I have a question about guilt and blame and shame and all that.

I have a question about guilt and blame and shame and all that.

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When I am not blaming my mother or my brothers for what happened, I am blaming me.  And I know better.  But I still do it.  I am keeping myself in a depressed state by doing this.  Karen asked me, if I would blame someone if the group if she told of a similar situation, and I wouldn’t.  

Here, all of us I think, at least many of us, are quick to exonerate everyone else from everything.  If you said no, if you didn’t say no, but you didn’t say yes, and so forth, but then we turn around and blame ourselves for what happened to us: 

    I should have known better.

    I let it go on for so long.

    I was abused by several people, so it must be me.

    I shouldn’t have gone with him, just him and me. 

    I covered it up and helped to keep the secret. 

    I was 4 or 6 or 11 or whatever age, but I was smart enough to know better. 

    I wouldn’t have tried to hide it, if I didn’t know it was wrong. 

    He gave me things for doing it, so I made a choice, and I have no business complaining about it now.

And so many other reasons to find fault.  The question is, why do we do that to ourselves when we never would say anything like that to others?  We treat group members, acquaintances at work, e-friends, strangers we have never met, and may never even know their real name better than we treat ourselves.  

Is it really a grandiose way to act?  I mean, You maybe weren’t old enough to know better at 12, but I was old enough to know better at 4.  

Or is it just the fact that we have deceived ourselves for so long that we can’t seem to shake it now?  For me, being helpless is one of my worst feelings, so I would rather be at fault than helpless, because being at fault in some way, means I can prevent it from happening again.  If at 11, I should not have gone swimming with my brother, I can prevent further attacks by never swimming again.  And maybe believing that way helped me survive as a child.  Well, I know it did.  But now, I know it wasn’t my fault, but I continue to believe that it was.  I use it as a battering ram when I am depressed.  

I keep telling myself, “my brain wasn’t fully developed, I couldn’t make those kinds of choices” or “the age difference — a kid that much older can certainly get the younger one to do whatever.”  I think about my nieces.  Two are 12 and I have one that is 8 and one that is 7.  So, I can consider how they are at those ages and compare brain-function.  Would I blame them if this happened to them?  No way.  It isn’t even a question.  

I was talking to Karen yesterday, and this blaming came up, and I was internally kicking myself because I know, and I should know, but I am still struggling with it.  Today I talked with Denise, and I don’t know how she was getting the same stuff out of me.  I was defending myself, which even I could see showed how much I am still blaming myself.  

Sometimes I think I am going backwards.   I’m frustrated with myself, which is really not helpful at all. 

How do we treat ourselves with as much patience, kindness, gentleness, and respect as we treat others?  

Do I have to be constantly angry with my brothers or my mother in order not to be irritated/unsatisfied with myself?  

How do we learn to accept good things that folks say, good things that come our way and allow ourselves to feel that we deserve them?  

Ok, so that is more than one question.  


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22 comments

  1. Deanna Volunteer

    My therapist, her name is Kinga, mentioned how it takes about 30 days to make a habit. So think about how long you, me, anyone who relates, have been acting in that particular manner. So, I think that those bad feelings and doing the exact opposite of how we treat others is bad habit. It’s just like a merry go round that goes round and round until you choose to get off.

    Also I think that with abuse generally comes messages that demean and chip away at our self esteem. Like an abusive boyfriend— he is insecure because he knows he has a wonderful woman, but he chooses to beat her down so that she won’t leave instead of building her up so she won’t want to.

    Sometimes I need to stop and tell myself that it’s okay to give myself a break, or that it’s good to do something nice for myself. Sometimes I need reminders. Maybe you need reminders too. One of my favorite treats is taking a bath with music, maybe candles. Whatever I fancy. What do you do to treat yourself?

  2. Brianna W Volunteer Volunteer

    Thanks for coming back and sharing with us , hopefully writing will help you , it’s definitely a good way to get out built up anger or frustration, you are a strong person. Don’t give up your fight and please come back if you need anything else

    -brianna

  3. blashea

    Hi, I am sorry that you are feeling this way. Please be patient with yourself, you are doing the best you can. Everything that happened to you, was not your fault and it was completely beyond your control. There are going to be days that feel like you are taking steps backwards, and that is completely normal and its understandable to feel that way. But never forget all the progress you have made. You are strong and brave. We are all so proud of you and your strength and how far you’ve came in your journey. We all support you.

