Archive for guilt and shame
I have been sick for almost 2 weeks which has been very bad timing for the Emerging from Broken website as the holidays are the busiest time of year for comments and private emails. I have been unable to answer them all this year. By the time I began to recover from the illness I had, I only had a couple of days to get ready for Christmas!
So this post is going to be short!
There is this familiar note that I get about Christmas with dysfunctional families: The message that people try to tell me, but really they are only trying to convince themselves, is that we are powerless and that we have no choice when it comes to what we want. I am told that “they” (controlling, manipulative and abusive parents) are ‘alone’ and it would not be fair (to them) if we don’t visit on Christmas day, and what I hear in that message is that our happiness and that of our own children’s happiness should be sacrificed in order to make these abusers happy. I am not sure where the truth about “love” is, in that.
We are “taught” that we get what we deserve, and that we ‘reap what we sow’ but it is amazing how that same teaching is not applied to abusive, disrespectful or unloving parents. How did they get to be exempt from reaping what they sowed, or from getting what they deserved?
If my mother is alone this year, it is not from anything that I did against her. It was because I finally saw the truth; that I did not deserve to be treated the way that she treated me. I gave her a choice; she could stop treating me that way OR stop having a relationship with me. She chose no relationship.
I got a comment today on an old Christmas post preaching love and forgiveness and using all the ‘guilt and shame’ tactics that I write about all the time here in EFB. The writer reminded me that our children are watching us. This was a comment written to indicate that I am being a bad example to my children because of the way that I live my life today.
My children were watching me when I was being disrespected, disregarded and walked all over for years before I stood up to the abusers in my life. My children watched me accept treatment that I never deserved for one second. They saw me accept Read More→
I found it easier to understand the concept of Trust, by looking at what I had been taught about trust. It was the experiences that I’d had to do with the word and definition of trust that were at the root of my understanding of the concept and meaning of the word trust.
I remember being scared half out of my wits while being yelled at “TRUST ME, I know what YOU need”. (which translated to me that I “needed” the spanking, the strap, the punishment)
I was told to trust teachers and leaders who were bullies and predators simply because they were “my elders”. Being taught to blindly trust only taught me that I was not worth much. Being “told” to trust people who were not trustworthy left me very confused about what trust really was.
I had a boyfriend who accused me of not trusting him when he was driving drunk. I felt shame and guilt even though drunk driving is illegal, I had been “groomed” to believe that questioning someone meant that I didn’t love him or her. He went to jail for impaired driving.
I didn’t make the connection that trust has nothing to do with love.
I had another boyfriend who accused me of not trusting him when I found a girls phone number on his dresser. Once again I felt guilt and shame because as I already mentioned, I had been taught that if I didn’t trust, I didn’t love. It turned out that he was cheating on me, just as I suspected. I didn’t find out for a long time because I was too busy trying to prove that I “trusted” and “loved him.” I had several boyfriends who accused me of not trusting them. I don’t know why it never occurred to me to admit even to myself that Read More→
When I was a kid my parents got us a puppy! Although I only have one memory of playing with the German Sheppard puppy that one memory is a happy one.
I have very strong memories however of how much my mother hated having the puppy. Long after the puppy was taken away, I heard her complaints about it.
The reason that they puppy had to go was not because my mother hated it though. The reason that the puppy had to go was because both my oldest brother and I were allergic to it.
My mother had an uncle who was a dairy farmer in Quebec. I have a few memories of visiting the farm, of the cows, the milking barn, the orchards my great Aunt and Uncle and their two hired men. I remember the smell of the big kitchen, the fresh baked pies and the fresh garden food that we ate every time we visited.
My father LOVED the farm. He has spent summers there as a teenager. My mother hated the farm and didn’t make much of an effort to try to hide it. I think she went there out of family obligation and also because my father loved it there so much.
After I got so sick in grade 5 and developed asthma as a result of being so badly emotionally abused by my teacher, the pediatrician told my mother that I was too weak to visit the farm anymore because of my asthma and allergies. I was 10 or 11 when this news was delivered. I remember feeling really badly because Read More→
I am pleased to have guest writer Kylie Devi writing about Unhelpful Mental Health Providers this week at Emerging from Broken. Many of us have been through the mental health system with less than wonderful results. In this post Kylie shares examples of how helping professionals failed her in her quest to overcome the devastation of childhood sexual abuse and how she emerged victorious in spite of them. ~ Darlene
To Shrink? Or Not To Shrink… by Kylie Devi
I have been raped, repeatedly. I have lived to tell my story. I healed by creating my own support systems, and not so much from psychology or therapy. I am sure there are many loving people with good intentions in the field, but the “system” is not set up for healing. The “get better” industry doesn’t thrive on people “getting better.” So for me, I realized I was going to have to take it into my own hands. I did whatever it took. And it took a lot. Writing, crying, sharing my story, connecting with anger, releasing guilt and shame. Forming bonds with people who deserved my trust. Simple things that seemed complicated at the time. That is what allowed my healing to occur.
