Apr 20, 2009
When Alison, the only child of doting parents, was very young, she came to believe that she was responsible for her parents’ happiness. “I was the center of their universe,” she recalls. “Every time I turned around they were saying, ‘You’re so wonderful. You make us so happy. Nothing makes us as happy as our little angel does.’” Obviously, hearing such things was not what hurt Alison, although it did set the stage for how she reacted when she got hurt.
Alison’s father, an exceptionally talented musician, was a manic-depressive, and when he was depressed Alison suffered with him, because no matter how hard she tried she could not make him happy. Consequently, when her father committed suicide, Alison, who was twelve at the time, believed he took his own life because she had failed him.
As a result, Alison got stuck in self-blame. Believing that her father killed himself because she failed to make him happy, Alison even now becomes extremely anxious whenever she encounters people who are unhappy or circumstances that might make someone unhappy. At work, at home, or while socializing, she cannot relax until she is absolutely certain that everyone around her is comfortable and satisfied. She suffers terribly when her co-workers argue or her husband has a bad day. She cannot enjoy a meal unless everyone who is dining with her enjoys theirs.
Like Alison, you may too be stuck in self-blame, especially if you feel responsible for everyone and everything; feel unhappy when you wife, girlfriend, children, friends, or parents feel unhappy; feel compelled to do something to make them happy; constantly try to “fix” things, gloss over unpleasant realities, or apologize for things that you couldn’t possibly have caused – like the weather, power failures, the flu bug, and of course, other people’s words and actions.
Self-blame destroys self-esteem. Each day spent blaming yourself for pain from the past is a day spent despising yourself and reminding yourself that you do not measure up. You cannot appreciate your own uniqueness.