  4. SAL Volunteer

    Sometimes moving forward could feel like moving backwards. Recovery isn’t a straight line. There are lots of ups and downs and everyone goes through it differently. About blaming yourself, it’s something that a lot of people struggle with for a long time. I think the way you’re looking at it makes a lot of sense. But you kind of have to release the guilt and realize it was out of your control. There are so many different things that happened that were out of your control, and maybe you could’ve done something to prevent that specific instance, but that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t have happened. It just means it wouldn’t have happened then. And there’s nothing you can do or could have done to change that. You have to stop looking at it as something you could have prevented and start looking at it as this person took advantage of me in a situation where I was younger and more vulnerable or whatever you need to say to yourself. We can’t control other people, and we can’t always control our reactions to them. This doesn’t make you weak. And blaming yourself doesn’t prevent anything.
    Stay Strong,
    Stella

  5. Bluebell13 Volunteer

    Dear Solongago,
    Whew!!! Those are some hard-hitting questions and I am not sure if any of them have a tried and true answer. I think we all have to find those answers for ourselves. I recently read Daring Greatly by Brene Brown and it talks a lot about living with shame and how to turn that around and become shame resilient. It helped me understand myself and it lead me to seek out ways to do some emotional healing so that I am able to love myself and feel worthy of being loved by others. I am a giver and feel very uncomfortable receiving because I don’t feel like I deserve it. But if we don’t learn to receive, we give all of ourselves away and others become frustrated with us. One tip I learned is to just accept the compliment and say thank you. Don’t immediately give a complement back or find a way to deflect it. Sit with it for a while (at least five minutes) and then you can give that person a compliment if you feel the need to give back. I found a meditation app for my phone and I have been using it daily since the start of the new year. I listen to healing and affirmation guided meditations as I go to sleep and they have helped me SO much. I put affirmations on my bathroom wall next to the mirror that I say to myself at least every morning, if not several times a day. None of it is easy and it takes a conscious effort to change the way we think about ourselves, but it feels great too. Maybe once you have written down all of those nice things people say about you, tape them up in several places around your house so that you are constantly reminded of what a wonderful, kind, smart, generous, caring, strong, resilient, and amazing woman you are!!!
    Sending you hugs, love, and strength,
    Roxie

  6. eagle206

    Hi Solongago,

    I feel like we are always our own worst critic. It is so easy to blame yourself for things because the only thing you have control over is your own actions. However, like you said, we would never say anything like this to other people. I think with this reflection it helps remind us to try and be easier on ourselves. Treat others the way you would want to be treated works in both directions! If treat others in a kind way without blame, it is important to also not blame yourself! I don’t think you have to be constantly angry with other people, although anger is a normal and healthy emotion to show sometimes! Anger will probably come in waves, some days you won’t be as angry as others! Thank you for sharing with us. We are all here for you!

    Tyler

  7. Alyssa Day Captain

    Hi Solongago,
    This isn’t your fault that you feel like what happened between you and your brother/mom is your fault. Like you said many people think like that. I think it’s because it happened to us. Personally, I blame myself sometimes for what happened to me because I feel like I could have stopped it or I could have done something to make what happened not happen. So, I think that that is what everyone else thinks too. You just have to remind yourself, you did the best you could to get it to stop. What happened was scary and traumatic. It shouldn’t have happened, but it is not your fault. It is the person who thought it would be fun to hurt someone like this because morally, everyone knows it’s wrong.
    Please remember, you are strong, beautiful, and amazing. You did nothing wrong and you shouldn’t blame yourself. Always remind yourself that. Thank you for sharing your feelings about this. You can always write back if you need anything.
    -Alyssa

  8. Solongago

    Thank you all for your replies. They mean a lot. I sent that last part in an e-mail to Karen on Saturday and we worked on it when I went in on Saturday. She asked me what things I could do to hold onto the good things that people say, because too often they seem to come and slip right on through. I know that eventually, I need to fill my own cup. But anyway, I am going to write down the things people say, when they complement me (I know that sounds really big-headed, but I have a super-big problem with self esteem that I need to fix). Well anyhow, Karen said that she thinks I am doing the work that I need to do in therapy. So I wrote that down. I will write down that Rich at work said he thinks I am doing a great job. I will write some things here down. And some things from church. If I write them with pen and ink on paper, that seems to help me remember them. Also, if I have a little notebook with this stuff, that I can get to, then, well, maybe I can pull it out when I am feeling down.

    Oh, and Karen lent me this book called “How full is your bucket.” I read half of it while waiting for the Indian restaurant to open yesterday. Good read, at least so far. Will read the rest this week. 10 days before I see Karen again, she’s out of town. Well, 9 now. But I am doing the right things: taking my medicine, went to church, called and talked to my older sister last night, and went out shopping with my little sister today.

    Thanks again for helping me along on my journey.

