It’s Not Your Fault
One of the most common symptoms in victims of abuse and domestic violence is self-blame and possibly one of the hardest symptoms to overcome as well. Self-blame is a torturous cycle, yet we engage in it because it’s familiar, it becomes comfortable, and it’s all we’ve ever known so how can we recognize that we deserve better. It’s typically the symptom that keeps many individuals feeling stuck in abusive relationships even though they are victims of manipulation from abusers that use control tactics to destroy their sense of self-worth contributing to self-blame. My blog last month was all about how to get out of a domestic violence situation during the uncertain times of a pandemic from which I hope has brought some insight into next steps to be taken. If you are one that has liberated yourself from an abusive relationship and are now on the path toward recovery, this blog is now all about how to liberate yourself from your own internal battle of self-blame.
Self-worth is a concept that holds a lot of power over our lives as it plays a major role in our every-day decisions and actions we take. Ultimately self-worth is our sense of our own value as a person and human being. Our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are closely tied into how we view our worthiness. In abusive relationships, abusers are very well equipped at knowing what to say or do to lower the victims sense of worth and therefore making one stay in a relationship since they lose their own value. This in-turn connects with self-blame as the victims blames themselves for the abusers’ actions and behaviors in addition to blaming themselves for even staying in the relationship for so long even if they’ve successfully escaped. We get hung up on should statements, saying to ourselves “well I should have left sooner…I shouldn’t have enticed him…I should have done what he said…I should have known better…etc.” All this does is keep us in a never-ending loop of self-blame, keeping us stuck in the past and preventing us from moving forward ultimately leading to a self-fulfilling prophecy. It’s time to stop blaming yourself…it’s NOT your fault.
Let’s take a look at how victims actually get manipulated into low self-worth and ultimately into the vicious cycle of self-blame. It’s called the power and control wheel and I share it with all my clients who have at one point or another been a victim of any sort of abuse or domestic violence situation. Abusers use emotional and verbal abuse tactics to diminish their victims’ sense of self, their voice, their self-esteem, and their self-worth or self-value to the point of where they feel like they aren’t important anymore, they can’t stand a chance to fight back, they become so small in their own minds and feel powerless, hopeless, and helpless. Can you relate to experiencing any of these?
- Intimidation: making you feel afraid through aggressive actions, gestures, or looks
- Emotional abuse: being put down, making you feel bad about yourself, name calling, playing mind games, humiliation, making you feel guilty
- Isolation: controlling what you do, who you associate with, where you go, limiting outside involvement, using jealousy to justify actions
- Minimizing, denying, blaming: making light of the abuse and not taking your concerns about it seriously, saying the abuse didn’t happen, shifting responsibility for abusive behavior to the victim (saying you caused it)
- Using children: making you feel guilty about the children, using kids to relay messages, using visitation to harass you, threatening to take the kids away
- Economic abuse: preventing you from getting or keeping a job, giving you an allowance, taking your money, not letting you know about or have access to family income
- Male privilege: treating you like a servant, making all the big decisions
- Coercion/Threats: making threats to do something to hurt you, threatening to leave or commit suicide, making you do illegal things, making you drop charges
Now, by building awareness and recognizing that what happened to you is a result of actions on part of the abuser and not yourself, we can slowly start to build back up our self-worth. It’s still not that easy though. There’s probably still that little voice in the back of your mind telling you that it’s your fault. However, by identifying, challenging, and reframing/replacing that little voice each time it arises, you can overcome it and find your voice again. It starts by recognizing that your self-worth is not determined by anyone but yourself. It is not determined by anyone’s inability to see your worth, their opinion of you, or their words/actions. It is not determined by your work, job title, grades, the amount of money you have, your relationship status, the number of friends you have, social media, your attractiveness or your age. Self-worth comes from within because if we base in on external factors, what happens if we lose a job, money, relationship, friends, etc…our self-worth goes along with it. You are the only one who determines your self-worth. If you believe you are worthy and valuable, then you are worthy and valuable just by being who you are. It’s about taking a step back, realizing what truly matters to you, and challenging your inner critic when it says otherwise.
Ultimately the love of another person does not define you, nor does it define your value as a person. If you have been through a domestic violence situation or are a victim of abuse, what happened to you is also not determinant of your value as a person despite what you have heard from your abuser. In order to take that step forward and find your voice, it starts with recognizing that it’s NOT your fault. Once you understand, accept, and love yourself, you will reach a point where you no longer depend on people, accomplishments, or other external factors for your self-worth.
If you are in or have been involved in a domestic violence situation or an abusive relationship, we are here to help. We can assist you in ultimately recognizing your self-worth by decreasing self-blame and increasing your sense of value as a human being. Please contact Life Enhancement Counseling Services today at 407-443-8862 to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced mental health counselors.