How Blame, Guilt and Shame get Misapplied to Self

overcoming self blame, shame, guilt
a childs mind

The belief system that I am constantly speaking of does not form all at once or form completely from one event. This is where it gets complicated. Other events factor into it, some of them normal healthy childhood events that may have familiar feelings attached to them, and it is really easy to lump them all together.

When a child is devalued, abused, or discounted, it is a matter of necessity, (survival) to build an understanding or comprehension, and that comprehension becomes like a filter that we look through. Child sexual abuse, being put down, called a liar, made fun of and ignored, and being physically harmed all became part of my history and the way that I processed that history became part of this “grid or filter” that I viewed all events through.

Being ignored on the playground at school brought up familiar feelings of rejection.  My mind searched through my history for a reason that I had been rejected, and quickly related it to the feelings surrounding a trauma event. (Continued….) Imagine sneaking a cookie from the cookie jar and getting caught. Maybe a stern reprimand was issued. Maybe you felt ashamed and the shame felt like the other shame from the trauma event. They felt similar. The shame and guilt was familiar and this time they actually applied. Angry labels like “sneak”: and “thief” were applied and accepted and we hung our heads. If we denied taking the cookie in the first place the label liar was also added and it was easy to take that “regular childhood cookie sneaking event” and add it to the “proof” that the guilt and shame from actual trauma events was also deserved. 

I have a really significant memory of a time when I got “caught” doing something naughty and shameful.  I still remember the feelings of shame that I felt that day. I was not often allowed to have a friend over, and on this day my best friend was not only allowed to play at my house, INSIDE the house, but we were going to bake cupcakes. This was a very special day. My friend brought her easy bake oven with her and we were happily baking cupcakes. We decided to make cupcakes in the big oven and I felt all grown up putting the icing on them when they had cooled down.  We each got one, and there were cupcakes for my brothers too.  I do not know why I did this, but I took a bite out of my brother’s cup cake and tried to cover the missing bite with extra icing. I got caught. My mother was very angry with me, and my friend got sent home. I got a spanking and sent to my room. I had ruined our special day and everything had been going so well. I felt the guilt and shame of that day for years and years. It is one of my clearest childhood memories and in later years I often wondered about the significance of that day and why it has stuck with me for so long, as if it was the most horrible thing that I could have ever done, so I could not put behind me.

Today I believe that the significance of the cupcake day was that that was the day that I accepted all the guilt, shame and blame for most if not all of the trauma events that had ever happened to me, and would ever happen to me. It was just a little trigger day. I was deeply ashamed, (which I understand) but I linked it to the other events that were abusive to me. I connected it to the feelings of shame and guilt that I had about being neglected and traumatized, giving equal weight and putting them on a parallel scale with this time that I really did do something wrong, not realizing that there was a difference between the guilt and shame that belonged to me, and the guilt and shame that didn’t belong to me.

The “bad feelings” felt so similar that I added them to the grid or filter that I’d developed to measure and analyse things through and came up with the wrong conclusions; that the trauma events of being sexually abused were as equally shameful and guilt filled as the day that I took that bite out of my brother’s cupcake and tried to hide it.

Other fairly normal innocent childhood “mistakes” got added to that increasingly confusing recipe and they all blended together to form my false belief system. A false belief system that I never considered was false, but thought all along was the truth about me.

How does this post strike you? Does it make sense that a false belief system can form this way? Do you see how a childhood “mistake” could be the proof that we use to take the blame and shame for things that really are not our faults? Please feel free to share.

Another Snapshot on the Journey to Wholeness

Darlene Ouimet

Related Posts ~ How One Truama Led to Several False Beleifs         

The little Girl who Cried Wolf ~ Belief System Development

62 response to "How Blame, Guilt and Shame get Misapplied to Self"

  1. By: Steve Posted: 9th October

    Wow! I’d read or at least bookmarked this article previously, but it really resonated with me today.

    I started out tonight following your “Throwback Thursday” FaceBook link to this article:

    I’m not my own best friend, and although I’m certain I read that article linked above previously, it helped to re-read and just slowly absorb your words.

    I’m going to ask myself those questions you suggest, as to what I think a best friend is.

