Healing From Trauma Isn’t About Blame
Blame acts a lot like quick sand, pulling us deeper and deeper. In this article, Christian Counselor Alyssa Bostwick, MA, LCSW, offers three tips you can put into practice to help you find insights into your story and new pathways to successfully manage your current struggles, and begin the process of healing from trauma.
In this Article:
About the Author
Alyssa Bostwick is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, specializing in marriage counseling, abuse and trauma, and depression and anxiety. You can schedule an appointment with Alyssa at the Denver – Centennial, CO office or for online counseling.
Healing From Trauma Isn’t About Blame
When you read that title, your mind likely went one of two ways: that you are blameless or you are to blame. In the following article, I will talk through those two likely kinds of blame. These are two kinds of ways people often respond to trauma. This may sound like yourself or someone you know. I will conclude with a third option. One that develops, brings healing, and offers some steps to do so without blame or fault finding.
The Blame Game
Let’s talk about the two ways you might have read that title!
1. You believe you are blameless.
When you’ve gone through something horrific, you can respond in this way. After some kind of abuse or trauma, life doesn’t just snap back into place. That trauma leaves a mark on us. Often times, years later we have problems in our lives we don’t know how to fix. Some people respond by blaming their issues on those who hurt them, and not taking any responsibility. It is everyone else’s fault. As I have sat with individuals who responded like this, I have heard them say to me, “You mean trauma work is about blaming my problems on those who hurt me?!” And they’re excited and feel like they have been given permission, although this is not what I meant at all.
OR when you read the title, you read it like the following:
2. You believe you are to blame
This too is a response to a trauma or abuse happening in your life. Life doesn’t snap back, you struggle in your relationships, and you don’t know how to fix it. Some people respond by blaming their issues completely on themselves, and don’t give power to others by allowing them to know they hurt you. This can also look like protecting your abuser by believing things like “How I was treated was all my fault.” As I have sat with individuals who responded like this, I have heard them say to me, “You mean trauma work is about blaming my problems on the person who hurt me?” They are upset at the idea of blaming someone because they truly believe they are the ones at fault, and to blame someone is to hurt them when they aren’t the ones at fault. Again, when I talk about trauma work, I did not mean blame at all.
Neither of these two responses are a healthy response to trauma, but both are very common. You either became the bully or the victim. Neither of these responses are ones that are chosen. Out of our woundedness, we may try to control the way we are treated or to control the extent to which we are hurt. We defend ourselves and blame others. Or we control by taking the full responsibility, even if we aren’t responsible for what happened.
A Healthy Response to Trauma
There is a third option friends. The story of Hagar gives us the clear map of what this third response can look like.
After Sarai clamped down on Hagar severely (Genesis 16:6), the Messenger says to Hagar: “Hagar, where have you come from, and where are you planning on going?” (Genesis 16:8).
Hagar had been abused by Sarai, either emotionally, verbally, or physically. Hagar wasn’t given a choice to be sexual with Abram. The Bible doesn’t clearly talk about Hagar’s mistreatment, and because of the vagueness, we can all relate to Hagar’s story. We have been mistreated in some way, and at times we may have desired to run away, and blame the Sarai’s and Abram’s in our lives.
BUT GOD spoke to Hagar, gave her permission to look at the ugly truth of her story. The truth did not let the trauma define her, and gave her a way to move on from the pain. She did not stay stuck in a place of anger and revenge by blaming Sarai and Abram for hurting her. She did not stay in a place of being a powerless to the outcomes of her life. She owned her lot in life, became a mother again later on, and her story has been told throughout the world because of her willingness to look at what she went through and decide to move on from it.
And don’t worry friends, God dealt with Sarai and Abram. He later transformed them into Sarah and Abraham, because the work God did in their hearts as well. He too does this with those that hurt us.
Three Tips to Help Your Healing
Blame keeps us stuck. So, let’s spare ourselves from that pain, and let’s do it differently like Hagar. Here are some steps to consider as we step into a path of healing:
- Be Curious- Ask yourself What did I go through? How did that affect me? Did it help me or harm me? Am I repeating the past in my current struggle?
- Be Kind- Know that you often didn’t have control, it wasn’t your choice to be hurt. Be aware of judging yourself and others. Know that those who hurt us, often were hurt in the same way. History has a pattern of repeating itself if it is left unexplored, and this leads to generational cycles of abuse. Your trauma wasn’t your fault, and I’d ask if those who hurt you were hurt themselves?
- Only Own What Is Yours To Own – Ask God to show how you may be protecting others from taking accountability for their part. Ask how to give responsibility to the right owner, so that you aren’t weighted down by other’s sins. Remember other people’s decisions do not have to define you.
One last thing to leave you with: Blame acts a lot like quick sand, pulling us deeper and deeper. If you can put these three things into practice, you might find insights into your story and new pathways to successfully manage your current struggles. If this article felt like I was reading your personal mail, you may consider reaching out to a trained therapist who can help guide you into a place of peace where pain once was.
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