Scam Victims: The Need To Tell Their Stories – The Need For Acceptance

Being Accepted is a Basic Primal Need we all have! When Scam Victims tell their Stories they Seek Acceptance, but there is a downside too!

Psychology of Scams

Author:
•  Tim McGuinness, Ph.D. – Anthropologist, Scientist, Director of the Society of Citizens Against Relationship Scams Inc.

About This Article

Victims of scams and other crimes often feel a primal need to tell their stories, seeking acceptance and validation from others. This act of sharing serves as a means of seeking connection, healing, and empowerment in the aftermath of trauma.

However, storytelling can also be manipulated by con artists to exploit vulnerabilities and perpetrate further deception.

Trauma survivors, in their search for understanding and meaning, may be susceptible to believing false stories and urban legends, further complicating their recovery journey.

Understanding the dual nature of storytelling is crucial in recognizing its role in both healing and victimization, empowering individuals to navigate the complexities of truth and fiction in their quest for acceptance and justice.

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A Note About Labeling!

We often use the term ‘scam victim’ in our articles, but this is a convenience to help those searching for information in search engines like Google. It is just a convenience and has no deeper meaning. If you have come through such an experience, YOU are a Survivor! It was not your fault. You are not alone! Axios!

The Healing Power of Scam Victims’ Storytelling: Why Victims of Crime Need to Tell Their Stories

Almost universally, after the ending of a scam, or for that matter any crime. victims have a primal need to tell their story. Though far too often, shame, self-blame, guilt, and fear of toxic judgment hold them back

After falling victim to a scam, individuals grapple with a myriad of emotions ranging from shock and disbelief to anger and betrayal. Amidst this emotional turmoil, one of the most immediate and pressing needs that emerge is the compelling urge to tell their story. While it may seem like a simple act, sharing their experience holds profound significance in the journey towards healing and recovery. At its core, this need to share is deeply rooted in the primal human need for acceptance and social interaction.

The question is, why do we have this need to tell our stories and how is it both healing and so profoundly dangerous at the same time. In part, it was one of the things that make us all vulnerable to predators.

Primal Human (or Animal) Needs

The primal needs of any animal (that includes us humans too) species generally revolve around survival, reproduction, and well-being. These needs are essential for the continued existence and success of the species. Here are some of the key primal needs:

  • Food and Water: Animals require sustenance to survive. They need access to adequate food and clean water to maintain their energy levels, growth, and bodily functions. These allow us the energy to fulfill our other needs
  • Shelter and Safety: Animals need safety. Without it we feel physical stress that limits our ability to survive. Shelter or habitats where we can seek refuge from predators, harsh weather conditions, and other environmental threats is a primal need of any species. Safety is essential for their survival and well-being.
  • Reproduction: Reproduction is vital for the continuation of the species, and is a primal need. Animals have innate instincts to mate and produce offspring to ensure the survival of their genetic lineage.
  • Health and Wellness: Animals require physical and mental well-being to thrive. This includes access to grooming, exercise, and mental stimulation to maintain optimal health.
  • Social Interaction: Many animal species are social creatures and have a need for social interaction and companionship. Social bonds play a major role in their survival, communication, and emotional well-being. Even though there are many species that are solitary, they will come together at certain times, such as reproduction.
  • Territory and Resources: Most animals have some form of territorial instincts and require access to specific areas or resources for feeding, nesting, or breeding. Maintaining control over territory and resources is essential for their survival and reproductive success.
  • Acceptance: perhaps the most powerful of them all, including in humans, is the primal need for acceptance. Without it there is no social interaction, no health and wellness, and certainly no reproduction. But acceptance is not as simple as just survival, it is one of our most complex needs at the same time and drives much in our psychology. When exploited becomes a powerful vulnerability.

These primal needs of any animal species are geared towards ensuring survival, continuation of the species, and overall well-being in their respective environments. These needs drive most behaviors, instincts, and interactions with their surroundings, and with others, shaping their roles within the ecosystem.

