Breaking the Cycle of Automatic Self Blame


self blame ~mental health

“I wish I could show you when you are lonely or in darkness the astonishing light of your own being” Hafiz

Have you ever noticed that when you are driving a vehicle, some of the things you do are automatic? I don’t really think about using my turn indicator when I am about to turn a corner; it is so automatic that I often find myself indicating when I come to the corner in my own laneway.  When the brake lights come light up on the car in front of me, it is automatic for me to touch my breaks too.

When you are making the bed, or doing the dishes do you think about what you are doing, or are you thinking about something else? These types of mundane everyday tasks become habitual and automatic.

It is the same with the way that we think about ourselves. It was habitual for me to think that I was not as valuable as others; it was so deeply inside of me that I was not at all conscious of how I viewed myself or how deep my belief was. My mother often told me that I was selfish and I believed her. When I went to a 12 step program, it was very easy for me to agree that the root of my problem was selfishness and self centeredness, but it was not positive for me to believe that because my view of myself was wrong to begin with.  Because my belief systems and my view of self were so skewed, even self help books and programs were not helpful for me in the ways they were meant to be and very often had a negative effect on me. I did not realize this until I stepped back and decided to take a deep look at the beginning and where the confusion started.

Getting back to the beginning was kind of like navigating a deep dark cave with long winding tunnels and scary obstacles. Carrying a flashlight that only worked some of the time made it even more frightening. I was afraid that I would get lost in the dark and that I would end up hurting even more. I was afraid that I would get stuck there and be forever in the painful part of the process. I was so afraid of the repressed memories; I was almost positive that I would remember something that I could not deal with. I was afraid that I would discover that it was my fault after all; that I deserved what had happened to me, that I had indeed brought it on myself and even asked for it. I was afraid because I thought the lies were the truth and the truths were lies.

In my mind’s eye, there lived a little girl who was about two years old. She lived alone in an attic; it was very cold and dark with only one broken window letting in a bit of light. She was filthy dirty, wearing a sleeveless and tattered little dress, which barely covered her bottom. Her face was streaked with dirt and tears, her hair a tangled mass and she was cold. She was unable to speak, and she clung to a broken dirty dolly. I had no idea why I had this image of this little girl in my mind, but eventually I knew that she was me and that was the self image that I had deep inside of me. No one cared; no one even knew she was there. No one was coming to rescue her and she knew it. That hope had died years ago. When I realize that she was me, I had to rescue myself.

The key is to keep going. Keep navigating that cave. Find your beginning and go from there. Have the courage to keep striving towards the goal, believing that freedom is on the other side. Keep going. On the days that you doubt with every fibre of your being that you can have this too, come visit me here for little bit of encouragement. As always, I welcome your feedback and comments.

Darlene Ouimet

Categories : Self Esteem



Thank you again! Its so wonderful to hear my own experiences validated as real and true and normal and the part about self help books not helping is something I have struggled with forever, I even asked my former therapist “what do you do when you dont even know you are blaming/hating/disvaluing yourself because its so ingrained in your head that its not concious” and she didnt know what to say to me, but you did. Thank you and not only have that but also have someone there saying “you can make it and you will be ok because Im ok and I did it too”

I am having a lot of trouble with the “inner child” concept…I dont have a sense of what that means to me or how to connect with myself or anything even like that…but I am hoping that someday it will just “happen”. I feel so disconnected from myself in every sense of the word, that to even try to acknowledge my feelings in words is impossible sometimes. Thats why art therapy has been so important to me, it lets me get out things I dont have words for, and sometimes things I didnt even know were there at all.


Wow, that cave is where I am and it is the most frightening thing in the world when you start into it! The good news is that the longer you are at it, the less frightening it seems. I say ‘less’ because there is no getting around the ‘discomfort’ of being in the dark cave and confronting all the horrible things that have been living in there, but you do come to find out that they can’t HURT you anymore. The pain is the past pain that you have to work through, but they can’t hurt you in the here and now. Facing that fear time and time again builds an enourmous amount of courage and soon you are saying…ok, NEXT??? Just give it to me and let’s get this DONE!!! I want my life!

Thanks for the encouragement Darlene, you are such a blessing to me!



[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Darlene Ouimet, Catherine . Catherine said: Emerging from Broken @DarleneOuimet Breaking automatic cycle of Self Blame ~ #depression […]

Christina Enevoldsen
May 21st, 2010 at 1:44 pm

Your description of the cave is so accurate. I almost forgot how scary that cave really was, but you articulated exactly what I felt. I’m still exploring the contents of the cave, but it sure doesn’t inspire the same fear anymore. Now, I picture myself with a reliable, high-powered spotlight that keeps getting brighter. I have a sword in my hand and when I encounter the occasional beast, my response is, “Oh, you’re ugly and you smell like sewage. Good-bye.” Then I plunge my sword into its heart and watch it bleed to death. Those beasts always carry some sort of token that adds to my power–some truth that I need to move on. When I face each beast, that’s what I’m really thinking about—the token I get to snatch from him once he’s dead.