  9. CarmenR Volunteer

    Hi there,

    Thanks for coming back to share with us. I really resonated with your thoughts, and I agree. We are quick to blame ourselves. It’s easy to blame ourselves, and it’s often times comfortable. Blaming ourselves often means that we don’t have to think about the ways we were victimized. It’s a normal thought process, but its important to remember that it is never your fault when someone hurts you. I hope that getting your thoughts out on paper helps you work through them. You are incredbilty strong. Thanks again for sharing with us. We are here for you.

    Carmen

  10. Natalie M Day Captain

    Hi there,

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. I agree with much of what you mentioned here in your story. We do tend to be nicer to complete strangers than we are to ourselves. That is crazy to think about. It is not okay. Sometimes it seems that it is easier to be nice to others than ourselves. It is a habit sometimes and it can take a lot to break a habit. But it is so worth it to get to a point where you are okay with yourself and what you have been though. Our experiences shape who we are. However, what happened to you was 10000000% NOT YOUR FAULT! It will never be your fault. And as hard as it may be, keep reminding yourself that. If each day you take at lease one second to remind yourself that you are important and you are the best you that you can be, you are doing one thing that day for yourself. It is okay to feel better somedays than others. I like to think about it as a journey to healing and being okay with yourself. It is a journey because you can go up, down, around curves, all over the place! But the goal remains the same. Keep your head up on even the hardest of days. You are incredibly strong! You are an inspiration to all of us. This is your journey, keep doing the best you can!

    Sending strength,
    Natalie

  11. Amysue43 Volunteer

    You have a very strong and beautiful mindset. It is remarkable that you have identified these questions and are actively bringing yourself to the conclusion that it is not your fault. Sometimes it may feel like a cycle which is absolutely normal and real and, especially, frustrating. However, your ability to acknowledge this is very impressive and admired by so many of us. This is a large step towards the right direction and we thank you for sharing your story with us. Feel free to keep us updated on your thoughts and progress!

    Amy

  12. Brianna W Volunteer Volunteer

    Thank you for sharing your powerful story, I’m so sorry you had to go through this, we will always be here to help and give you the support you need please come back and continue to share with us , stay strong and keep on fighting! We believe in you.

    -Brianna

  13. zoeyb

    I’m so sorry you feel like you’re stuck in this mental cycle of blame and anger for so long. That must be difficult to unravel all of these different questions and emotions, but I think that you have taken a great step by sharing what you’re processing with us and to Karen and Denise.It’s so easy but so destructive to place blame and negative thoughts on ourselves, and it definitely becomes a vicious cycle. It takes a lot of work to be at peace within ourselves- taking those steps to feel worthy of the good things in life is an ongoing journey for many. It seems like Karen and Denise are good support systems for you to start challenging the way you perceive yourself and your part in what happened to you. Like others have said, you know the truth; what he did to you was not your fault- you are not the person to blame. No matter what age, what he did was completely wrong and in no way the result of anything you did or said as a child. It sounds like it can be hard to tell yourself otherwise- it’s okay and valid to feel hurt, overwhelmed, and angry, but I hope throughout your healing process you find the answers to your questions because you are worthy of all the kindness, respect, gentleness, and happiness that you give to others.

  14. Lizzi G Volunteer

    Hi Solongago,
    I believe that we are always our worst critic. Especially in times of depression, we tell ourselves things that we would never dare tell a friend or loved one. You would never tell a friend that had been assaulted “well maybe you shouldn’t have gone swimming with your brother. You should’ve known this would happen.” But we tell ourselves these things. It seems like you know that your thinking is keeping you depressed and stuck. You know that your brain wasn’t developed enough, you were too young to understand, and that none of this was your fault. He did this to you. You were just trying to have a normal childhood and not understand what was being done wrongly to you. I like your questions at the end because it shows just how much you’re starting to make sense of this. How DO we treat ourselves with the respect and kindness we treat others? I think that’s a really good place to start. I don’t know if you like journaling but maybe take some time to think or write about this and see what comes up from it.

    Again, you didn’t deserve this. You deserve good things in life. You deserve to treat yourself with patience, kindness, gentleness and respect. You deserve to be free from blaming yourself for what happened to you, as you didn’t cause this. You deserve peace and happiness.

    Much hope,
    Lizzi

  15. Roxie-heart317 Volunteer

    I know talking about this stuff can be hard and confusing. But you are not to blame, even if you were 4 and knew better, it’s not your fault. The person who took advantage of that 4 year old is to blame.

  16. Erin O'Callaghan Day Captain

    Those are all really hard questions-and I know that similar versions of these questions are asked by many survivors, including myself. The shame that we feel being victims is really difficult to overcome-I study sexual violence for my career, and even though I rationally know sexual assault is never the victim’s fault, I still question myself. I know it’s difficult. I hope it helps to vent here-I know writing can be helpful for me sometimes, too. Let us know how else we can help you-we are here. You’re not alone.