While this article addresses the need victims have to tell their stories, it is important to recognize that these primal needs form the basis for almost all victim vulnerability.

The Need for Acceptance

Victims of crime, including scam victims, often experience feelings of shame, guilt, and self-blame in the aftermath of the incident. They question their own judgment or intelligence, wondering how they could have fallen prey to deception, and their own negative coping mechanisms convince them that they saw the signs but did not act. In the face of such internal struggles (cognitive dissonance,) the act of telling their story becomes a powerful tool for seeking acceptance and validation from others, but it is acceptance, above all other emotional reasons that drives this primal need. By recounting their experience and seeking empathy from friends, family, or support groups, victims hope to find reassurance that they are not alone in their ordeal and that their feelings are valid.

Acceptance allows victims to become part of a community, which after a scam or other crime also fills the need for community, and with that comes safety, a kind of shelter. While the emotional benefits are important and sustaining, understanding the primal needs behind this act helps us to both see the importance of sharing our story, but also the larger role that storytelling has in the very few species that tell their stories (or histories) to others of their species – humans, dolphins and whales, and elephants. Interestingly, many believe that it was the attempt to communicate stories that developed language and another the other way around.

Acceptance involves being recognized, valued, and included by others within a social group or community. For social animals, such as humans, acceptance creates a sense of belonging, security and safety, and connectedness, which are essential for overall well-being. Being accepted by peers and social groups provides emotional support, reduce stress, and promote mental health.

In many animal species, including humans, social rejection or isolation has real and serious detrimental effects on an individual’s physical and psychological health. It leads to increased stress levels, loneliness, depression and anxiety, and even impacts immune function and longevity. The need for acceptance is tightly intertwined with the primal need for social interaction and is essential for survival, and maintaining overall health and quality of life.

While acceptance may not be as immediately critical to survival as food or shelter, its importance lies in its role in promoting psychological resilience and social cohesion within animal communities. As such, it can be considered a fundamental aspect of well-being for many species, particularly those that rely on social bonds for support and survival.

Social Interaction and Connection

Beyond seeking acceptance, sharing one’s story is also a fundamental aspect of human social interaction and connection.

Because humans are social creatures, in times of distress, individuals instinctively turn to others for comfort, understanding, and support. By sharing their experiences with trusted confidants or support networks (their tribe,) victims of crime can alleviate feelings of isolation and loneliness. Through this act of communication, they forge meaningful connections with others who (are or become their community) and can receive empathy, encouragement, and practical assistance, restoring a sense of belonging and solidarity in their recovery journey.

Breaking the Silence

Sharing one’s story serves a broader societal purpose by breaking the silence surrounding crime and victimization. In many cases, victims may initially hesitate to speak out due to fear of toxic judgment, stigma, or reprisal. However, by courageously speaking up and sharing their experiences, they not only reclaim their voice and agency but also raise awareness about the prevalence and impact of crime in society. Their narratives shed light on the tactics used by scammers and perpetrators, empowering others to recognize warning signs and protect themselves from similar exploitation.

All of that sounds good, but it is actually very important not to complicate the reasoning. We really need to tell our stories for our own well-being, not for the well-being of others. Ironically, in telling the story it serves both roles. While this may sound selfish, this primal need to tell our story, there is nothing wrong with doing it to gain acceptance, as long as it is honestly offered. Just remember that the scammers used their ‘story’ as a manipulative tool against their victims. So storytelling has also become weaponized by criminals and narcissists alike to victimize others. Stories are the basis of all ‘con games’ and deception.

Catharsis and Empowerment

Telling one’s story is also a cathartic and empowering experience for victims of crime, when it results in acceptance, but when it results in toxic judgment or rejection quite the opposite.