    The timing on finding the link again today is amazing me, since I am focused on trying to learn to love myself, never mind not to hate myself as I was taught to do!

    Now this article, where I am commenting (…blame, guilt and shame…) also ties in amazingly to what’s in my head.

    Answering the question you (Darlene) ask at the end of the article above:

    Yes, it REALLY helps me better understand how a false belief system gets formed, reinforced and how both positive and negative experiences when we grow up, can become the basis for a false belief system about ourselves!

    The way we absorb experiences growing up certainly makes a tangled web to sort through in my brain, and understanding that helps to be able to untangle the memories and make sense of them, and to ultimately discard those which don’t serve us, and that were there to keep us under the control of our abusers.

    I love your website and your writing. I’m so thankful you have mentioned more than once, I think is that healing can be more like a spiral than a linear journey, and that too helps to not beat myself up for revisiting things.

    Each time I re-visit an issue, for me, through your posts, it actually helps reinforce the healing and to undo the lifetime of false beliefs I never thought I could change in myself.

    Wow again and thank you!

    Now, as if often the case, your links within these articles led me to more interesting and healing articles here on EFB, and it’s difficult to express how exciting it is to find yet more articles here, each one helping me on my healing journey, to gain intelligent, insightful and sane food for thought, and healing!

    Peace, hugs and well wishes to everyone.

  2. By: Amber Posted: 30th July

    Darlene, I have a question about guilt and shame. Since I was a child, and even to this day, if I get accused of something I feel some guilt and shame, even if I didn’t do it! I know that as a child my mother would often blame me for things. And I was accused of things by other adults too, even stealing, which I didn’t do. I remember feeling guilt when that saleswoman accused me of trying to steal something at a store when I was 9. I was too shy and afraid to defend myself so I just paid for the object and left. I never old my parents. In a healthy family setting I should have been able to tell them and have them return with me to the store to have it out with that clerk. But I was afraid they wouldn’t believe me and maybe I would get punished by them.
    So, why did I feel guilt and shame on that day, and wh do I still feel guilt and shame as n adult when someone accuses me Of something I didn’t do?

  3. By: Kylie Posted: 14th October

    Oh my god Darlene, you really hit the nail on the head. I can relate so well to this post. Thank you for sharing with us and helping us understand better.

  4. By: Dave Posted: 24th March

    I just read this for the first time and realized that it was originally written last year ! I thought it was a recent blog post. Maybe Darlene or Rainbow can explain the whole dissassociation thing to me because i dont really understand it ? I have seen the term used a lot but in all my years of counseling i dont ever remember a therapist bringing it up.

    My core is shame. My whole being is shame. something happened last week that i had a small amount of shame over. Well suddenly that small amount of shame tapped into a huge amount of shame deeply embedded in me that i had no idea was there. It was like i went from a 1 to a 10 on the “shame meter” almost without warning. I dont know what the deep shame is from other than being abused my whole childhood and feeling worthless. I was also sexually abused which has caused a lot of shame too.

    I dont know what to do with all the shame i have. I have had it for so long and its been part of me – pretty much my foundation my whole life (i am 48 years old). I have no idea how to get rid of the shame. I have done over 15 years of counseling, done the whole medication thing, been to healing conferences, recited verses about being a child of god etc…nothing has really worked. I carry the shame and dont even know its there because its been there for so long and i have no idea how to get rid of it or what to do with it ? How do you get rid of something bad that has been with you for your whole life ? I have tried telling myself that it wasnt my fault and i didnt deserve it but that hasnt really worked either. Whats the solution to deeply embedded shame and guilt ? thanks for reading !

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 25th March

      I had to look at where it started. I had to look at where it was born and see the lies that I believed about myself because of that event.
      I have written lots in this site about dissociation ~ you can use the search tool or the tag cloud on the right side bar to read more. You might also find help by reading the posts starting with January 2010
      Hugs, Darlene

  5. By: Drained Posted: 24th March

    I think when a parent over-reacts and the punishment does not fit the “crime” instills a feeling of guilt in the child over the smallest things, and even for things the child did not do. And of course this follows the child well into adulthood. To this day, I can look or feel guilty even for things I’m not guilty of!

