The Why of it

What happens when something goes terribly wrong? When events take a turn you had never expected in your lifetime? When a life-changing disaster occurs? It could be anything : a parent’s death, a rape, a kidnapping – any traumatic event in your life. Once you are out of the shock, and reality begins to sink in, what is the first thought? It is, why did this happen? There is no coming back from this point. Elongate the moments and hours before this very moment as much as you can, because once your brain comes up with this question, your life will take a big turn. The repercussions of the horror will be felt after this. The worst is yet to come.

The ‘Why did this happen’ question has two possible answers, broadly speaking. The first answer that comes to mind is that you yourself were at fault. ‘Had I done this/Had I not done this..’ threads take permanent residence in the brain. Never-ending threads, I might add. It’s like a cruel permutation-combination problem that you will have to deal with for the rest of your life. The second alternative is when you blame someone else. When you think something has happened to you due to another person’s fault. Anger is the result. Of course there’s a third possibility of acknowledging the fact that maybe it is a combination of both of the above reasons. But this seldom comes to mind. Because when such a huge thing has taken place, you want to pin the blame on someone, you want to have definite answers, you want to see punishment or atonement. Logic does not stand place here. Saying that it was fault on both sides will leave you frustrated and confused, and after a big disaster, you want to do something about it, not just sit with that conclusion. And since dividing the blame does not provide many further steps, human nature tends to move towards the option of finding out whose fault it was. It’s like a subconscious function of the brain to make you feel better. Maybe if I do something about this things will be better. You need to be doing something to postpone that moment of brooding on it.Hence, for practical purposes, there exist only the first two choices.

Now, about the second choice, it brings all your indignation and anger to the forefront. This allows you to forget fear for a bit. It empowers you. You feel stronger. This step avoids self-pity and remorse. However, this is only the beginning.It is like the adrenaline surge you feel at the start of a race. It lasts only for some time. As soon as you see that everybody is easily outrunning you, practicality hits you. Hard. Similarly, as practicality sets in, and more often than not you realize that you can’t really do much against that person, and it leads to a strong feeling of helplessness and guilt. Why you can’t do anything to the other person may have various reasons, ranging from you might not be able to face the person again (for fear of being reminded of the horror and terror you felt during that incident) or it might backfire upon you. Hence this step leads to a dead-end, in some cases the dead-end may be immediate and in some it may arrive after a few turns (in cases where you can approach the other person and even do something against him but eventually realize you can’t do any lasting harm/take any long-term action).

The first alternative is the one all trauma-survivors arrive at, sooner or later. Self-blame. A pariah to normal people but a lifesaver to a struggling individual. Some take to this alternative in the beginning itself, others come home to it later, after trying everything else but failing. Yes, it feels like coming home after along journey in which you accomplished nothing. The immediate urge you feel to do something after the incident is suddenly possible. You can’t reach that devil, you can’t get other people to understand what you are going through, you can’t take a definitive step against anyone, but you are surely answerable to yourself aren’t you? Hence starts the cycle of blaming yourself, leading to a loss of self-esteem at the least and a suicide attempt at the most. You strangely revel in it, because the sheer helplessness of that one moment where you couldn’t stop that horrific thing from happening still haunts you, and you want to be in control, or at-least some semblance of it. Since you cannot account for other people’s actions, you turn to punish yourself – because doing that is easily possible and also because you think you deeply deserve it. You hate yourself, you harm yourself (physically/mentally), you feel guilty for doing it, you hate yourself again – an unforgiving chain. The guilt keeps you just barely alive, pulling you out of the chasm just when you’re teetering on the edge.

There is no easy way out of this mess. Who knew hating yourself could one day become the sole reason you’re alive?

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