One pesky little habit that I’ve come to recognize on people that are healing from something traumatic – for example a toxic relationship – is the misplacement of guilt. The wrong people – the survivors – are the ones taking accountability for what happened more often than I would like, when it’s 100% not theirs to take. I mean, unless one of you has the superpower of controlling how other people act, I don’t see how it could possibly be your fault.
As an example, my mother takes accountability of the guilt for many things that happened to me while I was growing up – because she says it was her responsibility to protect me – but she was never one of the people that lead me to have PTSD. And the people that did have no guilt or remorse for what they did. How is that right or fair? It isn’t, I’ll say that much.
But how can you know if you’re feeling misplaced guilt? Here are some of the excuses I’ve heard as to why the person feels guilty:
- I saw the red flags and chose to ignore them
- I chose this person before someone I could actually trust
- I could have left earlier
- I could have done something about it
- I made them angry
- I said something I shouldn’t, and the list goes on and on
I feel like these excuses often serve as a defense mechanism to prevent the person from turning into a “victim”. It is easier to find reasons why what happened was their fault than admitting that this person went through something unimaginable that was completely out of their control. The pain of the guilt is a lot lighter than that of the truth. But remember that you are no victim regardless – you are a survivor.
One of the abusive situations I went through was when I was from about 5 to 10, and I blocked those memories, but when they came back, I felt really guilty about the situation. Not about what happened, but because I kept trusting the person that caused me so much trauma and sometimes trusted that person over my best friends or mom. I mean, I obviously know it’s not my fault because 1) my memories were blocked and I had no recollection of what a horrible person they were, and 2) I was a child, there was nothing I could have done at the time.
Guilt is a funny thing; we sometimes feel it when we’re not at fault as a mask for a heavier feeling. And we only realize how wrong or bizarre our behavior is until we see it on someone else. For example, I saw my mom taking the guilt for the situation I just mentioned, and it baffled me and helped me realize I was doing the same illogical thing.
I don’t know if taking the blame for the situation is a technique to feel like you are in control now, since you weren’t before, or if it is a way of feeling “at peace” because at least someone feels bad about the situation, as some people have zero regrets for hurting others, unfortunately.
I hate to say it’s part of the process of healing, but it kind of is. I would say it is part of the denial phase, as we don’t want to accept that this was out of our control and that there was nothing we could have done to prevent it from happening.
What I want you to take from this post is the knowledge that a lot of people blame themselves for going through something traumatic, so you are not alone on that. But most of all, I want you to know you are guilty of nothing. There is a person who is guilty, and it is the person who caused the situation. You are a survivor of the situation, and soon you will heal from what you’ve been through and be the best version of yourself.