Quests: Overcoming Guilt and Thinking Errors

I have a lot of ground to cover in this post. In my last post on Guilt, I had only gotten through the first 2 parts of the chapter “How to Get Rid of Your Guilt” in the workbook Healing the Trauma of Domestic Violence. A few weeks later I have finally finished the 3rd and 4th parts and the Analyzing a Second Guilt Issue section of the chapter. I have still not gotten the results that the authors of the book expect, for me to feel “I was in no way responsible for causing what happened.” I still feel responsible for not recognizing earlier that I was in an abusive relationship and for never mentioning what was going on to anyone in my family or to a friend. So I need to walk through this again one by one and have some kind of conclusion I can live with on it. Here it goes.

Analyzing Guilt — Part 3: Analysis of How Responsible You Were for Staying

Who or What Contributed to My Staying?

  • 50% – My history of good times with my partner
  • 100% – My socialization or learning history that taught me to believe that marriage is forever
  • 100% – My socialization history that taught me “if you make your bed you have to lie in it”
  • 100% – My partner saying that I promised him that I would never leave him
  • 100% – Friends and relatives who encouraged me to stay
  • 70% – My socialization history that made me very prone to guilt, allowing others to influence me by making me feel guilty
  • 100% – My socialization history that taught me to believe that if the marriage doesn’t work, I failed.
  • 100% – My socialization history that taught me to believe that if someone apologizes to me, I am obligated to accept the apology and go back to the way things were – a fresh start, so to speak.
  • 100% – The abuse by my partner that resulted in my self-esteem going down so much I didn’t think I deserved better
  • 90% – My partner making me believe that I would never find another man who would accept me for who I am
  • 50% – My partner’s guilt trips that he would fall apart or commit suicide if I left him (I didn’t believe him, but still worried it may be true.)
  • 100% – My social isolation
  • 75% – My partner’s abuse of me that caused me to develop PTSD (I had experienced abuse and trauma before my relationship with this partner. It is not all caused by this experience of abuse.)
  • 60% – My PTSD, which impaired my ability to concentrate and make rational decisions
  • 85% – My partner’s threats that he would physically harm me if I left
  • 100% – My naivete or lack of knowledge about domestic violence (e.g. “I didn’t even know I was a battered woman”)
  • 50% – My socialization history that taught me to believe that all relationships are like mine
  • 100% – My socialization history that taught me to believe that if I get out of this relationship, the next one will not be any better — maybe even worse
  • 90% – My lack of knowledge about domestic violence resources, such as support groups or shelters
  • 70% – My socialization history that taught me to believe that the violence was my fault (e.g. My partner always said, “Why do you keep making me do this?”)
  • 100% – My trauma history that resulted in my self-esteem going so low
  • 100% – My socialization history that taught me to be so ashamed about the violence that I was ashamed to tell anyone
  • 75% – The continued physical and emotional abuse that taught or caused me to believe that it would be impossible to get out of the abusive relationship
  • 80% – My memory of how charming and wonderful my partner was at the beginning of our relationship
  • 70% – Drugs or alcohol that clouded my judgement and my ability to make logical decisions
  • 80% – My partner’s pressure on me to use drugs or alcohol
  • 100% – My partner’s repeated apologies and assurances that he would change
  • 100% – My dissociation or emotion-focused coping that prevented me from even thinking about how to get our of my relationship
  • 100% – My socialization history that taught me to believe that I had to keep my promises
  • 100% – The social stigma of being a divorcee

Reappraising My Degree of Responsibility

d. I was largely responsible for staying

Who or What Contributed to the Negative Outcomes of Staying?

