Oh…so THAT’s shame! Huh. Stealthy.

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I came across a blog post from @behindthemask and was absolutely struck by the following excerpt:

I don’t want anyone to see my truth. I just want to be happy and joke all the time, but some days I’m not able. This is one of them.  To know me is to see this side of me too. It’s my truth and reality. It is, for all who’ve been abused. If I hide it, I’m once again giving into shame. What do I have to be ashamed about? I was abused. I didn’t ask for it.

I hadn’t considered that it was shame prompting me to stuff my feelings and pretend things were A-OK. I had always thought of it solely as strength. I guess there’s a point where every asset can become a liability, but I always thought I just had developed amazing self control as a survival skill. 

Apparently, there’s more to it.

Man that’s wild stuff, seriously wild…wow.

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10 thoughts on “Oh…so THAT’s shame! Huh. Stealthy.

  1. I often tell people: I don’t want to stand on a corner with a sandwich board sign reading, “My biological father molested me!” However, I am upfront about it when asked or when confronted by a similar example. Many people have mentioned how strong I am because of this. Yep. I am. But I am more strong because I am unashamed. And so are you.

  2. Ran across this and pass it FWIW. I’ve been intrigued about shame in our culture — it’s stronger in Eastern cultures. I lived in Pakistan, and the Honor/Shame culture is strong there, especially in the Tribal areas– and had the general impression that it used to be more common than it has been since, say, the cultural/sexual revolution(s) of the 60s. Shame is still the dominant mode of control around here in Amish communities, though.

    But it seems to be invoked more and more in secular culture. The internet is the delivery system of choice. Lately, there have been the various internet mini-outbursts about “slut-shaming”, which gets mixed into various women’s issues. Western culture tends to be more prone to laying on guilt to control people, but shaming (with the flip side threat of ostracism) is coming back. On a personal level, this was interesting:

    “Contemporary western culture uses shame as one modality of control, but its primary dependence rests on guilt, and, when that does not work, the criminal justice system.
    Paul G. Hiebert characterizes the shame society as follows:

    “Shame is a reaction to other people’s criticism, an acute personal chagrin at our failure to live up to our obligations and the expectations others have of us. In true shame oriented cultures, every person has a place and a duty in the society. One maintains self-respect, not by choosing what is good rather than what is evil, but by choosing what is expected of one.”
    (Hiebert 1985, 212)

    It sounds like this reflects your experience to some extent, where one thing you have seen is a feeling of dissatisfaction in yourself because you internalized H’s expectations and feel you’ve failed to live up to them. Might go back further than that, come to think of it. You would know. But the good thing is that you’re systematically unhooking yourself from these one by one, identifying those things that are your’s alone, and those that other people have laid on you. It’s tedious, but necessary.

    Of course, this may be complete BS. 🙂

    • Not complete BS at all, actually. Your assessment is spot on. Unhooking things one by one is about the only approach I can take. I tried to go full on – more than once – and it’s overwhelming and destructive. So I’ve started with little things like boundaries (you cannot yell at me, etc.) and considering I didn’t really understand that marital relationships *should* have boundaries up until a few months ago, I am doing well, all things considered.

      I am living in a chronological body with life experiences to match but for the first time I’m building basic relationship skills that form the underpinnings of the intermediate and advanced stuff that I already have. It’s like being a small child in a grown woman’s body with regard to knowing and practicing life skills that I cannot continue without…If I don’t take baby steps it could be disastrous. And is has been, frankly.

      For an intellectual, it is wild to discover that even though I thought I knew what shame, guilt, etc. were, that somehow I didn’t truly understand those things from a first person perspective. I never connected to *that* being what I felt because these things have been with me my whole life. Changing 47 years of habits will not happen fast, and it shouldn’t. I just have to figure out how to get through it with minimal damage to me and my sons.

      • I hear you. And, it may be slow, or at least seem so for a while. But let me offer an alternative image of something that is also quite natural: a larvae entombs itself in windings of its old life and disappears from view for a time. But she then emerges an entirely new creature. I can see that happening, too. 🙂

      • This made me smile – twice. Thank you.

        Drama and strife can become familiar enough to lead one to believe that’s all there is. Because what’s beyond that is scary – because it’s the unknown. I’ve never been scared of much but standing up to him is terrifying. I’ve been built that way for too long. I’m good with change, in fact I seek it often. I just want to be careful that I’m not reckless.

        I like the visualization you provided…it made me think that it’s OK to take this at my pace. Being an overachiever [cough, cough, ahem…silly girl] has warped my mind a great deal. Yes, I see it. I’ve reinvented myself lots of times and this won’t be the last. Thanks for the encouragement and support!

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