“Blame is a Defense Against Powerlessness
Betrayal trauma changes you. You have endured a life-altering shock, and are likely living with PTSD symptoms— hypervigilance, flashbacks and bewilderment—with broken trust, with the inability to cope with many situations, and with the complete shut down of parts of your mind, including your ability to focus and regulate your emotions.
Nevertheless, if you are unable to recognize the higher purpose in your pain, to forgive and forget and move on, you clearly have chosen to be addicted to your pain and must enjoy playing the victim.
And the worst is, we are only too ready to agree with this assessment! Trauma victims commonly blame themselves. Blaming oneself for the shame of being a victim is recognized by trauma specialists as a defence against the extreme powerlessness we feel in the wake of a traumatic event. Self-blame continues the illusion of control shock destroys, but prevents us from the necessary working through of the traumatic feelings and memories to heal and recover.”
Sometimes we really are victims. In childhood often we were unable to get away from abuse. We may have been subjected to traumatic procedures or actions done to us without our choice or consent.
In the course of our healing is so important to know we were not to blame, because one of the issues of being young is that we tend to think we did something to cause situations which were beyond our control or just too complex for us to fully understand. In addition we may have been blamed or shamed by other for things and emotions that made them uncomfortable.
Our parent or siblings buried pain or bad mood often didn’t have anything to do with us. Their very real inability to nurture us as we needed to be nurtured had nothing to do with us. And the fact is we missed out on so many things we needed in order to feel a sense of self esteem and security and wellness in ourselves.
We can heal. We can learn how we were traumatised. We can understand the causes of this trauma, but to really heal we have to stop doing what was done to us. We need to stop re-traumatising ourselves over our so called “defects” and learn to accept and understand them in order to find self love.
I cannot tell you for how many years I beat myself up inwardly with critical inward self talk that told me negative things about myself. Often in my darkest years of recovery I would hear a voice telling me I would be better off dead. In the depths of my abandonment depression following the end of my marriage when I was living in virtual isolation, I wrote a piece of writing called Destruction 11:11. It was the voice of my inner critic and saboteur telling me how much it hated and wanted to punish my Inner Child.
My healing has involved doing a lot of work to make sure this voice is no longer self abusing me. I do need to step up when I feel scared and sometimes the critic may be telling me I need to face something I don’t want to face. Because of the level of my body trauma at times it has been difficult to take steps like going to the dentist or doctor or facing up to invasive body procedures and at times it would have been in my best interests to have these.
Currently I am in the midst of radiation treatment for breast cancer. I went through a lot of inner self doubt about facing up to the treatment which I could only imagine may hurt me, and now I am feeling stronger for having faced up to it and taken the steps forward to take care of myself.
Soon I have to face up to having more dental treatment that I have postponed.
If I don’t take the steps to take care of myself in this way I will remain forever a victim of my past trauma. Healing from my past trauma involves for me a feeling of the pain, not over and over to retraumatise myself but in such a way that I integrate, release and understand it. It involves a realisation that even though my parents did the best they could that was not really enough for me and if I want to heal and grow I have to find ways to get what I need from other sources, empathy, understanding and love. Healing also involves a mourning for what was lost, what I did not receive and for other hurts done to me.
My parents were not bad people. They were just never emotionally nurtured. Because they were not and because they did not have therapy they never understood how what they did hurt me and my siblings. Today I can forgive because my abuse was not deliberate. Today I understand that even though others may not apologise due to their own defences I can understand that what happened to me was not my fault, but that today I am responsible to care for myself in all of the ways I wasn’t as a child.
Today I no longer need to be a victim. I can understand that in the past I was victimised and in understanding that I can learn how not to be victimised now or to stand up against abuse or repeat of abandonment today. I can feel safe in my own skin. I can own my boundaries and my right to enforce them in an assertive way. I can trust when something doesn’t feel right. And I can choose to face the pain that is necessary to feel so I can understand the depth of what is important to me and grow as a mature individual by accepting and facing where at times I feel vulnerable, weak and small.