When Inspirational Material Triggers Self Blame

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Self Blame and recovery

I was watching a motivational video clip that someone shared from You Tube and something struck me “icky”. Something about it was just NOT motivational. It was near the beginning when the speaker said “but somewhere along the line, you changed. You stopped being you. You let people stick a finger in your face and tell you that you are no good. And when things got hard, you started looking for something to blame….. ” The speaker goes on to say “let me tell you something you already know. The world aint all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it.”  And the video goes on to inspire and motivate people to take their broken lives back.

Okay, this ticks me off. At first I wondered why it hit me so hard; I felt my heart react in the way it does when I hear abusive statements. The speaker is speaking in a similar way to the way that abusers speak, but that wasn’t what was triggering me.  This video really is intended to be inspirational. It is the famous speech from one of the Rocky movies and in some ways it really IS inspirational; The message on this video is that we were born to be great and that we can rise up and overcome anything that we have been through. That we can fight back, that we can “get over it” and that we can win at life and realize our full potential.

So why did it hit me like a punch in the gut? And how come only about 5% of people who hear this stuff can implement it into their own lives and benefit from it for more than a few minutes? Well here is what I think;

It is the language that the speaker is using that is all too familiar to me. After the intro about how you were born to be great, He jumps straight to “but something happened” “You changed

And this is the first problem; I didn’t change by choice. I HAD to change, I had to survive. I was a child! I stopped being me because NO ONE allowed me to be me in the first place. This began to happen to me when I was too young to have any opinion or understanding about it.

This is the same thing as people thinking that we grow up and suddenly we have a choice on how we live, because we are adults! But we were not equipped for life in the first place. We were not raised with the right understanding of self love, or any love at all.  There is a step missing between devalued, unloved and abused child, AND you are an adult and you have a choice.

This video reminds me that this was the way that I was brainwashed into believing that everything that ever happened to me was my own fault. It is that the speaker says that I LET this happen.  It isn’t that I LET someone tell me that I was no good. I didn’t LET that happen. I had no choice.

When self help books and motivational materials tell me that the problem started when I let someone tell me that I was useless, at some level I know that it means that this was a lie that I accepted about myself, but at another level, the deep down subconscious level where my belief system rules, I hear that IT IS MY OWN FAULT because I LET this person tell me that I didn’t count.

And again, the truth is that I never had a choice but to believe it, because I was way too young not to believe it. I was way too young to ignore it, or to refute it or reject that statement.  Just like in my forgiveness rant, when I said that there is a missing step in the whole forgiveness arena, this message also leaves out a very important step on the journey to taking our lives back. We have to validate how we lost them and validate to ourselves that it was not something we had any choice in, or something we LET happen. The reason that this video hit me like a punch to the guts is because I relived all those times that my spirit fell because I was told and I believed that I was really to blame for my situation.  And I was about 8 years old when I finally accepted that my lot in life was all my own fault. And I had no way to rearrange that belief into the truth.

Communication has so much to do with the way that we use our words, and the way that we perceive what is said to us. The reaction that I had was subconscious. It was that “feeling” that something wasn’t right. That familiar feeling that *I* could have prevented the abuse in the first place. This has so much to do with how our belief system has developed. I think that when inspirational material is presented like this, many people, especially victims like I was, hear it as permission to beat ourselves up again. Deep down I heard it as just another reminder that this is “my own fault” that I am the worthless one because I LET this happen.

Here is the link to the video that I am referring to. “Be Great ~ Powerful Beyond Measure”

Exposing Truth, one snapshot at a time;

Darlene Ouimet

The Emerging from Broken bookThe Beginning of Hope for Emotional Healing” is ready for download! If you find that the subject matter I am writing about resonates with you, get this book today! This 197 page, downloadable, printable, live linked e-book will put you on the fast track to healing.  Get yours here through the upper right side bar or click this link~ Emerging from Broken The Beginning of Hope for Emotional Healing

88 response to "When Inspirational Material Triggers Self Blame"

  1. By: Theresa Posted: 3rd December 2016

    Another thing I really hate is the people who declare that it is my fault that I am still in the (poor) condition that I am in. Really? If they went through what some of us have been through, they wouldn’t be doing any better. I have come to the place where NO ONE gets to tell me how to recover from a lifetime of abuse, or how fast to heal, especially those who have no clue what they are talking about. If they did understand, there would be some compassion offered, instead of condemnation. As I start to understand these things, I begin to feel stronger, but the condemnation never helps, ever.