    One of the naughty things I did and got caught and punished for plagued me for years. I got tired of my older brother punching me in the arm and not being made to stop or even get reprimanded for. So I got some of my mother’s lipstick and rubbed it on my arm to make it look more red and “serious” so they would make him stop punching me. I forgot to clean it off so later, you could see the red streaks. Mother realized what I had done and so I was considered a liar forever after and accused of things I didn’t do. It didn’t occur to her that I was really hurting and needed to take desperate measures to get her to do what she was supposed to do. All I did was make things worse for myself.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 24th March

      Hi Drained
      Your example is exactly what I am talking about. There were things that I did to get the attention that I needed. There were messages that I was trying to communicate that went unnoticed. The ways that I was regarded invalidated ME and my needs until I invalidated ME and my needs. Thank you for sharing this story.
      Hugs, Darlene

  6. By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 16th July

    Hi Karen

    I remember this one time where my Dad gave me permission to stay out an extra half hour and didn’t tell my mother. When I got home she slapped me so hard across the face that my glasses flew off. She never said she was sorry when my Dad told her that I had phoned and he gave the permission.
    I think that I added this to my “bad girl” beliefs too.
    Thanks for sharing,
    Hugs, Darlene

  7. By: Karen Posted: 16th July

    I remember in 6th grade, I believe, my ‘boyfriend’s’ mom picking me up to go to the movies. My mom said it was OK. Later I came home and told my brother the mom dropped us off, so we were alone. I didn’t know that was going to happen. I was just a kid! It was an innocent event and then the mom was right on time picking us up afterward. Well, my brother told my mom and she asked if that were true and I said yes. Then she slapped me really hard on my face! Later I kept scratching that side of my face until it was really red and raw. She asked me what happened and I told her I scratched it. That’s when my self-hatred cycle began I think. None of it was MY fault, but I shamed into believing it was.

  8. By: Vicki Posted: 19th June

    I can’t say I understand that, b/c I felt guilt and shame for a different reason. I’m sure most people won’t want to believe it, but the person who did it to me did so in a church. In an upper room in fact, and he told me that God hates me, feels ashamed of me and will never be happy with me.
    He told me that he, the cleric, has to “take me like a sacrifice until God’s happy with me, and the only way God would be happy with me is if he fixed my eye problem.”
    My bad eyes were used as the first proof that God hates me. “If he loved you, he would have made you with normal eyes.” So this person said, and so did other people. By the fact that they were so damned upset about having to deal with me as “handicapped,” they brought across the point the way one would receive it if it had been delivered by a sword.
    I got most of my beliefs from what they said to me, and I never had anything normal, like an Easy Bake Oven until AFTER I was sent to foster care, so I don’t have normal memories before I was 8 years old.
    I didn’t know how to tie my shoes when I arrived in foster care, the parents had to teach me how, and I wet the bed until the very day I moved out of the house. I never wet the bed again after April 21, 1975, even though I’d wet it daily (or nightly) the whole time I lived in the first house.
    But, because they brought religious reasons into everything they did, to justify it, I’ve never been able to believe a loving God exists for people born with handicaps. That’s one of the main reasons I watched ‘Children Of A Lesser God.’
    I thought I was going to learn something.
    BTW I still don’t know who the person is who did this business in the Upper Room. I started talking about it on OSA web site, but stopped b/c I was upset that I can’t remember his name. I wish I could remember, b/c the stuff he did changed my entire view of what or who God is.

  9. By: Pam Posted: 15th May


    I have a memory also that caused me to think that I was responsible for anything that went wrong. I can’t remember what the ‘crime’ was but I remember that I didn’t do it, my sister did. My mom was insistent that I was the culprit but since I insisted that I didn’t do it, she spanked my sister. My mom used a fly-swatter to spank us and I have this vivid memory of my mom screaming at me, grabbing my little sister, putting her across her knee and spanking her with the fly swatter as she glared at me. I felt so confused. I hadn’t done anything wrong but I was made to feel that it was my fault that my sister was being punished. I was also told, from the time that I was six, that I was responsible for my parents drinking too much. My predominent memory of my parents is of them sitting at the kitchen table drinking. Everything revolved around that kitchen table. All of the huge dramas and abuses started there. It was so much for a little girl to feel responsible for and that is the way I tried to handle life for a very long time. It was so good when I figured this out and began to set my personal boundaries and no longer think that I was responsible to fix what ever was wrong in the lives of the people I loved. If they failed, I failed also. This was especially true with my children.

