The Self Blame
Last night, I was hit by a car in my dreams. While many dreams can be symbolic, this had been a reality in my life. I was hit by a car while running on a road when I was in 14 years old. Of course, the jerk driving the car tried to make it my fault for being there in the first place. Sound familiar? My inner defender proceeded to take over and rip him to shreds. (I’m a little proud of that one.)
But in the dream, my inner parts began to express their theories about why I was hit by a car. They decided I must have been going somewhere I should not have been going. They concluded I must have been going somewhere with someone I should not have been with. They were very clear I was at fault for the accident and it was their job to determine why. Of course, the main reason for this evaluation was to ensure we didn’t do that particular thing again.
In the dream, they looked like separate people (this happens in dreams) who were blaming me for the accident. But instead of shrinking under the weight of the accusations, I stood up and explained why that wasn’t how it worked. I told them that bad things happen sometimes. They don’t happen because the person is bad. It is a part of life. Life has both bad and good. Nobody escapes the bad. Although some do seem to get an extra helping of the bad, we are not worse than others.
And I explained karma. There is something that is often missed about karma. It isn’t just about punishment. Karma is much bigger than we think. In my opinion, we make a choice to transform a certain amount of “yuck” for the human race. We make that choice before we get here. And while I often wonder what I was thinking, I also understand that so far, I have had the strength to handle it. I don’t feel like I do every day, but I know I am managing it.
My inner parts seemed to take in these explanations, but there were doubts of course. This is significant to me because I have never had a dream where I wasn’t overwhelmed by the others. Often I am not in charge. Often I am struggling to meet their needs or stop them from creating chaos. This felt different. They weren’t quiet, but they were willing to listen. There was a brief period of respect for what I had to say.
And I loved having the opportunity to relieve the pressure of self-blame for them. I loved that they could leave the conversation with a little less weight on their shoulders. The car accident was clearly not our fault. The driver wasn’t paying attention and he hit me at an intersection with a stop sign. Of course, he tried to blame me because he was scared to death. He probably thought he would go to jail. But this event didn’t happen because I was bad, I was doing something bad, or I was hanging around a bad person.
So while we all wrestle with our understanding of why bad things happen to people, we struggle to find the real answer. We have blamed ourselves for our own bad things, so we can’t possibly avoid blaming others for their bad things. We don’t widely accept the idea that bad things happen for uncontrollable reasons because of fear. How could that be? If that is true, we can’t make sense of it with our cognitive brains. And that is scary. If that is true, there is no way for us to control those things while in human form. And that is scary. So we search for meaning, a less scary understanding. And we usually end up assuming the victim is to blame.
But when we have been through complex trauma, this is the most dangerous. We can’t possibly see ourselves as worthy and deserving in this life with all that self-blame underneath the surface. But that self-blame seems like the only safe answer to that famous question, “Why do bad things happen to me?” So we maintain that. And we suffer because of it.
But it can be shifted. It takes time and many inner conversations, but it can shift. Over time, as we learn to allow for the uncontrollable, as we learn that we are not actually in charge of much, as we learn to accept that idea, we can embrace the idea that there is nothing wrong with us. As we let go of our need for a clear and concise answer, we find relief from guilt and self-blame. As we learn to have just a small amount of faith, we can start to live without constant fear. As we let go of our need to control, we find freedom. And when bad things happen, maybe, just maybe, we can give ourselves the benefit of the doubt.