Shame is possibly the worst side-effect of trauma. Guilt, shame’s ignoble cousin, seeps in churning the mess. Guilt has its place, when you do something unkind, unhealthy, or unhelpful, guilt proves conscience – and shows that you’re probably not a psychopath, although you still might be an asshole.
But guilt that worms its way into my psyche without validity serves no purpose. Shame lies to me, but I believe its lies.
I’ve read that young children cannot process that their parents or caregivers might be wrong, or harmful, so I took it in as my fault. I didn’t have friends in my first years of school, and even then, at 5 or 6 years old, I thought my classmates knew that I was defective. But I was resilient; I knew how to laugh, and laughter was my guardian. I didn’t know I was smart because I didn’t grow up in a nurturing environment – I just knew ways to escape without going anywhere, and how to hold in my anger and fear until they finally exploded in tantrums and sometimes blind rage – usually toward my antagonizing next oldest sister.
Shame clung to me – it twisted into my DNA, bored into my neurons, exchanging itself through synapses.
Of course I’d try to get unkind people to love me throughout my life, it’s what I was taught. Of course I’d find men who would add to my shame, further deepening what I already believed about myself. I never got what I so desperately wanted and needed, love and approval. Approval is exoneration, absolution. If I got validation from others, then I wouldn’t have to be ashamed anymore.
Only it doesn’t work that way. I have to validate and approve of myself.
I don’t want to live in shame anymore. I’ve done nothing to warrant such heavy chains, such a terrible prison.
© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Abstractly Distracted’s Blog, 2010 – current