This excerpt is from the book, The Language of Letting Go by Melody Beattie:
December 6: Letting Go Of Shame
Many of us were victimized, sometimes more than once. We may have been physically abused, sexually abused, or exploited by the addictions of another.
Understand that if another person has abused us, it is not cause for us to feel shame. The guilt for the act of the abuse belongs to the perpetrator, not the victim.
Even if in recovery we fall prey to being victimized, that is not cause for shame.
The goal of recovery is learning self-care, learning to free ourselves from victimization, and not to blame ourselves for past experiences. The goal is to arm ourselves so we do not continue to be victimized due to the shame and unresolved feelings from the original victimization.
We each have our own work, our issues, our recovery tasks. One of those tasks is to stop pointing your finger at the perpetrator, because it distracts us. Although we hold each person responsible and accountable for his or her behavior, we learn compassion for the perpetrator. We understand that many forces have come to play in that person’s life. At the same time, we do not hold onto shame.
We learn to understand the role we played in our victimization, how we fell into that role and did not rescue ourselves. But that is information to arm us so that it need not happen again.
Let go of victim shame. We have issues and tasks, but our issue is not to feel guilty and wrong because we have been victimized.
Today, I will set myself free from any victim shame I may be harboring or hanging on to.
What stands out to me when I read this passage is the point about distraction. I was speaking with a dear friend yesterday who asked, “When do you know that you are done healing and now thriving?” I think that they are both simultaneous processes. When I find myself distracted by focusing on things that are out of my control, including perpetrators, that is when I have the opportunity for the most healing and am taking steps towards thriving. I would even argue that they are paradoxical, both simultaneously true.Further, when she said, “we learn to understand the role we played in our victimization, how we fell into that role and did not rescue ourselves. But this is information to arm us so that it does not happen again.” I am always triggered by this sort of statement, since I was two years old when I experienced my first physical abuse, and seven when I experienced my first sexual abuse. How can I recognize how I fell into that role at that age? What role did I play in that particular victimization? All I can say is that as a child, I was operating on pure instinct and developed the self-preservation behaviors then that kept me from being further hurt. Whether those behaviors were dissociation, cutting off my connection to my own emotions and self understanding, or freezing in the moment so as not to draw further attention to myself or be the catalyst for an even more violent attack… whatever that could have been. The role I played was an innocent. I fell into that role by simply existing (and turns out the Divine had something to do with it.) One of the trickiest conundrums with which I have battled is feeling self-compassion, recognizing that I couldn’t have done anything else than what I did. Even more tricky is feeling compassion for the people who committed these acts. Telling myself that they knew no better and were doing the best they could… That’s hard to accept, but easier in the long run than distracting myself with hatred, contempt and subsequently filling myself with shame. Walking this new path isn’t always easy, but it is freeing and each day I am thriving and healing, grateful and filled with joy and peace. That’s good news and something you can’t buy on Black Friday.
*cha ching* 😉