Being Accountable after Brain Injury

Brain Injury Blog

Self-Blame Isn’t the Same as Being Accountable

by Janelle Breese Biagioni

We have all been in situations where we did something that was careless or thoughtless and caused distress for others. An example would be bumping into a table and knocking off a treasured ornament, smashing it into a gazillion pieces. We feel foolish and may even say, “Oh my goodness, look what I’ve done. I am so sorry. That was completely my fault. Please let me replace it for you.” Don’t confuse this with self-blame – this is being accountable for one’s action and making amends or rectifying the situation. 

Self-blame is often married to guilt, shame and remorse. It can hold a person stuck as though they are standing in six feet of mud. Self-blame arises from abusive situations and situations where a person rationalizes (incorrectly) that they were responsible for what happened. i.e. “If I had only done such and such, he wouldn’t have hit me.” “If I had been good my parents would still be together.”  

Another example of self-blame and one that I often encounter when working with survivors is “I’ve ruined my family because of my brain injury.” This kind of self-blame is grounded in the person’s belief that they are now ‘flawed’ and responsible for ruining everything. This is a trap and also prevents a person from moving forward in their life. 

Slaying the dragon of self-blame is not easy and a person benefits from working with a counsellor to do this. If you feel you are stuck in self-blame, seek a counsellor with experience in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).  CBT is a therapy, also called a ‘talking therapy’ whereby dysfunctional emotions, behaviours and cognitions are worked through using a goal-oriented systematic procedure.  

It is okay, and admirable, to be accountable for anything that you have done which may have caused distress to yourself or others. But remember accountability means taking responsibility (owning it) and then taking action to make amends or to rectify the situation. Then move forward.

November 22, 2011

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