What “should” you feel bad about? 

I don’t know. And I don’t get a vote. 

Nobody does get a vote when it comes to what you, specifically, “should” feel bad about. 

The point of chipping away at shame in trauma recovery is NOT that we “should” never feel bad about anything. 

You get to decide what you “should” or “shouldn’t” feel bad or guilty about. You get to decide what you need to “make amends” for. 

In trauma recovery we DO discover, however, that we DON’T have to feel bad or guilty about things that were done TO us. 

We DON’T have to feel bad or guilty about OTHER people’s decisions. Not in a personal way. 

That might seem obvious— but it’s important we make that distinction, because one of the most common symptoms of complex trauma is feeling bad about almost EVERYTHING that’s EVER happened to us in our past. 

Trauma survivors’ default is very often to blame ourselves. 

Our default is very often to assume EVERYTHING was our fault, and everything IS our responsibility. 

Experiencing relational trauma in particular tends to leave our “fault” and “responsibility” wires crossed. 

As we develop our new philosophy of life in trauma recovery, we often have to grapple with what we ACTUALLY “should” feel fault and responsibility for. 

Sometimes people mistakenly assert that in trauma recovery, we encourage trauma survivors to reject responsibly for almost anything and everything. 

Not true. 

In trauma recovery, we are, in fact, taking responsibility for a LOT— most notably, our choices in THIS moment. 

But it IS accurate to say that in trauma recovery we are also REJECTING fault and responsibly for certain things— most notably, things that were done TO us and OTHER people’s decisions. 

I’m not going to tell you what you “should” feel bad about. That’s up to everybody’s individual sense of morality, ethics, and maybe spirituality. 

But I will tell you, with absolute conviction: meaningful recovery means giving up this fantasy that WE can or should be responsible for things that happened TO us, or OTHER people’s decisions. 

Not only were things that happened to us not our fault; not only were (and are!) other peoples’ decisions not our responsibility— but we can’t MAKE those things our fault or responsibility, even if we tried. 

It’s complicated, because we so often FEEL ashamed. 

That has nothing to do with reality. That has to do with conditioning. 

It has to do with the messages we were sent once upon a time— and, usually, that were reinforced over and over and over again, over the course of YEARS. 

Because we strongly FEEL ashamed doesn’t mean we have REASON to be ashamed. It doesn’t mean we “should” feel ashamed. 

And it DOESN’T mean we were at fault for our trauma. 

It DOESN’T mean we were responsible for avoiding it or stopping it. 

You are responsible for your decisions and your behavior. Right here, right now. 

There are things that impact and influence how “free” your decisions can be at ANY given time— but when we try to take responsibility for things that we can’t POSSIBLY control, often can’t even INFLUENCE…we set ourselves up for chronic shame. 

No more. 

Recovery is about taking realistic responsibly for what we can…and rejecting fault that isn’t ours. 

I know. Harder than it sounds. 

Which is why we just take it one day at a time. 

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