There are several really HOT topics when it comes to recovery. One of them is “accountability” I’m talking about the destructive practice of “self blame” that is disguised as the virtue of accountability. This week I posted the following update on the Emerging from Broken facebook page:
“Recovery started with me. That alone was a hard truth to swallow. I had to face the pain. I had to do the work. It didn’t seem fair ~ none of this was my fault in the first place which was ALSO a hard truth to swallow because for some reason I thought it WAS my fault. These were the stick points; the road blocks. The bottom line is that I am the only one that can “take my life back”.
When I posted this in EFB facebook, I was thinking the discussion would be about my statement “I am the only one that can take my life back”.
An awesome discussion started which quickly turned into a discussion about accountability. This happens frequently. I am talking about when people say “although I didn’t know better as a child I certainly knew better as an adult”. Accountability can be a nice way of saying “it was my own fault”. This is a topic I seem to be running into a lot this week and it is one that is very close to my heart because that kind of accountability almost killed me. Continued…
Through my work in mental health support and through this blog I have noticed a significant pattern when it comes to this issue of self blame. People can describe an abusive event in their childhoods and sometimes they can agree that it was not their fault. BUT when it comes to making mistakes after a certain age, so many of us believe that we were “old enough” to know better, therefore, accountability fits. In my process of recovery, I learned that “age” has nothing to do with it.
There were a few key things missing in my growing up process. Where, when and how was I supposed to learn to stand up for myself? I accepted mistreatment as a child because I had no choice. I had never learned that I deserved any better. I was a powerless child. The bridge between childhood and adulthood however, was somehow absent. This can happen many ways; it doesn’t mean that my parents were evil failures. (although sometimes that is what it means). I look at it this way; if my parents were, for whatever reason, “unable” to raise me to be a strong individual who knew my true value with an identity that was not dependant on them, then I also had to give myself permission to say that they failed me instead of taking the blame for my own stunted growth. I was able to stop saying “well it wasn’t their fault because they didn’t know any better”. Because the fact is that it doesn’t matter if they knew better or not, I had to find a way to take my life back. I had to stop thinking that I should have grown myself up somewhere between the ages of 13 and twenty something.
Once I viewed this a little differently, THEN I was able to get on with completing the process of growing up that I missed.
I was so filled with shame about some of the things that happened to me when I was what I considered to be “fighting age”. I was so willing to be accountable because I was told that accountability was freedom. But I missed the truth and tried to jump straight to freedom. I had self blame thoughts that I didn’t even know I had! And one of the biggest deep down beliefs that I had was that I didn’t deserve better and that alone was enough for me to take the blame for the way that I was treated.
My “self talk” went like this:
~ “But I didn’t fight him off. But I didn’t tell. I should have called the cops. But I didn’t say no. I just froze. I shoud have screamed. I knew that he was bad news. I shouldn’t have believed that he would never do it again. I knew I deserved better. If I had not made him angry. If I had just made him understand how much I loved him. But I was old enough to know better.” And because of those thoughts, I took the responsibility for making bad choices, without ever examining why I actually made the choices.
So when I grew up, I also found a way to accept blame for being abused as a child. It was easy; it was one of the ways that I coped as a child. Blaming the adults was out of the question. I needed them. I thought I could earn love and fair treatment. It was habitual for me to blame myself.
And although that self talk is really loud, I learned to tell those “voices” to shut up when in actuality it was in listening to them that I was able to drill down to where they came from. I was able to see and repair that missing bridge between childhood and adulthood.
I had also come to believe that accountability only applied to me. I had become so used to being mistreated that I didn’t think about the accountability of the person who mistreated me. This is not about blame or about blaming them; it is about undoing self blame. This is a huge stick point in the recovery process. Getting past it was also huge in the process towards freedom.
This year, be your own Valentine. Treat yourself the way that you dream of being treated by others. Regard yourself the way that you delight in a small child. Think about what you think love is and love yourself.
related posts ~ Understanding Victim Mentality