Tag Archives: self-blame

“BOSTON STRONG”–YES!!

I had intended to finish my stress management series today, but in light of the events in Boston last week, I’m going to do a variation on that intended post.

(image by LADreamzinc — CC-SA-3.0 license, Wikimedia Commons)

The post I had planned would have talked about how our cognitive and emotional interpretation of an event makes a huge difference in how stressful that event is for us. I will talk more about that topic soon.

One of the biggest factors in that cognitive/emotional interpretation is how much control we feel we have over a particular stressor and its impacts. We human beings hate to not be in control. I would venture to say that feeling out of control is the worst feeling we can experience. It scares the bejeezus out of us!

We will even sometimes blame ourselves for a negative event that wasn’t our fault, just so we can have some feeble sense that we could have controlled the outcome if we’d just realized what was coming. (If I’d gone a different route that day, the car accident wouldn’t have happened.) For even a horrible feeling such as guilt is preferable to facing the reality that the event was truly beyond our control.

Another pitfall when we are running from that reality is to blame others, especially those in authority. Right now the country is united in its grief and sorrow for the victims of the Boston Marathon explosions and their families. But I know the reports will start on the TV news soon… the investigations, the demands that “they” do something to keep this from happening again.

Do what? Stop having marathons? Or football games, or golf tournaments? Cordon off the entire area and not let anyone be nearby, so there is no one on the sidelines cheering the participants on? But what’s to stop some nutcase (and make no mistake about it, these men were nutcases who were using their religion for their own sick purpose) from planting a bomb the night before, or the week before?

Of course, “they” should do what they can–increase security, bring in the bomb-sniffing dogs, etc. But the reality is that some nutcase could, at any moment, disrupt your life or mine and bring tragedy into it because of their own twisted agenda.

So what should we do about that? Exactly what the citizens of Boston are doing! Going about their business, refusing to give in to fear.

We cannot always control what happens to us. We can control how we lead our lives. If we lead with fears about what might happen, then the terrorists and nutcases have already won! If we refuse to give in to that fear and live our lives to their fullest every moment, than we are having the best life we can have in an uncertain world where not everything is controllable.

Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad thing that we humans want to be in control. That may be the single most driving force behind our progress as a species. And we have a lot more control over our environments and our destinies than we once did.

The winner of the 13th Boston Marathon in 1910, during a time when people routinely died of pneumonia because antibiotics had not yet been discovered.

But I do wonder sometimes… Has the control that science and technology’s given us over so many once uncontrollable things led us to a false belief that we should somehow be able to control everything?

I doubt that will happen, at least in our lifetimes, and probably never. We really need to come to grips with the reality that we cannot control everything, such as hurricanes and lunatics. But we can control how we respond to the natural disasters and the fanatics who intentionally create unnatural disasters. We can band together as the people of Boston have so heroically exemplified.

And we can yell, “Boston Strong!” from the rooftops. And never let fear win!

Celebration in Boston after the capture of the 2nd suspect (photo by Grk1011 — CC-SA-3.0, Wikimedia Commons)

 

On a lighter note, if you’ve been wondering why I haven’t been around much for the last week, it’s because I was in Maryland painting our summer place up there (with the help of my wonderful brother). I promised pictures so if you hop over to my website, you can see the transformation of my shabby shack into a cute cottage (it looks like mint chocolate chip ice cream with chocolate syrup on top 🙂 )

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She writes the Kate Huntington mystery series.

We blog here at misterio press once a week about more serious topics, usually on Monday or Tuesday. Sometimes we blog again, on Friday or the weekend, with something just for fun.

Please follow us by filling in your e-mail address where it says “subscribe to blog via email” in the column on the right, so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun!

You Are Beautiful and Strong, Sweet Child of Abuse — Beauty of a Woman Blogfest

by Kassandra Lamb, retired psychotherapist and trauma recovery specialist

Have you ever seen an ugly child?

I haven’t seen very many. And the few I have seen, who happened to be less than beautiful, were still adorable! Because they were sweet innocent children, doing cute innocent little kid things.

Unfortunately all too many kids lose that innocence, and are left feeling ugly inside, at an all too tender age.

This post is part of the Beauty of a Woman Blogfest  (see August McLaughlin’s site on Feb. 22nd for the list of other posts, and a contest!) In this Blogfest, there are tender posts, funny posts and more serious posts like this one–all intended to help women learn to honor rather than judge themselves and their bodies.

Beauty of a Woman Blogfest badge

But why do women need this ego boost? Where did all this harsh judgement of ourselves get started? There are several potential causes for such poor self-esteem, but the most horrendous of these possible causes is child abuse.

Whether in the form of verbal, physical or sexual, nothing but nothing says to a child that they are worthless quite like being abused does. Especially if that abuse is perpetrated by a loved one, as it all too often is.

Here are the kinds of comments I’ve heard from survivors of abuse through the years*:

Of course it was my fault that my mother drank. She told me so every day.

How could I not see myself as fat and gross when my father’s nickname for me was Miss Piggy.

It had to be something about me that made my mother beat me; she never touched my siblings.

