Feb
26

How Blame, Guilt and Shame get Misapplied to Self

By

overcoming self blame, shame, guilt

a childs mind

The belief system that I am constantly speaking of does not form all at once or form completely from one event. This is where it gets complicated. Other events factor into it, some of them normal healthy childhood events that may have familiar feelings attached to them, and it is really easy to lump them all together.

When a child is devalued, abused, or discounted, it is a matter of necessity, (survival) to build an understanding or comprehension, and that comprehension becomes like a filter that we look through. Child sexual abuse, being put down, called a liar, made fun of and ignored, and being physically harmed all became part of my history and the way that I processed that history became part of this “grid or filter” that I viewed all events through.

Being ignored on the playground at school brought up familiar feelings of rejection.  My mind searched through my history for a reason that I had been rejected, and quickly related it to the feelings surrounding a trauma event. (Continued….) Imagine sneaking a cookie from the cookie jar and getting caught. Maybe a stern reprimand was issued. Maybe you felt ashamed and the shame felt like the other shame from the trauma event. They felt similar. The shame and guilt was familiar and this time they actually applied. Angry labels like “sneak”: and “thief” were applied and accepted and we hung our heads. If we denied taking the cookie in the first place the label liar was also added and it was easy to take that “regular childhood cookie sneaking event” and add it to the “proof” that the guilt and shame from actual trauma events was also deserved. 

I have a really significant memory of a time when I got “caught” doing something naughty and shameful.  I still remember the feelings of shame that I felt that day. I was not often allowed to have a friend over, and on this day my best friend was not only allowed to play at my house, INSIDE the house, but we were going to bake cupcakes. This was a very special day. My friend brought her easy bake oven with her and we were happily baking cupcakes. We decided to make cupcakes in the big oven and I felt all grown up putting the icing on them when they had cooled down.  We each got one, and there were cupcakes for my brothers too.  I do not know why I did this, but I took a bite out of my brother’s cup cake and tried to cover the missing bite with extra icing. I got caught. My mother was very angry with me, and my friend got sent home. I got a spanking and sent to my room. I had ruined our special day and everything had been going so well. I felt the guilt and shame of that day for years and years. It is one of my clearest childhood memories and in later years I often wondered about the significance of that day and why it has stuck with me for so long, as if it was the most horrible thing that I could have ever done, so I could not put behind me.

Today I believe that the significance of the cupcake day was that that was the day that I accepted all the guilt, shame and blame for most if not all of the trauma events that had ever happened to me, and would ever happen to me. It was just a little trigger day. I was deeply ashamed, (which I understand) but I linked it to the other events that were abusive to me. I connected it to the feelings of shame and guilt that I had about being neglected and traumatized, giving equal weight and putting them on a parallel scale with this time that I really did do something wrong, not realizing that there was a difference between the guilt and shame that belonged to me, and the guilt and shame that didn’t belong to me.

The “bad feelings” felt so similar that I added them to the grid or filter that I’d developed to measure and analyse things through and came up with the wrong conclusions; that the trauma events of being sexually abused were as equally shameful and guilt filled as the day that I took that bite out of my brother’s cupcake and tried to hide it.

Other fairly normal innocent childhood “mistakes” got added to that increasingly confusing recipe and they all blended together to form my false belief system. A false belief system that I never considered was false, but thought all along was the truth about me.

How does this post strike you? Does it make sense that a false belief system can form this way? Do you see how a childhood “mistake” could be the proof that we use to take the blame and shame for things that really are not our faults? Please feel free to share.

Another Snapshot on the Journey to Wholeness

Darlene Ouimet

Related Posts ~ How One Truama Led to Several False Beleifs         

The little Girl who Cried Wolf ~ Belief System Development

Categories : Self Esteem, Survival

62 Comments

1

Hi Darlene,

Wow, this is profound! I definitely think that a child could make a connection between shame and guilt over something minor and shame and guilt over something major, confusing the issue of responsibility. The whole family system that surrounds abuse distorts responsibility. We’re made to feel responsible for our parents’ happiness, for instance. We’re responsible for keeping the family together (i.e., “Don’t tell or they’ll put Daddy in jail and we’ll be out on the street”). We’re responsible for giving our abusive parents everything they didn’t get from their abusive parents. The whole issue of responsibility gets so confused in our minds that we no longer understand what’s reasonable and what’s not.

I wrote a post on my blog in September of last year about shame versus guilt and found this interesting information:

An article on guilt and shame by the British organization Anxiety Care states “[r]esearch suggests that guilt is in place from around the ages of three to six, while shame occurs much earlier – from fifteen months to three or even sooner according to some theories.”

I was really fascinated by this finding, and I think it’s totally true. Even before we can speak, we develop a concept of self-worth. When abusive parents undermine that self-worth, we understand that on some level, even if we can’t articulate it.

For instance, I have a twin sister. She was always the picky eater. The family loves to tell about how we used to sit side by side in our high chairs during meals. They’d give us food and I’d eat it right away, but my sister would examine it for like five whole minutes before she decided to eat it or not. If not then she’d put it in my plate and I’d eat it without thinking twice. They thought that was hilarious, but the more I thought about it, the more it occurred to me that I understood even then that I needed to obey them in order to feel worthy of their love. That’s how I see it, anyway. (My sister, incidentally, was my mother’s favorite so she could be a bitch to her and my mom adored her anyway. I didn’t have that “privilege.”)

