A challenging area of healing from child abuse is achieving a balance in taking responsibility. As is common with many aftereffects of child abuse, taking responsibility is an area in which many child abuse survivors tend to go to one extreme or the other before beginning the healing process. Some child abuse survivors feel responsible for everything under the sun while others blame everyone else for what happens to them. Neither extreme is healthy.
I fell under the category of being ultra-responsible. If anything went “wrong,” I believed it was somehow “my fault” and my responsibility to fix. If I had a disagreement with someone, I would assume I must be wrong and repeatedly “give in.” This attitude attracted many people who would take advantage of me until I finally stood up for myself.
Being ultra-responsible is draining because it makes me feel like it is my job to take care of everyone around me. Someone else’s needs always come before my own, and I have a hard time saying no because I believe it is my responsibility to “fix” other people’s issues. I don’t mean this in a meddling way, although there are probably many ultra-responsible people who also meddle. In my case, I have many people in my life who will ask for my help with X, knowing that I will always do whatever is in my power to help with what is asked. It’s not a “bad” quality, but I need to know how to set boundaries so I don’t neglect my own needs while focusing on everyone else’s needs.
Many child abuse survivors go to the opposite extreme and believe it is other people’s responsibility to meet their needs. I can understand how this mindset could get started because it absolutely WAS their abusers’ fault for traumatizing them as children. The problem is that, as adults, child abuse survivors cannot expect others to meet their needs for them, and not being able to be OK unless someone else is looking out for them keeps them dependent upon others. This cheats child abuse survivors of the ability to make the choices needed to find peace and joy in their own lives. If your happiness is always dependent upon the choices of someone else, you have given up the power to improve your own life.
Whether you struggle with being ultra-responsible or dependent upon others to take responsibility for you, lacking balance in your life in the area of responsibility can be very challenging. Being aware of your tendency toward one extreme or the other is the first step toward finding freedom in this area of your life.
Photo credit: Hekatekris