As an incest survivor, I lived with the thought "I am no good" for over half of my life. As I discussed in a recent post "Tools Of The Ego" found at http://patriciasingleton.blogspot.com/2008/04/tools-of-ego.html , I was an extremely shy child and young adult. Any of my friends today would not recognise the shy child that I was.
One of the reasons for the shyness was that I was afraid if you got to know me you would find out that "I am no good." That thought ruled my life. The shame kept me silent and hurting.
John Bradshaw's book "Healing the Shame That Binds You" helped me to recognise and finally heal the shame. I learned that the thought "I am no good" was called shame. I learned that shame comes from the abuser who passes it on to his victim rather than feel it himself. Shame is the tool that the abuser uses to keep his victim silent. You are afraid to talk about the abuse because you believe that something in you, some badness in you, attracts the abusers to you. Shame is what makes the victim think that the abuse is their fault.
Shame is very invasive. Until you realize that the abuse was not your fault and that the abuse is not who you are, you will remain stuck in the pain and continue to create more situations or relationships that bring you more pain. Until you stop expecting to be hurt, you will be hurt. Taking responsibility for your life can be a frightening step. You can't change the past. You can change your reaction to the past.
Begin by knowing that you have choices in how you continue to live your life. If big changes frighten you, start with small ones. Do something today that makes you feel good about who you are. If you can't handle that, do something that makes you laugh. Laughter is one of the best medicines that I know in learning to take life not so seriously.
At this point, I want to include a comment that I got from Paula Kawal of Journey Inward Productions. This comment was in regard to an article that I wrote recently called "Why Do We Get Stuck In Blame." The quote will fit just as well when you are working with shame so here it is:
Paula said, "The blame cycle is often connected to the words we use to describe the event.
In NLP for example, we avoid using the word abuser. Let me tell you why.
When a child has a traumatic or what we call 'imprint' experience, they confuse themselves with the other party in the event.
So if my uncle has touched me inappropriately and I do not have the internal resources to deal with it, the experience will map my identity with his so that in essence I become him.
If I use the word abuser, that part of him inside me is now being judged. It's hard to love yourself, or not blame yourself or to feel safe when you have an internalized abuser running around inside you.
What stops this is creating unity inside by giving the adult in the experience the resource they needed to give love to the child appropriately.
When we have an internalized abuser within us, we can't help but be a victim...but transform the internal abuser into a resourceful person...then we, too, can be resourceful :)"
My comment, in part, back to Paula said, "I do know that the judgments that we make about others are really about us."
Then Paula added another valuable comment that said, "...I can tell you understand so I wanted to give you a little more to work with. You can start by referring to these people by their real names.
If I internally reference a man named Ray rather than a person called abuser, or even Dad, this is a reference that is a lot less loaded and easier to accept :)
I will most likely have a lot less expectations of Ray than I would of Dad! I can also imagine Ray can change where categorizing him as an abuser leaves little room in my mind for this and creates a monster out of the part of myself that plays his role inside of me.
The goal is to soften the part that represents him and through transforming my relationship with this part, I can learn a new way of being.
Remember, we carry the important people in our lives around inside of us. They are often the voices in our heads who challenge and encourage us...so it makes sense that these internalized representations have influence (both positive and not so positive) over our behavior.
What is less obvious is that these parts perform a functionality for us and that there is something really important that we are trying to get for ourselves through their internal representation...as they are a hidden form of our shadow self.
Once we get to the root of that functionality we have lots of ways of fulfilling it :)"
This comment, in itself, is so powerful. I just had to add it to this article on shame because it is even truer in regard to shame than it is for blame. Shame is about who we see ourselves as through the eyes of abuse. It isn't who we really are but when you are buried in shame, you don't see that. Paula's comment explains why we see ourselves as we do through the eyes of shame.
What I want you to know is, "You are not that person. You are so much more. Think about Paula's comment. Let us know what you think.
You can find more about Paula at http://www.paulakawal.com at Journey Inward Productions. In addition to coaching, Paula has a blog that you will find there as well. Her blog is how I met Paula. Thank you Paula for sharing the wisdom of your comments.
If you are interested in the article that caused Paula to leave her comment, you will find it at http://patriciasingleton.blogspot.com/2008/06/why-do-we-get-stuck-in-blame.html .