I’ve also been doing some research on dissociation lately (not necessarily DID but dissociation in a more general way). The research says that emotional numbness is a major part of any kind of dissociation. I wonder if perhaps dissociation relating to a severe traumatic experience, like sexual abuse, prevents a child from acknowledging the shame and blame, but a fairly minor incident, like your cupcake experience, sort of taps into that deeper shame and blame because there’s less dissociation (i.e., emotional distance from the experience). Does that make sense?

I need to think about this more, but I definitely agree that there could be this kind of connection, which makes it even harder to work through blocks from our abusive past because we have to peel away layers of shame and guilt. I’ve definitely found this to be true in my healing as well. Gotta keep doing it, though, so that we don’t let our abusers win.

Stay strong!
Rainbow

2

During a recent hospitalization for anxiety and depression, I let the whole story out. I have kept silent for so long, mainly because I fear being judged and that I wouldn’t be believed anyway. I think my belief system may hold the feeling that all I am good for is abuse. My sexual abuse began at age 3 years old. Since multiple family members are involved at different points of my life, I have always felt thst I brought it on to myself. The feeling of that’s all I’m good for is still with me even if I try to reason it away.

I am going to see a therapist in a week. I want to open up and tell all, but I fear being judged. I shared a brief synomsis with a friend who told me I was probably a rapist in a former life and that God is punishing me. I want to open up and tell all and to move on in life. I told my mother, she said she didn’t believe me. I told a friend and she said it was probably just nightmares or false memories. How do I open up and not fear judgement? How do I discuss all of this without “losing it”?

3

I think it is absolutely true. Not only does every little event become ‘proof’ of that overwhelming sense of shame, but then every single thing that happens gets woven into that – from events of real mistakes (which we take on board as evidence that we *are* mistakes) through to things that happen that we can’t compute – until our basic default position is one of shame and taking the blame, and our lives become bound in shame. Mine did anyway. I would feel shame for everything from marks at school (shame if they were not good, shame if they were good because of course I didn’t deserve it), to eating lunch to the way a stranger said hello. And of course, including shame if someone complimented me.
I still think shame at who I am is the biggest issue in my life – the one thing that still gets to me periodically. It is like a drug. And unlike other addictions, shame is the one drug you can get a fix on any time night or day – if there isn’t a shameful incident at hand, there are a million shameful memories just waiting…. And every time I have kicked the habit, I have been made aware that shame is one emotion I can never afford to indulge in, not even a teeny bit.
Perhaps a bit off topic, but I needed to say this tonight. Thanks for sharing this Darlene, and thanks everyone for listening. 🙂

4

Darlene,
Sometimes an event can happen in a child’s life that can leave a psychological scar that filters into future reactions to similar situations exactly like you said. When I was a young child (well under 10), my sister and I got punished and sent to bed for something I know I didn’t do. My dad was very angry at us both. After awhile, my sister who was 2 years younger than me, was allowed to get up and play. I was made to stay in bed until the following morning. I inadvertantly got punished for something I didn’t even do. I was also further punished because I was older and I should have known better. I had several siblings both older and younger, and whoever committed the perceived “crime” never came forward. In the end, all my life my dad always had far greater expectations of me than the rest of my siblings. In one way, it was a compliment. In another, it was very hard on me to live up to and it caused me a great deal of stress. My siblings were quite jealous of my relationship with my dad, but I don’t think they really realized how difficult it could be.

That was good to get off my chest. Thanks for the opportunity Darlene!

5

Hi Rainbow
That is an interesting finding about guild vs shame.
I think you have a great point about the fact that there would be less dissociation with the cup cake exp. therefore I was able to deeply feel the guilt and shame… that goes along really well with what I am writing about in this blog!! Thanks for sharing that.
Great comments,
Hugs, Darlene

Hi Zoe,
I don’t think your comments were off topic at all! I think these are valid insights for MANY of us. I agree that all this stuff works together; the more that we talk about it, the more we can crack the code to changing those deep beliefs within ourselves.
Thanks for being here Zoe!
Hugs, Darlene

6

@Sunflower- Please don’t let the rude and ignorant reactions of the 2 people you told stop you from telling someone else- especially your therapist. Sometimes people won’t believe because they just can’t, but that doesn’t mean that nobody will ever believe you or that everyone will judge you. I believe you and I don’t judge you. Way back some 20 years ago when I was very new in remembering, I made the mistake of telling the wrong people. My own mother called me a liar and my whole family rejected me. Once I told the mother of my childhood friend that I was having nightmares about ritual abuse and she responded by telling me that it was “past life memories.” Now remember, this woman WAS one of the adults in my life while I was being abused. Was she involved? I don’t think so, but if what I was remembering was true, it certainly would have shaken up her life. Sometimes people just can’t or won’t support us. But there are lots of people who WILL believe you and support you. Please keep talking. Please keep healing. Never give up. Never ever ever give up! Never!

