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We Need to Talk About Shame, Guilt and Self-Blame

Survivors of domestic abuse often struggle with intense feelings of guilt, shame, and self-blame. These feelings can be so powerful that they prevent survivors from seeking help and support, even when they know they need it.

Guilt is a common emotion that survivors of domestic abuse experience. They may feel guilty for not being able to protect their children or for not leaving the abusive relationship sooner. Survivors may also feel guilty for staying in the relationship, even though they know it's not healthy or safe. This guilt can be so overwhelming that it causes survivors to blame themselves for the abuse they have experienced.

Shame is another emotion that survivors of domestic abuse may experience. They may feel ashamed of the abuse and believe that they are somehow to blame for it. Survivors may also feel ashamed of their inability to leave the relationship or their perceived weakness. This shame can be so intense that survivors may feel like they are the only ones who have ever experienced such abuse.

Self-blame is a particularly insidious aspect of the guilt and shame experienced by survivors of domestic abuse. Survivors may believe that they caused the abuse or that they somehow deserved it. This self-blame can lead to feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness. Survivors may feel like they don't deserve to be treated with respect and dignity.

It's important for survivors of domestic abuse to understand that these feelings of guilt, shame, and self-blame are common reactions to abuse. They are not a reflection of the survivor's character or worth. Survivors of domestic abuse deserve compassion, understanding, and support.

The key word of this article is 'survivor', we do many things to survive, some things we may not like, or may understand, but necessary. It is also important to remember that your survival stems from the abuse from another, and you are not at fault for the abuse you have experienced.

If you are struggling with self-blame, shame and guilt, there are some thing you can put into practice if you are waiting to see a counsellor or not quite ready to see a counsellor:

  1. Practice self-compassion: Be kind and gentle with yourself. Recognise that the abuse was not your fault and that you deserve love, respect, and dignity. Treat yourself with the same care and compassion that you would offer a dear friend.

  2. Challenge negative self-talk: Notice when you are engaging in negative self-talk or self-blame. Ask yourself if you would say the same things to a friend in your situation. If not, challenge those thoughts and replace them with more positive and supportive ones.

  3. Seek out supportive people: Connect with trusted friends, family members, or support groups who can provide empathy, validation, and understanding. It can be helpful to talk to people who have been through similar experiences.

  4. Engage in self-care: Take time to do things that bring you joy and comfort. This could include taking a walk in nature, listening to music, practicing yoga, or reading a good book. Prioritizing self-care can help reduce stress and increase feelings of well-being.

  5. Educate yourself: Learn more about the dynamics of domestic abuse and the ways in which abusers manipulate and control their victims. Understanding the nature of the abuse can help you see that it was not your fault.

  6. Focus on the present moment: When feelings of guilt, shame, or self-blame arise, try to focus on the present moment. Engage in mindfulness practices like deep breathing or meditation to help ground yourself in the present and reduce feelings of overwhelm.

It's important to remember that these tips can be helpful in managing difficult emotions, but they do not replace the support and guidance of a trained counsellor.

At The WAVES Counselling Project, we provide free counselling sessions to anyone aged 16 or over, regardless of gender, sexuality, ethnicity, or background. Our counsellors are trained to help survivors of domestic abuse work through their feelings of guilt, shame, and self-blame. We are here to support you and help you heal. If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic abuse, know that you are not alone. We are here to help.

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