Experiencing trauma can be a deeply disconnecting experience. Trauma survivors often feel alone and isolated. Every person’s reaction to an event is different, and it is common for those who have found something traumatic to feel shamed or guilty. They may feel undeserving of support, or even self-loathing.
It may be that for some events in childhood have pre-disposed them to experience potentially traumatising events these ways. In the face of parents and carers who were not able to care for them emotionally or who mistreated them, they may have come to the conclusion that it was them who was bad, and who deserved bad things to happen to them. This is incredibly common, and you may be surprised to know, is actually functional.
Here’s why - If I believe it is my fault, then I have a sense of control and hope. I can change what I do, and hope that will change what they do. This can lead to traits of people pleasing and perfectionism later on, but at the time it is formed, it is very useful. After all, if I perceive what is happening to be the adult’s fault, then there is no hope, and I am not safe. This is not tolerable as a child.
So, one way or another, when someone perpetrates a crime against you, you may feel bad or shameful or deficient.
For crimes committed in the UK, our legal system can add insult to injury. Depending on the crime and the perpetrator we may not be able to talk to people about what has happened. We may not be able to access therapy pre-trial, because our therapy notes and even our therapist could be called in court. We may be left with the consequences of what has been done to us with no relief, with a lengthy wait for justice. It’s easy in this situation to perceive we must have been at fault.
In essence, in these scenarios, the person attacked has internalised the perpetrator who wronged them. It was not and is not true that they are shameful or wrong, and to heal, these are beliefs that can be updated. We can bring a sense of hope and control to the here and now, and at the same time recognise that there and then they did not have either. Ruth Lanius describes this as changing the sense of time of the part of us that has been traumatised. We separate out our old coping mechanism from our current reality, and we can then move on.
As trauma disconnects, community and connection in its wake are deeply healing. Finding the courage to reach out and let others support you, and giving yourself connection with nature, the arts, new learning, groups and communities and anything else you find renewing is important, for with this you transcend the attempts made to isolate you or make you small.
If you have experienced trauma, please reach out for support. Many people have traumatising experiences, and they can and do heal. You can too.