7

Hi Sunflower;
Your “friend” is wrong. What kind of God would operate that way?? And how would a child have the frame of reference to have nightmares about sexual abuse??
A good therapist is not going to discount you that way. The only way that I was able to get help was to finally tell. I had that same fear of being judged too, but I took the chance anyway. My mother never believed me, but I had to press on FOR ME. This is my life, we are fighting for our lives. If the therapist that you see gives any indication that they don’t believe you, or that they think it is false memory syndrome.. LEAVE. You will not get any help from a therapist like that and you deserve to have some help with this. You deserve to have a voice and to be heard. The most important thing for me was to realize that I believe me. It happened. I know it happened. I finally know that I am not nuts, I am not making up stories, I know what happened to me and I know what it did to me and not being believed was in some ways MORE damaging.
So Sunflower, I believe you. I know that kids don’t make this stuff up. I also know that the world gets weird about it ~ kids get shut up about it, we get shut down; that is all part of this, but recovery begins when we start to reveal the truth like you have started doing.
Hang in here, and keep us posted!
Hugs, Darlene

Hi Dolores
Thank you for sharing your story with us! I can relate to this in my own family. A few years into recovery work, when my husband and I were going through our processes of recovery from both our childhoods, and then our failing marriage our oldest son came forward and admitted that he felt that he had never been good enough and could never do anything right enough. We had a big family meeting with our three kids (who were all under the age of 16 at the time) and the girls both felt that our son had the most attention and that he was the most valued. Our son thought that they were the most valued because they didn’t get picked on like he did and that my husband didn’t have the same expectations of them. All of them were right, and we had to really make some living amends. Our girls felt neglected but our boy was getting way too much negative attention.
This is such a great point that you bring up Dolores!
Hugs, Darlene

8

Beautiful story. The amount of soul-searching and helpful truth uncovered here is very beautiful to experience. When I was young, we were very poor, and could not afford anything but the basics. My main caretaker while my mother worked was an older, spinster aunt who was better off, and also resented having to take care of me. In her cupboard were some canned peaches that I wanted, as we could not afford them. One time when I was 4-5 years old, just as I was leaving to get in my mother’s car, I made a detour into the cupboard and took one of the cans of peaches. Just as I was coming out of the cupboard, my Aunt came around the corner and saw me. She knew what I was doing. She took the peaches from me and in a fairly dramatic strong voice with fire in her eyes, said “You little Devil”. I definitely took on the shame of what I had done, and I think it is still with me. My own children are grown now, but they have always thought it was a quirk of mine that we always have canned peaches in the cupboard, even though no one eats them. Thanks for posting this story. This is a good site. RC

9

I don’t know. I don’t really remember a time that I really was at fault. At least not a specific moment that triggered that for me. Of course I was called a liar when I told my mom that I had been sexually abused. Not by the person who abused me, but by my mom. So, that has sort of taken over my whole existence. Come to think of it, maybe that’s why I’m afraid to talk about painful events, because I’m afraid no one will believe me, and sometimes I question my own memory. I’m not even sure what’s true and what’s not anymore. Maybe I did make it all up.

10

Hi Gabrielle,
I wasn’t believed either, but as you say we can’t let any of that stop us. We have already lost so much to abuse. Past life memories is such a convenient thing to say, isn’t it? I have heard stories of children that are stood up in front of the church and had an exorcism done to rid them of the demons that were causing them to tell such terrible stories. And don’t think there wasn’t a ton of guilt and shame heaped on those little kids too! That stuff makes me burn with anger.
Thanks for being here.
Hugs, Darlene

Hi Robert and welcome
I am glad that you are enjoying my site. I love your story. That is exactly what happens. I smiled about your canned peaches too. =)
I am happy that you are here.
Please share often.
Hugs, Darlene

11

Hi Shellie
It kills me how many survivors were called liars. I was so afraid that no one would believe me for the same reason. My aunt even caught my mothers boyfriend in my room and my mom still said I was a liar. I understand questioning yourself about if you made it all up ~ that is part of the grooming and conditioning process that we lived through as survivors of abuse, but how on earth can someone make that stuff up? I realized that I didn’t get sick from making stuff up. I didn’t have all the depression and addiction issues from making stuff up. Something happened to me, I was not born broken… and I finally really knew one day that none of this stuff was in my mind.
I am really glad that you are here.
Hugs, Darlene

12

I understand what you are saying. I am very fortunate because I went to a performing arts high school which opened when I was in the 8th grade,o I started in the 8th grade. I think My self esteem developed at school and I was one of the most popular girls in school and even now at age 7 I am still friends with those people and they are all n my main face book page and I have almost 3000 friedns there. we all came from dysfunctional homes and I think this school saved most of our lives. I had a teacher maybe in the 8th grade who talked to my parents and reported them and got me off of some medication they were using to drug me and keep me doped up. My life improved dramatically from there and as far as kids in school I never experienced rejection or anything like that. Sometimes jealous girls but it didn’t matter because I had so many friends. If I had to depend on my family and then took that into school with me I never would have thrived! This is not the question you asked but even now at age 47 my husband has met my childhood friends and sees how important we were to each others survival and identity back then. I learned ways of using my creativity as a means of expressing myself so I never went into denial. I got to use it in acting and writing and dance and nobody looked down on me for it but they were all supportive. One friend even wrote a letter to my parents about it wile I was still in high school. So I had support! It was “cool” to talk about abuse at my school so I think this school saved my life and spared me from more of the affects I could have had. Don’t get me wrong being sexually abused damaged me severely and I am aware of that damage but just saying my school experience didn’t add to the abuse but helped me to form self esteem because of my talent and friendships.Being the sensitive person that I am I think I might have committed suicide if I didn’t have these outlets and friendships and if the school didn’t step in to stop the medication.

