[Note: There are scenarios where we are at fault for something traumatic happening. But there are times when we are not responsible, and this is what I want to focus on today.]
We live in a culture of holding ourselves accountable and that’s right for the appropriate situation. But some people embrace this approach across the board and it’s wrenching to witness the layers of torment they apply to themselves- reliving the traumatic situation, self-beating up, and hours of what-if scenarios keeping them up at night. When someone betrays our trust, it’s common to take responsibility by saying; “What an idiot I am for trusting her. Why did I do that? What’s wrong with me?” Instead we can say: “I trusted and she abused that trust.”
The “I’m an idiot” approach is taking ownership for someone betraying your trust. It’s a distraction from the pain and that’s understandable. The danger is in allowing that distraction become our truth, when it isn’t our truth. The truth is that someone betrayed your trust, in effect they took something from you, and they had no right.
Her best friend told everyone a secret they had shared. It crushed her. She wondered what she did to deserve that; what did she do wrong? Nothing. 5th graders can be mean.
A woman decided she was unhappy in her marriage and had an affair. She divorced her husband and ripped his heart out. Did he do anything wrong? Probably a few things, but nothing to warrant such a dramatic result.
The direct report threw his manager under the bus. The manager thought she and her direct report were getting along well. The manager did a few things wrong, but nothing that an open conversation couldn’t have helped.
We cannot control someone else’s behavior. We can control how we respond to it. That’s the way to take back our power and that’s the core of healing. The sadness of betrayal or trauma stays, but it gets less vitriolic over time when we allow ourselves to hold the betrayer accountable and honor our stolen innocence.
When we live a life of integrity, and trust where we feel it’s appropriate, we honor our true nature as humans who want to connect, relate and share community.
There is no shame in this.