.

  • so tempted to accept this answer because this is the best fit for the way I want to use the term, but technically this isn't the desire
    – jhocking
    Commented Sep 6, 2013 at 16:18

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.