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Unmasking Self-Blame In Abusive Relationships

Written by: Lisa Sonni, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

Executive Contributor Lisa Sonni

Surviving an abusive relationship is something many of us have faced. The trauma doesn't disappear after the relationship ends; it often makes us carry an unjustified burden of blame. As a coach specializing in abuse and trauma bond recovery, I've seen how victims wrestle with self-blame. In this article, we're diving deep into what triggers self-blame for survivors, exposing the manipulative tricks of narcissists, and showing you a path to freeing yourself from this heavy self-blame.

young woman standing alone in her kitchen, with a tear-streaked face

Unraveling the complex tapestry of self-blame

After surviving abuse, self-blame affects both those still in the relationship and those who've managed to leave. You find yourself pointing fingers at yourself for various reasons, each thread of blame woven intricately from a distorted view of your situation. Here's why this happens:

Staying too long

Sticking around in an abusive relationship or even entering one doesn't mean you lack strength or intelligence. Abuse often hides under manipulation and control, making it hard for you to see its full extent until much later.

Exposing children to abuse

The responsibility for shielding children from abuse lies with the abuser, not you.

Blaming yourself for your children's exposure to the toxic environment is unfair. In abusive relationships, the abuser holds power, often using punishments to keep you quiet.

Reactive abuse and mirroring

Those toxic reactions you blame yourself for? They're trauma responses, not a sign of personal weakness or becoming like your abuser. These behaviors are survival instincts that help you navigate the emotional turmoil inflicted by your abusive partner. Sometimes, you picked up abusive traits in the process, mirroring the tactics they used against you. Learning about the terms and tactics that abusers use is going to allow you to start living in reality. A great resource for this is “Narcissism Unmasked: A Survivor’s Handbook to the Common Narcissistic Abuse Tactics”.

Narcissists' web of manipulation

Narcissists are masters at manipulation, precisely crafting self-blame in your mind while spinning an intricate web of emotional deceit. Getting familiar with their tricks unveils the complexity of their harmful intentions.

Blame-shifting and emotional manipulation

Narcissists are skilled at shifting blame, using carefully chosen words to twist your reality. Phrases like "You made me do this," "If only you had done this differently," and "If you truly loved me, you would do this" act like emotional traps, ensnaring you in a guilt-ridden maze. Their manipulative language feeds off your vulnerabilities, fostering self-doubt.

Playing the victim

Narcissists love playing the victim. They paint themselves as innocent, wounded parties, making you shoulder the blame for their actions. This clever tactic further blurs the line between truth and accountability, adding to the self-blame you're grappling with. They’ve set up this narrative from the onset of your relationship and this serves them well until the bitter end.


Gaslighting, one of the MOST sinister tools narcissists use, distorts your reality. It casts doubt on your perception of events, eroding your trust in your own judgment. As a result, confusion takes over, intensifying self-blame. You start believing your perceptions are flawed.

Untangling the web: Healing from self-blame

Letting go of self-blame is a crucial step towards healing. It starts with acknowledging where self-blame comes from and taking steps to heal.

The path to healing

Realizing that self-blame is a natural response to trauma is the beginning. It's essential to understand that it's not a flaw within you, but a reaction born from the desperate need to make sense of a complex situation. These reactions you've blamed yourself for are actually trauma responses. A trauma response is your mind and body's automatic way of coping and surviving during distressing events.

Recognizing that your reactions were survival mechanisms in the face of abuse is an eye-opening revelation. This shift in perspective breaks the hold of self-blame, making room for self-compassion and healing.

Reframing the narrative

Changing how you see past experiences empowers you. Recognizing toxic patterns and building self-worth dismantles the foundation of self-blame. Along this transformative journey, friends, family, support groups, and online courses can be your sources of strength. You can explore more about reframing your narrative through my affordable self-paced online course, "Reframing The Narrative: Liberating Yourself from Self-Blame."

Embracing self-compassion

Self-compassion is the cornerstone of healing. Instead of being your harshest critic, become your strongest ally. Treating yourself with the kindness and understanding you deserve is a powerful antidote to the poison of self-blame. You may consider working with a licensed therapist or a certified coach who specializes in this area.

Breaking free from self-blame is a huge step toward healing from abusive relationships. Understanding narcissists' manipulative tactics shines a light on the path to liberating yourself. By dismantling self-blame, you can embrace self-compassion and regain control over your story. Remember, you're not alone on this journey, and the power to heal is within your reach.

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Lisa Sonni Brainz Magazine

Lisa Sonni, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Lisa Sonni is a survivor of domestic assault and narcissistic abuse, and her first hand experience led her to where she is today ‒ a certified Relationship Coach specializing in abuse education and trauma bond recovery. She helps clients from all walks of life overcome challenges stemming from traumatic partnerships. She is the author of the Trauma Bond Recovery Course, The Trauma Bond Recovery Journal, and Rebuilding After A Trauma Bond: A Self-Love Journal, as well as a popular content creator known as Stronger Than Before across all social media platforms.



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