The Truth About Blame

Sep 11th, 2011 | By | Category: All Posts, Christina's Blog

by Christina Enevoldsen

Blame has a bad reputation. People say it’s useless and unproductive. It’s been accused of preventing people from moving forward. It’s been blamed for keeping people in victim mentality. I was one of those people who blamed blame. I spread rumors about blame, believing them to be true.

I quoted things like:

“If it’s never our fault, we can’t take responsibility for it. If we can’t take responsibility for it, we’ll always be its victim.” Richard Bach

“When you blame others, you give up your power to change.” Douglas Adams

On my healing journey from childhood sexual abuse—and all the other abuses that accompanied it—I’ve discovered many of the so-called keys to healing or moving forward actually prevented me from any progress. My childhood was already so filled with lies that I was desperate for the truth. Though the truth is very often painful, it’s also been the only thing that has healed me. Lies kept me imprisoned to the effects of abuse, but the truth sets me free.

I’ve learned to question everything, especially the “truths” that “everyone” knows and distributes so freely. I started to wonder, if they are so true and so many people know about them, then why is the world so messed up? So my truth test is to look at the fruit of those truths. What actions do those beliefs produce? Do they end in freedom or bondage? What do those “truths” really mean?

One of the “truths” about blame that I questioned was, “If I don’t accept the blame, I can’t change anything.” Does that mean that if I didn’t break something, I can’t fix it? If I didn’t make the mess, I can’t clean it up? (Any mother knows that’s certainly not true!) But I tried for years to apply that to my abuse. I accepted the blame under the false belief that I had to accept “my part” in it so I could move forward.

The truth is that I can place the blame on whoever perpetrated my abuse while still taking responsibility for picking up the pieces of my life. I can know it was my abusers’ fault and still have power to improve my condition. I don’t have to blame myself or take ownership of a problem to fix the problem. I wasn’t the problem, but I am the solution.

But my tendency to accept the blame instead of placing it on my abusers started in my childhood. I couldn’t believe that my parents were the problem. If I thought that, my world would have collapsed. If they were the problem, then they would never love me. On the other hand, if there was something wrong with me then I could work to fix it so there was hope that they would love me. But until then, I didn’t deserve their love anyway. I struggled to be perfect, but I failed. My parents didn’t fail me; I failed them. I was to blame for how they treated me.

Blaming myself gave me a sense of control I needed—that I was desperate for. I hadn’t figured out the key to not be treated so badly, but I would figure it out and stop being abused. I just had to try harder.

The truth is that I can place the blame on whoever perpetrated my abuse while still taking responsibility for picking up the pieces of my life. I can know it was my abusers’ fault and still have power to improve my condition. I don’t have to blame myself or take ownership of a problem to fix the problem. I wasn’t the problem, but I am the solution.

My own coping method of taking the blame was reinforced by my parent’s attitude toward me. After my dad abused me, he treated me as though I disgusted him and he was quick to escape my presence. My mom gave me the same message. When she acknowledged my presence at all, it was as though I was an inconvenience to her. I felt unworthy of attention and protection. I was inferior and I was the problem.

To accept that I was helpless, powerless, and that there was nothing I could have done felt like death. It was a matter of survival not to acknowledge that my caregivers were faulty and that they would never love me. I needed to accept the blame for their cruel treatment.

Since I believed I was inferior, I found many other abusers who confirmed my belief. I married an abuser and had abusive relationships with bosses, pastors and friends. Many people who saw my cycle of abusive relationships judged me for being a victim and “allowing” it. I “deserved” whatever I had coming to me. They were disgusted with me and I was disgusted with myself. People said the same thing in different ways:

“You can’t blame anyone else until you do something to change things.”
“You deserve what you tolerate.”
“You must have wanted it since you kept going back.”
“You were 50% to blame since you knew what he was like.”
“It’s not his fault since you did something to provoke him.”

I was told that since I was the common denominator in all my abuse—my childhood and later abuse—I was the problem. Supposedly, the remedy to that was to accept the blame so I could make the necessary changes to myself and my circumstances. I was supposed to stop being angry with others for their mistreatment since I was really the one at fault for allowing it.

