Self-blame can be a healthy feeling if it is genuine, experienced in appropriate conditions, and is time-limited. Responsible parents instill in their kids the importance of taking responsibility for their actions, making amends, and changing.
Self-blame supports moral behavior, self-criticism, and self-esteem maintenance. Self-blame can help us recognize the harm we’ve done when we hurt someone else. From there, we can try to be more sympathetic going forward by learning from our errors. Self-blame can help us become more human in this way.
But it could also turn into one of the most damaging types of emotional abuse. It magnifies our real or perceived weaknesses and paralyzes us before we can even start to go forward.
Instances of Self-Blame
When Abuse Happens
People who have experienced moderate to complex trauma frequently blame themselves for being abused. They frequently act in this way even though they weren’t actually to blame. Any trauma survivor can experience this. But it’s especially common among victims of sexual and physical abuse.
Why is that so? Well, in many of these situations, the abuser is someone close to the victim—a partner or family member. These people are typically there to shield the sufferer. Therefore, when they act oppositely, the victim often bears the majority of the blame (incorrectly).
Self-blame occurs because the perpetrator may have been gaslighting the victim. Domestic abuse cases that involve self-blame frequently involve incidents of manipulation or gaslighting on the part of the abusive partner who refuses to accept responsibility for their deeds.
They will, however, place the responsibility on the victims. Or, even worse, they may trick the victim into thinking no abuse is taking place. Self-blame also happens due to “victim blaming” which is prevalent in any society. It is when the abuse is blamed on what the victim may have been wearing or doing, or even why the victim did not fight back.
Survivor’s Guilt (When You Survive and Others Did Not)
A reaction to a situation when someone else suffered loss but you did not is called survivor’s guilt. Although the term suggests that this is a reaction to a loss of life, it could also be a response to a loss of identity, property, health, or a variety of other things that are significant to people.
Although huge atrocities like terrorism, genocide and other large-scale tragic events are frequently linked to survivor’s guilt, it can also occur in other circumstances like having a sibling or parents who are abused, having loved ones diagnosed with cancer or other hereditary diseases, surviving a natural calamity, or even a pandemic like Covid-19.
As the person left standing it’s so easy to blame yourself, especially when you care for the other people who you’ve lost.
When Relationships Fail
When we form a relationship with someone, most especially when we thought we found the one true love we naturally think we are set for life. Your sense of loss is not limited to the ending of the relationship or your partner’s departure. It also deals with being rejected and left behind. Deep anguish involving loneliness, uncertainty, and self-doubt may result from this.
You perceive the termination of a relationship as a personal failure and an insult to your self-esteem. You unearth mistakes you’ve made, no matter how great or tiny, real or imagined, purposeful or inadvertent, in your search for the true offender. What happens next is a severe self-inflicted attack where one blames oneself for what occurred.
When Accidents Happen
People who have gone through a horrific accident in their lives may partially hold themselves responsible since they believe they could have prevented it. Self-blame even becomes more devastating when other people, especially a loved one, are involved.
Even when it is completely out of their control to prevent it, regret about decisions that they believe led to their child getting wounded or experiencing suffering in some manner is one of the most common emotions experienced by parents.
Many parents will analyze every small decision that resulted in the accident. It is only natural to desire to shield your child from suffering and to wish you could stand in for them when they experience pain. Parents could also blame themselves for their child’s illness and then blame themselves for not having the foresight to act differently.
Why We Self-Blame
Learned from Childhood
The tendency to self-blame can be rooted back to your childhood. When we are young, we are unable to recognize the imperfections of our caretakers. Because of our developmental limitations, we are unable to see that our caretakers have failed us.
Blaming someone else is not even an option since we are unable to look beyond ourselves. That pain has to be directed somewhere since we are unable to place the blame elsewhere, and that direction is frequently inside, naturally suppressing, or in some cases repressing their emotions.
Self-blame as means to control and survive
Perfectionists or someone with an obsessive disorder are also prone to self-blame. With self-blame comes the perception that you are always in control. You want things to be perfect. As perfectionists, you can have significant levels of anxiety about being ashamed or humiliated because you worry about what other people think of you.
You are frequently inclined to assign blame and responsibility when either you or the environment you have created falls short of this illusory ideal. that is not rightfully ours
Anyone who has experienced depression will attest to the overwhelming nature of guilt and self-blame. In essence, one of the main causes of depression is the predisposition to unfairly and overly blame oneself.
Self-blame can make you a good and responsible person, but don’t forget to also be kind to yourself. Be honest with yourself about your weaknesses. Recognize your humanness – that it’s okay to make mistakes. And sometimes things are just beyond your control.
Practice self-love and learn to let things go. If you can’t fight the crushing inner voice that always points the blame on you, know that are ways to resolve that with help, such as emotional healing. Seeking mental and emotional support is a sign of true strength. It only means you want to get better. Taking care of our mind and emotions is just as important as taking care of our body.