  2. By: Theresa Posted: 3rd December 2016

    THANK YOU DARLENE!! For putting into words what I have struggled with for years. I agree, agree, agree. I have always hated the condemning implications and statements that I LET things happen, that I am responsible for the mess that I have had to endure my whole life. I have never felt that I “lost” anything, because the truth is that I never had it in the first place. I can’t take back a life that was stolen from me, because I never had a life. I never stopped being “me”, because I never had a chance to become “me” in the first place.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 3rd December 2016

      Hi Theresa
      Thank you so much for sharing! I took the life back that was rightfully mine by rejecting the false definitions about me that has been heaped on me by careless people and their actions. I became ME and fully embraced me when I was in my 40’s. Although I say that I took my life back, really it is better expressed when I say “I felt like I was becoming the “original me” that I had never been encouraged or empowered to become.

      You are right about compassion too! Thanks for being here.
      Hugs, Darlene

  3. By: neveragain Posted: 5th August 2016

    Oh Darlene,YES,YES,YES, you have hit the nail on the head! It reminds me of something my Psychiatric Nursing Tutor said to us” Be aware, psychopaths are attracted to psychiatric nursing and other “helping professions” because of the POWER they can wield over vulnerable people!” I agree not everyone who invalidates does so knowingly,but I DO believe that not everyone who has the status of ” helper” of any kind,has integrity.Some of them do it to feed their own egos and yes some of them ARE psychopathic,narcissistic or just plain BAD and do it because it gives them a buzz to kick others when they are down! By disguising as “motivational” “therapy” or help,they can get away with it more easily and the victim finds it more difficult to identify it as the abuse it truly is! That’s just underhand and sneaky!
    This article resonated with me so much,as have so many of the comments.I don’t know when I will be able to share my story with you but I am building up to it;I feel a bit out of order because so many of ye have been sexually abused and I was only emotionally abused and adopted- the abuse I suffered was much more subtle and hard to identify but I hope ye won’t mind?I hope to be able to get the validation here I have never really found and I am 55 years old now. Anyway it’s gone half 2 in the morning so I am off to bed where I probably will have to read myself to sleep,but I hope to be able to tell my story soon.Good night,God bless and thank you so much!!!

  4. By: Melinda Posted: 6th June 2016

    Wow, this is deep! I haven’t seen the video but I understand where you are coming from.

    Sometimes “inspirational” material does indeed hurt more than it helps.
    I think it comes from a place of promoting strength and empowerment and determination, but it can be harmful because it glosses over painful experiences.

    I remember telling a former therapist about my abusive ex-boyfriend and do you know what this woman had the nerve to say?
    “Well, you allowed him to treat you that way so you deserved it”. This therapist also read a lot of Eckhart Tolle and had a lot of wacky beliefs in general…I shouldn’t have been surprised.

    I also think that many of the “inspirational” quotes and things come from a (false) idea that we are in control of our lives, when much of the time, that actually isn’t true.
    There are SOME things that we can control but most of the time we can’t.
    And since many people have the mentality of victim blaming, when they see somebody struggling, they are quick to tell that person it is their fault…they’re not strong enough or smart enough and they need to accept personal responsibility even in situations where that person is being hurt or unfairly treated.

    Lord knows this has happened to me many times. I would reach out for help and the responses would be overwhelmingly cruel.
    And yes, it can definitely trigger self-blame because it makes you feel like YOU’RE the problem.
    Like YOU allowed people to hurt you and YOU failed to do what was right.

