When it comes to guilt in my life, I feel that I have a million skeletons in the closet. There was definitely a time in my life, when I couldn’t tell you about a single day that I did not feel guilty.
For me most of my guilt hovered around the results of my childhood traumas. No matter how it ends and who believes your or not, it is pretty common for us survivors of sexual traumas to wonder, if there might have been a little part of us that has caused the abuser to act the way they did. By my adult years, I was certain that none of it was my fault.
For the last 25 years, the struggles from the abuse have become different and the guilt has shifted to an arena that I hadn’t anticipated. There seems to be this believe in our Western cultures, that each human being is only allowed a certain amount of time to recuperate from any event, whether deeply emotional or traumatic. After someone loses a loved one or was involved in an accident, they are given a certain number of months to mourn and recover, before they are expected to be a full functioning member of society yet again. If they continue to struggle and seem to hold on to what was lost in the event, so often the people in their surroundings lose patience and sympathy. Society seems to need us to function properly or else we are made to feel that we become a burden to the system.
This pressure is so prevalent that many of us survivors try to fit in, if we can. We work hard on pretending that our past does not affect us anymore and that we can move on. And so I tried for the last 25 years to become a “normal sexual partner”, yet the harder I tried, the farther I seemed to get away from what was the desired end result. I engaged the help of professionals on several occasions and with each time I did, there was the increased expectation that now that this was done, I was going to perk up and be just like a “normal person”. So much pressure that resulted in higher and higher stakes. With each time, the continued failures just seemed to strip my self-confidence away.
The guilt that I had originally felt for potentially causing the abuse in the first place and that I felt I had successfully put at bay, now arose whenever I didn’t seem to be able to show up fully recovered. I wondered whether maybe there was something seriously wrong with me after all. It doesn’t help in those circumstances that most of us walk around with unresolved traumas, which we hide away to not seem weak or stop us from being fully integrated in order to belong.
When we are faced with those kind of dilemmas, where our actions don’t seem to bring the desired result no matter how much we work on changing the actions, our guilt turns into shame. Suddenly, we are not only worried about not being able to perform the action, but we blame ourselves for having become an unacceptable person. And let me tell you, if none of us has had a way of being allowed to work through their problems until they were resolved, we suddenly end in a cycle of blame and shame. None of us feels good living in a world, where we can’t seem to succeed. And if we feel like we have tried everything we could and the option is to either give up on ourselves or find the reasons for failure in another person, we will likely try to first find it in somebody else.
Believe me, I went through the whole cycle, and can tell you from experience that this does not work either. For me the last resort was to give up on myself and denounce my sexuality altogether. I told myself that if I can’t make it work than I just must not be sexual at all.
This caused me the end of my marriage and the guilt that I had seemingly wasted somebody else’s 15 years, because I was never able to become the person they wanted me to be.
So here I stood with all my original guilt, realizing that whether I felt guilty or not, didn’t really make a difference after all.
My guilt didn’t change the fact that I was abused in the first place, it also didn’t make my later partners feel better about me not being, who they [and subsequently I] thought I should be.
I realized that I could hang on to my guilt and keep living stuck or that I could claim the right to take my time to fully walk the road to what will be my best future self, which will always include a healed version of my past.
I also think that we in our western society need to acknowledge the existence of traumas all around us and create a space, where it is save to heal for as long as it takes to be able to live the life of your dreams again.
Traumas simply don’t heal at the speed of today’s culture.