The problem with that was that I got angrier with myself. I already thought I was a pathetic loser that didn’t deserve love and now I was lower than that. That didn’t motivate me to change the circumstances or myself. I felt incased, trapped in my powerless tomb. What good would it do to leave my abuser? If I deserved the abuse, why should I fight it? And since I wasn’t worthy of love, what was I leaving for? There wasn’t anything better. Taking the blame for my own abuse only kept me in the abusive cycle. It wasn’t the key that I was told it was.

Accepting blame is only helpful if I really am at fault. If I keep getting fired from every job because I’m on Facebook at work, blaming my boss won’t help me; blaming the company or my co-workers won’t help me. Blaming others in that situation will keep me in the cycle of employment problems until I recognize my responsibility and do something to change my behavior.

Accepting responsibility for things that are my fault can help me not to repeat the cycle, but accepting responsibility for things that are not my fault can also keep me in the cycle. The truth set me free. I needed to see who truly deserved the blame and when I did, I was free from the destructive cycle.

Before I understood the cycle of abuse—the build-up, the explosion, the honeymoon—I misunderstood the “provoking”. I thought it meant I was to blame for my abuse. In reality, I unconsciously knew the cycle and the build-up was agonizing. I knew it was coming, but WHEN??? I had to get it over with and get to the honeymoon part of the cycle, which is what I lived for.

I still believed I was the helpless child that I was during my original abuse, so the only choice I thought I had was when I’d be abused–not if. It took a lot of time to start to see where my thinking came from so I could see the true choices in front of me. But I’m not responsible for other’s actions. Believing that I am comes from misunderstanding boundaries and taking responsibilities that were never mine to take. It’s unhealthy to accept the blame for anyone else’s feelings or actions.

But why the need for blame at all? Blame is said to be a wasted and negative experience. Is it really necessary at all? This is another common sentiment about blame:

“We can sit for years and talk about blame and it gets us nowhere, except to become bitter, resentful, angry, vindictive people. It happened, it’s over and done with and there is no use in continually hashing it over because nothing will change the past. I resolved to change today and tomorrow and let the past go.”

There is some truth in this statement, “It happened, it’s over and done with and there is no use in continually hashing it over because nothing will change the past.” It’s true that placing the blame on the abusers doesn’t change the past. But just because it can’t change what happened doesn’t mean it does not serve a purpose.

When I finally placed the blame on the perpetrators of my abuse, I finally had permission to direct the anger toward them, where it should have been directed.

When I finally placed the blame on the perpetrators of my abuse, I finally had permission to direct the anger toward them, where it should have been directed. Before I did that, I was a very angry person and I focused my anger inward or in indiscriminate places. I never knew what would set me off. As long as I projected it in all the wrong places, I could never work through it; there was a never-ending supply. When I finally directed in the right places, I could work through it so there could be an end to it. Now, I’m not an angry person and when I get angry, I use it appropriately.

The truth about blame is that it’s helped me—but only when I used it through the lens of truth. As long as I thought it was a useless tool, I misdirected it. Sorting out the truth from the lies helped me to use it correctly so I could move forward in my healing process.

Related Links:
What About Forgiveness?
My Parents Are Dead (To Me)
Life-Saving Anger
A See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil Frame of Mind

Christina Enevoldsen is cofounder of Overcoming Sexual Abuse, an online resource for male and female abuse survivors looking for practical answers and tools for healing. Christina’s passions are writing and speaking about her own journey of healing from abuse and inspiring people toward wholeness. She and her husband live in Los Angeles and share three children and four grandchildren.

[read Christina's story here]

Does this resonate with you? Please join in by leaving your thoughts and feelings about this topic and don’t forget to subscribe to the comments.

FacebookTwitterGoogle+PinterestTumblrStumbleUponRedditDiggGoogle GmailOutlook.comShare
Subscribe
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

25 comments
Leave a comment »

  1. “Accepting responsibility for things that are my fault can help me not to repeat the cycle, but accepting responsibility for things that are not my fault can also keep me in the cycle. The truth set me free. I needed to see who truly deserved the blame and when I did, I was free from the destructive cycle.” < — love this!

