Selfblame and subordination

Self-blame can be part of internal harassment, especially if people focus and ruminate on how (they believe) they may have caused bad things to happen. The origins of self-blame are many; for example, it may be guilt or shame based (Gilbert, 1997). People may blame themselves for not being able to live up to others' expectations, or parents may blame themselves for how their children turn out. Cognitive therapists (Beck et al., 1979) often see depression-linked self-blame as a cognitive distortion or error. However, as noted above, in some contexts, it is important that animals and humans control the signals they emit, and these controls are exerted via unconscious strategies. Hence, some forms of self-blame may be linked to subordinate strategies and the control of aggression. As noted above, subordinates often cannot risk being aggressive up rank. We can think about it from the point of view of a child who needs to win love and protection from a parent. An angry, accusing child who blames the parents for their bad behaviour towards the child (such as scolding or hitting) might court more trouble, and, as noted above, a subordinate defence (such as a shame profile of head down and non-aggression) might be more automatic and useful (see Keltner & Harker, 1998). Indeed, Bowlby (1980) argued that children can use defensive exclusion in such contexts. This requires screening out the bad behaviour of the other (which could activate aggressive retaliation) and hence helps to control the child's aggression. Moreover, such defensive exclusion blocks from awareness the more serious and threatening possibility that one's parent is dangerous and bad. Self-blame also carries the hope, at least, that one can find out how to conduct oneself so as to reduce harm. If one focuses on what is bad in the parents (but cannot control them because they are more powerful), one is less orientated to focus on one's own ability to avoid punishment. Allen and Gilbert (2000) explored this as form of inner deception.

If self-blame is, at times, part of a subordination strategy, we would expect to see it emerge when people are under serious threat from powerful others. There is good evidence that this is so. For example, many studies on child sexual abuse find that, although it is quite illogical, many children (and later) adults blame themselves. Ligezinska et al. (1996) found that self-blame and guilt in children for extrafamilial abuse was associated with higher fear and depression. Kimberly (1990) found that adults who blamed themselves as children for abuse had higher depression and lower self-esteem. Andrews and Brewin (1990) found that women living with abusive men often blamed themselves for the violence, but changed their attributional style when they moved away; that is, when it was safe to do so. So sometimes it may be safer to blame oneself because this will inhibit one's anger when its outward expression could be dangerous—that is, the dominant other will simply retaliate powerfully and escalate. In many religious texts, people blame themselves for what they perceive as God's persecution of them (Jung 1952/1992). Gilbert (1992) suggested that these may be examples of defensive cognitive strategies, but humans can experience them, not as the defensive strategies they are (I blame myself because it is safer), but as a reflection of reality (I really am to blame). In other words, they are themselves deceived (Allen & Gilbert, 2000). Self-blame then turns out to be an extremely complex form of human processing that can have many different functions (such as defensive) (see Driscoll, 1988), and may be as much a part of a defensive strategy (such as, subordination) as a cause; therefore, to treat it only as a schema-driven cognitive distortion may be overly simplistic.

Exploring EFT

Exploring EFT

EFT stands for Emotional Freedom Technique. It works to free the user of both physical and emotional pain and relieve chronic conditions by healing the physical responses our bodies make after we've been hurt or experienced pain. While some people do not carry the effects of these experiences, others have bodies that hold onto these memories, which affect the way the body works. Because it is a free and fast technique, even if you are not one hundred percent committed to whether it works or not, it is still worth giving it a shot and seeing if there is any improvement.

Get My Free Ebook


Post a comment