Archive for guilt and shame
The post “Psychological, Physical and Sexual Abuse Why Questions” generated a lot of interest, so I decided to do a follow up post asking the questions that controlling and abusive people ask us. The response on the Emerging from Broken facebook page was huge.
These types of statements that controllers and abusers use are designed to keep us in a fog of confusion. Remember that this type of grooming begins when we are very young and becomes part of our definition of love. We are taught “if you love me you would not fight, argue or even disagree with me”. We may also be taught that compliance is respect and respect is a demand not a choice. The problem is that so often we end up respecting abusive behaviour and we are not sure what abusive behaviour is because it starts when we are so young.
The following ‘why questions’ abusers ask can be used to control and to cover up any type of abuse. They are used to guilt and shame us into looking back at ourselves and to question ourselves, instead of them. They are used to keep the victim in a spin ~ trying to figure out the truth and never quite putting a finger on exactly what the truth is. These questions are used to control. These types of questions are abusive. They don’t make sense but we so often don’t realize that because we have been groomed to accept these false definitions of love and respect since we were very young.
Here are some of the comments that came in on EFB Facebook, about typical questions and statements that are used to control, guilt and shame, force compliance, or cause to shut down.
~ “why don’t you just get on with your life and get over that? Why do you insist on destroying our family? Why can’t you let me forget that happened?
~ “Why don’t you spend time with me anymore? Why do you look so serious all the time?”
~ “Why can’t you forgive and forget? And I am told I SHOULD love them.”
~”After all I’ve done for you why are you treating me this way? Why can’t YOU just move on?”
~ Why don’t you like me? Don’t you remember all the fun we had when you were a kid? (along with an answer ~ “no, I don’t remember all the fun and even if there was some fun does that make up for all the other abuse?.. NO”)
~”Why don’t you respect him? He was a good provider. (Is that what a father is?) You are going to have to live with the way YOU are treating your Dad.”
~ “If you loved me you would… or If you loved me you would not….”
~”You SHOULD be grateful”
~” Why can’t you think of somebody other than yourself for a change?”
~ “Why can’t you grow up and start acting like your Mothers daughter?”
~ “You MAKE me do this to you. If you would do things right the first time I wouldn’t have to….”
~ “Why can’t you see this from my point of view?”
~ “Stop acting like a spoilt brat”
~ “What is WRONG with you?”
~ “Why do you keep talking about this? Why do you blame me; your father did it. What the hell are you thinking, writing a book about it? Why are you so selfish? Do you think you are the only one that matters? What about ME?”
These questions are full of the twisted communications and insinuations hurled at people for the purpose of control. Love is not disempowering and it does not support lies. This system is very backwards and extremely devaluing. Most of these questions are what controlling PARENTS said to their own adult children. We are called selfish, because we want to expose the abuse? Because we want our lives back? We are reprimanded for wanting to have a voice, for wanting to have a chance, for telling the truth? It is more important for them to keep up appearances and to protect the abuser or the secret than it is to validate a child or adult child? Therefore we are the ones with the problem because we want to be heard? In this system there is no hope. When we do as they ask everyone stays sick. And the most difficult part to comprehend is that they would rather us comply, cover up and obey, then become the flourishing healthy adults that we were born to be. We are told we SHOULD love them but we are not taught love by them. Love has not been modeled for us. They do not love by their own definition of love; the same definition of love that we are expected to love them by.
When I went back into my past to examine the events that originally caused my depressions and dissociative identity disorder, it became apparent that there were a lot of lies involved. There was justification by the abusers, there was blame towards me, when I was an innocent victim, there was covering up, ignoring, and “that didn’t happen” and “shush let’s just forget all about it”. This is where the mental illness accelerated for me ~ with the twisting of the truth; the not being protected and the misplaced blame. The illness accelerated because one lie breeds another lie. And when this type of control works, the controllers keep upping the ante. They want more control, more compliance.
We grow up and we are often attracted to controllers and abusers… it’s familiar; it’s what we know. By the time I was in my late thirties the confusion and the fog was so thick that I couldn’t see the truth at all anymore; I easily bought the lies, I conformed to the requests, I complied and I tried harder. My mental health grew increasingly worse. I had no idea what love was. This is how my belief system got so messed up. And it was in sorting it out; realizing the false from the truth that I recovered.
Please feel free to contribute any of your own stories or the questions used on you.
