Quest: Understanding Guilt

This week I started the chapters on coming to terms with guilt in the workbook Healing the Trauma of Domestic Violence. Other than starting the workbook, these have been the hardest chapters so far.

The chapters have you address:
1) Guilt about leaving your abuser (e.g. Failed marriage, leaving someone who is dependent on you, etc.)

2) Guilt about why you were in the relationship in the first place and what was the first sign that you should have left (first signs that he would be abusive)

3) To think about a time where you think you should have left but didn’t and reasons why you didn’t leave at that time and to evaluate whether those reasons were good enough to warrant staying

4) To think about if you did leave then, what would have happened?

I think if I filled out these questionnaires a year ago my answers would have been very different and exhibited a lot more guilt. So I have come a long way but it was still very hard to think of all the emotions that went into those times and decision making.

I had very clear, cut and dry answers to these questions.

1) Guilt about leaving your abuser (e.g. Failed marriage, leaving someone who is dependent on you, etc.)

I knew the reasons I felt guilty about leaving, but I also knew they are irrational now. There were several more than these but here are some examples.

Reason: Failed marriage and breaking my obligation to it
Why It’s Irrational: It is much more important to be safe and healthy, mentally and physically.

Reason: He depended heavily on me emotionally and financially.
Why It’s Irrational: He is resourceful and is plenty capable of taking care of himself. I need to worry about my needs, safety and well being.

Reason: People will judge me poorly
Why It’s Irrational: I know plenty of people now who have gone through divorce and they feel this way, that people will judge them for being divorced, for their marriage failing or even for ever being in the marriage in the first place. First of all, this is also you judging yourself this way because those thoughts do cross your mind when you think of others who are divorced. Second of all, it really doesn’t matter what other people think. You need to be happy, healthy, and safe. The people who are going to judge you poorly, you don’t need them in your life anyway. The people who really care about you are going to understand and love you no matter what.

2) Guilt about why you were in the relationship in the first place and what was the first sign that you should have left (first signs that he would be abusive)

I remembered clearly the first event that should have clued me in that he was abusive and I should have left then. It was very early on in our relationship. I don’t know why it didn’t shake me up more and why I didn’t say anything to anybody to ask whether it was acceptable or not. From therapy I learned this was most likely because it was behavior I was used to from growing up and I didn’t know any better. But, things got much worse from there on and yet I still stayed and thought it was acceptable. Now I know it is not and anytime I find some behavior questionable in a relationship, I should talk to someone about it, with a family member or close friend.

3) To think about a time where you think you should have left but didn’t and reasons why you didn’t leave at that time and to evaluate whether those reasons were good enough to warrant staying

I remembered a point in time where I was so close to leaving to stay at a hotel or friend’s place, but I gave in to his pleas and went back in the house. The workbook has you identify two main reasons you didn’t leave at that time. Mine were:

A) I felt like I couldn’t tell anyone because they would judge me and him poorly so I couldn’t deal with being alone in a hotel or calling a friend and having to tell them what was going on to get out of there for a night
B) I had work obligations the next day and felt like I couldn’t just drop them or call in sick

Thinking back on these reasons, these were pretty weak. I also did end up leaving about 9 months later. I did call a domestic violence hotline, my family and a friend. These people did not judge me poorly and work was understanding.

4) To think about if you did leave then, what would have happened?

I thought if I did leave then I would have gone back with the stipulation that he needed to get help with his behavior. I think this would have made things much worse and I could have ended up dead.

But, like I said, I did leave 9 months later and with great advice, I am very much so alive, safe, happy, on the way to recovery, and looking forward to my future.

When SuperBetter posted about Post Traumatic Growth, the idea Post Traumatic Growth is no joke. I can certainly say, unlike many others around me, I have a new view on life. Everything in life is an opportunity and every opportunity is amazing. I wish everyone could feel like this. This past year and a half has been the most amazing time of my life and I am really looking forward to getting better, stronger, and fulfilling my goals. So there you have it. You can get over your guilt and move on with certainty and courage.

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  1. Quests: Overcoming Guilt and Thinking Errors « 4ptsdhealing

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