    Great blog, mom! :)

  2. Thank you, Sweetie!

  3. Its very interesting how many abusers tend to use similar if not identical false statements to convience survivors of these lies. I have been told some of the very same lies that you were Christina, and frankly, I’m getting mad about all the deception. I believed those same lies told to me growing up. I was taught not to “wallow in the mud”. That was preached to me so often until I believed it.
    I thank you for writing this blog. I needed to read this!

  4. Reading this today is so timely for me because I had an epiphany along the same lines this afternoon. I noticed that when I am responsible for something it’s easy for me to take action to sort it out but if someone else is responsible and I’m taking responsibility I go round and round in mental circles trying to figure out what I can do. It was such a relief to see this because it makes it much easier to see when it’s not me who’s causing the issue and that means I can walk away. Thanks for your article.

  5. Love this Christina!!!

    We don’t hear enough about blame and the truth of it, so thank you so much. Love truth and correct information.

    ((hug))

  6. Chris,
    I’ve heard similar statements to “Stop wallowing in the mud” and it makes me mad too! Pretty much all the traditional “wisdom” I’ve heard about healing is crap! It serves the abusive system, but not the survivor. I’m glad you’re seeing the truth now, too. It’s a relief, isn’t it?
    Christina

    Patty,
    Thanks! Come to think of it, you’re right– I haven’t heard much of anything on blame except how bad it is. It’s time the truth comes out. Thanks for commenting!
    Hugs back to you,
    Christina

  7. Julia,
    Yes, exactly! I’d go round and round in circles too, for the same reason. I’m glad it was such good timing for you. Thanks for your comment!
    Christina

  8. Great post Christina,
    This has been my story too! I had to dig down to the foundation of what happened to me so that I could release myself from being the cause of it. That meant placing the responsibility on the ones who did it. Blame was a very important stepping stone for me in my healing journey! Even though I do this advocacy work everyday, I no longer have the resentment that so many people associate with blame. I am free from all of it now that I looked at things through the grid of truth,
    Hugs! Darlene

  9. Darlene,
    YES! Blame is often associated with resentment and bitterness, but that’s exactly what blame helped me NOT to do! Thank you for sharing from your experience. These things seem opposite of what they SHOULD be and it’s good to hear from other people who used blame as valuable stepping stone in healing.
    Hugs, Christina

  10. It is almost like looking in the mirror, I Thank God my abuser was not my Father but I understand completley the cycle of blame and abuse that victims experience their entire lives. I am grateful for the courage and light bearers on the path to heal these wounds and move into our original way of being, free of the wounds of child sexual abuse. i applaud you for your courage and for showing me the way to healing through truth telling the reality of the hell that victims experience.

  11. Well written, and spot on. Hugs to you Christina.

  12. Emma, thank you and hugs back to you!

    Mary,
    That’s so true that the abuser doesn’t have to be a parent for us to accept the blame. There are so many other reasons we accept it and most of them are because we were groomed for it. Thank you for such encouraging words!
    Christina

  13. I want to start by saying I was 7-12 when I was sexually, physically, and emotionally abused by my mother’s second husband. I was told by my mother, when I first came forward about the abuse I endured, (and I quote) “You were a smart mouthed little bitch! You needed to be taught a lesson.” A couple years later in a therapy session when I asked why she hated me so much her response was “because you f***ed my husband!” In the tone of voice as if I should have already known the answer. I have struggled endlessly with the blame and guilt and took it out on myself by cutting and being addicted to diet pills.
    I have been reading these blogs for a week now, and I haven’t been self destructive. It’s so astounding to see that others can relate. I always believed I wasn’t alone, in the sense other people have been abused- but now I know I am not alone on such a deeper level.

    Peace&Love

  14. Lost Soul,
    It’s heart-breaking to hear the things your mom said to you!! That’s so cruel and wrong!!! I’m glad you’ve found us and are seeing that you’re not alone. I hope you can start to see the truth that you are completely innocent in this.
    Hugs, Christina

  15. Thanks, Christina!

  16. [...] Posts: The Truth About Blame Child-on-Child Abuse: It’s No Game Getting to the Truth: The Role of Truth in Our [...]