    Erin

  17. Northlane1991 Volunteer

    Hey Solongago.
    What you are feeling are totally normal and it can be diffucult to let them go. I think we do this because we keep internalzing the concepts and so we start to doubt oneself. To answer your questions is all in the power of you but one question i can wont say its the only answer but treating ourself with patience is all about treating ourself to be the best who we can be. The other questions are based on your perception but know we are here for you and fully support you.

  18. Zoe Volunteer

    Hey, Solongago.

    You’re describing thoughts and feelings that are very normal, and unfortunately it can be really difficult to completely let them go. In my mind, I’ve viewed them as a sort of unhealthy defensive mechanism. If I’m blaming myself or hard on myself, it won’t hurt as bad if others or society blames me, or are hard on me. This sometimes happens subconsciously. Another reason I think we do this is because we’ve internalized messages from society. We feel that we SHOULD have known better or done something differently, because we know what society has said about all of this and how judgment can fall on any victim or survivor. And then, of course, we’re always harder on ourselves than we are on others. I don’t know why that is, and it’s really unfortunate. But it’s definitely easier to show compassion toward others, than to allow that compassion to extend to ourselves.

    So, your feelings are valid, and you’re definitely not alone in feeling this way. All we can really do is combat these thoughts with what we KNOW to be true, and we have to try to internalize more compassion and love for ourselves. So, we have to work through all these unhealthy and negative thoughts and feelings, in one way or another. It sounds like you’ve definitely been working on it in therapy. I’m not sure that they’ll ever 100% go away (maybe they will), but you can at least get to the point where you immediately counter them as soon as they arise with what you know, and you’re able to reassure yourself so that the negative thoughts don’t affect you as much, or seem so real.

    I hope you’re able to find more peace and show compassion toward yourself. Because, as you know, what happened to you was not your fault. You didn’t know then what you know now, and you were so young when things happened to you. You don’t need to be so hard on yourself. You know all the right answers, just practice internalizing them and meaning them. <3

    Zoe.

  19. sfmbelle413 Day Captain

    Hey there Solongago,

    You pose so many great questions. You know yourself best to answer those – and I think it’s okay for everyone to have a different answer based on their own life experiences. Our brains are funny, weird things – they can block things out, they can harp on the tiniest details of something in the past. I know you’re working so hard to get the support you deserve. Your fight is truly inspirational. Please know that what happened is not your fault. I know it can be hard to remember sometimes. I find that positive affirmations can be helpful – “I am doing my best” or “I can be strong”. Both are so true for you.

    Keep on fighting,
    SFM

  20. music2799 Volunteer

    Hi Solongago,
    I understand how you feel. We tend to be our worst critics, and it can be so difficult to retrain ourselves. Sometimes it can be easier to empathize with and exonerate others. However, what happened was not your fault, and you didn’t deserve it. You didn’t deserve to be in that environment, and you were very young.
    I try to think about what I would tell my best friend or a loved one if they were going through the same situation. Sometimes I read the comments I – as well as other people – post on this website. I also try to figure out what thoughts led up to the self blame and challenge them. I try to do these things on a regular basis so that my brain adapts to these new thought cycles. If you practice self compassion on a regular basis, it could possibly help you retrain yourself and break the thought cycles.
    Thanks for the update. We’re glad to hear from you, and we’re always here to support you.

  21. Colton Kim

    You are never to blame for what happened to you. It is extremely difficult after going through something horrible and traumatic not to be upset at yourself or others, but remaining in a constant state of anger or frustration or any other negative feeling is not good and I do hope that you can get through this.

  22. kelly Day Captain

    Hey, Solongago. Yep, I blame myself all the time too! Even when I would not blame another person in the same exact situation. I’m not exactly sure why that is, and it seems like a cruel joke I play on myself. I think trauma of any kind, especially if it’s experienced at a young age, can shape neural pathways causing automatic reactions and sequence of thought. Kids especially are prone to believe that abuse is a punishment they deserve, and it’s hard to change something you’ve believed since you were little. I read somewhere that a lot of what therapy, medication, meditation, etc. does is help to establish new neural pathways and challenge those negative thought processes. I battle my negative thoughts with therapy, group, volunteering here, yoga, telling myself “I love you” (even when I don’t believe it). Like you, it’s a lot easier for me to have compassion for others than it is myself, so sometimes I imagine I’m talking to someone else, or even read my responses on this site back to myself. It’s definitely not automatic yet, and I’m still resentful of all the work I have to do because someone else decided to abuse me instead of doing their own work, but I’m not giving up. It might be this way now, but that doesn’t mean it’s always going to be that way.