I made FOUR solid attempts at rape and crisis counseling. These experiences are comical to me now, but at the time they were re-traumatizing, life shattering, and felt like a second rape. I was addicted to drugs, destroying my relationships, and hanging on to my will to live by a piece of dental floss. I knew that childhood sexual abuse and rape in my teenage years was the root of why I was creating my life in such a way. I reached out for help where I could. Free county rape counseling, student rape crisis centers, expensive psychotherapy. Every time it was so hard to find the courage to ask for help when the previous counselor had either failed to create space for my experience to be real, thickening the denial I already had to deal with within myself, or Read More→
“Happiness is a decision”. Have you ever thought about what a guilt trip that statement is?
It dawned on me a while back that this statement implies that if I am unhappy, then I am deciding to be unhappy. When I was unhappy and depressed, I tried everything I ever heard about to get myself over it. I tried to “decide to be happy”. Oh I had brief success with it, yes, but not the enduring happiness that I sought after for so long. I got a little relief but never a permanent result. I tried self help; I tried books, affirmations and seminars. I took vitamins, changed my diet and exercise, bought new clothes and said “I love you” to myself in the mirror and did other affirmations. I quit coffee, quit drinking alcohol and quit smoking and I improved my lifestyle. I WANTED to be happy. I wanted to believe that life was worth living. It just didn’t seem to be that easy! If happiness is merely a decision… then Read More→
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….) Read More→
I remember when I was talking about my first memory of being sexually abused. As I was speaking out loud about the details, being prompted for other tiny details and trying to remember even the thoughts I had about the trauma, I suddenly realized that I thought I could have stopped it. That ONE single belief caused a whole spiral of other problems for me and developed a very strong set of lies in my belief system. Because I thought I could have stopped the sexual abuse from happening, I also took responsibility for it happening. That led me to believe that I was a bad person. None of these thoughts were conscious. They happened as a result of that first subconscious belief that I could have stopped an adult from sexually assaulting me. Because I thought I could have stopped it, but I didn’t stop it, I was filled with guilt and shame. Guilt and shame that wasn’t mine, but guilt and shame that I thought was mine.
Here is the breakdown: Read More→
In this post I have purposely not defined exactly what kind of abuse I am talking about. Really they all cause similar damage. It is my hope that the reader will define “it” for themselves as it has impacted their own life.
I was convinced that if I kept “it” a secret that no one would know and it would go away.
Then I thought that if I could just figure out what I had done wrong to bring on such a thing, or if I could figure out what I had done to deserve it, I could stop doing whatever behavior that it was, so this terrible thing wouldn’t happen to me again. But because I could not figure out what “it” was, I was never sure that I had stopped doing it and I lived in constant fear.
Then I was convinced that if I told someone, then someone else would know and it would go away.
Then I thought that if I dug deep into all the details, admitted everything that happened, even what I did or agreed to in order to protect myself, even what I thought was my fault, even my own guilt and shame, that it would go away. But it didn’t.
I thought if I “put it behind me” that I would be free. But I wasn’t free and I didn’t know HOW to put it behind me. Everyone told me to “let it go” but no one told me how. They said “just give it to God” and I said how? They said “have faith” and I said HOW? I tried and I tried harder and harder and they said “just believe” and I said okay… because I was exhausted.
I thought that if I acted as if I was happy, joyous and free, that eventually I would be. It didn’t work.
I tried travel. I tried bright lights and exotic locations. That wasn’t the answer.
I prayed for years, at first just praying to die, and then praying for the answer, the truth, for freedom from the struggle. I tried religion, spirituality, meditation, relaxation, and bible study, and although each worked for a time, I often felt rebellious, unworthy, and even more aware of my shortcomings. Sometimes I felt too ashamed to go to God. Sometimes I felt that He had abandoned me too. I was ashamed that I thought that. Then there was more confusion, more guilt and shame, more self loathing and self blame.
I tried men, and then marriage and children. The fear of failure made it worse. How could I raise healthy children if I was so messed up and couldn’t seem to break the lifelong cycle of depression, guilt, shame, self blame and low self esteem?
Then I thought that if I threw myself into making everyone else happy that I would be fulfilled. That didn’t work either.
More guilt and shame; more feelings of failure and worthlessness. More depression.
I tried vitamins, whole foods and physical fitness but my spirit never caught up with me.
It was when I looked at the details of my life through new eyes that I began to see things differently.
