What ifs, negative thinking & self blame




Please be mindful that this post refers to psychological trauma and as such maybe triggering for some people.

This week I am slowly realising the damage of my past, it seems that I have inbuilt automatic behaviours that stem from my childhood. These behaviours still impact today and it is really annoying at times to realise that I do this and it seems so unfair that people can still cause me problems even though they are no longer around. The reality is of course that it’s not the individuals that cause the issue but the legacy of their psychological abuse that they inflicted upon me.

The damage from psychological abuse is often unseen by most people but it has left me with a lot of negative behaviours and automatic thinking patterns that really cause us issues. I naturally blame myself for everything that goes wrong, I can’t stop being self critical and I seem unable to stop the worry and anxiety traits that plague my life. I’m also naturally inclined to try and destroy any good feelings I have, in the hope that if I get in there first I’m protecting myself from others hurting me.
I’m told that this is a natural inbuilt protection mechanism I have developed because of the way things were in my past.

At my therapy session this week my psychologist was able to define in very brief terms how things were in my past. How good things didn’t last and would be taken away from me by my abusers, how I was blamed for everything and how they’d put me down and make me feel stupid, inferior and guilty. I don’t think I have told him yet what it was really like and yet he seemed to instinctively know the realities of that time. It’s strange when other people tell you about your life and they get it so right, especially when you know you haven’t told them, I guess that’s the sign of a good psychologist.

The harsh reality is I was; like many victims are, made to feel that it was all my fault, if only I hadn’t got them mad then they wouldn’t have hit me, If only I hadn’t disobeyed their rules then they wouldn’t have had to punish me. But the honest reality is that I didn’t do anything to make them mad, they were just wanting an excuse to inflict violence upon me. Disobeying them was inevitable because I was put in so many no win situations, for example you can’t help make a noise if people are hurting you.

I was sadly surrounded by some very controlling people and they were happy to inflict upon me things that shouldn’t have happened, none of it was my fault and I accept that. Yet if things go wrong today I instinctively still blame me, it’s an automatic response which irritates me and causes me much distress. It’s the same with when something good happens, I start to try and undermine that by negative behaviours and thinking, Why? I am only hurting myself and yet I do it without even realising that I am, that’s so bizarre.

Take for instance my psychology sessions the appointments are progressing really well, which is great and yet I have started to worry about them. I know I’m attempting to protect myself because I automatically think good things won’t last, but it’s still annoying. After this weeks session I got myself in a bit of a worry mess, the kind which could easily escalate into serious irrational thinking and worse. I did that ‘what if’ thinking which I am not sure if only I do, or if others do too but well I do it really well.


So by midnight on Monday I had a list of what ifs about therapy, about my CMHT, my ongoing care, funding, you name we had it. I realised thankfully that I was ruminating and being illogical and probably irrational too, so I decided to write it all down in order to give myself a chance of getting some sleep.

But my ‘what ifs’ remained the next morning and they filled up part of the day too, all the time I was feeling guilty for being like this, for allowing my past to impact upon me in this way. Anxiety and worry are awful, they tire you, draining every ounce of energy, they are all consuming and they can easily take over your life. The guilt and blame game was playing in the background of my mind, I knew this was wrong yet I could not seem to stop it. I guess I am a work in progress, with a lot of work left to do.

Looking back today 3 days later I can see that my what ifs list was quite funny, it contained so many things that I know I don’t need to worry about. I am certain it’s progress that I am starting to realise instinctively that I’m doing this unhelpful thinking yet I would much rather not do it at all. I know it will take time to change my automatic responses to day to day situations and I am keen to change these habitual patterns.

The most important thing right now is to realise that not everything good will be ruined by others, and that I therefore don’t need to ruin it either. Nor do I need to be self critical or blaming, and when I am I need to correct that thinking and tell myself it’s just my past trying to take hold of the present.

The good thing is that when I have therapy my psychologist will remind me of this and will keep plugging away at helping me change the habits of a lifetime. I’m grateful therapy is working and I’m grateful I can see when I am trying to destabilise it in my mind, because that gives me an opportunity to correct my thinking and reassure myself things are going ok. I can also seek reassurance from my psychologist if needed and at times I do need external assistance to retake control and stop the worrying and what ifs.

Thankfully the psychologists’s efforts and my own new found growing ability to challenge my thinking allows me to keep working at moving forwards and that’s what matters the most.


Copyright DID Dispatches 2014




2 thoughts on “What ifs, negative thinking & self blame

  1. It is very difficult to change a past especially when defense mechanisms have been established for years. Its easy for me to say…you can do it, mind over matter…HA. can’t even do it myself yet. But I’m trying. I fall fast and get up and try again. I hope I encourage you to keep trying too.

  2. I enjoyed reading this – thoughtful, perceptive, and well expressed. I’m so glad you’re seeing results from your therapy. You should. Most people do. I can say that because I’m in touch with the research on the subject, and that’s what it says. It’s also what my clinical practice as a trauma-focused therapist has shown me.

    One comment: You express surprise that your therapist was so able to characterize your past even when you hadn’t told him a lot about it. We can do that for two reasons:

    [a] Exposure to large numbers of people in clinical settings allows us to make generalizations – and it turns out that many people have the same general sort of bad experiences growing up. It’s easy not to know this, due to the isolation that often results from having a lot of trauma in one’s life.

    [b] We now have a fairly extensive and well-informed body of professional literature about psychological trauma. Familiarity with this literature extends our awareness ever more, and again it turns out that traumatic experience has a lot of common features for most of those who experience it.

    So, I only need to know a little about you to know a lot. This is good, because it allows us to get going in therapy relatively quickly. What slows us down often isn’t what we don’t know but rather the simple fact that it’s hard for our clients to deal with their memories, and we simply have to take things at a rate they can tolerate. That rate, over time, does speed up, though.

    I wish you all the best in your continued work. You appear to be doing well with it. THAT, I will remind you, is YOUR doing. I offer my congratulations. You should be proud. You’ve earned that right!

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