13

sorry my computer keys are not cooperating I meant to type 47 not 7 and I know it is off topic but still on topic

14

I think that is awesome Pinky!
I am really glad that you had that kind of support and I can see how it would have made a huge difference in your life. I wish that more survivors had been able to have support like that!
Thanks for sharing!
Hugs, Darlene

15

I remember clearly when I was 5 and in pre-school, my teacher (principal) once called me in because Iwrotewithoutspacesinbetweenwords. Before she could say anything more, I started to wail and bawl. That was just one of the many incidents (which caused me to be labelled “super-sensitive”). I remembered vividly the shame and guilt for “failing” in my work. I felt that I was to be blamed, and I felt that I deserved to be scolded and rejected.

Since then, I’ve always remembered believing that I was a failure in everything. I felt that I wasn’t good enough. I was afraid when someone of authority calls me, because I always felt trouble looming.

Children don’t think complicated stuff. Hence the easiest person to blame is themselves…because they are always available and most convenient. Plus, who won’t believe your mother, teacher, or elder sister? It must have been your fault!

My mum has always taught me that I am responsible for keeping peace (maybe it’s just the chinese culture gone wrong). Whenever someone offends me, it is important that I deal with it without making that person “upset”. In other words, even if I were to stand up for my rights…it will still be MY fault if the other person is upset because I draw my boundaries. I’m beginning to see that I’ve been taking on way too much blame. This doesn’t help that in the chinese culture, what is important is to keep the family’s image. Shame and guilt are familiar companions.

16

thanks for you site, Darlene. i can see where i developed false beliefs as you did. i automatically assumed that something was true because another thing would happen. interestingly enough, i carried those assumptions into adulthood. fear has been part of those beliefs. i’m 46 and still struggle with irrational fears. i’m learning to recognize and manage them, but it is taking a long time.

17

Darlene ~

I loved this post. I’ve experienced this same thing where I’ve experienced shame and guilt for things I never should have. I know there were times in my childhood, but because I don’t remember most of my childhood I cannot remember a particular defining moment, although the pressure to be perfect and act perfect was always there – always. But an example of what you’re sharing is a very vivid memory when I was 19 years old. I went to a party with my younger sister (mother’s favourite). You should know that I was never a drinker as drinkers are defined. (Where I live I should also clarify that the legal age for drinking alcohol is 18 years old.) I would have a social drink or two when out with friends and that was my limit. I never liked feeling out of control, it made me crazy, so getting drunk was not something I ever wanted to do or experience. This particular night, a guy from high school was mixing my drinks and I had never had rum & coke before. I got drunk very fast and was almost raped by the same guy. The guy was forcing himself and the only thing that saved me was my sister and a friend of hers banging on the locked door to the room the guy had me in. This is the first time I realized that what could have happened to me was rape because it sure wasn’t consentual!! Whoa – there’s something I never really thought through before. Scary. (Here’s a blog coming on!) Anyway, I was trying to fight this guy off and he was trying pretty hard to get my clothes off – but with my sister banging on the door for what seemed like forever – he finally gave up (Thank God!) and he let me go and then went and unlocked the door. So … I’m plastered. This is the only time I had ever been drunk and I’m 19 – legal age. I get home and my mother doesn’t care (another sudden realization) that a guy twice my size (whom I vaguely knew from high school) tried to have sex with me against my will – but starts SCREAMING at me for being drunk and for puking in the car (because my sister wouldn’t pull over so I could do it outside the car.) So, my mother is yelling at me and telling me how stupid I was and on and on – its really a blur now because I was so drunk – but she said a lot of negative things and then made me (while I am seeing 5 of everything) go out and clean out the puke out of the car – in the middle of winter – in FREEZING temperatures. She freaked out on me as if I got drunk like that every weekend. She didn’t seem at all concerned that her daughter could have lost her virginity by force that night. My sister too sided with my mother, more concerned about her humiliation because of my behaviour. And my mother consoles her!! (I cannot believe what I am remembering now that I never remembered before!) That shame and guilt, particularly after this incident, occurred with EVERY little error I ever made after that. Any thing I did wrong, big or small, was made a big deal of and it was always communicated to me what a big disappointment I was. And then … the “Record of Paulette’s Wrongs” was started.

Darlene – I am surprisingly very upset right now, on the verge of crying … just writing this reply has made this memory very clear! And I thank you. I’m definitely bringing this up in therapy on Wednesday!!

18

I was NEVER allowed to have friends INSIDE the house either. There were very few exceptions to this and I was always terrified of screwing it up or that my parents would behave as they normally did when no one else was around and embarrass me. I can absolutely relate to normal childhood mistakes taking on a much bigger meaning to those of us who were abused. I had never thought about that though, until I read this post. It’s so insidious because you really did make a “mistake”. So you internalized it as actual proof that you were shameful. Great post Darlene. Thank you.

19

This post just makes me bawl! This is so excellent. Thank you!!

I have a story just like this and the rest all reads the same. Looking back, at age 47, you wonder if they allowed you your friends and then looked for a moment to sabatoge the whole thing over a dumb childish mistake. (something I would have laughed at in my daughter-and tried to patch up somehow–and told later for a laugh/memory–IF it didn’t embarrass anyone)

SO unbelievably painful. I don’t care where the parents fit in the cycle of abuse, they know what is happening to you. They know what they are doing. They are the only ones responsible for their behavior in the sense that they are the ones doing it!! They see your horror and pain. They are shaping your social life.