Busting through the fog,
As children we have a childlike faith. It just is. Faith that our parents are always right and acting in our best interest. Faith that we can take things at face value and learn to operate in this world based on the feedback we get from the prominent people in our lives. In my childhood, I also developed a very simple kind of faith in God. I grew up going to church every Sunday and my experiences there constructed another faulty corner of my belief system. In my last post I shared one of these experiences, and now I want to describe a recurring church experience that fueled the belief that I could not trust myself.
Every Sunday that I went to church, I took with me this simple and childlike faith in God. It was a natural, simple belief that just was. I didn’t try hard to make it happen. I sat in Sunday School and church and took in everything I was taught about what it meant to believe in and love this God and what it meant for him to love me. I believed everything they told me because as a child, I didn’t have much else to compare their teachings to and didn’t learn to question it.
In my early teenage years, a new pastor came to our church. He was charismatic at the pulpit and presented himself very humbly and earnest in person. In his sermons he went into deep detail about all the ins and outs of the Bible. Our church esteemed him as our all-knowing leader who was very close to God. I pretty much took everything he said as golden truth.
Sunday after Sunday I listened intently to his sermons. By my teenage years, my depression was becoming more uncomfortable for me and I started hungering for comfort. Sitting in those services, I was the epitome of vulnerable… A hungering heart, a simple faith, an obedient listener. Sometimes I found comfort in the sermon. I would grasp at some words or phrase or Bible verse that assured me that I was loved and that I was accepted, that I was good enough. But this doubt about myself and my faith kept growing within me. It was a confusing, gradually consuming “merry-go-round” feeling. I would leave church feeling lighter and assured, but over the week more and more doubts would grow. I didn’t have the perspective at the time to understand why. But now I see the huge twist that was happening.
Every Sunday, at the end of almost every sermon, the pastor would challenge all of us. He would challenge us with this kind of question: “Now, you may have told God that you want to follow him. You may have prayed at various times throughout your life for his forgiveness. But, take some time now to look deep in your heart and ask yourself, are you sure? Have you really made the decision to follow God? You may think you have, but today, why don’t you be sure? Make that commitment anew. Show God, once again, that you are serious and genuine in your belief.”
It seemed like a good admonishment on the surface… It seemed like the pastor wanted us to know God and that’s why he challenged us. It seemed like a good thing when people would go to the front to pray, crying and contrite. It seemed like it was good because, well, of course it would be good to want to be sure that we were following God… Who could argue with that? But how come myself and the other people there weren’t jumping out of our pews joyful and alive every week? How come, for me, my depression grew worse and worse and I grew more and more anxious about my faith? My doubts about the genuineness of my faith grew so strong that at one point I went to talk to the pastor and asked him for help with it… I told him I was so doubtful about whether or not I really did love God. He took out a pamphlet of The Four Spiritual Laws and walked me through it. He assured me that if I had faith and believed, then I was okay. In his office he validated my faith; but from the pulpit he didn’t.
The twist worked away at my soul. It is the same twist at the heart of all kinds of abuse, the twist that teaches us to doubt ourselves through contradicting messages. There I sat in church, with my simple faith, along with hundreds of other people with their faith (why ELSE would they be at church if they didn’t have some level of desire to know God??) and Sunday after Sunday, the pastor shot arrows, challenging us to MAKE SURE that we were serious about following God. Our actions showed we were serious. But the faith that we were already demonstrating was ignored. Instead, we were admonished to be better, to believe better, to decide stronger, to commit more deeply.
The questioning started digging underneath my faith, slowly hollowing out a pit of self doubt and confusion which easily spread to every area of my life too. I was groomed to doubt all of my feelings, all of my “simple faiths” about anything else. It was one of the most powerful, churning lies at the root of my struggle with depression.
My next post, “Spiritual Abuse and Emotional Ravaging” will put a spotlight on the emotional damage that happened to me at church…
There is beauty of all kinds in each stage of our growth. Whether we are courageously turning towards our pain or celebrating a truth that has sunk that much deeper, our personal growth happens uniquely and surely through all the ins and outs of our path. All these ins and outs serve us as we move through them, empowering us along our way, giving light for the next step before us. Ins and outs such as…
Confusion~ Our hungry hearts feel lost, frightened, hopeless yet hoping… We are drawn to sort through our realities to find the answers. We feel the angst of not knowing but we also feel that there is an answer we can find…
Rest~ To grow at one speed all the time would exhaust us. Here and there we take a breath, draw from self-compassion, be gracious with ourselves and say, “It’s okay. I can rest for awhile and no ground will be lost.”
