Overcoming that Nasty Self Blame from Dysfunctional RelationshipsBy
Looking back on my life, it is evermore clear to me how hard I looked for excuses to blame myself for the dysfunction in my life. There is a very good reason that children take on the blame: it was safer to blame themselves. Blaming “them” was fruitless. I could not “make them change” but “I knew” I could always “try harder”. I believed that if I could “do good enough” that they would finally love me.
It was very hard for me to learn to see things through a new grid because I had been consistently taught things a certain way. The way that I was taught things became my grid of understanding. My grid of understanding was the way that I saw and believed that life worked. Dysfunction was my normal. I believed things worked in life a certain way, because that is how I was “taught” life worked. As I got older, outside influences added to those teachings, confirming them and cementing them firmly in my mind. This is what I call my belief system.
One of the things that I have discovered about my belief system is that although when I got older I was taught that I can change my thinking by practicing a new thought or belief over and over again, (positive affirmations or positive thinking) the truth was that until I found the original false belief and dispelled it, the original belief was there underneath whatever new thought I was trying to implement. Furthermore the original belief was still my default mode. So until I found the original belief, where it came from and what was untrue about it so that I could change it to the truth, I could not find the freedom and wholeness that I have now. All the “positive thinking” in the world did not change my “default mode”.
The belief system begins to develop early. Not only are we taught in words but we are taught by the actions of others and the consequences to us if we don’t comply, if we rebel and even if we misunderstand non verbal communication. When it comes to family, it takes real effort to make these changes in our belief systems because of all the fears related to them. Fears that have their roots in our child hood thinking. These fears are connected directly to our survivor mode.
*Some children react differently to the teachings; in the opposite of compliance, they act out and rebel against all the wishes and rules the parents set out. The results however, are very similar. It is even easier for them to believe that they are to blame for any “lack” of love or nurturing in their lives.
There are a few really important things to consider if the changes in the way we believe life works and changes in the belief system are going to stick.
~ I had to be willing to face the consequences of drawing my boundaries. The fear of the ultimate and final rejection from my family was huge. I had to find out where that fear came from and what exactly I was afraid of and when I discovered the truth about that fear it turned out to be another false belief based in more lies that had to be dispelled. The first thing I realized is that when I was a child if my family rejected me that would have meant certain death. That was the truth then. It is no longer the truth now.
~ Because of this fear and because of how I had been taught to take the blame for whatever happened to me, I had to constantly remind myself that what I was really healing from was the damage. I had to look at the damage by itself and not try to figure out why the person who hurt me had hurt me or what was missing or wrong with them. I had to stick to the fact that they hurt me and there was damage. Sticking with looking at the damage was the key when it came to looking at the dysfunction in my family. (Mostly because of the fear of the consequences of disloyalty and again that ultimate rejection.) Unravelling the belief system is complicated.
Because I have been doing this work with others for a few years now, I quickly see when people are making excuses to excuse fault for the damage done. This type of thinking kept me stuck for many many years.
There are lots of ways that people avoid placing any blame on family.
This one is popular; “They didn’t mean to do any harm, they just didn’t have the tools they needed to be good parents.” To which I had to remind myself that first of all, they had the same opportunity that I did and I am not a disrespectful careless parent and second, in order to heal from the damage I had to strive not to get caught up in their excuses of why they failed me. (you may want to read one of my all time most popular blog posts at this point “My Parents Did the Best they could According to Who?”)
I hear this one a lot; “it is my own fault that my life was so messed up. I made the mistake of trying to do everything that my parents wanted instead of turning to God and seeking his guidance. I sought my parents for every decision instead of seeking God and that is why I got so messed up.”
In my case my parents WERE God. It was up to my parents if I lived or died. They represented God in my life and when I understood that, things became a tiny bit clearer. I was a child when the dysfunction began. When kids are raised in a dysfunctional home, they are not ever taught to depend on anything outside their parents. Words about faith and a loving God are not comprehended even when taught by someone else when the child is living in chaos because there is NO example of how faith or love works. I believed that my parents held my life in their hands and rejection meant death. This childhood teaching is not easily undone. I didn’t just “grow out of it.” For one thing, I had to realize it was even there before I corrected that false belief!
Children are taught things through actions and reactions. The difficulty in recognizing only the damage is in the fact that we are so brainwashed to submit to this ‘loyalty’ to our parent “gods.” This system did not start with my parent’s generation. My parents repeated the dysfunction in their own lives that they learned from controlling and manipulative people too. They passed on their dysfunctional belief systems to me and taught me the same false teachings that they themselves had been taught.
~I was quick to take the blame for all the problems. I believed I should have been able to prevent them or that I was exaggerating them. That was my survival mode. I was willing to take the blame for my mother’s emotional and violent outbursts, because I was taught to. I believed that if I had been “a good girl” she would not “have to” hit me. I believed that I caused her anxiety or whatever ever her issue was at the time.
~I was willing to never expect any attention from my father, because I believed from all those other events that I was undeserving in the first place. And it doesn’t matter if my mother learned it from her parents and if they learned if from theirs. That makes no difference when it comes time to face that it happened and that it was wrong.
My willingness to take the blame resulted in low self esteem, depression, dissociation, addictions and all sorts of other things. The results of blaming myself for the lack of interest my father showed, the carelessness and emotional neglect that had become “normal” for me was that I put myself beneath almost everyone because that treatment had defined me as unworthy. My needs, in my eyes and through the grid of my belief system, ALL of my needs were LESS important than the needs of others.
I overcame the labels of unworthy, unlovable, invalid, less important and not enough. I overcame the manifestations of all these types of abuse when I looked past that learned behaviour of self blame and did the work to face the truth about where those thoughts began and the lies that were connected to them. When I knew how self blame got there in the first place, it naturally fell away.
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Another snap-shot of Truth;
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