Have you ever asked yourself that old, “Why me?” question, with a view to trying to understand what is about you that has – allegedly – caused you to be on the receiving end of abuse, accusations and disappointments? If so, then read on, today’s article will help you understand where that mind-set comes from, how it is holding you back and how you can start to beat it.
The family cluster of questions
“Why me?” is often at the heart of a family cluster of questions about what it was about you that singled you out for the bad people, bad treatment and serial disappointments that have happened in your life. Closely related questions include,
“What have I done to deserve this?”
“What is wrong with me?”
“Why can’t I be like other people?”
These questions are all interrelated, hence the name “family cluster”. They are also highly likely to originate with the family of your childhood.
People who grew up in families where they felt emotionally safe and supported are far less likely to be susceptible to the “Why me?” cluster of questions – even if they encounter narcissists and abusers later on.
What is so damaging about the “Why me?” questions
I will admit that I have a very bad allergy to the “Why me?” family cluster. It could have something to do with the fact that there have been times when I have obsessively, asked myself exactly those questions. I’ll admit to something of the intolerance of the ex-smoker towards smoking. However, there is much more as well.
The “Why me?” questions inevitably establishes victim status and make you feel like a victim.
Now, the truth – as I see it – is that you have been a victim, through no fault of your own. No blame or stigma attaches to that. That is an important part of your truth. Nevertheless, living your life in the shadow of that victim status is not great for you.
In your own mind, it sets you apart from other people. In a bad way. We live in a society that is, at best, uncomfortable with victims. It is as if it behoves victims to prove that their equal worthiness and humanity.
Victim status, inevitably, drags a person down. It is a label that limits future possibilities. Hence my preference for seeing survivors as good people to whom bad people and things have happened, through no fault of their own.
The other aspect of the “Why me?” question
This leads us on to the other key aspect of the “Why me?” question which is all about responsibility.
Responsibility, we are told, means taking ownership of what happens to us. From there to believing that we somehow attracted the abuser and the abuse to us is but a small theoretical step… into the abyss of punitive accountability, beloved of the (self-righteous) proponents of faux spirituality and psychobabble.
As I see it, you are actually responsible for learning the lessons from any painful experience and owning your own mistakes. That is a very different proposition from facing an accusation that you attracted the bad stuff into your life.
Bad people and things happened to you, first off, because bad people and things exist and they happen. They happen to everyone.
Bad stuff appears in every life.
The resilience piece
The issue is how well we are equipped to deal with the bad stuff. And that is where the issue of emotional resilience – or lack of resilience comes in.
Sensitive souls who grow up in abusive environments quickly learn that they are required to take whatever kind of attacks are levelled at them, on the chin. You can try to explain or justify yourself but, with toxic people, you will never get far. Once you have been accused of an offence – whether real or imaginary – you are not entitled to any kind of defence. You just have to take the punishment. So, you end up with a learned lack of resilience.
However, as a sensitive soul who grew up without the emotional safety and support of a healthy family, you lacked the environment for your native resilience to develop normally.
The two factors that leave you undefended
The two factors conspired to leave you sadly undefended in the face of abuse. That is just the way that abusers want you to be. They want you to be as defenceless as possible in the face of their abuse so that they can get their payoffs from you, at will.
So, here’s what happens. Given your lack of defences, when bad people and things fall into your life, you are at a disadvantage. Instead of having a clear idea how you can manage them, you fall into your toxic loved one’s narrative about how this is all a consequence of some deep personality flaw of yours. That is garbage – but you don’t know that. Or, if you see that, intellectually, you don’t believe it. Your wounds and your experience tell you a different story which you feel to be true.
What you lack
You don’t attract the bad experiences and you are not responsible for the bad experiences, you just lacked some very important tools,
- The intuition – or willingness to trust your intuition – to spot a potential disaster before it latched onto you.
- The defences to ward it off – or tell the disastrous and damaging person to move on to their next likely target. (You worry about hurting other people’s feelings with a rejection, not realising that their interest in you was never personal. Rather it is like the supermarket shop – pre-pandemic, anyway. If you absolutely want a certain ingredient and one supermarket does not have it, you will go to another one, or a specialist shop, or an online supplier. You will just work through the next best possibility. That is exactly what abusers do, too.)
- The ability to walk away swiftly. Your upbringing taught you to stay put, take the abuse that was dumped on you and try to earn forgiveness (for what you had not done) and love (that had always been out of reach).
Ask yourself a better question or two
Do you see, now, why the “Why me?” cluster of questions suck? You would do much better asking yourself these questions, “Why them?” and “Now that this has happened to me, what do I need to do get back on my feet?”
Toxic people taught you that their punishment was good for you – it was, allegedly, meant to improve you. In reality, punishing you was good for them, inasmuch as it enabled them to feel better at your expense. Time now for you to focus on how you can start to feel good about yourself and what you need to do to achieve that.
If you need help in exorcising the learned defencelessness and lack of resilience, and rebuilding your sense of your self-worth, get in touch.
Annie Kaszina, international Emotional Abuse Recovery specialist and award-winning author of 3 books designed to help women recognise and heal from toxic relationships so that they can build healthy, lasting relationships with the perfect partner for them, blogs about all aspects of abuse, understanding Narcissists and how to avoid them and building strong self-worth. To receive Annie’s blog direct to your Inbox just leave your details here.
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