Anger~ This surge of feeling that says, “This or that is not right.” It’s a profound knowing that things were not as they should have been. We allow ourselves to feel ripped off. Sometimes anger gets stored up for a long time and surprises/scares us when we first let it have some space. The more we honor it, the more we will be able to understand where it comes from and we can let it pass through.
Fear~ Because we don’t know everything… The journey is a “one step at a time” thing into brand new territory. We don’t have previous experience, so how can we know exactly what to expect? Fear is always one of the doorways at the threshold to a new phase of growth.
Joy~ A deep re-awakening of our worth and value that we never knew before or had lost along the way. A bubbling kind of peace that feels light and deeply satisfying at the same time… That unstoppable feeling that works its way to the place between our ears and our cheeks and urges a smile.
Excitement~ which may feel uncomfortable and freak us out! I have long been wary, doubtful and afraid of my excitement because I had never learned how good it actually was. I doubted so much about myself that I often linked excitement to some kind of selfishness or a misguided way to make myself more important than I really was. I had learned to “temper” my excitement so that it wouldn’t intimidate others or get me “carried away”. As we heal, excitement is reborn. It’s a whole new energy inside, connected to our purpose, that celebrates what is happening and looks forward to what will come.
Disappointment~ Because nothing is ever perfect. Disappointment is something we pass through. It’s normal. Without letting it evolve into guilt, shame or beating ourselves up, disappointment can help us become more successful at getting what we really want next time.
Observation~ of ourselves, of how things “work”, of how far we have come. Observation means I don’t have to figure it all out at once. I can let my eyes do some work for me and let time sort out the puzzle pieces as they come into focus.
Action~ For when we feel ready or sometimes just before we feel ready… We put shoes on our new truth. We want to try it out, test it out, go somewhere with it, build new and fulfilling things on our new foundation. Our new understandings on the inside take shape on the outside. Action works best from the inside out.
Patience~ Truth plants the seeds in our souls. Sometimes these seeds blossom quickly. Others require more time to take root and flourish. There are no rules or timelines when it comes to our growth. Each of us will own a unique story.
To you as you move along your journey. Please feel free to expand on my list from your own experience!
I had to get it sorted out. I had to separate the real from the imagined; the true from the false; the facts from the fiction and it all had to be looked at from a new perspective; the true perspective. The way things really had been. These are a few of the necessary things that I did in order to give myself some space to come out of the fog enough to see clearly and begin to heal. This is part two; continued from “The Recovery Journey ~ Common Bonds“
~ I decided that my version of the truth was not really mine and that I didn’t know the truth at all. I gave myself permission to examine the truth and to realize that my survivor mode was a leftover from childhood. I was strong enough to know the REAL TRUTH now.
~ I decided to spend some time with myself, to invest in myself and my health and to pay attention to me and give myself some of the value that I had shown to others.
~ I decided that I was not going to be responsible or accountable for other people’s feelings during this process.
~ I put aside my constant obsession with guilt and shame over not having enough faith (because if I had enough faith, I would be healed) and over not being grateful for my wonderful life (because I thought that I didn’t even deserve the good things I had) and put aside my obsession with doing things “the right way” (the right way according to who??)
~ I stopped trying to look at things as a mature adult who was responsible for the results of my own life and just looked at what my own life had somehow become.
~ I stopped feeling sorry for my parents and making excuses for their behavior and decided that I was going to just open my eyes and LOOK at the truth.
~ I gave myself permission to feel however I really felt. If that meant feeling angry; fine. If resentment came up, then that was fine too. I had to allow those feelings long enough to really feel them, so that I could let them go and become able to get over them.
~ I decided to put aside the whole forgiveness issue. I did not think about forgiveness, I made a decision NOT to think about it until I had time to sort a bunch of things out because by then it had gotten really complicated. I was beating myself up for not forgiving and hiding the fact that I had not forgiven.
~I decided to put the time and effort into the process no matter what, because life the way that it was ~ was not worth living. I decided that I was going to at least find out what my “worth” was even if that meant that I was going to be disappointed. (I was so afraid that “they” were right about me, that really I wasn’t worth it. There is NO SUCH TRUTH!
~ Somehow I knew that doing all these things~ including putting my faith aside~ to examine the truth about faith itself and my faith, would not get me thrown into hell. I decided that I had to clear all that clutter, so that I could start fresh, with a clean slate, without all the garbage that was on my old slate.