So scary. I am so afraid of this part. It seems I have been wallowing in the filth of my childhood my entire life. And I don’t even know what that really, really is. I am terrified of my family I am
terrified of being broken down by whatever it is that I have really been running from. But I trust the Process and I trust Compassion. I fear it’s gonna be too much for me to handle.



This kind of feedback validates me too. About the inner child, it is funny, when I finally saw her, I realized that she had been there all along but I had not been conscious of her. (I should also mention that I had dissociated identity disorder and I saw my inner child as separate from me, not a part of me, so I don’t always write about that the way that others do.) I was way my late 30’s before I realized that that “vision” of a child was there, and had been there for a long time, and then finally, that she was me. I have heard that art therapy is wonderful and I am so glad that you have found something that helps you and I am really glad that my words resonate with you. Thanks for your comments.

Hugs, Darlene


I love your spirit, your fight! YES you go girl!
I learned to walk forward and face the fear too. When I started to see light through the fog, I got really excited that I could actually have freedom and wholeness, and it spurred me on to dig deeper and go harder. I have a mantra today that I “advance towards the fire in the face of fear” and keep on going. There are still days that I am once again in that cave, but it is never like the dark days of the past. I know that I can get through now. I know that I am worth it.
Hugs, Darlene

I was so afraid of what I was going to encounter that for years I shut my eyes. I think that I was more afraid of the truth then I was of living in the depression and brokenness. But the fnny thing is that the truth, as tough as it is, (was never as horrible as I thought because I thought it would KILL me) in the end set me free. I am free now. I don’t have the feelings about my life or about myself anymore.
Keep going forward Splinty, you can do it! I know you can!
Love Darlene



I LOVE THIS! These are fighting words for all of us! I love the positive warrior imagery! I love the victory. I love the token and the death of the lie; Oh this is so wonderful!

Thank you so much, Darlene


This is a wonderful piece. I love the cave analogy. I am there in the cave, right now. I can see the hurt little girl, but I am not sure that I deserve to be saved. I am having a hard time “hearing” or interpreting positive messages as they relate to me. People try to help, but their help isn’t help, right now. Right now, their help sounds like accusations. I hope that one day soon, I can rescue myself from the cave.


Hi Cassie,
I am so glad that you like this piece. For so many years the “help” was not help as you say. Keep going forward Cassie, when we trust ourselves a little bit more than we have ever had permission to before, we can make such amazing progress. Keep me posted!
Hugs, Darlene


Great post Darlene. Really important information. Thanks


“The Cave of Self-Awareness”

I enter the cave so cold and dark, determined to find its’ source
I have decided that is the only way, I mustn’t let fear run its’ course

I’m tired of wallowing in guilt and shame, believing I have no worth
I have to find out what is real and true–I long for a rebirth

But this cave is vast and scary, I tremble as I creep
My light so feeble, barely works, in this cavern black and deep

The tunnels wind on and on for miles–I am so all alone
What if I can’t find my way through? I cover my face and moan

My fears, the obstacles, the memories–they are too much to face
I cannot go on any longer, in this horrible, dreadful place!

Is it worth it to know the truth? Will it truly set me free?
I will never know if I don’t go on, the person who is really me

I rise, wiping my tears with trembling hands, I shine my little light
Deeper, ever deeper I trudge into the cave, into my darkest night

The way is hard, painful and long–it seems to stretch on and on
But along the way, I’m beginning to find-hope-and that fear is nearly gone

I have faced the depths of my soul–met evil lie after lie
I have overcome each one with truth, looked evil straight in the eye

As I’ve travelled on, my light has grown stronger–it is now blazing bright
It is self-awareness, finding I’m not to blame–that has chased back the night

All the lies that were told to me–every mangy, ugly beast
I carry the sword of Truth now, they don’t bother me the least

I plunge my sword through the deceit–its’ black, ugly heart
Its’ power flows away beneath my blade, of it I am no longer part

As I meet each lie and misconception, and vanquish it forever–
I find another piece of myself, that from me had been severed

Each time I gain more strength, as I reclaim myself bit by bit
I am not the same person who entered here, afraid of this dark pit

This journey is now my friend, I no longer travel in fear
The light of truth illuminates my way, the end is oh, so near!

