When we are children, if someone treats us badly, we attempt to understand why. But in trying to understand, the child’s logic is very often flawed, and s/he falsely deduce s/he is to blame for it. The child’s flawed logic may flow similarly to this:
‘Someone is hurting me…punishment only happens to bad children…that means I must be bad…therefore I am to blame for this happening…it is my own fault, there’s something wrong with me.’ THIS CAN OCCUR ON AN INSIDIOUS, UNCONSCIOUS LEVEL.
For this reason, many individuals who have survived trauma spend their adult lives feeling deeply guilty. Often, too, the individual will feel deeply unworthy and may be filled with a strong sense of self-loathing.
It is important to realize such feelings have been ‘programmed’ in through the abuse and are absolutely not a true and accurate reflection of the person who suffers them.
THE NECESSITY TO STOP BLAMING ONESELF:
Although stopping blaming oneself is a very important step and obviously extremely beneficial to one’s sense of self-worth and peace of mind, it can be difficult and challenging. For example, one may have led a life without looking for joy, success, or close relationships because ONE FELT ONE DIDN’T DESERVE SUCH THINGS. Seeing things in a new way, and the realization one isn’t a bad person or to blame for the childhood trauma and had, in fact, every right to live an enjoyable life, may cause the individual to feel overwhelmed by a sense of GRIEF for all the wasted years.
Another possibility is that the realization one isn’t to blame will sometimes cause this blame, sometimes in a very intense way, to be turned on those who are perceived to be responsible (such as carers or parents).
Letting go of self-blame, then, whilst necessary, can in itself be stressful. However, we can use coping mechanisms to help us to cope with such stress (click here to read about coping mechanisms).
David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).