  17. Reading your thoughts about ‘Blame’ has conected with a part of me that was allways looking for reassurance and comfort. I always felt that ‘i’ was to blame for the actions of those whom harmed me. Feeling this re-affirmed what my perpertraters told me as I began to realise their behaviour was wrong…I often was told, ‘dont tell, noone will believe you’ , ‘you deserve this’ , and therefore it was easier to blame myself than to acknowlegde the’ wrong doing’ of another. To find my voice to speak-up was overcome by the threat of being abandond, so I never told (until recently); as a child I learnt to protect those whom harmed me and live their secret lie’s.
    As an adult and a mother, I have provided my children with ‘what I never had’, the experience of being loved with absolutely, no type of abuse from myself. Being a ‘good’ parent, is what every childs righfully deserves to have and in forfilling this responssibility it has helped me give comfort to the lost child within

  18. That you for writing this. I adore your writing and I find it so profound and intelligent. You’ve helped me trough so much just by reading this. I’ve blamed myself everyday to the point where cutting became routine. I was sexually, physically, and emotionally abused for as long as I can remember by multiple people. You have a gift with connecting with people and or that I am grateful. Thank you.

  19. Thanks for this article. I started counseling today because sexual abuse from my first boyfriend is negatively affecting my current, healthy relationship. I even had a dream that my current boyfriend raped me. The subconscious can be so cruel. My counselor today made me realize I’ve been blaming myself for it. Even though I didn’t want any of it, I feel at fault. I’m having a hard time moving the blame where it belongs, but I’m hoping I can get there!

  20. Sharon,
    Your comment really struck me, “Reading your thoughts about ‘Blame’ has conected with a part of me that was allways looking for reassurance and comfort. I always felt that ‘i’ was to blame for the actions of those whom harmed me.”

    I used to believe that if I was at fault for some kind of injury to myself, I didn’t deserve comfort for that. Even if that something I did was an accident or something I “allowed”, I had to forfeit all compassion from myself or others. Since I accepted the blame for my abuse and thought I allowed it, I couldn’t have compassion about that. Now I know I was completely innocent from my abuse and can comfort myself for it and I’ve stopped having such harsh judgments about what I don’t deserve. Thanks for sharing your feelings about that!
    Christina

  21. Still Struggling,
    Thank you so much for your kind words and encouragement! I hope you can see how blameless you were in your abuse and can accept the love and caring that you deserve. I’m glad you’re here.
    Christina

  22. Michelle,
    I truly understand how hard it is NOT to accept the blame. The difficulty in throwing off the blame even makes it seem more convincing that we are to blame. I’m glad you’re working through that. Thanks for sharing!
    Christina

  23. Thank you for putting in to words the struggle I have been having. You describe exactly in so many ways the things I am thinking, feeling and taking on. I have been searching for healing and have been stuck in the dilemma of thinking it was my fault, I deserved it all and I am the common denominator in all of my traumas. I realize now that in some instances I am responsible for parts but not the total. Again, thank you.

  24. Dawn,
    I understand feeling stuck in accepting the blame. That’s where I was for years. I’m glad you’re seeing the truth too!
    Christina

  25. When I read your words I feel like reading my own life…
    It’s painfull and comforting at the same time..

    I’ve always felt guilty for what happened to me, and I have tried so hard to even out my debt. I really did believe I was worthless, and deserved nothing better… I’ve struggled for years already, and most of the time I’m happy and grateful for all the good I have in my life. But so scared I could lose it all again because of my own stupid mistakes.

    I wanted to thank you for this article… It is an eye-opener to me. I’ve always felt guilt, even though my friends tell me I’m not to blame. Now I see why I have taken on this feeling… a desperate attempt to control what happened, hope to turn it around… I’ve fooled myself…

    I feel a lot lighter now… thank you!
    My deepest respect for your courage and your strenght in overcoming this.

Leave Comment