I have found out who I am, I AM a person of worth
I no longer believe the lies–I’ve had my soul’s rebirth

The dark, the cold, the beasts–they hold no sway over me
I know now that I can become, who I was meant to be

I am not at fault, I did not deserve it, I am not ugly or bad
These were the things told to a little girl, they became all she had

But she’s no longer little and refuses, to believe the lies she’s been told
She is a warrior now standing tall and brave–breaking the shackles hold

And though from time to time, she must enter the cave once more,
She enters with Truth shining bright–fear’s hold on her is o’er

She vanquishes each ugly, beastly lie, and gains a bit more power
Each time her light grows brighter, the darkness begins to cower

She is finding herself hidden there, in the winding caverns
It grows brighter all the time, as more of herself she learns

She is not who they told her she was–no, not at all
She is a strong, amazing survivor, who has risen from each fall

Finally, from the cave of self-awareness, she has emerged strong and free
Raising her chin with purpose she strides into the sunlight, of who she was meant to be.


Penny thank you!

This is a beautiful poem full of hope and the message of victory.
When you emerge into the sunlight at the end, that is exactly how I pictured myself in my own minds eye when I got stronger and was able to be my own woman and live in the truth. I felt like I had come out of a dark dark place, having been on a long long journey, and had seen this beam of light that I followed to the best of my ability, and then one day, I found my way to the fresh air and sunshine again, and I came out of the darkness and WOW, what a view! It was the most amazing feeling ever..

I love this poem, I feel so very blessed that you have posted this the blog so that so many others may enjoy it too. It is inspiring!
Love Darlene


Darlene, what powerful imagery you have painted of the cave and your journey. Thank you.

Penny, your poem adds so much more to Darlene’s message of recovery and facing the fears of that cave.

Christina, I love your warrior woman description. It fits all of us who struggle and fight our fears and the monsters of our dreams about the abuse of incest.

Cassie, I have been where you are. I started out just talking to my inner child, not knowing if she would response or not. At first she didn’t. She didn’t trust me and she had every right to feel that way. I just kept talking to her until I slowly, slowly gained her trust.



You hit the mark with that one….it was like you know what is in my heart…amazing….I have to admit I cried for your little girl…thank you for sharing


Hi Jenny,
Thanks for your comment… I have to admit also that I cried when I wrote it. It is so strange, I didn’t cry when I first realized about 6 years ago that she was me, but now I ‘feel’ so much more. I am happy to say that I don’t have that little girl in my minds eye anymore.. she is all taken care of and no longer abandoned.

From beautiful Dreams Peurto Vallarta, Darlene


My inner child is a baby girl lying in a crib. Parents are at work, babysitter is in another part of the house, ignoring me. The bedroom door is closed. I am shut in, cut off, and cold, cold, cold. No blanket, wearing only a diaper. My bottle is empty, like my stomach, I suck and all I get are air bubbles that taste vaguely like milk, lukewarm, and sour. I’m hungry and I’m cold and I’m lonely. When I wet my diaper, I feel the wonderful relief, the lovely WARMTH! But soon the wet cloth diaper grows cold, and now I am colder than I was before.


Hi Lynda
Good work ~ this is what I did to take care of that abandoned me; I re-parented her (me) in my own mind. I went to her (me), I held her, (me) I got blankets and food/milk. I did all the nurturing things that were not done for me. ( I never went without food as a child, but in my minds eye, my inner child had also not been fed or taken care of.. it was my perception of myself as unworthy, unlovable, dirty….)
So I did all that stuff, and I no longer have that image of that abandoned child other than in memory.
Hugs, Darlene


Thank you, Darlene, another resonant post. I have dreams about a tiny, shriveled up little baby. Sometimes it is so tiny that it gets lost or forgotten. In the past, when I was not taking care of myself, I would “lose” the baby. Now I am getting dreams where I actually take responsibility for it, but I am still learning how to care for her. I still get desperate and confused about her well-being. In my most recent baby dream, I took the baby from a little girl who was not able to care for him properly (it was a boy in this dream). I held on to the baby, but was not able to soothe him, he was so tense and miserable. He needed to release his pain but he literally had no outlet, and he exploded and died in my arms. I was devastated. This seems so harsh and I am still groping to find the message of this dream.I can see that I am making progress because I wanted to help this baby and stuck with it. The setting of the dream was a difficult modern urban environment, where no one seemed to know how to help either. I hope this post isn’t too odd. Sometimes I feel like I am doing well in my recovery, then I get a dream like this that really confuses me. But I suppose I need to look at whether I am still denying and hurting and shaming myself at levels I don’t even suspect yet.


Hi Sophia,
I have had lots of dreams that were significant in my recovery. I think about the significance the symbols in the dream (anything with emphasis) mean to my conscious life. The guilt, shameing and denial lifted in different stages for me. That is the process. That is how we work it out.
I don’t find this to be an “odd” post. I like your honesty!
Hugs, Darlene


This is how I see and experience stages of the process, the poem explains it well.


I love your description of the little girl. Not long ago on Dr Phil, there was a child rescued, a little girl, that actually lived as that filthy, abused child but got rescued years later. The damage that has been done to children, adults, animals, many many creatures is appalling. I am grateful for those that become voices for the voiceless.