Most of these decisions were not conscious. I made many of them along the way. My therapist had to tell me many times that I didn’t deserve to be so disregarded. He had to tell me many times that I had a right to have been protected and that the abuse was not my fault. It was in believing him that I was able to start to look at the truth. It was in seeing how my belief system formed, that I was motivated to change it. It was in taking everything apart that I was able to be put back together. When I was able to make a beginning on even the first few of these decisions I began to see the road ahead. Eventually, I walked into a world of freedom that I never thought possible. I was able to own my value; I not only felt my worth, but I knew it, and I found my purpose.
How does this post make you feel?
To Your Freedom on the Journey to Wholeness,
Why do adult children find it so hard to ignore the opinion of a parent?
When I was pregnant with my third child, my husband and I went over to his parents to tell them our exciting news but my father in law was not excited for us. He was angry. He didn’t say anything positive; in fact he stayed strangely quiet. My mother in law didn’t say too much either but I got the feeling that it had something to do with her husband’s reaction.
The next day, my father in law dropped by to see us and said that his wife had told him that his reaction to our news was not fair to us and that he should apologize. He launched into his “I’m sorry but it’s just that …” and then he proceeded to tell us all his judgements about us having a third child, and why this was such a terrible idea. He didn’t bother to hide his opinion that it was my fault and entirely my decision; as though my husband was a victim of a surprise pregnancy or as though he was not a participant in the event that got me pregnant! Even though I was 36 years old at the time and both my husband and I were excited about this new child coming and we had never made the decision to stop at two children, we didn’t stand up to my father in law. We pretty much both just sat there and took it. We didn’t say that it was none of his business. It didn’t occur to us that he was actually insinuating that we were not smart enough, mature enough or responsible enough to decide on our own how many children we could or should have and that as always, he was reminding my husband that he should never make a decision without his father’s approval.
The bottom line is that it was not his decision, nor was it his place to give his opinion of why we should stop having children, but at some level we thought it would be disrespectful to go against him. The thing is though, what was our alternative? I was pregnant. We were in a no win situation. We were having a baby with or without his approval. The whole thing just hurt.
So again, why do adult children find it so hard to ignore the opinion of a parent? Why didn’t my husband tell his father to mind his own business about how many babies we were going to have? Why did we just sit there and listen to him go on and on? Why did we let him communicate to us that we were not smart enough to decide on our own how many kids we could or should have? Well for one thing our definition of respect was skewed.
The only reason he didn’t want us to have any more kids was because it interfered with his plans for my husband. My husband was his father’s hired man even though we had our own farm. Having children interfered with my husband’s work hours. So who was it really “best” for if we didn’t have any more kids? It had nothing to do with my husband and I. Growing up, our parents had not empowered us to transition from child to independent adult. We had rarely been validated in our decisions. We were never approved of and were caught in the spin of always seeking approval; always trying to please. Therefore when we got a lecture about why we should not have another baby, we were well conditioned to accept judgement and reprimand. We have a different definition of respect today and we strive not to pass the old family systems on to our children.
Just another truth I discovered along the journey.
The Emerging from Broken book is ready for download! If you find that the subject matter I am writing about resonates with you, get this book today! This 197 page, downloadable, printable, live linked e-book will put you on the fast track to healing. Get yours here through the upper right side bar or click this link~ Emerging from Broken The Beginning of Hope for Emotional Healing –
I went trail riding last summer as part of my vacation. I’m not an avid horse-rider, and though I have this admiring affection for them, I was still afraid. The guides assured me that these horses had ridden this trail a thousand times- they knew exactly what to do and where to go and there shouldn’t be any surprises. It was true. Though some parts of the trail were more open and gave a little bit of freedom, these horses fell into a predictable nose to tail pattern. We switch-backed down through a steep valley; they plodded along with steady, consistent rhythm. But what had intimidated me at the beginning of the trip was there all along; these were big creatures, strong and powerful. And even though they were controlled day by day with reins and the predictability of the trail path, they had all the potential to break free and take me for the gallop of my life.
Nose to tail, nose to tail… plodding along the same path. What happens when a person’s full potential isn’t valued? What happens when a person is actually valued for being less than all that they are, or for doing things (or not doing things) that please only someone else? Value is placed on the wrong thing. In the powerful dynamic between a child and a parent, the child will automatically strive to be more of what their parents value. As a child, I knew I was valued for being good and right, so I strived to be that way. Or what if there is little interest shown at all? Maybe a parent is physically present, but shares no emotional interaction, doesn’t give of themselves or seek to know, really know, their child? The child assumes that she isn’t worth pursuing, her whole self isn’t worth pursuing. Or maybe, her whole self is “too much” to handle, too much to pursue, not worth the effort.