    My former therapist viewed herself as trying to empower me but she was just another in a long line of people telling me that things were MY fault.
    There was no compassion or understanding. Worse, she refused to allow me to share my past experiences.
    She actually said: “I don’t care. I’m not interested in your stories”.
    Yes, she called them my “stories”. And THAT was another way to invalidate me. By expecting me to deny experiences that were real and that shaped who I became, she was doing even more damage to my psyche.

    Yet she tried to portray herself as a hip modern therapist who promoted inner strength to overcome adversity…yeah, right.

  5. By: Vicki Posted: 10th May 2015

    I see you have a problem with the speaker making it sound like “letting” abuse happen was your fault, when he probably meant there was a time when you finally accepted the lies that you were worthless and subhuman. However, my problem with the “letting” idea is greater. The human brain is trainable. The more times a neuron has done a particular thing, the easier it is to do again, and the harder it is to refuse, or to do the opposite. No matter how old you are, when people are telling you nonstop that you are subhuman, your psyche learns it even if you know it is not true. Or you learn to be constantly on the defensive and those neural pathways stay when the danger is less immediate. It is a farking fight to retrain, and enthusiasm doesn’t make it less tiring or slow.

    One thing I can say about oversimplified motivational talk: not everybody who needs motivation has C/PTSD. Of people who learned the lie that they aren’t so great and shouldn’t try things, not all learned that they are subhuman and everything is dangerous. Maybe this video is helpful for the former. (Not watching.)

  6. By: Tracy Posted: 16th January 2015

    Thank you for writing this Darlene. It is so true and yes, none of us need any more punches in the gut by feeling bad while reading a supposed “inspirational” quote! Jeez they like to kick us when we are down, “with good intentions” of course.

  7. By: Lucy Posted: 1st November 2012

    Darlene and all,

    My favorite part about this post is “And again, the truth is that I never had a choice but to believe it, because I was way too young not to believe it. I was way too young to ignore it, or to refute it or reject that statement.”

    I’ve had MANY people tell me that I let things happen to me including Al Anon where I had to find ‘my part’ in things. When I was younger I also believed that once I became and adult, I would have CONTROL over my own life, including who could be in it and how I would be treated. I didn’t take into account for the damage to my self esteem as a result of what ‘I let’ happen to me as a child. In fact, in my 40’s I’m just realizing how damaging it was to have my mother keep one of my abusers in our lives even after I told her what he did – she said she believed me but as a precaution, I was never to come out of my bedroom or the bathroom unless I was fully clothed. That’s just one example but a perfect example in itself.

    Don’t get me wrong about Al Anon, it IS helpful to MANY people. For me, many of my problems were a result of my childhood and not from the alcoholic in my life. His presence in my life was a result of the abuse I suffered as a child so I really had a hard time ‘seeing my part’. In any case, I really appreciated this post! As with just about everything I’ve read here, it helps to know that I am okay. That there are other people who know what it is to be in my shoes, really, and not just those that give it lip service…

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 1st November 2012

      Hi Lucy
      Yes, I had some huge problems with the way that 12 step was taught. Accountability is one of my fav subjects today, mostly about how it is taught wrong esp. when there is already a foundation built on victim mentality.
      Thanks for sharing,
      Hugs, Darlene

  8. By: Karen Rabbitt Posted: 1st November 2012

    Darlene,

    This reminds me of what a counselor said to me in the midst of psychosis many years ago. Something to the effect that I’d chosen that course. Talk about reinforcing my sense of craziness. Who would choose to be terrified, manic, and completely out of touch with reality.
    Needless to say, it didn’t help my recovery!

    What helped, of course, was understanding all the ways I’d been devalued and discounted and trained by parental anger and neglect.

    And allowing myself to be loved by a good Father-God, who was not much like the nasty, distant god I’d grown up with.

