Guest Blogger – Rule of Stupid on Self Blame

Today’s guest is Rule of Stupid, an amazingly honest, fearless blog with the best header picture I have seen. Check him out!

Scott has kindly invited me to write a post for his blog. The invite came from a post Scott wrote, and in particular a phrase he used about fears we have – “if people really knew us, if we really acted in an authentic way, that no one would like us”. The phrase “if you really knew me you’d hate me” haunted me for years and I’m going to try to share some of my story in the hope it might help any readers.

I had a troubled time growing up. My mother was dysfunctional, my father had left when I was a baby and we were poor. When my mother re-married it was to a dark and brooding man who brought a lot of pain and abuse.

The trouble is, when parents inflict trauma on a child the child has to cope, but doesn’t have any coping strategies. Every message, biological and cultural, tells the child that parents look after them, and that parents are, to all intents and purposes, God – all powerful and always right.

So when parents bring pain, the easiest way to make sense of this is to put the blame on the self. “Parents are good, but they hurt me, so I must be bad.” This is the coping strategy that often results from bad parents.

Sadly, a strategy that pays off so young is incredibly hard to shake. In fact the strategy soon becomes invisible – we don’t even know we are doing it – so it just becomes the norm. We then grow up with a permanent sense that everything bad that happens is somehow our fault.

This is the origin of the all to common “if you knew me you’d hate me” mantra. The self-blame has morphed into a blame that pre-empts our mistakes – it is now a general attitude to ourselves.

Another tragedy is that the belief can create the reality. If we think we are rubbish we will shy away from making friends – then our loneliness will increase our sense that we are rubbish. On the flip-side, we can horribly over-compensate and become brash and insensitive – “people won’t like me anyway, so I won’t care about them either!”

We come to operate in so many ineffective ways that our lives can become one big, self-fulfilling prophecy of loneliness and misery.

So how did I get out?

First, I have to say it took years, and I can’t write a fifty-page post. Instead I’m going to try and summarize the most helpful thing for me.

Love.

For me the love that saved me was my wife. For others I know, however, it has been love of music, a friend, writing – the object doesn’t matter. What matters is that we find something outside ourself that we want so bad we’d do anything for it. Even be ourselves!

When I first picked up a guitar I fell in love, and I remain in love today. I loved music so much that I played in front of others. I discovered that I could confess to them in song, both showing myself and still hiding myself behind the safety of the phrase ‘it’s just a song’. While still terrified of the world my passion for music saw me take to the stage. I learned to talk between songs and found parts of myself that people liked.

For a while I was a musical clown, creative and funny, and I enjoyed it. Then I met my wife – and she wanted more than a funny guitarist. I couldn’t hide behind a mic any more.

But again, I loved her enough to try, to risk, to dare. I slowly, painfully revealed more and more of myself, and as I showed myself to her, so it became natural to show those things to others.

No-one has ever rejected me for my honesty. My friendships have only ever grown stronger.

I once believed many things that are not true. One was that everybody else had it sussed out except me. They didn’t. Everyone struggles.

A second was that once I had it figured out, things wouldn’t hurt any more. They will. Pain is part of life for everyone – but so is pleasure. Hide from pain and you lose pleasure too.

Another was that there was some magic trick, some arcane knowledge or potion, some secret that would make me alright, take away the pain, give me confidence. There isn’t one.

But that isn’t bad news – it’s the best news you can have – because if there’s no secret, no hidden magic, then healing is available for everyone. And it really is!

So here’s the bad news.

It’s going to hurt.

My wife and I argued. I went through some very dark depression. We struggled and we hurt – but we kept going, thank God. That’s the only secret – if it’s even a secret – that you keep going.

Breaking the belief that we are ugly inside, shameful or that people will hate us is both the easiest thing and the hardest thing in the world. There is only one way, and that is to find out – to show yourself, to dare, to risk. It is scary, it is painful, but it is also beautiful, liberating and like slowly seeing in colour for the first time.

More than anything I can say with absolute confidence, with the knowledge of experience, that the pain of facing the fear is less than the pain of suffering under the fear without end.

You are not china, you are not fragile – you have survived everything so far, you have survived what gave you this pain! You can survive being the real you and when you do you will rejoice in it.

Coming Tomorrow: The Biggest Complaint I Get About Men, Hands Down!

21 thoughts on “Guest Blogger – Rule of Stupid on Self Blame

  1. I had an epiphany several years ago that wasn’t far off from the message in this post: I am terrified to be vulnerable because if I expose myself then people will hate me. But every single time I took a risk and allowed myself to be vulnerable I was met with love, compassion, and support. It truly amazes me and still does. The feeling I get from making myself vulnerable but being accepted anyway can hardly be expressed. It’s like… seeing the meaning of life – it’s that profound for me. Since then I have learned to share myself with others and I am rarely disappointed.