When I reached puberty, I stopped eating. I didn’t want the boys to look at me like that. I wanted to disappear. I didn’t think I was even worthy of something as basic as food.

These sound like extreme cases, but they’re far more common than one might think. Here are some statistics from the National Children’s Alliance:

  • In 2010, over 3.4 million children received services from Child Protective Services agencies around the U.S.
  • Of these children, 78% experienced neglect, 17% physical abuse, 8% psychological abuse, and just under 10% were sexually abused (this adds up to more than 100% because kids often suffer more than one type of neglect/abuse).
  • The perpetrators of these abuses are almost always someone the child knows, and at least 50% of the time, they are relatives.

And these are only the reported cases. Quite a few incidents of abuse still go unreported. I should also point out that abuse doesn’t just happen in poor families. Abuse is an equal opportunity phenomenon. It cuts across all socioeconomic and racial lines.

How To Move From Victim to Survivor

The first step is to acknowledge that, if you’ve made it to adulthood, you are strong. You are already a survivor.

This was an incredibly powerful lesson for me. I was one of those unreported cases. I came into adulthood with self-esteem somewhere around minus 10. But there was a strength in me, a will to survive that had me going from therapist to therapist, trying to bring that number up.

I was in my early thirties, on the third or fourth therapist, when I finally acknowledged that I had been an abused child. That therapist was not a trauma specialist but he knew enough to correct me every time I called myself a ‘victim’ of abuse. “Survivor,” he would say in his quiet but firm voice, no matter what I was in the middle of saying. It used to piss me off sometimes, when he’d interrupt my train of thought.

Once I had sliced through the denial and other defenses I had wrapped around those memories of abuse, I realized how much now made sense. Including my low self-esteem.

Step two is coming to realize that the abuse was not our fault.

Children are by nature egocentric. They assume that it’s all about them, because they don’t know any differently yet. This egocentrism is actually helpful. It allows us to discipline them. When we punish them, they assume they did something to cause that negative reaction.

But when bad things happen to or around them that are not about their behavior, they also assume responsibility for causing those events. We’re most familiar with this reaction when we hear young children saying they were bad and that’s why Mommy and Daddy are getting divorced.

So the abused child assumes that s/he did something to cause the abuse/neglect. “I must have done something. I must be a bad person.”

No you did not and no you are not! You were an innocent child. When an adult verbally or physically attacks or sexually molests a child, it is because there is something wrong inside that adult.

scared child

(photo by D. Sharon Pruitt, Pink Sherbert Photography, creative commons 2.0 license, Flickr)

Why abusers abuse is a complicated topic. The short version of the explanation is that most often they themselves were abused as children. They are projecting their own self-blame and self-hate onto their victims. They are re-enacting their own abuse out of ignorance and/or a sick need to reclaim their sense of power that was stolen from them, by taking on the role of the powerful abuser (this applies to all kinds of abuse).

Now before I get accused of parent-bashing, let me point out that this isn’t about blaming anyone. It’s about understanding what really happened. Most parents, even fairly abusive ones, love their kids. And a lot of bad parents are that way out of ignorance rather than malice. They don’t know how to appropriately discipline their children without doing serious harm to the child’s self-esteem.

The bottom line: it’s not the child’s fault if s/he was abused. There is no behavior a child can do that deserves name-calling, shaming, beatings or molestation as a response.

Recovery is doable, and so worth it!

I am living proof of this!

The rest of the steps of recovery are a bit too complicated to get into in a blog post, but they are doable steps. And every survivor of abuse owes it to themselves to take those steps. It is extremely helpful to find a good therapist, preferably a trauma recovery specialist, to walk the path with you. But if you can’t afford that, there are free resources and support available. Below are some sites to check out.

Teddy Bear on lonely gray steps

[photo by Ullrica (@Ullie) creative commons 2.0 license, Flickr]

If you’re thinking this is too hard, and the outcome too unlikely to be that much of an improvement, let me set you straight. Yes, it’s hard. But as one of my clients so aptly put it, “I’ve already been through hell as a child. Going through it again as an adult has got to be easier.”

And the outcome can be wonderful. Even though I’ve gone through a lot of pain in my recovery process, the majority of my adult years have been good ones. And I am now (and have been for over two decades) one of the most confident people I know, with one of the best attitudes toward my body of most women I know. I now have the good life I always deserved, that every woman deserves.

So please, if this post has resonated for you, if you’re realizing that you may be a survivor of child abuse–even if the perpetrators didn’t mean to harm you–then please get the help you need to heal.

Because you are a strong and beautiful person, and you deserve a good life!

By all means, comment below, but also please go check out the other BOAW Blogfest posts.

Links to resources that can help:

Adult Survivors of Child Abuse

Survivors of Incest Anonymous

And a list of yet more resources

[*These were not direct quotes from actual clients (that would violate confidentiality) but rather similar to things abuse survivors often say.]

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She writes the Kate Huntington mystery series.

 

We blog here at misterio press once a week about more serious topics, usually on Monday or Tuesday. Sometimes we blog again, on Friday or the weekend, with something just for fun.

Please follow us by filling in your e-mail address where it says “subscribe to blog via email” in the column on the right, so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun!