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Monday, 30 Dec 2019

Overcoming Childhood Trauma: Understanding Blame

By Dr Becky Spelman
Overcoming Childhood Trauma | Private Therapy Clinic

Trauma is never a welcome experience. It can leave deep scars that take years to heal – if they ever do at all. But when it occurs in childhood, it has a long-lasting effect on our psychological development. Trying to make sense of what has happened can see you assigning blame in all the wrong places – which you usually means taking on the responsibility yourself.

Letting Go of Self-Blame

If you want to let go of the past and overcome your childhood trauma, blame is where you begin. The process of undoing your self-blame is a difficult but necessary step on your journey to recovery. But one that’s worth every ounce of your effort. Gaining freedom from the emotional baggage that was never yours to wear in the first place is entirely within your grasp.

Exercise

  • Imagine how you’ll feel about yourself, those closest to you and how your future might look once you’ve let go of your self-blame.
  • Try and identify any stressors this might cause, such as denial and any friction between those who are to blame.

Letting go of self-blame is a process, and rewriting your mental programming won’t happen overnight. You need to give yourself time to integrate this new mindset.

Understanding How Abuse Occurs

There was a theory established some time ago now by an America researcher named David Finkelhor. In it, he identified a particular pattern of abuse that is common in nearly all cases of childhood trauma, whether it’s physical, sexual or emotional.

  1. The abuser wants to abuse.
  2. The abuser must overcome their inhibitions to abuse.
  3. The abuser must create an environment where they can abuse.
  4. The abuser must choose to go through with the abuse.

Example

  1. The abuser might want to abuse to feel powerful.
  2. The abuser might need to overcome their concern for the safety of the child.
  3. The abuser might maneuverer themselves to take advantage of an opportunity.
  4. The abuser is now in a position to exploit the child.

Exercise

  • Why might you have been particularly vulnerable to being abused?

Assigning Responsibility

By its very definition, blame means assuming responsibility. When considering it within the context abuse, the two are linked but are also entirely separate of one another. Ask yourself, are you truly responsible for what happened to you as a child? Or were you failed by those who were meant to protect you?

You can’t begin to assign blame until you’ve considered all of the people who have some degree of responsibility in your situation. Just because you have been the focal point of attention, doesn’t mean the burden falls on your shoulders. After all, you were only a child. It was your guardian’s duty of care to protect you.

Exercise

  • Make a list of all the people who you feel played some part in your abuse, from the people who had a minor role to the abuser(s) themselves. List them, numbered from 1 -10, starting with the most responsible finishing with the least. Be sure to state why each person is included.

Why You Was Not to Blame

These exercises should have given you a foundation in changing your perspective towards blame and responsibility. And if you’re beginning to feel more confident in accepting the fact that you’re not to blame for your abuse, you can try reinforcing this sentiment.

Exercise

  • Write down the reason why you feel to blame, then create a counterpoint, detailing why you’re not to blame. This might be difficult at first. And if you still feel there is a mental block, leave this exercise for a while and allow yourself more time with the previous ones. You can always return to it at a later date.

Example

Why I thought I was to blame

Why I was not to blame

Because I let them touch me

Because I did not tell anyone

I was not to blame because I was frightened into doing things I did not want to do.

I was not to blame because I was threatened if I told anyone

About the author:

Dr Becky Spelman PhD is a leading UK Psychologist who’s had great success helping her clients manage and overcome a multitude of mental illnesses.

***If you’re struggling with childhood trauma and think you might benefit from speaking to someone about your situation, we offer a FREE 15-MINUTE CONSULTATION with one of our specialists to help you find the best way to move forward. You can book yours here.

References

Kennerley, H. (1st Nov 2012). Overcoming Childhood Trauma: A Self-Help Guide Using Cognitive Behavioral Techniques (Overcoming Books) Kindle Edition. Robinson; UK ed. Edition (1st Nov 2012).

Blue Knot Foundation. (9th Nov 2019). What is childhood trauma?.Retrieved on 14th November, 2019 from, https://www.blueknot.org.au/Resources/Information/Understanding-abuse-and-trauma/What-is-childhood-trauma

Very Well Mind. (14thOct 2019). Treating the Effects of Childhood Trauma. Retrieved on 14th November, 2019 from, https://www.verywellmind.com/what-are-the-effects-of-childhood-trauma-4147640

  • By Dr Becky Spelman
  • Child Psychology
  • General
  • Trauma
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