Ouroboros of Internalized Blame

Internalizing blame is a poisonous self flagellation that I’ve routinely partaken in— training is needed to not. Consistent practice in releasing guilt must be utilized, processing the shame and being compassionate, tender to the raw wounds left behind. The world assumes we are complicit in our suffering. Victim blaming, classism, mental health stigma, the racist war on drugs, there are numerous ways society shifts responsibility for our situations onto ourselves instead of the abuses we are subject to. We absorb these blows one after the other and our self perception is diluted with the assumed faults and condemnation. 

As part of my exploration into my visual art, I’m working on an illustration entitled Free Enter Prize representing my frustration with the damage authority has had on my psyche, and the parallels between these abuses and the struggles I’ve experienced and witnessed under the weight of poverty and capitalism. As often is in my art, I place these struggles in context to nature (elements, flora and fauna, etc). Accompanied in my planning and practice pages is an unfinished poem.

I Was Blamed for Everything

found some candy

on a stoop

starving, feed on pansies

I entered the coop

by a display I stood

said I looked good

houseowner hired

and fed me, tired

of searching for worth

didn’t look out window

stopped eating earth

kept head low

then someone stole sweets

I didn’t see

weighty defeat

the blame was on me

We are often taken advantage of. I’ve been exploring my feelings of self blame and shame in regards to this. Recently at my last job at a candy store, someone came in and played me like a fool to steal product. It was a small store and I was usually alone. While he was pulling his heist, he interacted with me frequently and manipulated me. Not only did he remind me of a past abuser and trigger me, he had an accomplice helping him outside and inside the shop. My boss was a rich upper class person and generally treated me with distrust and disrespect, when the theft took place she blamed me quite harshly. I was already struggling with the incident and it’s toll on my mental health. My boss’s perceptions of me had also been weighing on me. When they collided in an incident soon after the theft, when my boss accused me of giving my fiancé product for free despite the fact she could have checked our cameras and seen that my fiancé buys something every time they visit. In this altercation, she also heavily implied that I had something to do with the recent theft, either by my ignorance or something more nefarious. As always, I calmly disputed her, but trauma has led me to chronically fall back on the third instinct of fight, flight, or fawn. In layman’s terms, due to abuse I’m a kiss ass to avoid confrontation. This means taking a shift my one day off with an hours notice, working three hours overtime for minimum wage, being underpaid for utilizing university trained graphic design skills after the last social media person demanded more money then quit. This was before the incident.

I had to talk through the theft and my boss’s reaction in therapy, I still relapsed in my recovery significantly. As a child, I was sexually abused by figures of authority and dealt with a troubled and abusive family. This has led to a culmination of shame and blame that has formed its own sentient entity, a thoughtform I’ve been cursed with. I have often been disrespected through my life, it’s been a battle to learn to respect myself. Being assaulted multiple times in highschool, falling into sex work as a young adult, then finally pulling myself up out of the life I’d built around me only to be beaten down by people who think they’re above me. Perhaps if I’d stood up for myself with more of a backbone she would have treated me better. Maybe if I called out her prejudices she would gain some self awareness. I let her willfully misgender me as a transgender person, treat my fiance rudely and call them my ‘friend’ despite being aware of our queer relationship, blame me if anything goes even slightly wrong or seems a little off, and god knows how much more. 

Down at the core, everyone has a responsibility to treat people with respect. I didn’t deserve to go through that for the sake of paying my rent, or the previous abuses I’d put my mind and body through in the name of money and trauma.

In my illustration I incorporate the imagery of candy, in context to pedophilia and how candy is used to lure and manipulate children, as well as capitalism and the the way upper class people use lower class people. I was groomed very early on. I know how brainwashing works. In your head you defend people you hate, people who treat you cruelly, but now I feel I better understand how people take advantage of desperation. 

Everyday customers would tell me I have the best job in the world, that anyone would kill to work where I did. It reminds me now of my grandfather telling me that he loved me. No matter how I suffered, the ouroboros would eat away at itself and placate me with gentle words. I was tempted in by candy both times. Soothed by comforting smells and colours, clinging to what good can come out of pain.

The main subject of my illustration is a strange building reminiscent of a jail, ornate but with barred windows and doors with surreal illogical locks. This is the lasting cage. In my reflections in my sketchbook, I write about how ptsd and capitalism are the lasting cage trying to keep me from the person I’m meant to be. 

I will not blame myself for everything. The universe does not blame me for everything. I will release the energy that’s been pushed into me from external forces. 

Within the nest of safety I’ve assembled, in the depths of my construct I’ve begun hoping and dreaming. Goals have started forming from the near forgotten joys of my childhood. This charred tinder fuels longing for freedom in nature and escaping the social-economic abuse I’ll continue to endure elsewise.

“Happiness is forgotten; the means are taken for the end.” Albert Camus said this of the pursuit of money for the sake of happiness, wasting your life devoted to earning. I also agree with his other assertions that money can buy happiness, “to have money is to have time. Time can be bought. Everything can be bought. To become rich is to have time to be happy.” He also says that having money is a way of being free of money, but I wish to someday be free of money by means of self sustainment.

This is my ultimate victory against manipulation and authority. To live on the land and grow my own food and not rely on anything but myself and my community. 

I will make my own time for happiness.

I will not blame myself for what has happened, and in letting go of shame, I’ll take control of what is to come.

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