The Origins of Self-Blame

It probably doesn't come as a surprise to know that the experiences you went through before the age of 10 years old can define large parts of who you are. These early experiences can stick with you and influence much of the way you go about the creation of your life as an adult.

In essence, the stickiness is due to the fact that you're simultaneously forming the foundation of your personality while you're completely reliant on other people to keep you alive. And that adds a lot of power and intensity to whatever you go through.

What I want to shine some light on is a particularly troublesome idea that many people form during these early years.

The idea is "maybe it's my fault."

This idea can come about in a variety of ways. Perhaps in your early years you experienced neglect. Or maybe you had heaps of criticism thrown at you. Perhaps a parent left the family, or mom was dealing with anxiety. Maybe the family struggled with money, or dad was always angry.

Whatever it was, as a child you were prone to see yourself as the center of the world and so it wasn't much of a leap to pin responsibility on yourself.

Unfortunately, this tendency can be the origin of a lot of confusion and self-blame later in life.

The truth is there are many ways that the world interacts with you that is beyond your control. This isn't to say you don't have power over your experience, but it's critically important to know your limits.

Here's why this is important. When you look at how a person treated you or an experience you went through and say "maybe it was my fault," when in fact it wasn't at all... you are giving people and experiences that have little to do with you the power to define who you are. And that's a very painful way of interacting with the world.

Just as it was before the age of 10.

The practice of Family Constellations points to a definitive answer to the question of 'was it my fault?'

It doesn't matter what your strengths or flaws were. It doesn't matter if you needed special support. It doesn't matter if you were prone to feeling a certain way. It doesn't matter if you were different from other children. It doesn't matter. There is no set of events, context, subtext or background that changes this simple truth:

It wasn't your fault. And it's only the natural limitations, confusion and innocence of a child that could see it any other way.

When you can heal the inner-child and let them know it wasn't their fault, you heal the part of yourself that self-blames for things you have no control over.

Nick Werber