It was when I looked at the details of the events AND the details after the events that became the key. It was the looking at the whole picture. The first thing that I realized was that the guilt and shame were not mine to carry. Even though I only realized this about ONE event at first, it was a beginning.
I began to heal when I realized that I believed a lot of lies about myself and when I understood how I came to believe them I was able to change the beliefs that I had about myself, and the abuse. I was able to change the belief that it was my fault. I saw that it wasn’t something that I had done so I didn’t have to keep looking for something to stop doing. I was able to see how people, more powerful and influential then I was, used actions, looks and sometimes words to manipulate me into believing I deserved what they did and then believing that I was unworthy of better. I was able to see how they misused their power.
As I began to look at the whole picture, I began to get a different picture. As I continued with this work I emerged from the broken life I was living as a broken and discouraged woman, into a life of fullness and wholeness. I felt peace and love flow into me, replacing the guilt and shame. I came to understand my worth, my value and my ability to love. I began to appreciate myself and recognize my gifts. My self esteem grew, my depressions became less frequent and eventually disappeared and the fragmented person that I used to be, emerged into one whole healthy wonderful person.
I pursued the truth and I found it and it set me free.
Please share your thoughts and comments.
I remember the day that realized that I was no longer attached to my former identity. My former identity is the identity that was given to me by my family and almost every significant relationship I ever had since a very young age with the exception of a few special girlfriends and maybe a couple of adults along the way. It was how I had come to think of myself, how much guilt and shame that I carried for things that had happened to me and the way that I believed I was not loveable, that I was not good enough and that something about me was just “wrong”. That identity no longer resonated with me. I knew that I was no longer who they said I was. My identity crisis was over, I thought. I was certain that the little voice in my head would go away now. That little voice that whispered every time I accomplished anything; “who the hell do you think YOU are?? Everyone knows you are nothing, everyone knows that you are an imposter and anyone who doesn’t will soon find out”. I was certain that voice would shut up now and that I would never have an imposter issue again! (Unfortunately this was not the end of that issue, but let’s save that for another blog post later on)
I remember that the exact moment I realized that I was no longer who they said I was; that I was no longer defined by them. I felt euphoric and immediately empty. I felt like I had reached a goal, but something was missing. I felt amazing and terrified. I felt free and blank all at the same time. Full of real fear I questioned my therapist; “well if none of that is who I am, then who am I?” It felt scary, dangerous, foreign, lonely and somehow clean, all at the same time.
Prior to this day, in my mind’s eye regarding the process of recovery from all my depressions and dissociative identity etc, I had visions of huge construction equipment digging up buildings, rotten foundations and roots that were miles deep. At first clearing this wreckage ~ what my life had become ~ seemed overwhelming. I didn’t think I could do it, there was so much debris to deal with and the mess went so deep. Sometimes I even pictured huge floodlights so the work could also be done in the dark, as though there was no rest from it. It seemed to go on and on, the things I found in the digging were sometimes shocking, sometimes frightening, and sometimes so enlightening it was like finding diamonds! Most of the time the shocking and frightening stuff eventually was so enlightening that it was like finding treasure too. I found the truth! It was exhausting but somehow I kept going.
Now, on this new day in my mind’s eye I pictured a huge area of land that has been cleared of all trees, structures, garbage, weeds and rubble The land was all smoothed and prepared and the huge construction equipment had been taken away. This new foundation was ready and waiting for me to rebuild on it. I felt shaky at first, as though like a baby, my legs were still wobbly. I was curious about who I would find on this new leg of the journey to discover the real me. Would I recognize myself, and even more frightening, would I like myself? There was still that little voice inside, asking “what if they were right about me”? What if the people that had defined me all my life were right about me after all”? What if I can’t do me? What if no one likes the real me? What am I going to find out next?
Feeling blank has many fears.
The following months were in many ways no less complicated than the prior months in therapy, they were just different. I had to learn how to live in my new belief system, and sometimes it was uncomfortable. I tried new things, and almost everything I did felt like I was doing it for the first time, because I had changed all those old beliefs and I was not the same person anymore. Sometimes I wanted to run back to the old life! At least it was familiar and even comfortable there. At least I knew how to function there.
As I got to know myself, my happiness increased. I felt free, alive, brilliant, strong, dynamic and reborn. I began to feel comfortable; like I was really alright, and in fact I was “right with myself”. I felt like I finally knew what it means to feel like I was who I was meant to be. I was able to impact others in ways that I never did before. I started to feel purposeful and fulfilled. Today I continue to become more and more comfortable in my own skin, more alive, more able to live life fully and to flourish and thrive. I become more “ME” with each passing day and I love who I am!
Please share your own stories, feelings, fears and victories as we travel this road and celebrate our discoveries.