Mine was complicated by attending a new school in K, two new schools in 1st, 2nd, 5th, and 9th. We moved twice in that time and I had to attend “Christian” schools whenever possible. We never attended the churches that went with those private schools, so add it all up, and I was a real social misfit.

My husband and I were just talking yesterday about the high school musical that I was in in ninth grade, and my dad wouldn’t let me attend practice on Wednesday night because we had to be in church. (My mother didn’t go) It was age graded classes. He had no idea what was going on, but we had been doing it for years. It wrecked my whole relationship with the school, the peers groups, etc. It shaped my whole high school experience, as did the time my dad visited a well-attended open house at the high school year or two later. The English classroom was full of students and parents discussing our dilemma class. All of a sudden he started yelling at the whole room (at the top of his lungs) that it is never right to lie, and, “Are you listening to me? Listen to me!!!” I wanted to DIE!! You don’t have to worry about anyone wanting to date or marry you in a small town like that, when your dad is able to offend so thoroughly. “If her dad is rich, buy her a meal. If he is poor, do what you feel…”

20

Pinky,
That is fabulous about your creativity in school during your teens. Thanks SO much for including that today!

21

Hi Jasmine,
I can relate to your story ~ my heart still spikes if there is a police car behind me. I am sure that this has it’s roots in believing that I was always “wrong”.
I think that this misplaced responsibility is a problem in much of society. My kids went to a Christian school and the pressure to keep the peace, to be responsible for representing the Christian faith, to be an example to everyone else in the world was extreme and so damaging. My son asked a teacher once when he was in grade 9 why he got in trouble for running in the hall but the other two boys with him got off free and he was told that he knew better then they did and that he had to be the example. Kids have no way to process that.
and yes, I also believe that it is much easier for children to just blame themselves, and I think it has to do with the implications of hopelessness when we blame adults. (we can’t change them, but it the fault is mine I can try harder. (which led to a lifetime of trying harder and never good enough.) It was a breakthrough for me when I realized that I took on WAY too much blame!
Thanks for sharing!
hugs, Darlene

Hi Melanie
Welcome! I think a huge part of this whole problem is that we do carry these (false) assumptions into adulthood, usually they are second nature by then so we don’t realize it. It takes a while to re-wire the brain, but it is possible!
Glad you are here!
hugs, Darlene

Hi Paulette
As I read your story I felt my face getting red… I felt my heart start to spike.. and felt like I was having the beginning of an anxiety attack. It really hit me… it reminded me and made me think about so many things I have not shared on EFB yet! and as I tried to process what was hitting me, I realized that it is the fact that my mother didn’t care about ME (your mother didn’t care that you had almost been raped). It is so painful to remember and realize this stuff, but it is so valuable too. I think that my mother always looked for “proof” that I was a failure, to justify picking on me and defining me the way she did. I think that is why she kept a record of what she decided were “my wrongs”. I think that it was so hurtful that I lived in constant fear of doing anything wrong because the rejection was just so painful.
Thank you for sharing this Paulette.
Hugs, Darlene

22

Hi Cyndi
I wonder what the problem with having friends in the house actually was about…
I am really enjoying the responses to this post. The feedback is really making me think today!
Thanks for being here Cyndi
Hugs, Darlene

Hi Sheryl,
I cringed when I read your story about your father. That would have been a nightmare!
Thanks for sharing this,
Hugs, Darlene

23

Darlene,
And yes, I remember find just lists in my home growing up.
“she kept a record of what she decided were “my wrongs”. “

24

Sorry, I meant to say that I would find these same type of lists that you mentioned, about me, written on paper, lying around in my home.

25

Oh, Darlene … I loved what you said, “she kept a record of what she decided were ‘my wrongs'” … that is what I should have communicated – because a lot of things I did ‘wrong’ were things she blamed me for that may not have been ‘my mistakes’ or ‘wrongs’ at all. See … more stuff gets unearthed!

26

Darlene, I forgot to share that, when it came to my mother, its like she had to prove to me that I was a failure. I will never fully understand a parent’s motive for doing that.

27

Here is what I have come to think about all this Paulette:

My mother had to prove to HER that I was a failure so she could justify all the crap she heaped on me. I could not be “better or smarter” then her. I had to be depressed like her. I had to be less attractive then her. My mother tore me down to make herself FEEL better. And she collected these “proof things” to justify her nasty behaviour. That is how I have come to see it. The way that she regarded me comes out of her own issues, her own illnesses, and her own victim mentality.
And it is just too bad for her. Her crap does not define me anymore and I no longer have to put up with it.
Hugs, Darlene

28

I was told, at one point, around junior high, that I was stupid, did’t have a brain, and could not learn…

29

Darlene ~ This actually makes a lot of sense to me actually. That is the Narcissistic Personality Disorder way – everything is about them in a wonky, destructive way. Thanks for this – it makes a lot of sense to me.

