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Do You Need To Blame Yourself?

by Annie Kaszina on January 16, 2018

 You have done nothing wrong

Do you need to blame yourself?  Are you in the habit of blaming yourself? Please understand, I’m not suggesting that you should blame yourself.  Still less, am I suggesting that you  might have done anything wrong.  The reason for my asking is simple – long experience of listening to emotionally abused women has taught me that emotionally abused women do blame themselves.  All the time. For everything that happens.

An emotionally abusive partner programs blame into you – usually from a very early stage in the relationship.  If he can claim that his childhood was tougher than yours then, before too long, you are to blame for not making it up to him sufficiently.  In due course that becomes simplified into the (highly questionable) belief that his childhood is your fault – or, at the very least, you should be punished for it.

If, on the other hand, your childhood was tougher than his, then you are to blame for making a song and dance about it. You really need to get over it – and stop raining on his parade. 

An emotionally abusive partner will constantly tell you what a misery you are to be around.  After a while, he won’t even be entirely wrong. An emotionally abusive partner can depress the hell out of anyone – and then blame you for your feelings of depression.

Of course, the abuser works on the principle of keeping you punch-drunk. Between his emotional savagery, the craziness of what goes on and his never-ending criticisms of you, you never get time to stand back and take stock.

A toe-hold on your sanity

So, you look for a toe-hold on your sanity. Someone in the situation has to be sane.  However, you don’t feel sane, while he keeps telling you that he is sane. You end up believing him. Would he lie to you, after all?

That leaves you between a rock and a hard place.  If you believe him, then you must be the disaster area.  However, if you were not to believe him, you would still end up believing yourself to be the disaster area, since you “chose” him/married him/had children with him etc.

With so much difficult emotional stuff going on, you are unlikely to have very much emotional energy to spare.  As I remember it, there were plenty of times when just getting out of bed consumed every last ounce of my emotional energy.

What don’t you do, when you are emotionally exhausted?

You don’t step back and think clearly.

So, you never challenge the ingrained habit of blaming yourself. That is just one of the consequences of emotional abuse that does not just “fade away” when a toxic relationship ends.

Do you need to blame yourself?

Rather, the habit of blaming yourself has a very, very long afterlife.  By the time you walk away from an emotional abuser the habit of blaming yourself – for most things – has become so “normal” that you don’t even notice it.

The common thread that runs through my work this week with clients has been self-blame.  They all knew precisely how they “should” feel  – but did not feel – in the very different circumstances they all faced.

Have you noticed how an emotional abuser will always spell out for you how you should feel?  

What you “should” be feeling

Just in case he cannot rely on you to experience those feelings with suitable intensity all by yourself, he will make sure you know that you should be feeling,

  • Ashamed
  • Inadequate
  • Wrong
  • Bad
  • Selfish
  • Crazy
  • Worthless

This week, my clients have been looking at the difficult challenges that they faced in their own lives where they did not live up to someone else’s unfair-impossible standard and blaming themselves.

What do you tell yourself

We’ve all done it. We take a specific situation and make it mean something inexcusable about us.  Say, your home is untidy. You tell yourself that means that you are a slovenly, unworthy human being.  You experience feelings of depression. That means you are an emotionally inadequate, crazy, worthless human being. Allegedly.  Or suppose that a specific situation makes you feel uncomfortable. That means you must be inadequate, selfish and crazy.

In all of the scenarios that my clients presented to me, they experienced a challenge of one kind or another.

How did they respond to that challenge?

By responding to themselves WITHOUT the sensitivity and compassion that they deserved.  Rather, they responded in the mode of the emotional abuser(s.  They told themselves that they should feel X, Y and Z, about themselves because their feelings got in the way of them behaving how an abuser would expect them to behave.  In that abuser’s best interests.

You don’t need to blame yourself

In reality, the untidiness, depressed feelings, and uncomfortableness in a specific situation were simply facts – as opposed to thumbnail sketches of that person’s human worth.  Those things all happened because there was an underlying,  emotional wound that needed to be addressed.

Emotional abuse teaches you that you should be punished for your wounds.  Healing teaches you that your wounds are simply wounds.  They respond well to care – and exposure to the light of day.  They don’t have to define you.  They simply speak of the direction you have walked so far along the journey.

I’m guessing that you have always done the best you possibly could in the circumstances that you faced, with the wounds that you had incurred.  There is absolutely N-O-T-H-I-N-G that you need to blame yourself for.  Even if you have been less than perfect on occasion – and who hasn’t? – you would do better to learn the lessons than keep punishing yourself.

The next time you catch yourself getting caught up on the old hamster-wheel  of self-blame, remember you have nothing that you need to blame yourself for.  However, you do have something that is troubling you. That is where you need to turn your focus in order to heal your wounds.

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