    Thanks again for your work.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 1st November 2012

      Hi Karen
      Great to hear from you. Yes this stuff is pretty mucky ESP when these things are said to us by professionals! yikes.
      Thanks for sharing.
      Hugs, Darlene

  9. By: lia Posted: 31st October 2012

    Samantha….If anyone reads something into something…They are not ‘taking it out of context’…They are having their own authentic response to something…Invalidation has always been an aspect of any abuse..and if ANYone says that something makes them feel and think a certain way..they are totally entitled to their feelings and thoughts..whether or not others intentions were deliberate..or not.

    All this reminds me of the populist mantra..You ‘must’ forgive to be able to move on? Sorry but bull**it…I will never forgive my abuser..but I have still actually managed to move on from them…My journey of healing has involved refusing to give them another second of my head space..and that works for me..But as for forgiveness..No..for me..for that..someone has to be sorry first..

    So adages and cliches and shoulds and should nots..have no place in any of our respective healing journeys from abuse…

    What we feel..where we are at..and why we feel what we fell..is all valid…We have all earned our right to attempt to reach out to our authentic selves…and hopefully..to keep evolving towards our deserved good..

  10. By: Susan Posted: 26th November 2010

    mz….the last sentence in your comment “It is not the doing that makes us worthwhile, it is the being.” This is exactly where I began to find freedom…when I could learn to recognize when I was focused on “doing” what I thought I “should” be doing or what I thought others thought I should be doing. I was so conditioned to believe that I had no right to exist that I shut down and literally disappeared into depression, dissociation and lived in complete isolation. I engaged in acting out behaviors and acting in against myself because I felt such hatred for myself.

    Today I can catch those thoughts and recognize them as from the past lies that this is where my value was and instead tell myself that my best is good enough and that I am valuable simply because I exist. I no longer have to prove myself or earn space in the world; I am and that is good enough and all the reason I need to own my god given right to exist. Today I not only “take up space” but I can create the space I want for myself instead of taking what others decide I can have.

  11. By: Krissy Posted: 25th November 2010

    I think, mz, that these pastors make those comments out of a frustration that people are not more available for service and make the assumption that the reason is selfishness rather than genuinely being unable to because of trauma-related psychological injury that need healing or other genuine reasons like my ex not liking me being involved.

    I am now finding that a lot of people assume reasons for your behavior. If I limit contact, it is because I am unforgiving, hard or selfish. If love believes the best, then why don’t they follow that and make the assumption that people have a good reason and not blame them for their choices?

  12. By: mz Posted: 25th November 2010

    Oh, this reminds me of the last service at church, where our pastor, whom I love dearly, but has no reference point to understand where I’m coming from, quoted somebody as saying if you’re not on the cutting edge of ministry, then you’re taking up too much space. He meant, of course, that people ought to be doing something for others, but it sounded to me like, if you’re not able to do something, then you’re not worth the space you are inhabiting. This is from being told over and over and over that if I didn’t do exactly what my abuser wanted that I was worthless, and that my worth was debatable even if I was a very good girl. I took my worthlessness to the extremes of suicidal thoughts and actions. After the service, when I told my pastor how I felt about it, he said that everybody could at least pray, but there were times in my life that I couldn’t even do that, and I think now of severely mentally disabled people who can only be on the taking end. Are they not worth the space they take up? Hmmm, seems I’ve heard that one from about sixty years ago. But there it is, he can’t understand. It is not the doing that makes us worthwhile, it is the being.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 26th November 2010

      Hi Mz
      I don’t think that people consider how what they said might be heard. I think that is really important to at least consider these things. One of the things that I realized when I was well on my way to full recovery is that there are some people who consider themselves to be authorities, who will not let certain other people have any “impact” on the way that they think or act. They just “discount” other people. (which is very much how I was regarded in my former life!) But if someone who that same person regards as a “equal” shares the same opinion or information with this “authority” then they are willing to seriously listen and consider the information. This used to drive me nuts!