God bless your voice, Darlene!



Hi Laura
It really is sad. I think that the more people who heal the more others will understand that healing is possible. Healing set me free not only from the results of trauma, but from the bondage of being controlled by so many other people. Taking my life back enabled me to be that voice. I am convinced that healing is the answer to making a dent in the numbers of children who are being devalued and abused.
Hugs, Darlene


Hi Darlene,

During your recovery, or others (that you’ve heard of), where there ever periods where you didn’t want to heal? I seem to make great strides at times and then stop – and then realize it is because I don’t want to heal or better to say, to deal with what I have to deal with. I think it also has to do with not believing I deserve it and am very angry with myself.



Hi Chris,
I’ve just started the healing process this year and it’s been 4 years into my journey. I say healing process to mean, when I started facing the truth about my abuse. It was hard to even admit to myself that I was abused. I didn’t look at it that way, I just always looked at myself as the troubled child. That was far from the Truth! I feel like I’m in recovery now, and I continue to struggle with my feelings & confusion, when it comes to family. Some days, I can dig deep & other days I feel sad & drained. When I slip or take two steps back, I try to be gentle with myself & not beat myself up with negative self talk. By facing the damage, I’m able to say I deserve better! It’s hard work but so worth it! You can do it!
Hang in There,


Hi Chris
Yes, there certainly have been times that I didn’t want to do the work. I think that it is fear that stops me. I love how you changed your thought here from “I don’t want to heal” to “deal” (I was afraid to deal so many times) And I beleived also that I did not deserve but realizing where that belief comes from helped me so much. I was “taught” that I didn’t deserve wholeness and happiness ~ but I am not the one that taught myself that!
You are doing great! hugs, Darlene


Thank you Sonia and Darlene – it’s nice to hear others perspectives on their own experience. It’s encouraging on days I just want to run.


Thank you Darlene for describing so well what we are going throw.
I would even say thank you for existing, that gives me hope.
In the present, I thik also that I don’t deserve to be helped, that I deserved the treatment I had.

It’s very hard to live with that feeling and with the feeling that somewhere, I know my own father hates me and one day wished my death.



I would had that I have to move from my birth town to get free but I just can’t ! That perspective paralyses me.

It’s been a long time I would to write here, but I did’nt know how to begin.


sorry I would “i would add” and not “I would had”.


Hi Aurelie
Welcome to Emerging from broken.
It is very hard to know that about your own father. Many of us here have been told that if not in words but in actions too. Everyone deserves to have a full and wonderful life and no one deserves wrong treatment. This site is about getting past all that! Glad you are here.
Hugs, Darlene


Thank you so much for sharing this!! It is something that I struggle with daily. I still feel as though I deserved the way I was treated and that I caused it to happen


Self Blame. WHOA! If I am working with a team, and something goes wrong, I AUTOMATICALLY assume it was something *I* did. Or if something goes wrong in the vicinity of where I am, even if I KNOW I had nothing to do with it, I just automatically assume somehow it’s my fault. wow, now I know where that is coming from.


Hi Jamie and DXS
“Automatically” is a big clue. I had to look at the reasons behind why it was so easy for me to assume/accept blame. Why did I ‘believe’ that I deserved the way I was treated and that I even ’caused it to happen. It was the answers to those questions that led me to freedom and wholeness.
Thanks for sharing!
hugs, Darlene


Dear Darlene
I wish I could have been as succinct in my own self experiences, I need to explore the cave but not sure how to begin, or process the information I gather, my mother was extremely abusive too me and like a magnet my adult relationships have been more abusive and now my children, it HAS to be my fault but then that is delusions of grandeur, I have no idea where to begin, I see me as the rag doll that this bright red, ranting, saliva flying, curly haired monster has picked off the floor by my shoulders, shaking me with my head lolling back and forth, being subjected to the loudest verbal abuse, she freely admits that she’s hated me since birth, that I was the cause of all her ills, I have memories of her being cruel to me from 18mths onwards and have tried to believe it’s the longest case of post natal depression ever, but still can’t ‘let it go’, thankyou I hope that I can stop blaming myself one day, I’m now 56yrs and it has affected my entire life and every relationship I had in the past and still have.


Hi Bonnie
Welcome to Emerging from Broken
I had no idea where to begin either. There was nothing ‘easy’ about doing this work. In my e-book I took a lot of my writing about how I put all of this together and built the foundation which I live on now and I re-ordered it to make it more understandable. A lot of people use it as a workbook ~ perhaps this might be something helpful to you as well.
I finally stepped away from self-blame and today my entire life is different; I live. I laugh and I know that I never deserved the way I was defined. I wish the same for you.
Thanks for sharing, I hope you will keep sharing and reading here.
hugs, Darlene

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