Monday, June 23, 2008

Shame, The Abuser's Friend

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 , 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 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 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 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 .


Anonymous said...


Coming from the other side of the globe from where you are, where openness isn't exactly a basic trait in our culture, I have to say you are one of the most courageous woman I've ever met (physically or online), and you're awe-inspiring!

Thank Heavens for the Internet! And thank you so much for sharing your experiences and wisdom. It will help soooooooo many others.

Evan said...

Thankfully I wasn't abused physically or sexually as a child (or since I'm glad to say).

I do recognise this dynamic though.

And the liberation that I have seen people experience as they come to terms with the part of the abuser they have internalised is awesome.

Thank you for an incredibly valuable post.

Patricia Singleton said...

Irene, thank you so much for your words of praise. When I was growing up in the U. S. in the 1950's and 1960's, incest was not spoken of either. It was a thing of shame that something like this happened to me or anyone else. I was much older before I could start to talk about the incest.

I was in my early 30's when I started looking for books about incest. I found two or three books in the library and that was it. That was years before the internet was available for most of us. I was 38 years old when I started going to Al-Anon and Adult Children of Alcoholics meetings and finally found a group of people that I could tell about the incest.

Talking about it in those groups is what gave me the courage to start healing. I write because I hope that others will read my stories and will see that talking about it hasn't killed me. Sometimes we need to see others be courageous to give ourselves permission to do the same. I share my story to help others heal.

For so many years, there was no one to help or encourage me to heal. That is the main purpose for me writing on my blog---to share my healing journey. With the internet, our blogs can reach people around the world. Thanks for listening.

Patricia Singleton said...

Evan, thank you for your comment. I also thank Paula for giving me these tools for healing the internalized abuser that I have carried around with me for many years. It is a very valuable tool.

Patricia Singleton said...

Paula Kawal---comment that for some technical reason and Patricia's not paying closer attention wound up attached to another article instead of here where it belongs. My apologies to Paula. Patricia

Here is Paula's comment:
Wow, Patricia!

You did an excellent job in fleshing the concepts in these comments out into and an easily understood article.

The concept of "imprinting" applies quite well to shame, as it more readily illustrates the process of how we can confuse ourselves with the "other" in our experience.

YOur blog is walking survivors toward new ways of looking at their life situations...

This kind of healing is so necessary in the world :)

What you are doing takes a lot of courage...thank you!

Love and Light,

Patricia Singleton said...

Paula, thanks for the valuable information that you allowed me to share with everyone. Tools of healing and empowerment are so important to survivors who are just beginning and to those of us who have been healing for awhile. This was a new tool for me.

Sorry about whatever the technical problem was last night.