      I have been in groups (churches etc) where the “leaders” made it clear that you were only as good as your contribution. (whatever that may be) The problem that I noticed is that it is never enough and you are right, it is the being that makes us worthwhile… not the doing. The worthiness of doing is always defined by someone else! (and who gets to decide?????)
      Thanks for sharing!!
      Hugs, Darlene

      Hi Krissy,
      There is a lot of guilt tripping going on in a lot of organizations ~ that is for sure! And you are right, there are a los of reasons others don’t understand. Many women are controlled that way, having limited choices in everything they do!
      I think there are hundreds of reasons that pastors and other leaders make those kinds of comments ~ many of them have control issues of their own. Many of them are being controlled and pressured by the church elders/leaders. The list goes on!
      Thanks for sharing!
      hugs, Darlene

  13. By: Fi MacLeod exNicholson Posted: 7th November 2010

    Hi Krissy

    I can’t answer your question because I don’t know the answer. But I wanted to say you’re not alone in your struggles.

    I was abused pretty much from birth and have no memories of my childhood which were not filled with abuse or negative and damaging in some way.

    In reclaiming my identity I’ve done several things –

    – begun to get to know one of the many hurting children living inside of me and begun to re-parent her, to listen to her and to respond to her needs and in so doing nourish myself at the same time without realising it

    – listened to what my helpers and other people in my life have to say about me, about my character, about the person they see in me

    – I’ve found it hard to believe and take on board the positive stuff they’ve had to say but as I have I’ve begun to see myself in a different light to the one I’ve always seen myself as – the person my abusers told me I was – I AM NOT THAT PERSON – I am slowly realising

    – I’ve listened and slowly taken on board little by little the truth that none of it was about me but about my abusers’ need to manipulate and control etc

    – I’ve decided to change my name and take on a name that I like and choose for myself

    I will never be able to find out who I was before I met my abusers because I met them in the womb and at the point of my birth. BUT I can find out who I really am inside NOW – a creative strong sassy woman who has a great capacity for learning, who is a writer and photographer and who just loves to use her experiences to bring hope to others around her – and that’s just for starters – a very different person from the one my abusers’ defined for me.

    I hope that helps in some way.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 7th November 2010

      Fi,
      I love what you have written here! This is beautiful, and hope inspiring. It takes awareness, time, willingness and courage, but it is very possible to go forward and you are living proof of that. Thank you so much for being here!
      Darlene

  14. By: Krissy Posted: 7th November 2010

    Wow, I was just thinking about this over the last 2 days. These were the types of comments I would hear from family members when they found about that I was going to leave my abuser. Not surprisingly, I kept them out of the loop – didn’t need any more injury if I was to heal.

    I read a comment the other day about reclaiming your identity after abuse, and how one way would be to find out who you were before you met the abuser. I am too embarrassed to wonder how I could ever do that if my earliest memories of abuse is of the maid consistently ignoring my cries for milk and feeding me the last few drops after feeding my brother? I was still in a cot! You mean, I have to find out who I was in the womb??

    And before anyone thinks I am being facetious, I really mean that all of the experiences that should have been nourishing were abusive. I didn’t realise it at that time, of course, because my upbringing wasn’t too different from others around me – lack of affection, conditional and distant love, watching sibling abuse, neglect, etc. It did create an identity – that of a pleaser to avoid punishment and that was carried on in a marriage to an abuser. But honest to goodness, how can I ever find out who I was before the abuse started, or before I LET those people stick in a finger in my face.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 7th November 2010

      Krissy
      Perhaps I should word “finding out who I was before the abuse”. It wasn’t that I knew or anything.. my first sexual abuse I was only two years old. What I mean by finding myself was the original me.. and that was something that happened as I grew stronger as a result of doing the work to realize how I got so beaten down etc. As I “found the original me and stepped into my own skin for the first time in my life, it was more like a feeling of coming home. It wasn’t that so much that I had been someone before the abuse started as much as a feeling that now I am who I was born to be. Some people were not abused from very young and they see it differently. Hope this makes sense.
      Hugs, Darlene

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