Facebook status that I posted on 23rd March 2016
This will probably be another uncomfortable one sorry but I feel the need to put it out there as I feel many people are torturing themselves to some degree for not having acted in the way they would wish when they were hurt/abused/raped/bullied etc.
The survival instinct within us is EXTREMELY strong. It isn’t under our normal conscious control. It’s job is to keep us alive…AT ALL COSTS. If that means our best chance of survival is to fight like hell, we’ll fight. If that means we have to kill, we’ll kill. If that means we have to run and escape…even if it means leaving someone else behind, we’ll run. And if that means we have to ‘play dead’ or appease or numb out or ‘go along with’ something, we’ll do it…..and it won’t be our choice in those moments.
When we are attacked in any way and our life can be perceived as being threatened, that survival mechanism takes over, and that’s that. We don’t have a say in it in that moment. It is designed to keep us alive and that is what it will do….even if that means having years of mental or emotional torment afterwards! Survival will come first. If you are alive you still have chance to heal…even if it’s decades down the line.
So many people can stay in a guilt or shame prison all their lives because they feel they didn’t do enough when the bad experience happened to them. Self-blame or self-hatred or self-disgust can eat at them and even make them allow others to hurt or punish them because they feel they deserve it. It is very sad.
Also very sad is that abusers and bullies often really use that too. When a person is pushed into extreme emotional distress or breakdown (as in an attack of any sort…even verbal) our mental protection is broken down and we are very easy to programme. This is the main technique done in brainwashing. Abusers can easily make people (of whatever age, not just children) believe they are to blame for what is happening. So many people who have been raped for example were made to believe they ‘asked for it’ in some way. It is very helpful to a rapist or an abuser or a bully if they can make you feel to blame, even if just a tiny little bit, because it makes it much less likely that you will tell or do anything about it. The seed of doubt gets planted at the moment we are totally vulnerable and can rot away inside us for years.
I felt I needed to post this as I feel many people are affected by this to some degree, especially the self-beating for not having done enough. Survival is survival. It is what it is. In its wisdom the survival mechanism makes the judgement call. ..whatever action gives us the greatest chance of survival…..and if we are lucky we live to deal with the repercussions…though we can at times wish we hadn’t.
It is important to understand that we do always do the best that we can in difficult experiences. If we COULD have done better, done more etc, we would have done. The greatest road to healing is understanding and compassion and forgiveness…primarily towards ourselves then towards others. We always do the best we can. Remembering that the survival mechanism is purely there to make sure we stay alive. ..and that in extreme circumstances we do not have conscious control over it can help us to be kinder to ourselves and stop blaming ourselves for things that were outside of our control.
It’s helpful to realise too that things that feel a threat to our survival can take many forms not always just physical attacks. Survival can be triggered in group situations if you fear rejection. It can be triggered if we fear disapproval too, especially by a parent or food/love/shelter provider. The more we can become aware of the survival fears in ourselves or the survival responses that can get triggered the more control we can take back over our reactions in day to day situations. Likewise the more love compassion and understanding we can give to ourselves for traumatic experiences we lived through the more we can engage again in our lives and stop beating on ourselves.
With much love to anyone this resonates with.