Through the act of verbalizing their thoughts, emotions, and experiences, individuals gain a sense of clarity, perspective, and emotional release. By articulating their struggles and triumphs, victims reclaim a sense of control over their narrative and identity, moving from a position of victimhood to survivorship. In sharing their journey of resilience and recovery, they can inspire hope and resilience in others facing similar struggles.

The Benefits

At its core, the need to tell one’s story stems from primal instincts ingrained in human nature. Since ancient times, humans have relied on social connections and communal support for survival. When faced with adversity or trauma, sharing experiences with others served as a means of seeking acceptance, understanding, and validation from the community. This primal drive for social connection and belonging remains deeply embedded in the human psyche, driving individuals to seek solace and empathy through the act of sharing their stories.

Beyond its primal roots, telling one’s story carries significant emotional and psychological benefits for victims of crime. Firstly, sharing their experiences provides a sense of validation and affirmation of their reality, especially when their reality was manipulated and distorted by deception. Scam victims grapple with feelings of self-doubt, shame, and disbelief in the aftermath of the traumatic event. By verbalizing their experiences and having their stories acknowledged by others, victims are able to validate their own emotions and perceptions, reaffirming the legitimacy of their ordeal, and re-establishing a connection with reality.

Moreover, telling their story serves as a cathartic release of pent-up emotions and trauma. Bottling up feelings of fear, anger, and sadness takes a huge toll on anyone’s mental and emotional well-being, leading to increased stress, anxiety, and even depression. Verbalizing their experiences allows victims to externalize their emotions, freeing themselves from the burden of carrying their trauma alone. In sharing their story, victims are able to process their feelings, gain perspective on their experiences, and begin the healing process.

Additionally, sharing their story rebuilds their sense of connection and solidarity with others who have undergone similar experiences. Victims often feel isolated and alone in their suffering, believing that no one else could possibly understand what they are going through. However, by sharing their stories, victims discover that they are not alone in their struggles. Connecting with fellow survivors and empathetic listeners creates a sense of community and support, offering comfort, validation, and encouragement along the journey to recovery.

Telling their story empowers victims to reclaim their sense of agency and control in the aftermath of victimization. In a situation where they felt powerless and vulnerable, sharing their experiences allows victims to assert their voice and advocate for themselves. By speaking out about their ordeal, victims can raise awareness about the prevalence of scams and fraud, educate others about warning signs and red flags, and advocate for systemic changes to prevent future victimization.

The Dark Side of Storytelling

Storytelling, that age-old practice woven into the fabric of human communication, serves as the cornerstone of both connection and deception. In seeking the truth and deeper need to tell our stories, we also have to acknowledge that stories are used for evil too.

While storytelling has the power to unite communities, share experiences, and inspire change, it also serves as the con artist’s most potent weapon in perpetrating scams and frauds. Understanding the dual nature of storytelling is crucial in recognizing its role in manipulation and victimization, while also empowering individuals to safeguard themselves against exploitation.

At its core, storytelling is a vehicle for conveying information, shaping perceptions, and eliciting emotional responses. Scammers or fraudsters harness the persuasive power of storytelling to craft elaborate narratives designed to manipulate and control their victims. Through carefully constructed tales, con artists create a false sense of trust, credibility, and urgency, luring unsuspecting individuals into their web of deception.

The art of storytelling allows criminals to exploit fundamental human vulnerabilities, including the innate desire for acceptance, belonging, and validation. By weaving compelling narratives that resonate with their victims’ hopes, fears, and aspirations, the criminals create emotional hooks that capture and ensnare their targets, leading to psychological enslavement. Whether through tales of financial prosperity, romantic fulfillment, or personal empowerment, con artists leverage storytelling to prey on their victims’ deepest desires and vulnerabilities.

Also, storytelling serves as a means of establishing credibility and authority in the eyes of their victims. Criminals often pose as trusted authorities, experts, or benefactors, weaving elaborate backstories and credentials to bolster their facade of legitimacy. Through the artful manipulation of language, tone, and demeanor, con artists create the illusion of expertise and reliability, making it difficult for victims to discern truth from fiction.

