You’re Not to Blame!

Children often blame themselves for the bad things that happen to them. As adults, we don’t have to keep blaming yourselves.

In working with trauma survivors for over 12 years, a common theme I have encountered has been that people who are abused as children often take responsibility for what happened to them. They think that if they were lovable, stronger, or better able to figure out what their adult caretakers wanted, the abuse would never have happened. The sad thing is that many perpetrators of abuse say things to encourage their victims to feel responsible for the abuse. Very often these are people whose personal developments are immature and do not allow them to take appropriate responsibility for their actions. Therefore, they project responsibility onto the people they harm. This is true for physical as well as sexual abuse.

Of course, we humans are very good at justifying what we do, and our memory is self-serving in most cases. We’ll remember many events in a way that favors us and makes us look good. However, a healthy, normal adult can also take a step back and look at their behavior, realizing that there are more than one versions of any story. Thus, we can see ourselves as culpable and capable of mistakes in most situations, and hopefully take corrective action accordingly. People who hurt others often find it too uncomfortable and painful to take responsibility, so they have a binary system of responsibility. What this means is that they generally see everyone else as wrong and at fault, and themselves as perfect and poor victims who are acted upon by all those wrong-doers. Other adults can swat away people like this like so many flies, realizing that this way of thinking is unhealthy and dangerous to be around. But children are often stuck in a one-down position in relation to people like this. Imagine being the child of someone who can never admit fault, can never say “I’m sorry” after inflicting physical or emotional pain on you. Or worse yet, who can make you feel as though you deserved to get mistreated. This is one of the horrible side effects of abuse that takes a long time to heal.

If you have come to see your own childhood abuse as your fault, I hope that you can reach a point where you realize that you did not deserve it. It may take a while to realize this, but it is a very important part of healing from trauma. If you feel stuck and believes that don’t work for you, professional help may be essential to your healing. Please consider calling me if you are in the Antelope Valley area; my phone number is 661-233-6771.

Murder-Suicides — How do we make sense of these tragedies?

As you all know, recently a young pilot committed a murder-suicide in a plane in Switzerland, leaving many to wonder why someone would do such a thing. To say that he was depressed doesn’t do justice to what he might have been experiencing. There appears to be personality abnormalities in those who commit such tragic acts, including a desire for infamy and a sense of undoing some injustice that the person perceives was perpetrated on him or her.

Many times when I see clients, they want to know why people do the hurtful and painful things they do — abusive parents, spouses, bosses, lovers, leaders, religious figures, etc. Unfortunately, while there is research on psychopathic, narcissistic and otherwise mentally ill offenders, the why of their misdeeds fails to soothe or ease the person’s pain. What’s more empowering, I think, is to contemplate how to recognize “red flags” or danger signals in relating to people who don’t have our best interest at heart and avoiding falling into deeper involvement (like marrying or having children with such people).

Nonetheless, for an interesting look at the research of why a very small portion of humans do such things, here is a link to a fascinating article: