I agree— in order to meaningfully recover from trauma, addiction, or anything, else, we DO have to take responsibility for how we feel and function.
But “taking responsibility” seems to have very different, and sometimes loaded, meanings for people.
There is a subset of people who seem to think that trauma therapy and recovery is all about blame.
They resist trauma therapy and recovery because they don’t want to fall into the trap of blaming other people for how they feel and function. They want to “take responsibility.”
I fully understand not wanting to blame others. And I fully understand wanting to take responsibility for your life.
But it’s important to remember that realistically taking responsibility means untangling some of the issues surrounding whether the things that happened TO you were your “fault.”
Many people in trauma recovery experienced abuse or neglect in their early lives that they came to feel responsible for.
It is OVERWHELMINGLY common for survivors of abuse or neglect to arrive at a narrative that they must not have been “worthy” of love and safety— otherwise, why would the things that happened to them have occurred?
We often know it doesn’t make “rational” sense. We know that kids don’t ask to be abused, or cannot “make” a caregiver neglect them.
But nonetheless we carry around this sense that it MUST be our fault somehow.
We MUST not be good enough. Lovable enough. We MUST not have been attractive or entertaining enough to AVOID having been abused or neglected.
Those messages die hard in the gut of a trauma survivor.
Fast forward to adulthood, and we’re faced with recovery tasks that ask us to “take responsibility.”
Unfortunately, many survivors struggle to separate the concept of “taking responsibility” for their recovery from the self-blame and toxic shame they’ve experienced for years.
If we’re actually going to take care of the child you once were, and who you still carry around with you in your head and heart now, we NEED to affirm for ourselves that there is NOTHING shameful about having experienced trauma.
As painful as some of the things were that we experienced, there is NOTHING about us that inherently invited those experiences.
There may be LOTS of reasons why we WERE abused or neglected— but NONE of those reasons revolve around your “responsibility,” as a victim, to prevent those things from occurring.
How do we ACTUALLY “take responsibility” for our recovery as adults?
It’s not by blaming ourselves for our past vulnerability or pain.
It’s by learning the skills and tools we need TODAY to keep our focus on thing we CAN effect, things we CAN change.
We CAN take responsibility for focusing on THIS moment.
We CAN take responsibility for identifying old patterns and experimenting— however awkwardly— with new ones.
We CAN take responsibility for pushing back against the narrative of self-blame and shame that has been pushed at us by our culture, and maybe even by certain people around us, for years.
As a person in recovery and as a therapist who supports people in their recovery, believe me, I am all ABOUT responsibility.
But I’m all about REAL responsibility.
Not the bullsh*t catchphrase buzzword thrown around for likes and retweets on social media by people who think self-shaming and blaming the kid we once were EVER accomplished anything therapeutic.