In traumatic situations, it’s very common that the person who was traumatized blames herself for the event having happened. Whether this be the event itself, or what they feel they should’ve done, there is a great deal of pain associated with this. Survivor’s guilt, and even worse, survivor’s shame can remain for many years and even decades after the event itself. This can lead people to blame themselves for what has happened, or what they “should’ve done”.
For some, this is actually compartmentalization of the event, and all of the fear, sadness, and processing that needs to take place. This makes sense. This self-blame may be a way of feeling that there was more control than there actually was. It also can block some of the negative emotions that took place, and the fear that it could happen again. The problem is that life often doesn’t just move on. Behind the scenes of many of situations, interactions, and relationships, the trauma plays a serious role.
This is why therapy for the trauma is so important. Gently reopening the doors, so that you can identify where there is shame surrounding the event, and identify where you blame yourself. Maybe you feel like you should’ve helped someone survive in a disaster, but you would have been killed in the process. Maybe you feel that you should’ve not been in the situation where a sexual assault occurred. This is when it’s important to remember that much of this is reactivity to what society teaches us about bravery and courage. Society has most of this all wrong. Courage is knowing that what has happened to you hurts, and that this is OK. It’s knowing that you didn’t ask for any of this to happen, and that it was just as important for you to survive. And courage is processing something that is difficult to understand, and painful to walk through. However, if you do this, you can come out on the other side without this cloud hanging over your head for the rest of your life.