    When my first grandson was born, a dear friend said, “Now remember, all granny has to do is love them.” That has stuck in my head and life is so much better when all I really have to do is love.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 15th May

      Hi Pam,
      this is exactly the kind of stuff that I am talking about. The mixed messages, the ways that we were taught that we had something to do with everything. And how we were trained, groomed to believe it all.
      Thanks for sharing the deep stuff.
      Hugs, Darlene

  10. By: Pinky Posted: 11th March

    Yes thank you for the blog Darlene and for your truth Susan!

  11. By: Pinky Posted: 11th March

    @Susan sorry to hear it! Dont give up! I have found that people who tell the truth it is who they are and if you give in to them it will strip you of who you are. I just had a similar conversation with a high school friend about his fire house. It has nothing to do with abuse but with truth. Everyone turned against him for telling the truth about a fire. It seems that people fight so hard against truth on every level of society. I think we discovered that in our families first but it is everywhere. It is in politics, corporate America and churches hes too. Thanks for sharing Susan. You are not alone but just discovering your new family of truth tellers!

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 11th March

      Hi Susan
      This is exactly how it usually goes in dysfunctional families. They band together against the truth out of fear. The truth sets people free, but it also dismantles the dysfunctional system which for many is the survival system. The fear of standing up to the abuser (that we bring with us from our childhood training) is huge and even as adults most feel safer sticking with the “group” instead of taking a stand for truth. BUT I decided that was THEIR problem. And I am free of all those dynamics now. They however, are still stuck in that sick and dysfunctional system.
      Thanks for sharing
      Hugs, Darlene

      My first motivation to do this blog was based around the word “truth” and realizing that I was a truth seeker and a truth teller. I sought the truth for many years before I found it the way that I can talk about it now, and it is great to have this growing community of us now!
      Hugs, Darlene

  12. By: Susan Posted: 11th March

    @ Pinky….you are absolutely right!!! Truth tellers get NO support. I tell the truth to a fault I’ve been told. In the meantime the rest of my family is in denial about any bad family situations. The deniers “stretch” or don’t tell the truth and everyone jumps on “their” bandwagon, (Including spouses) leaving the truthteller on the stage alone…..It’s heartbreaking to me and I am usually left out of everything as I am always the bad guy. Right now my entire family has “defriended” me from facebook and no one has spoken to me in a week because of a comment my sister-in-law said to me that was way out of line and I “called” her on it. The troups were “rallied” and the decision was made to “oust” me of of the family once again….so here I sit.

  13. By: Pinky Posted: 9th March

    I just posted this on OSA I had a sort of revelation and just want to share it that’s all. I just figured out how to use the blog after all this time I was kind of thinking all the blogs I was on on FB were all the same one LOL!. I got it now!
    Anyway, I had a life long friend leave my page at FB and my life because they thought my posts on this and other blogs were about them when I had no idea what so ever of their on abuse issues. What I wanted to say is very short but for me a powerful revelation. This is my opinion and in no way provable it is just my personal theory from personal experience but I believe it with all my heart. I believe based on observation that all everyone not just those who were abused or have abuse in their families but everyone is in 2 camps. Either they are deniers or truth tellers. Truth tellers fight against denial and deniers fights against truth. Not just truth about abuse but all forms of truth. Some people fight truth because they want their fantasy world be it a perfect family or whatever it may be. I could write books on what I have observed and what I have observed does not involve abuse. Just truth and lies. Truth tellers find each other and so do deniers. They find people to support them in their denial. But truth tellers do not get as much support!

  14. By: Sheryl Posted: 1st March

    It is a hard thing to explain, especially to him. It feels slippery. It feels like he is my age and hasn’t been through what I have. When I say, “You should hear some of the stories of how my husband (who is sitting right there in the room) grew up and then you would better understand…” and he responds by telling us that he already knows about farming families, etc.,…

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