30

Oh my gosh Sheryl!
That is just so nasty. I can’t believe the things that we were told by our own parents and other adults in our lives! It is as if we were not regarded as people! It just makes me sick and it is exactly what is wrong with the world. 80% of all adults in North America have been on antidepressants, and we wonder why??? People wonder what causes it?? I think that the way children are treated and defined as NOTHING is what causes it.
I am so glad that I am doing this website, as scary as it was at first. It is so validating to know that I was not the only one who was treated this way and that I was not the only one who FELT this way.
Hugs, Darlene

31

This totally made me cry. Wow. Not ready to say it all out loud yet though.

32

Darlene,
And to think that some churches come along and address the depressed as in sin, and have to spend time (and my college tuition) debating senseless things like whether depression is sin! Hell no! Why would we waste our time on that when all it does is prevent us from seeing the cause, which is the very thing that the “church” (a mass organization depndent on income) MUST not do.

33

Sheryl ~ I agree … depression being a sin is silly. As is the teaching out there in churches that sickness is a result of sin. Job was inflicted with boils and all sorts of things – and it wasn’t because he sinned. Sometimes sickness happens to us because of something done to us. For me, I live with MS. They don’t know what causes it … but I cannot help wonder if part of it isn’t trauma related!! Just as depression or anxiety is often trauma related. Trauma does affect the nervous system, auto-immune system.

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Hi Pretty Pauline,
Welcome to EFB! I am really glad that you are here and this post resonated with you.
You don’t have to say it all out loud until you are ready.
Hugs, Darlene

Sheryl and Paulette
Yes, there is all sorts of stigma about depression! TONS of it… and really it is so obvious to me now where it all starts. But when we are told that we are lying about abuse, or totally discounted and devalued ~ labeled as unimportant etc.. we don’t realize that is where it all started. SO I went to a therpist and told him that I didn’t know what was wrong with me; that I had the best life in the world and I just had no excuse to be so unhappy and depressed… and when he wanted to talk about my childhood, I said NO. That it would be a waste of time… and thank GOD that he stuck to doing the therapy HIS WAY… because look at me now! LOL I never knew that life could be this great!

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Hi Everyone,
I was writing a new post yesterday and the comments from this post got me fired up about how we are treated as kids… and all the hurt that was expressed by the readers got interwoven into my new blog post. It is about dysfunctional mother daughter relationship and my first boyfriend. You can read it here.
Emotional Abandonment and Dysfunctional Relationships

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Thank God for a therapist who wants to look at the childhood, the history, the Genesis of your life, etc.!! Mine joikes about not getting into pre-birth trauma and I don’t know if I want to fight the battle or not, it just gets so tiring, as far as trying to convince him to listen to his clients.

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Hi Sheryl
I may be misunderstanding you, but if a therapist has to be convinced to listen to his clients, there is something dysfunctional in the theraputic relationship. We have enough battles to fight without having to fight that one!
hugs, Darlene

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Darlene,
It is a hard thing to explain, especially to him. It feels slippery. It feels like he is my age and hasn’t been through what I have. When I say, “You should hear some of the stories of how my husband (who is sitting right there in the room) grew up and then you would better understand…” and he responds by telling us that he already knows about farming families, etc.,…

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I just posted this on OSA I had a sort of revelation and just want to share it that’s all. I just figured out how to use the blog after all this time I was kind of thinking all the blogs I was on on FB were all the same one LOL!. I got it now!
Anyway, I had a life long friend leave my page at FB and my life because they thought my posts on this and other blogs were about them when I had no idea what so ever of their on abuse issues. What I wanted to say is very short but for me a powerful revelation. This is my opinion and in no way provable it is just my personal theory from personal experience but I believe it with all my heart. I believe based on observation that all everyone not just those who were abused or have abuse in their families but everyone is in 2 camps. Either they are deniers or truth tellers. Truth tellers fight against denial and deniers fights against truth. Not just truth about abuse but all forms of truth. Some people fight truth because they want their fantasy world be it a perfect family or whatever it may be. I could write books on what I have observed and what I have observed does not involve abuse. Just truth and lies. Truth tellers find each other and so do deniers. They find people to support them in their denial. But truth tellers do not get as much support!

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@ Pinky….you are absolutely right!!! Truth tellers get NO support. I tell the truth to a fault I’ve been told. In the meantime the rest of my family is in denial about any bad family situations. The deniers “stretch” or don’t tell the truth and everyone jumps on “their” bandwagon, (Including spouses) leaving the truthteller on the stage alone…..It’s heartbreaking to me and I am usually left out of everything as I am always the bad guy. Right now my entire family has “defriended” me from facebook and no one has spoken to me in a week because of a comment my sister-in-law said to me that was way out of line and I “called” her on it. The troups were “rallied” and the decision was made to “oust” me of of the family once again….so here I sit.

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@Susan sorry to hear it! Dont give up! I have found that people who tell the truth it is who they are and if you give in to them it will strip you of who you are. I just had a similar conversation with a high school friend about his fire house. It has nothing to do with abuse but with truth. Everyone turned against him for telling the truth about a fire. It seems that people fight so hard against truth on every level of society. I think we discovered that in our families first but it is everywhere. It is in politics, corporate America and churches hes too. Thanks for sharing Susan. You are not alone but just discovering your new family of truth tellers!

