Acting Normal After Trauma Can Create Shame

I’m a huge fan of the ID channel’s true crime shows, & I watch them often. It fascinates me the things that people are capable of. Not only those who commit heinous crimes, but those who have the strength & wisdom to outwit their attackers & survive brutal attacks.

Recently I was watching one of these shows. In it, a woman’s ex boyfriend kidnapped her under the guise of saying he wanted her to come with him to say good bye to his daughters. He said there was a party in another town, & he would take her to the party where his daughters would be so she could say good bye. On the way there, he threatened her & even tried to choke her. Sadly, when they got inside the house where the party supposedly was, it was empty & abandoned. It’s where he killed her.

What got me about this show was what happened just before they got to that house. The boyfriend told her to behave herself when they arrived at the party, in other words, act like he hadn’t just tried to choke her. It struck me – that is exactly how narcissists act! They can do the most painful, vulgar thing to a victim, & victims aren’t allowed to show others any signs of the trauma they just survived.

Naturally, narcissists do this to hide their horrible behavior so they can continue to do it & to impress whoever they want to impress. However, there is another facet of this behavior. Not allowing someone to act as if they have been through trauma instills shame in them.

Hiding your emotions in such a situation is good for survival, but at the same time, it can make you feel like something is very wrong with you for being upset about the trauma. I wonder if it’s partly because of how narcissists think. Many act like their victim is supposed to be able to do anything. Not because that victim is capable or smart, but because they want the victim to do things. Certain things are just expected of a victim, no matter the victim’s abilities, strengths or weaknesses. Acting normal after trauma is one of those expected things. When you feel as if you can’t act normally or struggle to do so immediately after a traumatic event, you can feel ashamed of your feelings.

Another reason for shame in such situations could be how many people treat victims. So few people are sympathetic to victims. Many people expect victims to “just get over it”, “let go of the past” or “forgive & forget.” Not a lot of people have patience for a victim who still shows signs of having been through trauma & they do their best to get them to act normal. Being around such people can instill a great deal of shame in a victim.

I’ve also experienced shame by being around someone who isn’t affected as strongly as I am by similar traumas. As an example, my husband is someone who can go on no matter what. No trauma slows him down. I’m not sure why he’s that way & trauma hits me much harder. There have been plenty of times I would see him keep going to work, working in the yard & doing other normal things after something traumatic happened. Yet, let something not as traumatic happen to me & I struggle to do things I do every day. This kind of comparison also can instill shame just like being told to act like nothing happened can.

When you experience this type of scenario, & chances are you will at some point, you need to turn to God. Pray about it. Tell Him how you feel & ask for help.

Also think about your situation objectively. It’s not normal to act like nothing happened after trauma. It’s normal to feel certain things & to act differently. If it was 95* outside, it’d be normal to sweat. Would you be angry at yourself for sweating in such hot weather? No, because it’s totally normal & understandable. Similarly, it’s normal & understandable to act differently after trauma. You have no reason to feel shame for acting differently.

Just remember, Dear Reader, there is absolutely nothing wrong with you for being affected by trauma, no matter what the narcissist or insensitive people may think. xoxo

4 Comments

Filed under Abuse and the Healing Journey, Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Mental Health, Narcissism

4 responses to “Acting Normal After Trauma Can Create Shame

  1. This is so true, Cynthia. I am seeing this more and more as I write my memoir. I am now writing about my first marriage. His abuse started almost immediately after our wedding. When I reacted in any way, by crying or not being able to function at my best, he would tell me I was crazy. HE was the one behaving like a madman, but *I* was crazy for getting upset and crying.

    I am so thankful I got out of that situation years ago!

    Like

    • Thank God you got out of that marriage! What a nightmare it sounds like!

      That situation seems so typical of relationships with narcissists. They’re fine for being madmen but victims are crazy for being upset about it. My ex & mother were the same. I was supposed to take it all in stride, no matter what abuse they dished out. Sickening behavior

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow, your post is so eye-opening! I went through this. For so long I had to hide what my ex-husband was doing to me and yes, I felt shame about it. I blamed myself for what I was going through. I’m so glad that isn’t my life anymore. Thank you for this post.

    Liked by 1 person

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