It shouldn’t have happened is a common thought not only for survivors of sexual abuse but for all humans. The shooting of school children, the death of a loved one, war, rape, sexual abuse. It is normal for us to think it shouldn’t have happened. However, when we think “It shouldn’t have happened” that thought often starts a long list of thoughts that we use to shame ourselves, blame ourselves, hide our truth and beat ourselves up.
Examples – It shouldn’t have happened, followed by thoughts like:
- If I had not gone out alone that night
- I should have been able to stop him.
- I must have done something to deserve it.
- I should have told sooner.
- Because I can’t remember everything, it means it didn’t happen.
- I should just be able to get over this and move on.
- I had to do it to keep my siblings and mom safe, but I should have found a way to stop it.
- If I hadn’t been drinking.
- If I hadn’t dated him.
- If I hadn’t married him.
These are just a few of the thoughts that pile on to “It shouldn’t have happened.” You keep beating yourself up emotionally with all the thoughts that begin with “It shouldn’t have happened”. But what if accepting that it happened freed you to bring the pain of your abuse out into the light and heal it?
I can hear you saying “But, Cindy it shouldn’t have happened. It was wrong!” Let’s be clear I am NOT condoning sexual abuse. Sexual abuse is wrong. However, there is a difference between it is wrong and it shouldn’t have happened. What?
Think of it like stubbing your toe. You are getting ready to go somewhere, walking around barefoot when BAM! You stub your toe hard. You toe really hurts. It is the initial pain of the stubbing that makes your toe hurt. Then most of us get mad, we say things like “Why wasn’t I paying attention?!” “Who left that chair there?!” “Now I can’t wear my favorite shoes!” “I was so stupid.” “Nothing is going right for me.” All these thoughts are adding to the initial pain of stubbing your toe and your toe keeps throbbing. But, if your child stubbed their toe you would pick them up, hold them, sooth them, put ice on the toe. You might say something like “Sometimes things happen honey, but you’re going to be ok.” Notice that in the version where we comfort the child, the pain subsides quicker.
We taught the child acceptance. We didn’t condone the stubbing of toes or the chair being left where it shouldn’t have been. We just taught them that sometimes we stub our toe. Now, I am in no way saying the stubbing your toe and being sexually abused are the same thing.
I am saying we can open a new door to our healing journey by moving from “It shouldn’t have happened.” To “It happened.” We can’t go back in time and change it. It did happen. Moving to “It happened” begins the acceptance of the facts of our abuse. This is the beginning of setting us free from all those other thoughts that followed causing us to shame and blame ourselves. Consider setting yourself free by saying something to yourself like “I am sorry honey, but it happened. Sometimes bad things happen. It wasn’t your fault. It just happened and you’re going to be ok.”
Here are some more questions to ask yourself:
- Can you accept that it just happened? That you couldn’t have done anything to change it. That it wasn’t your fault. Why or why not?
- How is thinking it shouldn’t have happened hurting you?
- How would accepting that it happened free you?
- How would it feel to be free of any shame or blame about what happened to you?
- What thought would you like to think about what happened that would help you feel better?
If you would like help dealing with what happened to you, simply click: Schedule my free mini session I will help you.