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Hi Susan
This is exactly how it usually goes in dysfunctional families. They band together against the truth out of fear. The truth sets people free, but it also dismantles the dysfunctional system which for many is the survival system. The fear of standing up to the abuser (that we bring with us from our childhood training) is huge and even as adults most feel safer sticking with the “group” instead of taking a stand for truth. BUT I decided that was THEIR problem. And I am free of all those dynamics now. They however, are still stuck in that sick and dysfunctional system.
Thanks for sharing
Hugs, Darlene

Pinky
My first motivation to do this blog was based around the word “truth” and realizing that I was a truth seeker and a truth teller. I sought the truth for many years before I found it the way that I can talk about it now, and it is great to have this growing community of us now!
Hugs, Darlene

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Yes thank you for the blog Darlene and for your truth Susan!

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[…] related posts: how blame, guilt and shame get misapplied to self […]

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Darlene,

I have a memory also that caused me to think that I was responsible for anything that went wrong. I can’t remember what the ‘crime’ was but I remember that I didn’t do it, my sister did. My mom was insistent that I was the culprit but since I insisted that I didn’t do it, she spanked my sister. My mom used a fly-swatter to spank us and I have this vivid memory of my mom screaming at me, grabbing my little sister, putting her across her knee and spanking her with the fly swatter as she glared at me. I felt so confused. I hadn’t done anything wrong but I was made to feel that it was my fault that my sister was being punished. I was also told, from the time that I was six, that I was responsible for my parents drinking too much. My predominent memory of my parents is of them sitting at the kitchen table drinking. Everything revolved around that kitchen table. All of the huge dramas and abuses started there. It was so much for a little girl to feel responsible for and that is the way I tried to handle life for a very long time. It was so good when I figured this out and began to set my personal boundaries and no longer think that I was responsible to fix what ever was wrong in the lives of the people I loved. If they failed, I failed also. This was especially true with my children.

When my first grandson was born, a dear friend said, “Now remember, all granny has to do is love them.” That has stuck in my head and life is so much better when all I really have to do is love.

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Hi Pam,
this is exactly the kind of stuff that I am talking about. The mixed messages, the ways that we were taught that we had something to do with everything. And how we were trained, groomed to believe it all.
Thanks for sharing the deep stuff.
Hugs, Darlene

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I can’t say I understand that, b/c I felt guilt and shame for a different reason. I’m sure most people won’t want to believe it, but the person who did it to me did so in a church. In an upper room in fact, and he told me that God hates me, feels ashamed of me and will never be happy with me.
He told me that he, the cleric, has to “take me like a sacrifice until God’s happy with me, and the only way God would be happy with me is if he fixed my eye problem.”
My bad eyes were used as the first proof that God hates me. “If he loved you, he would have made you with normal eyes.” So this person said, and so did other people. By the fact that they were so damned upset about having to deal with me as “handicapped,” they brought across the point the way one would receive it if it had been delivered by a sword.
I got most of my beliefs from what they said to me, and I never had anything normal, like an Easy Bake Oven until AFTER I was sent to foster care, so I don’t have normal memories before I was 8 years old.
I didn’t know how to tie my shoes when I arrived in foster care, the parents had to teach me how, and I wet the bed until the very day I moved out of the house. I never wet the bed again after April 21, 1975, even though I’d wet it daily (or nightly) the whole time I lived in the first house.
But, because they brought religious reasons into everything they did, to justify it, I’ve never been able to believe a loving God exists for people born with handicaps. That’s one of the main reasons I watched ‘Children Of A Lesser God.’
I thought I was going to learn something.
BTW I still don’t know who the person is who did this business in the Upper Room. I started talking about it on OSA web site, but stopped b/c I was upset that I can’t remember his name. I wish I could remember, b/c the stuff he did changed my entire view of what or who God is.

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I remember in 6th grade, I believe, my ‘boyfriend’s’ mom picking me up to go to the movies. My mom said it was OK. Later I came home and told my brother the mom dropped us off, so we were alone. I didn’t know that was going to happen. I was just a kid! It was an innocent event and then the mom was right on time picking us up afterward. Well, my brother told my mom and she asked if that were true and I said yes. Then she slapped me really hard on my face! Later I kept scratching that side of my face until it was really red and raw. She asked me what happened and I told her I scratched it. That’s when my self-hatred cycle began I think. None of it was MY fault, but I shamed into believing it was.

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Hi Karen

I remember this one time where my Dad gave me permission to stay out an extra half hour and didn’t tell my mother. When I got home she slapped me so hard across the face that my glasses flew off. She never said she was sorry when my Dad told her that I had phoned and he gave the permission.
I think that I added this to my “bad girl” beliefs too.
Thanks for sharing,
Hugs, Darlene

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[…] back on my life, it is evermore clear to me how hard I looked for excuses to blame myself for the dysfunction in my life. There is a very good reason that children take on the blame: it was safer to blame […]

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I think when a parent over-reacts and the punishment does not fit the “crime” instills a feeling of guilt in the child over the smallest things, and even for things the child did not do. And of course this follows the child well into adulthood. To this day, I can look or feel guilty even for things I’m not guilty of!

One of the naughty things I did and got caught and punished for plagued me for years. I got tired of my older brother punching me in the arm and not being made to stop or even get reprimanded for. So I got some of my mother’s lipstick and rubbed it on my arm to make it look more red and “serious” so they would make him stop punching me. I forgot to clean it off so later, you could see the red streaks. Mother realized what I had done and so I was considered a liar forever after and accused of things I didn’t do. It didn’t occur to her that I was really hurting and needed to take desperate measures to get her to do what she was supposed to do. All I did was make things worse for myself.

