Why You Can’t Blame Your Trauma For Your Behavior
I want to start this rather sensitive post by saying that I am someone who used to blame my trauma on my bad behavior. I’ve mentioned it before in previous posts but, for new readers, here it is: when I was 15 I overheard my father having rather graphic phone sex with his mistress. I had to break the news to my mother that he was having an affair. And as more lies (and subsequent truths) came to light, we discovered that not only did he have a mistress, he also had an entire secret second family, apart from that mistress. I’m talking about a second mortgage, second home, second set of tuitions for a second set of kids…the whole thing. A second secret life. And for years, I was very angry at men. I was verbally abusive to everyone I dated. I was on a mission to destroy male self-esteem. I was a bad friend, too, because I was so obsessed with my trauma and the things I wanted to do because of it that I neglected my friends. And then I realized that…I wasn’t happy. I didn’t like my life. It turns out that spreading the anger I was feeling inside, out into the world, didn’t result in some healthy, fulfilling life. Who woulda thunk? So, here is why you, too, can’t blame your trauma on your behavior.
You can’t undo the past
So you’ve identified that this incident in your past triggered a series of behaviors that have yielded negative results in your life. Okay. So, now what? Identifying that incident doesn’t erase it. You don’t get gold stars for knowing you have trauma. Knowing about it is not the same as addressing it.
It doesn’t eliminate the pain you cause others
Even though friends and romantic partners might understand why you behave the way you behave, that doesn’t erase the pain you cause them when you behave that way.
And you do cause pain
Have you ever heard the saying “Hurt people hurt people?” It’s simple and so true. If you haven’t healed yourself and done your personal work to get past your trauma, you will continue to cause the same pain to others that you’re holding onto.
You have resources
There are resources available to address your trauma. You can go to one on one counseling. You can go to group therapy. You can confront your abuser (if that is safe, and if it’s an option). You can pursue certain types of deep meditation that seek to illuminate and remove old, negative, useless thought patterns.
Including affordable ones
Saying that therapy is too expensive is not an excuse. Did you know that most therapists are required to complete hundreds of free hours of therapy before getting their license? Visit your local university that has a PhD program. They can probably match you with a student who is already very good at counseling trauma patients.
You’re not the only one with trauma
I know that, personally, when I was in my haze of anger and just letting my trauma take over my personality, it never occurred to me that other people had trauma, too. So…if they weren’t behaving as reckless and harmful as I was then…what was my excuse?
People have been through worse
Here was another reality check: there were people who had been through much worse than I had. And yet, they had done their personal work, so they were now positive, loving, generous, and stable people. Considering the far worse trauma others had suffered and got past, I really had no excuse to keep allowing my trauma to rule my life.
You have an opportunity
There is a good chance that, somehow, the type of trauma you suffered has been getting passed down through your bloodline for years. Why? Because nobody went to counseling. Nobody healed. Nobody did the personal work. And so, they let their trauma cause them to behave in a way that affected future generations. You have an opportunity to put a stop to the pain in your bloodline.
You have a choice to forgive
You also have an opportunity to forgive. In fact, you might have a responsibility to forgive the person or event that hurt you. You don’t need to let them back into your life. You certainly don’t need to condone what they did. But you can forgive, and that’s a beautiful thing.
You aren’t happy with your life
Look, if you aren’t happy with the way your life has shaken out as a direct result of the behaviors your trauma has caused, then you really have no choice but to do something about it. Nobody is going to fix it for you. You aren’t going to get a get out of jail free card in life and somehow get to behave recklessly, but receive a happy life. It doesn’t work that way.
You give your abusers power
When you let your trauma continue to really possess (like a demon, really) your personality and behavior, you continue to give your abusers powers.
You may not mean for it to be manipulative, but when you do something bad to someone else, and tell them it’s because of your trauma, it is manipulative. Rather than apologizing or seeking to heal the hurt you caused, you turn things around and make the person you just abused feel bad for you. Think about that.
People have needs, regardless of your past
Regardless of what you have been through, your friends and partners have needs. They need to be listened to. They need to be uplifted. They need to be respected. Those needs don’t go away, just because you had a hard past. So if you can’t fulfill those needs, you will lose those relationships.
You should be taking in other’s light
Focusing on your darkness is actually a bit…well…I don’t want to say self-indulgent but, it is really missing the point. Rather than bringing down people around you, why not focus on their light? Why not appreciate the brightness and warmth people around you bring you? Rather than spread your darkness outward.
This is your one shot at life
Your trauma has happened. And I am deeply sorry for that. But you don’t get a re-try at life. This is your life. This is the one you’ve been given. You need to make amends with what has happened in it if you’re going to have a chance at enjoying it.