Because of You

All right, I’ll admit. I’m a softie for sad songs.

So I Googled “Because of You” by Kelly Clarkson to get the lyrics. The music video's on the website, a must see for Therapy Doc readers.

Here are the lyrics to the song.

I will not make the same mistakes that you did
I will not let myself cause my heart so much misery
I will not break the way you did
You fell so hard
I've learned the hard way, to never let it get that far

Because of you
I never stray too far from the sidewalk
Because of you
I learned to play on the safe side
So I don't get hurt
Because of you
I find it hard to trust
Not only me, but everyone around me
Because of you
I am afraid

I lose my way
And it's not too long before you point it out
I cannot cry
Because I know that's weakness in your eyes
I'm forced to fake, a smile, a laugh
Every day of my life
My heart can't possibly break
When it wasn't even whole to start with

Because of you
I never stray too far from the sidewalk
Because of you
I learned to play on the safe side
So I don't get hurt
Because of you
I find it hard to trust
Not only me, but everyone around me
Because of you
I am afraid

I watched you die
I heard you cry
Every night in your sleep
I was so young
You should have known better than to lean on me
You never thought of anyone else
You just saw your pain
And now I cry
In the middle of the night
For the same damn thing

Because of you
I never stray too far from the sidewalk
Because of you
I learned to play on the safe side
So I don't get hurt
Because of you
I tried my hardest just to forget everything
Because of you
I don't know how to let anyone else in
Because of you
I'm ashamed of my life because it's empty
Because of you
I am afraid

Because of you
Because of you

Thank you, Kelly Clarkson, and to Ben Moody, and David Hodges.

To see the video click here: Because of You

I want to go over what's important to take away from Ms. Clarkson's experience.

What Kelly learned was that her parents' marriage was dysfunctional and that she had it in her to repeat the same mean things that they said and did to one another in her own relationships. She could easily have become like her parents despite the fact that she hated the way they behaved towards one another. They weren't particularly nice to her, either.

But she thought hard on the subject and consciously changed what surely would have destroyed her already conflictual marriage, herself.

She could have acted out the family destiny, but she refused.
Yay Kelly for getting it.

What moves me, and perhaps you, too, is her life-long anxiety disorder and how it's so obviously rooted in the YOU of the song. Because of YOU. . . Her PARENTS. Parents are powerful. Most haven't a clue how powerful. It really was because of them.

Her parents made life seem scary and unpredictable.

But BIOLOGY had something to do with it, too, and not genetics in this case.

Here's where we get a little bit technical to explain how childhood trauma relates to generalized anxiety that can virtually cripple people.

A kid witnesses violence, either verbal, physical, or emotional in the home, perhaps often. Verbal violence, by the way, can be criticism that the parents believe is in the service of good parenting ( I have to say, I've never understood how they defend this behavior, but they do)

What happens to the kid who experiences this kind of distress?

Kid feels afraid.

How do we know that kids are afraid, and why can't they get a grip? Shouldn't Kelly have been okay by say, age 18?

Stressful events (like violence or bad news) trigger the physiological responses we interpret as fear and anxiety. The heart beats fast, adrenaline soars, arousal mechanisms of fight or flight are in over-drive.

Then after awhile, the body settles down, relaxes.

When a child is young, the capacity for denial takes over at some point and homework becomes a priority, or feel good activities like baseball, television, friends, and food become attractive options over anxiety and depression. Any distraction will do. Drugs work nicely for adolescents (it's what they say when they're using illegal substances to self-medicate-- we mental health professionals have better solutions, obviously).

But even after kids have reached homeostasis and are relaxed, that initial physical awareness of danger following a stressful episode-- -- the shaking, the shortness of breath, being "on edge"-- -- does not dissipate without leaving a neurological trace, a path, so to speak, in the brain. The brain remembers.

The arousal that follows stress is interpreted by the brain as anxiety. It is not the same type of arousal that you feel when you're cheering on your favorite baseball team. This time the alert, hyper feeling is an indication that something's wrong, and it doesn't feel good, (even though it may keep some people thin). Stressful events lead to hyper-vigilence. The pathway between trauma or anticipated trauma and fear has been sealed. An anxiety disorder is set when there is no buffer, nothing to offset the sense of powerlessness.

Kelly experienced anxiety as a little girl. She was young, vulnerable, small. Her brain repeatedly flashed: POWERLESS-- --YOU'RE POWERLESS -- -- AND YOU'RE SCREWED.

That sense of vulnerability would not magically dissipate as she grew up. In stressful, unpredictable families, children become literally wired, wound too tight. They don't stray too far from the sidewalk.

As luck would have it, if kids make it to adulthood they have more options and can control most things, make things all right. As adults we have much more power, more functional coping strategies, and resources. Sometimes we need help in identifying them.

One of the more powerful tools is focusing on the fact that you're not a kid anymore. At some point they can't hurt you. That's when it's time to cross the damn street.

Copyright 2006, Therapy Doc


Vanessa said…
Oh thank you so much for this article! And thank you for visiting my blog,

I really appreciate your articles on co-dependency and such. They hit home so much, having grown up in a dysfunctional family. A father who was literally NEVER sober, and physically and mentally abusive, is just one of the problems I faced growing up.
Anonymous said…
That song always chokes me up, that one and John Mayers "Daughters"
Sometimes our parents demons follow us and try to trip us up.
Even though I know what the logical truth is sometimes that hypercritical voice of my father takes over.
TherapyDoc said…
It's the transgenerational pull. Our brains rely upon our experience, doesn't matter if the experience was illogical, hypocritical, pathological.

Without consciously deliberating the pros and cons of what we learned from our parents, we're very much at the mercies of the family's "traditions," for better and often for worse.
*amanda* said…
this is a beautiful post. now i understand more fully why i am the way that i am. i was diagnosed with a chronic disease at age 5 and went through many things no child should ever have to endure. i've always related to this song, and i really enjoyed your post. thank you. :)
Gretel Ella said…
Kelly Clarkson's song hit home for me. The lyrics perfectly define what I went through during my parents' long and tumultuous divorce, what I felt like as a result of how I was treated (even though I was a child, I was treated as an adult, made to make adult decisions), and the ramifications of my parents' actions through the years.

Most notably, the song perfectly depicts the effects my experience with a Borderline Personality Disorder mother and a Narcissist Personality Disorder father. You can read more about my life from birth to present at
Hi, I, too, found this song touching as well. And a big hoorah for Kelly, taking the brave leap to discuss these things in popular music.

I'm interested to know if you have any resources about childhood trauma, like you mentioned in this post. Are there some other places I can read more in-depth about children experiencing violence in the home and then their development in the future. I imagine relationships, as you mentioned too, are a real problem area. Please send me anything you can think of out there on the net!

therapydoc said…
Okay, Stacie. I'll pass stuff along.