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Hi Drained
Your example is exactly what I am talking about. There were things that I did to get the attention that I needed. There were messages that I was trying to communicate that went unnoticed. The ways that I was regarded invalidated ME and my needs until I invalidated ME and my needs. Thank you for sharing this story.
Hugs, Darlene

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I just read this for the first time and realized that it was originally written last year ! I thought it was a recent blog post. Maybe Darlene or Rainbow can explain the whole dissassociation thing to me because i dont really understand it ? I have seen the term used a lot but in all my years of counseling i dont ever remember a therapist bringing it up.

My core is shame. My whole being is shame. something happened last week that i had a small amount of shame over. Well suddenly that small amount of shame tapped into a huge amount of shame deeply embedded in me that i had no idea was there. It was like i went from a 1 to a 10 on the “shame meter” almost without warning. I dont know what the deep shame is from other than being abused my whole childhood and feeling worthless. I was also sexually abused which has caused a lot of shame too.

I dont know what to do with all the shame i have. I have had it for so long and its been part of me – pretty much my foundation my whole life (i am 48 years old). I have no idea how to get rid of the shame. I have done over 15 years of counseling, done the whole medication thing, been to healing conferences, recited verses about being a child of god etc…nothing has really worked. I carry the shame and dont even know its there because its been there for so long and i have no idea how to get rid of it or what to do with it ? How do you get rid of something bad that has been with you for your whole life ? I have tried telling myself that it wasnt my fault and i didnt deserve it but that hasnt really worked either. Whats the solution to deeply embedded shame and guilt ? thanks for reading !

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Dave,
I had to look at where it started. I had to look at where it was born and see the lies that I believed about myself because of that event.
I have written lots in this site about dissociation ~ you can use the search tool or the tag cloud on the right side bar to read more. You might also find help by reading the posts starting with January 2010
Hugs, Darlene

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Oh my god Darlene, you really hit the nail on the head. I can relate so well to this post. Thank you for sharing with us and helping us understand better.

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Hi Kylie
Glad that it resonated with you!
Hugs, Darlene

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[…] apply to myself about being worthy since I had never been approved of or validated before and since I believed that the failure was mine. I simply didn’t believe myself when I affirmed myself until I found out why I saw myself the way […]

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[…] in the ways they define the child.  And there are those little human things we do, like one time I bit a cupcake and tried to cover the bite up with icing but I got caught and punished and that little event served as PROOF to me, that I was a very bad […]
New post related to this one ~ Darlene

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Darlene, I have a question about guilt and shame. Since I was a child, and even to this day, if I get accused of something I feel some guilt and shame, even if I didn’t do it! I know that as a child my mother would often blame me for things. And I was accused of things by other adults too, even stealing, which I didn’t do. I remember feeling guilt when that saleswoman accused me of trying to steal something at a store when I was 9. I was too shy and afraid to defend myself so I just paid for the object and left. I never old my parents. In a healthy family setting I should have been able to tell them and have them return with me to the store to have it out with that clerk. But I was afraid they wouldn’t believe me and maybe I would get punished by them.
So, why did I feel guilt and shame on that day, and wh do I still feel guilt and shame as n adult when someone accuses me Of something I didn’t do?

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[…] relation to leaving or reducing contact with your “FOO” (which stands for Family of Origin) do you feel guilty about going no contact with your family of […]

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Wow! I’d read or at least bookmarked this article previously, but it really resonated with me today.

I started out tonight following your “Throwback Thursday” FaceBook link to this article: http://emergingfrombroken.com/on-how-to-become-your-own-best-friend/

I’m not my own best friend, and although I’m certain I read that article linked above previously, it helped to re-read and just slowly absorb your words.

I’m going to ask myself those questions you suggest, as to what I think a best friend is.

The timing on finding the link again today is amazing me, since I am focused on trying to learn to love myself, never mind not to hate myself as I was taught to do!

Now this article, where I am commenting (…blame, guilt and shame…) also ties in amazingly to what’s in my head.

Answering the question you (Darlene) ask at the end of the article above:

Yes, it REALLY helps me better understand how a false belief system gets formed, reinforced and how both positive and negative experiences when we grow up, can become the basis for a false belief system about ourselves!

The way we absorb experiences growing up certainly makes a tangled web to sort through in my brain, and understanding that helps to be able to untangle the memories and make sense of them, and to ultimately discard those which don’t serve us, and that were there to keep us under the control of our abusers.

I love your website and your writing. I’m so thankful you have mentioned more than once, I think is that healing can be more like a spiral than a linear journey, and that too helps to not beat myself up for revisiting things.

Each time I re-visit an issue, for me, through your posts, it actually helps reinforce the healing and to undo the lifetime of false beliefs I never thought I could change in myself.

Wow again and thank you!

Now, as if often the case, your links within these articles led me to more interesting and healing articles here on EFB, and it’s difficult to express how exciting it is to find yet more articles here, each one helping me on my healing journey, to gain intelligent, insightful and sane food for thought, and healing!

Peace, hugs and well wishes to everyone.

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[…] to leaving or reducing contact with your “FOO” (which stands for Family of Origin) do you feel guilty about going no contact with your family of origin?” This is one of the most frequently asked […]

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