Storytelling plays a pivotal role in the execution of various scam tactics, including emotional manipulation, fear-mongering, and social engineering. criminals employ persuasive narratives to evoke strong emotional responses in their victims, such as greed, fear, or sympathy, driving them to act impulsively and irrationally. Additionally, they use their stories to manipulate their victim’s own cognitive biases against them. Whether through sob stories designed to elicit sympathy or elaborate schemes that exploit victims’ greed and ambition, storytelling is the linchpin of scam tactics aimed at manipulating victims’ emotions and behaviors.

However, while storytelling is the con artist’s most powerful tool, it is also the key to empowering victims to recognize and resist manipulation. By educating individuals about the tactics and strategies employed by con artists, victims can learn to detach and use their mind’s defenses to identify red flags, question suspicious narratives, and assert their boundaries. In sharing their own stories of victimization, survivors can actually increase or restore their ability to debunk the myths, urban legends, biases, and stereotypes surrounding scams and frauds.

The Stories of Others Can Lead to False Beliefs

In the aftermath of a scam or fraud, traumatized scam victims often find themselves grappling with a myriad of emotions, uncertainties, and vulnerabilities. While healing from the effects of trauma is a complex and deeply personal journey, many survivors are confronted with the additional challenge of navigating a world where truth and fiction often blur, especially when it comes to the proliferation of false stories and urban legends.

Trauma leaves a profound impact on the psyche, disrupting cognitive processes, emotional regulation, and critical thinking abilities. As a result, traumatized individuals may find themselves more susceptible to believing stories that are far from true, including urban legends and other myths perpetuated by well-meaning individuals. See more about this and the brain’s TPJ here.

One of the primary reasons for this susceptibility is the heightened state of emotional arousal and distress experienced by trauma survivors. When individuals are in a state of heightened emotional arousal, their ability to discern fact from fiction becomes compromised, as their cognitive resources are focused on processing and managing intense emotions (cognitive dissonance.) This emotional dysregulation makes it easier for false information and urban legends to take hold, as traumatized individuals are typically more inclined to seek explanations or narratives that validate their emotional experiences (this is a cognitive bias called confirmation bias.)

The Continuing Impact of Trauma

Trauma can disrupt individuals’ sense of reality and agency, leading to feelings of powerlessness, vulnerability, and distrust, and this in turn can lead to the easy acceptance of the stories from other victims that may include their false beliefs. While the emotions that every victim shares are valid, the information content of their stories may not be. In their search for understanding and meaning, traumatized individuals often turn to nonprofessional external sources, including urban legends and false stories, as a way to make sense of their experiences and regain a sense of control. These narratives offer a semblance of order and coherence in a world that feels chaotic and unpredictable, providing a framework through which survivors can interpret and contextualize their trauma, even though it may be completely wrong.

Additionally, trauma can impair individuals’ ability to critically evaluate information and assess its credibility. The cognitive distortions and schema disruptions associated with trauma can distort individuals’ perceptions of reality, making it difficult to distinguish between fact and fiction. As a result, false stories and urban legends may be perceived as genuine and trustworthy, especially when they align with survivors’ pre-existing beliefs, fears, or biases.

The social dynamics surrounding trauma can contribute to the spread and perpetuation of false stories and urban legends which tend to be rampant in scam victim communities. Traumatized individuals often seek validation and support from others who have shared similar experiences, forming communities where narratives and beliefs are shared and reinforced. In these echo chambers, false stories and urban legends can take on a life of their own, perpetuated by well-meaning individuals who believe they are offering comfort and solidarity to fellow survivors.

Despite the potential harm caused by false stories and urban legends, it’s essential to recognize that their proliferation is often driven by a genuine desire to make sense of the incomprehensible and connect with others who have shared similar experiences.

