I have always carried around with me a great burden of responsibility.
Misplaced responsibility for other’s moods and feelings. This morning I caught myself going down that familiar road and challenged the old assumptions!
My friend who gives me a lift to work everyday picked me up as usual but seemed a little low. Immediately, I blamed myself. The thoughts racing across my mind, sounded a little like this:
“She must be angry with me”
“What did I do?”
” Is it because she is tired of giving me a lift?”
“Is it because I said something or did something or is it because I didn’t say something or didn’t do something?”
Oh dear, I was racing ahead and beyond myself and imagining the different scenarios that might have caused her to be upset with me.
Then I stopped for a moment and entertained a different train of thought. What if her mood has nothing to do with me? She may be tired or upset about something that I am completely unaware of and completely have no control over. Just that simple thought, that I may not be responsible for her low mood, shifted things for me. Instead of becoming smaller and feeling worse about myself, I was able to keep going and not be pulled back into the darkness that envelops me at times.
I recognise that the world doesn’t revolve around me and that there are a million different thoughts happening in the minds of others (as they are for me) and that I cannot be responsible for them. Of course I am only responsible for myself, for my feelings and actions and how I react to situations and people.
This might seem to you, a simple rational logical truth; but for me as a survivor of sexual abuse, it is instead revolutionary and monumental! Children who suffer trauma are stunted developmentally and become stuck, they walk around with a huge sense of responsibility for others, for trying to fix people and things, feeling that they are to blame for all the bad feelings and bad things that happen. It’s hard for someone who hasn’t felt this to understand! But I know that I share this trait with many other survivors!
When I was five years old I reasoned that I was responsible for the abuse because I was intrinsically bad and so I worked very hard to be good so that my parents would keep me and love me. I have never let go of that and even now as a 39 year old woman I feel responsible for everyone’s moods and feelings. A friend, a complete stranger! This is a cognitive distortion as a result of the abuse and I am finally going to let it go. I am not bad and therefore I don’t need to prove myself as good to everyone I meet and I am certainly not responsible for others feelings and bad moods because I have clearly done nothing wrong to complete strangers.
The sense of responsibility comes from the same place as the fear and anxiety I feel when I first wake up in the morning. It has nothing to do with the present or present circumstances. It is from the past and the darkness of the abuse. I am not five any longer I am a grown woman, independent and strong and I haven’t done anything wrong.
Recovering from abuse is a long had journey of questioning old assumptions and correcting the distortions that resulted from the abuse! These distortions were coping mechanisms but we have to let them go to heal and be healthy again!
Thank you for reading!