    1. “Vulnerability is the only authentic state. Being vulnerable means being open, for wounding, but also for pleasure. Being open to the wounds of life means also being open to the bounty and beauty. Don’t mask or deny your vulnerability: it is your greatest asset. Be vulnerable: quake and shake in your boots with it. The new goodness that is coming to you, in the form of people, situations, and things can only come to you when you are vulnerable and open.”

      ― Stephen Russell, Barefoot Doctor’s Guide to the Tao: A Spiritual Handbook for the Urban Warrior

  2. Sadly, it is all too common for a parent or other adult to pass their damage (which is often significant, and received from their OWN parents) along to their children, sometimes unwittingly. I see this so often in the clients I work with, and I am always so deeply inspired and impressed when they somehow find the courage and insight to break that pattern, as you have.

    I know how much effort that takes – fixing yourself when it wasn’t even you who caused the problem in the first place. So kudos to you, and thanks for spreading the word that it is indeed possible! 🙂

    1. Hi Jennifer – I have worked with many people stuck in this trap too and yes, the breakthroughs are so good to see. A vital ingredient for me in escaping parental damage is in taking back responsibility for one’s life and happiness, which I write about in this post.
      I hope it’s not crass to link to it, but it’s sort of a companion piece and focussed on the point you make.
      Thank you for your comments, and to all the commenters here. The positive response has been really moving for me – I’m so glad people have found inspiration from something I have to offer. I just hope they’re not too shocked by the rather irreverent nature of my actual blog!!
      Peace to all – ROS

  3. Thanks ROS for this post! I can totally relate to what you are saying. I am about at the middle of your story. I am learning how to heal. Luckily I have a great husband and a great counsellor helping me along the way. It’s nice to know we are not alone in our battles we have in our heads. Thanks again 🙂

    1. Never alone Butterfli.
      We are all fractured in our own way, but that’s our beauty – sadly our cultural madness so often sees us fighting to achieve the mediocrity of sameness.

  4. I grew up in a physically and emotionally abusive home, and so I identified with so much of what you said. It took a very long time but I learned that I had to feel in order to heal. One of the toughest lessons of my life! The honest truth is that there really is no gain without pain. But it’s worth it. Excellent post!

  5. “We then grow up with a permanent sense that everything bad that happens is somehow our fault.”
    This is exactly the mantra that hits me. I’m glad you brought it to my attention. And you’re right. It does sit deeply and invisibly. That’s why I take so much offense when people accuse me of blaming others for my problems. While I know that behavior is usually part of the typical human behavioral repertoire, I recognize that it’s not a part of my own. And it’s painful.

    It is wonderful to hear that you have weeded out the people in the world who will grow to love you more out of your honesty and revelations about yourself. I’m glad to hear you say that there is truth in that. Because all too often, people that have had toxic relationships with their own parents inadvertently seek out more abusive relationships, because it’s become the norm.

    For me, a relationship didn’t seem to feel right unless it was dysfunctional. And dysfunctional usually meant emotionally manipulative and both physically and mentally abusive. Not just with lovers, but with friends as well. I had a whole lot of people in my life that manipulated me into turning against myself, reinforcing the idea that I was complete dysfunctional garbage.

    My husband showed me differently. You’re right, it is love that saves. It took the love of one person to give me the clarity I needed to accept guidance in the right direction. My husband is by no means perfect. But he was absolutely right about one thing in my life. I’m worth it, and I deserve better. And there is no one in this world that can honestly tell me that I’m less than them.

    Thank you for bringing this to my attention. It’s easier to get footing back sometimes when someone else points out the obvious!

    1. This is such a valuable thing to recognize (not that i do it often enough myself!)

      ‘ I had a whole lot of people in my life that manipulated me into turning against myself, reinforcing the idea that I was complete dysfunctional garbage.’

      I’ve never understood how people can intentionally do this to other people. I’m so in tune to trying not to do this to others, I’m almost dumbfounded when someone does it to me.

      Thanks for the good reminder Lulu!

    2. Hi Lulu. I went through a lot of bad relationships on the way too!
      One of the realisations that helped me was that I was manipulative too. I figured myself as a victim for a long time, which blinded me to the ways I hurt others, the more passive ways.
      I didn’t weed out the bad friends, I more found they naturally fell away, and I looked in better places for new ones.
      I’m glad you found a good partner, love and luck for the future. Thanks for your considered comment. ROS

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