Guilt by Conditioning

20190202_185417_0000I remember how the sight of a law enforcement officer or police car would shoot my heart into my throat. Just a reflex. Not something I thought about. It was involuntary and awful, that anxiety.

But if I were to believe my ex, that I was wrong by nature, and everything was always my fault, surely the police officer would find me at fault for something, too. I would get in trouble. Somehow it would all come down on me.

That’s his brainwashing at work.

Now, in retrospect, I can also see that my reflex was about the things I subconsciously understood about my then-husband. He made his own rules. Broke but also skirted the law, which he seemed to believe he was above. He manipulated and took advantage. Cheated. He did countless things he should have gotten into (more) trouble (than a slap on the wrist) for—and likely will someday—but somehow the fear and guilt had manifested in me.

I know now it was nothing but “guilt” by association, “guilt” by conditioning, and it was never mine to carry. So I don’t anymore. These days I’m a cool cucumber. A police car is just another vehicle on the road. An officer is just another human standing in line at the gas station.

Until they catch up with the real guilty one, that is.


The guilt isn’t yours to carry, either. It’s your abuser’s. I repeat, not yours.

This takes a long time to shake off. Be patient with yourself. You’re not wrong. It wasn’t your fault. You’re not going to get in trouble.

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