Many of us who have experienced trauma experience a lot of guilt about how we responded during a traumatic event. I have experienced this. When my mother & I got into an argument & she threw me into a wall when I was 19 in 1990, I blacked out & bit her during the assault. To this day I remember how shocking it felt to hit the wall then suddenly coming to as she was releasing her hold on me that pinned me to the wall. And when I came to, I ran from the house & sped away in a cloud of tire smoke. For many years after, I felt incredibly guilty for the entire event. Mostly because I bit my mother & she had a scar from that, but also for the fact I gave in to her. She was itching for a fight the moment I walked in the door after work that evening. I recognized the look immediately & in spite of knowing nothing about Narcissistic Personality Disorder, I knew getting into an argument would result in something bad for me, yet I did it anyway.
While it may sound ridiculous to you, this triggered an intense amount of guilt in me! I gave in rather than simply leave which would have been the smart thing to do. And, thanks to me, my mother had a physical scar. Horrible!
As you read this, you probably are thinking things like, “But you were only 19!” “You didn’t know about narcissism!” “You were defending yourself!” “You couldn’t move so how else could you defend yourself?” And you know something? Those are all correct. That isn’t how it felt at the time of the incident however, or for over twenty years after it happened.
Do you feel guilt about a response during a traumatic event too? If so, please show yourself the same mercy you were just willing to show me!
During trauma, the brain is overridden by survival instincts. While that is a good thing in the sense that survival instincts will help you to survive, they also may cause you to behave out of the ordinary & in a way that may be embarrassing to you. Please try to let that go! Survival instincts are there for a reason. They help a person to survive. Whether your instinct is fight, flight, freeze or fawn, that instinct helped to save you from a potentially even worse fate. That makes your survival instinct pretty impressive! Don’t discount it! Embrace it! Be grateful that it is partly why you survived!
Don’t forget to analyze the event too. If you analyze it, you had no other choice. Maybe you’re thinking that you did, but also consider yourself at the time. You may not have known any better, which led you to make the best choice you could at the time. This can be difficult, I know. I’ve spent a lot of time beating myself up for poor choices I’ve made in my life, too, but you know something? That is a waste of time! You aren’t the same person you were who made a less than ideal choice during a time of extreme duress. You did your best & that is all anyone can expect. You also survived the traumatic event, so you should be proud of yourself!
Please just remember, Dear Reader, that even if your trauma responses haven’t been what you wish they were, you have no reason to be embarrassed or feel guilty about them. They did their job, which was to help you survive.