Summary

Storytelling is a double-edged sword that shapes our understanding of the world, for better or for worse. While it serves as the foundation of scams and frauds, empowering con artists to exploit vulnerabilities and manipulate victims, it also holds the power to educate, inform, and empower individuals to protect themselves against deception. By understanding the role of storytelling in both victimization and empowerment, we can work towards building a more resilient and informed society, where stories are a source of strength rather than vulnerability.

Important Information for New Scam Victims

Statement About Victim Blaming

Some of our articles discuss various aspects of victims. This is both about better understanding victims (the science of victimology) and their behaviors and psychology. This helps us to educate victims/survivors about why these crimes happened and to not blame themselves, better develop recovery programs, and to help victims avoid scams in the future. At times this may sound like blaming the victim, but it does not blame scam victims, we are simply explaining the hows and whys of the experience victims have.

These articles, about the Psychology of Scams or Victim Psychology – meaning that all humans have psychological or cognitive characteristics in common that can either be exploited or work against us – help us all to understand the unique challenges victims face before, during, and after scams, fraud, or cybercrimes. These sometimes talk about some of the vulnerabilities the scammers exploit. Victims rarely have control of them or are even aware of them, until something like a scam happens and then they can learn how their mind works and how to overcome these mechanisms.

Articles like these help victims and others understand these processes and how to help prevent them from being exploited again or to help them recover more easily by understanding their post-scam behaviors. Learn more about the Psychology of Scams at www.ScamPsychology.org

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The information provided in this and other SCARS articles are intended for educational and self-help purposes only and should not be construed as a substitute for professional therapy or counseling.

Note about Mindfulness: Mindfulness practices have the potential to create psychological distress for some individuals. Please consult a mental health professional or experienced meditation instructor for guidance should you encounter difficulties.

While any self-help techniques outlined herein may be beneficial for scam victims seeking to recover from their experience and move towards recovery, it is important to consult with a qualified mental health professional before initiating any course of action. Each individual’s experience and needs are unique, and what works for one person may not be suitable for another.

Additionally, any approach may not be appropriate for individuals with certain pre-existing mental health conditions or trauma histories. It is advisable to seek guidance from a licensed therapist or counselor who can provide personalized support, guidance, and treatment tailored to your specific needs.

If you are experiencing significant distress or emotional difficulties related to a scam or other traumatic event, please consult your doctor or mental health provider for appropriate care and support.

If you are in crisis, feeling desperate, or in despair please call 988 or your local crisis hotline.

PLEASE NOTE: Psychology Clarification

The following specific modalities within the practice of psychology are restricted to psychologists appropriately trained in the use of such modalities:

  • Diagnosis: The diagnosis of mental, emotional, or brain disorders and related behaviors.
  • Psychoanalysis: Psychoanalysis is a type of therapy that focuses on helping individuals to understand and resolve unconscious conflicts.
  • Hypnosis: Hypnosis is a state of trance in which individuals are more susceptible to suggestion. It can be used to treat a variety of conditions, including anxiety, depression, and pain.
  • Biofeedback: Biofeedback is a type of therapy that teaches individuals to control their bodily functions, such as heart rate and blood pressure. It can be used to treat a variety of conditions, including stress, anxiety, and pain.
  • Behavioral analysis: Behavioral analysis is a type of therapy that focuses on changing individuals’ behaviors. It is often used to treat conditions such as autism and ADHD.
    Neuropsychology: Neuropsychology is a type of psychology that focuses on the relationship between the brain and behavior. It is often used to assess and treat cognitive impairments caused by brain injuries or diseases.

SCARS and the members of the SCARS Team do not engage in any of the above modalities in relationship to scam victims. SCARS is not a mental healthcare provider and recognizes the importance of professionalism and separation between its work and that of the licensed practice of psychology.

SCARS is an educational provider of generalized self-help information that individuals can use for their own benefit to achieve their own goals related to emotional trauma. SCARS recommends that all scam victims see professional counselors or therapists to help them determine the suitability of any specific information or practices that may help them.

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