  • 90% – My partner, who inflicted the abuse
  • 60% – Alcohol and/or drugs that increased the likelihood or severity of my partner’s violence
  • 30% – Overuse of alcohol and/or drugs that resulted in lowering my self-esteem

Reappraising My Degree of Responsibility

c. I was moderately responsible for the negative consequences associated with staying

Analyzing a Second Guilt Issue section

The following are the common issues of guilt I related to:

  • guilt about starting arguments or talking back
  • guilt about not doing more to stop or prevent the abuse
  • guilt about using alcohol or drugs
  • guilt about having an abortion
  • guilt about a rape or incidents of childhood sexual abuse
  • guilt about the sudden and unexpected death of a loved one (for example, guilt about not spending more time with someone prior to their death)

Initial AAGS for a Second Guilt Issue

Foreseeability and Preventability Analysis

1. What is it that you should have known better?

  • That my ex-husband would be abusive from the first time he had done something to indicate he would be
  • That my relationship with my ex-husband strongly mirrored the one with someone growing up where I had to do everything I could to keep him happy so he would not hurt me

2. What are some of the negative outcomes that could have been prevented?

  • Continued abuse from my ex-husband. If I had said something to someone I could have left much sooner.

3. What is it that you should have done differently?

  • I should have talked about what was going on with my family or a friend

4. When did you first realize or learn that this was what you were supposed to do?

  • When I was so afraid of going home, I didn’t know what to do or who to turn to so I called a Domestic Violence hotline

Reappraising My Degree of Responsibility

b. I believe slightly that I should have known better

If you still answered anything but a. There is no possible way that I could have known better, there is a good chance you are still remembering some unforeseeable outcomes as foreseeable. What were some of the negative outcomes you could have prevented?

I feel like I could have prevented all of it.

Justification Analysis

1. What were your reasons for doing what you did?

I was afraid for my own safety, for my own life, but I still stayed because of the reasons answered in Part 3.

2. What alternative courses of action (if any) — did you contemplate or consider (but rule out) at that time?

a. say something to someone earlier

b. recognized early on that something was very wrong

3. Why did you reject or rule out each alternative course of action? In other words, what did you think would happen if you had taken each alternative path (knowing only what you knew back then)?

a. my ex-husband did not want me to say anything negative about him because my family already did not like him and he was my husband so I should fully support him

b. Because I felt everyone should be forgiven no matter what

4. Review your reasons for what you did and for each alternative course of action that you contemplated but rejected.

I didn’t have good reasons for not doing either.

How justified was what you did?

c. What I did was not justified in any way (very poor reasons)

Although I continue to think I am responsible for what happened to me, I understand that I could not have prevented or foreseen what did happen to me. I really wish I could help everyone who is going through abuse to get out sooner. It’s not worth it to stay. It really changes a person and it’s very hard to undo all of what you have learned when you are abused. I am still paying the price of it. And that goes onto something else I wanted to talk about again, nightmares. But, all I can do at this point is to show you some of the things I am doing to get better.

Earlier this week I had a nightmare that my ex-husband showed up at an arcade I was at with my brother. He got up next to me and waited for me to react to him being there. I felt so shaken up, I turned to walk out of there and he grabs me and shakes me and says, “You have no right to leave.” My brother went to stand up for me and my ex-husband hits him. I woke up and was so shaken up. My brother always stood up for me when I was a kid and was the rebellious one in the family. So it shook me up to see my ex-husband over power him. It shook me up to hear those words I heard so often. “You have no right.” I heard words like that growing up too because someone would have complete power over me. But, why wouldn’t I rebel and not put up with it like my brother? People have different temperaments and develop different ways of dealing with things. I shut down and develop an incorrect way of thinking. Now I am working on not doing that.

I notice though that these ways of thinking run very deep and are on complete auto-pilot. Someone asked me the other day why I never say hello to someone. I had quite a few reasons: 1) They never talked to me as if they were too above me to talk to me, 2) They never asked me why I left my last job, 3) And sometimes I just don’t see someone to say hello. I am passing judgements on people all the time for things that they cannot know without me saying something. I need to stop doing these types of things.

Anyway, I know I’ve turned this blog entry into a big tear myself down session, but I needed to work through it and recognize these things so I can get better. And hopefully sharing it with others who have survived domestic violence or are dealing with related guilt issues, it helps you too.

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