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Why Do We Feel Guilt After Trauma?

Among the common emotional responses we have to our trauma are our feelings of guilt and shame. We feel ashamed of ourselves and guilty about the trauma we’ve experienced. We blame ourselves for the bad things that have happened to us. Why do we feel guilty after we’ve been traumatized?

Our post-trauma guilt is one of the many self-destructive and self-disparaging ways in which we respond to our trauma. Rooted in our guilt is a lack of self-love and self-worth. We feel inherently unworthy and inadequate because of our trauma. We think our traumatic experiences define us and make us shameful and immoral. We associate being traumatized with having brought that trauma upon ourselves. We don’t see our innocence. We look for ways in which we might have caused our pain. We blame ourselves. Rape victims question themselves, “Did I lead him on?” Victims of violence ask themselves, “Did I do something to provoke it?” Children of divorce ask themselves, “Did my parents separate because I’m not good enough, because I did something wrong?” We wonder if we ourselves contributed to the pain that was inflicted upon us. We think we must have somehow played a part in it, otherwise it never would have happened at all. We assign blame to ourselves rather than to the people who are actually at fault.

Sometimes when we’ve been traumatized, the person on the other end uses manipulative tactics to make us blame ourselves. Abusers might convince us that we’re to blame to shirk responsibility and deflect accountability. They might take advantage of our fragility, our vulnerability, and our insecurity. They might make themselves out to be innocent, to be heroes even, manipulating us into having a skewed perception of the truth. We start to see events not as they really happened but as manipulative, dishonest fabrications. This is not uncommon in stories of abuse, for example. Abusers convince their victims that they benevolently and heroically saved them from their controlling families or from their unfulfilling former lives.

The process of shedding our guilt and self-blame entails learning to love ourselves unconditionally. Even if we did play a part in our trauma, if we stayed with our abuser and allowed the abuse to continue, for example, we have to learn to love and accept ourselves fully, exactly as we are, imperfections and all. We have to forgive ourselves for the ways in which we’ve hurt ourselves and allowed ourselves to be hurt. We have to rebuild our sense of self and repair our self-worth. We have to see the goodness and the light in ourselves and hold onto a vision of self-love.

At The Guest House Ocala, you will be treated with dignity, respect and compassion. Call 855-483-7800 today for more information on our treatment programs.