January 19, 2010
What an interesting phrase.
Externalizing responsibility is when someone fails to accept responsibility for the messes they make or for the problems they cause. It is also failing to accept responsibility for the situations they find themselves in.
Internalizing responsibility is personally taking on the responsibility for what happens (in the past, present, or future). It is accepting the responsibility for personal welfare or for consequences of actions instead of dumping the blame on others.
Do you externalize responsibility?
Do you internalize responsibility?
For dissociative trauma survivors, the issue of when to accept responsibility versus when to deflect responsibility is a very complicated topic.
Most DID survivors have had years of experience internalizing responsibility for the actions of their perpetrators, family members, abusers, etc. Abusive offenders are some of the world’s best at externalizing blame onto someone else, and most trauma survivors internalize that blame, guilt, shame within themselves. Purposeful and direct blaming of the victim, especially child victims, typically ends up with the victim feeling responsible for the abuse.
Having this convoluted, complicated history of who is or isn’t responsible makes “accepting responsibility” a very difficult topic for trauma survivors.
Survivors spend years of time blaming themselves for the abuse (internalizing responsibility). Survivors typically end up feeling like they were bad, or they did something to cause it, or it was because they were too pretty, or too available, or too easy, etc. Survivors were usually told by their abusers that they deserved the abuse, or they liked the abuse, or they wanted the abuse, or some variation of the sort.
Perpetrators know that if they verbally blame the victim, that victim will be more likely to internalize the responsibility for what happened. Perpetrators typically do not accept responsibility for their actions. The more the perpetrators push blame and responsibility onto the victim, the more the victim will internalize that responsibility and blame.
But typically, survivors are not responsible for being abused. At least, they are not responsible for what the abuser does. The abuser is responsible for what the abuser does.
However, it is very difficult for many trauma survivors to put the blame of their abuse back onto their perpetrator. Trauma survivors will argue with their therapists that their abusive loved ones were not at fault – that they cannot be considered a perpetrator – that they are not to be blamed.
How many of you refuse to believe that your father (or mother) sexually abused you even if other parts in your system have said this clearly?
How many of you refuse to blame your perpetrator, and instead will run in circles protecting your family member from being called a perpetrator?
How many of you will argue that you have no right to be angry with your father – perpetrator? How many of you will define criminal actions as “not a problem” in order to not assign responsibility to your loved one?
Children are not responsible for being abused. Adults are responsible anytime they have abused children. Children will internalize the blame, but they are not responsible for being abused.
What about when the trauma survivor is an adult? What if the adult survivor is being abused as an adult? Who’s responsible then?
Adult trauma survivors do get abused. There are thousands of domestic violence situations where adults are being abused on a regular basis. Rapes and date rape situations can happen to adult trauma survivors. Dissociative survivors can still be involved in the sex slave industry or other ongoing abuses even as an adult. Abuse certainly can happen into adult-hood.
Who is responsible in these situations?
Of course, the abusers are still responsible for their own abusive behavior. (The topic of recognizing who abusers are will be discussed in a different blog article.)
However, these issues are not simple once the victim is an adult who has to be responsible for their own selves and any dependents. If you are an adult trauma survivor caught in abuse, it is not your fault you are being abused, but it is your responsibility to get yourself out and away from this abuse.
These adult survivor victims are responsible to get the help they need to get out of their abusive situations. They do not cause the abuser to abuse, but they are responsible to learn how to protect themselves and to protect any children that may be involved in the situation. It is important to build and utilize enough resources for safety and protection that will make the abuse come to an end as quickly as possible.
Finding the Balance
The difficult part is internalizing the correct portion of the responsibility. Even adult trauma survivors well experienced in therapy will internalize responsibility that genuinely belongs to the abuser. Other adult trauma survivors will stay stuck completely in the victim role, refusing to accept responsibility for getting out of the mess they are in. Sometimes survivors will cause-create-instigate-perpetuate emotional conflicts that are of their own making, and yet, claim to be the victim of their circumstances (more on that topic another time…).
So think about it…
Internalizing responsibility vs. externalizing responsibility.
What really does belong to you?
What really does belong to someone else?
Are you taking on too much?
Are you acting like a victim in situations where you are actually responsible?
Kathy Broady LCSW
January 3, 2010
Some days just feel too hard.
Those days feel like you just can’t make it through…
Those are the days when you wish you could curl up in a ball, and sleep or stare all day long…
Or hide away forever…
Ever had a day like that?
Ever felt like your problems were just toooooo big? Or tooooo never-ending? Or tooooo all-encompassing?
Ever felt overwhelmed with hopelessness?
When the pain is just too much, or the traps are too thick, or the future looks too bleak, or too many abusers snarl in your doorway…
What do you do then?
How do you not give yourself over to those deep dark days?
How do you hold onto hope when the fight seems to be bigger than you can fathom?
How do you find your strength when you feel exhausted to your very core?
Dissociative trauma survivors know these feelings all too well. Year after year of enduring the pain of trauma and abuse has demanded more from the inner self than can be put into words. DID survivors, overwhelmed by the attacks and betrayals by the people near them, create amnesiac walls and a wide variety of inside parts to get some relief from the overwhelming intensity of such painful experiences. These walls provide a much needed separation from the suffering, space from the heartbreak, a fresh start for a few simpler moments of time.
Separating into different people helps endure the abuse as it is happening.
Leaving the trauma by floating away or hiding within can allow for an escape for at least a few minutes.
The dissociative walls can ensure more separation from the details of what happened.
Box it up, contain it, push it away. That should work, right?
Sometimes it does. In lots of ways it works, but not completely.
Even with layers of separation, it still hurts in there.
Sometimes, trauma survivors use drugs, alcohol, self-injury, shopping, running, or any other form of addiction to help create even more distance from that black hole of pain that just never seems to leave or dissipate.
How does one ever move past such deep emotional pain? The body heals, bruises fade, the bleeding stops. But the heartbreak and sadness and emotional pain remain so long that hopelessness and despair can find a comfortable lodging place right up front on the front row of life.
What do you do, when you feel like you can’t go on anymore?
What do you do when it just seems to be more than you can bear?
Give yourself the permission to feel what you feel. It’s ok to acknowledge that pain, to feel that hopelessness, to sit in your despair. Stay there for awhile, if you need to. These are real feelings, and it really does hurt. You don’t have to pretend that it’s not there. Your heart is heavy, and it feels like there may just be no way out….
But there is a way out.
It will mean doing some new things, but there is a way out of that place of hopeless and despair.
In acknowledging the pain, you might finally give yourself permission to cry. Find a private, safe place, or sit with a trusted friend or therapist, just find a place far away from anyone that will hurt you because you have tears. Find a place where tears are allowed… and let the pain come out naturally… Don’t hold it in. Let your pain have an expression… Let your pain have its own voice.
Wrap yourself in things that are comforting. That might mean surrounding yourself in music that touches your soul, or in warm tight blankets that soothe the skin, or with pets and stuffies that are kind to you.
Self-soothing is important.
And as you can, one by one, tackle those things that have been too huge to touch. Look at the truth of what happened, find ways to separate yourself from those who have hurt you, let yourself have safety and distance from anyone that brings you harm, allow yourself to end the abuse. Your healing will be compromised if you stay involved with people that hurt you. You don’t need that anymore – enough hurt already! Your life will feel much more hopeful when you are safely away from abusers.
So be brave. And be honest. Look at the reality of who has hurt you in your life. Don’t blame people that just happen to be in the way. Look at the real source of your pain. If you blame the wrong target, just because it’s easier, you will still be missing the boat. And no matter how many false targets you take down, you will still hurt inside because you are still not being honest with yourself.
As you reconnect with the pain you once separated from, and as you allow yourself to find true safety and genuine comfort, your heartbreak will lessen. This is not easy, and while there are all kinds of complicated twists and turns in this journey, it is the way out. It’s hard to deal with it all, but little bit by little bit, you can move through it.
Look for something in the future that you might like. What would you like to be able to do that you haven’t been able to do because of all the muddy muck that entangled you? Maybe you’ll have to explore new things to know what else you could enjoy. Maybe you’ll have to be courageous enough to try something completely new. But you can. Have the courage to go there, because if you don’t break out and away from where you’ve been, you’ll only have more of that old stuff.
You don’t have to have the talents of Carrie Underwood or the smarts of Albert Einstein to be successful in your own life. You will have your own abilities. But be willing to try new things to get there. Who knows what talents that you have!
In all honesty, you’ll probably find that you have strengths, talents, and abilities that you never knew you had. You’ll be able to develop interests and skills that you could only dream of before. Your life can be filled with new activities, different priorities, and creative options that you never knew were possible.
You’ll be able to build relationships built on respect, caring, and warmth. Being alone won’t be stifled in pain, but connecting with others won’t be paralyzed with fear. Your insiders can be your very best friends in the world, and effective teamwork can replace isolation. This doesn’t happen overnight, but you can get there.
As you experience true freedom and genuine safety from the chains of abuse, your life will be free to have hope, excitement, fun, and adventure. You can explore the beauty that life offers instead of being tied to the abuse and torment of perpetrators.
You won’t have to stay drowned in hopelessness and despair when you can see something creative and exciting and positive in your very own life that belongs to you.
When you like what is happening in your life, you can feel hope again.
Kathy Broady LCSW
January 1, 2010
~~ 2010 ~~ Happy New Year ~~ 2010 ~~
Hey Everyone –
I’ve been busy with the holidays, but wanted to come write a quick note to say hello and most of all, to wish everyone a the very best for 2010.
What are you going to do this year?
How are you going to make your life better?
Sometimes it’s hard to remember that you really can make decisions that change your life, or at least affect your life. We ALL really can make 2010 a year that takes our lives closer to being the kind of life we want.
What changes do you want in your life this year?
What things do you want to stay the same?
Think about it. At this point in time, no one can affect your life more than you can. You can make a bigger difference in your life than anyone else.
So…… What are you going to do for yourself this year?
HAPPY NEW YEAR, everyone. May 2010 be your best year ever!
Kathy Broady LCSW