These were the deep conclusions I had drawn about myself that were at the root of my depression. Over time, what I was valued for was becoming far too cumbersome and burdensome to maintain. Like weights around my shoulders, pulling me down… All my effort to be right and good created endless shoulds and should nots and guilt guards and striving . What I was not valued for was still deep down inside, but so afraid to come out, unaccustomed to interacting with others, unsure of whether or not it would be accepted. I did not know that it was valuable, and I didn’t know how to value it myself.
This is the work I am doing. Chiselling out more understanding, more understanding, deeper and deeper. Uncovering these root beliefs truly is the door to freedom for everyone still plodding along nose to tail, nose to tail. We are each filled with unique and amazing potential and value beyond this trail.
(Part Two from my post The Guilty Way)
Imagine that as you journey along, a destination, a place you would like to be, flashes like a picture into your mind. You can see it. You can see it so clearly… You have this strong sense deep down of what this place is like. You naturally have this urge of wanting to be there, wanting to reach it, this desire coming from the uniqueness of you. You picture this place and feel the desire to be there all in one flash, one spontaneous moment. This is an aim of your heart.
You contemplate moving towards your destination but suddenly you also have this doubt… this strong palpable doubt that what you have pictured is really, well, okay. Is really… good enough. You’ve heard other people describe their picture and suddenly yours seems a little dull. Maybe the vision cast in your mind is faulty. You start to feel anxiety and a sad kind of disappointment all at the same time (you really liked your own picture… in that flash of a moment it was really yours, it was a worthy destination…) Or, you start to doubt if you can make real what you see in your head, if you can actually go from here to there. You’ve never bridged that gap before, never spanned the distance. Maybe you should ask everyone else around you how to get there because they definitely would know better than you do. Oh, YIKES- everyone has a different suggestion! Everyone has a different experience to offer you with different advice! You try to take steps towards your picture but you get pulled this way, that way, updside-down, downside up. Maybe without you even asking, the Guilt Guards say, “But your aim isn’t the right one!! It’s not valiant, virtuous, perfect enough!!” They slam their spears into the ground and block your way.
Voices all cry out at once and the more you listen to them the more they cloud your picture, that picture that at one time was so clear and desirable, just a moment away. Eventually you decide that the mine field between you and your destination is just far too treacherous. The Guilty Way has befuddled your desire to live out what is on the true inside of you (this analogy could relate to many other things besides guilt, but it’s all in the same pot).
Feels like something died.
As I continue to work through my recovery, the difference between that scenario and the next all hinges on the work I’m doing at the foundations of what I know to be true about who I am. Living from these new foundations, my interactions with life (big and small) are growing more and more infused with freedom…
Re-imagine your picture… And this time there’s a clear path straight to it. In sorting through the lies and the truth, you have this growing sense within you, this sense that knows “I have what it takes to live my life. I have that good heart. I can trust it!” You still know you’re not perfect but you accept that as part of the journey and not as a means to discount yourself. So, you see your picture and nothing holds you back anymore. You don’t need to give in to the Guilt Guards to protect you because you now know that the freedom beyond your current borders is a place you can thrive in, and a place you are worthy to thrive in! The Guilt Guards and the Guilty Way just disappear. You bridge the gap and make it to your destination. You feel… alive. You have manifested what was inside of you, outside. You didn’t deaden yourself with pretensions and conventions. You acted out of your own unique spontaneity and were relieved from being pulled in all the directions of the other voices and extra-terrestrial rules. You make it to your picture and breathe in the satisfaction of being there… You did it. And you do it again, and again and again, striding forward towards the aims of your true, good heart. You are free to fly, free to learn, free to grow. This transcends the Guilty Way. This is the Freedom Way!
Big encouragement to everyone as we continue on in our journeys.
The lie might at first be spoken directly, verbally, by a parent or a relative, a friend or a preacher or a teacher. It might be communicated indirectly, more subtly, through over-protectiveness or unreasonable discipline. The lie is different than a benevolent guardian saying, “I want you to benefit from some correction and direction from me because I want you to be able to live your life to the full.” It attacks the heart; it plants deep seeds of doubt about the wholeness of simply being human.
It teaches the follower to doubt everything about themselves. Their feelings, their thoughts are never quite right, never quite good enough. They have little sense of how to navigate through their own life because how can they trust themselves? They are a beating heart that believes they beat the wrong way. The Guilty Way teaches them to survive by either following other people or following idealistic “rules” outside of themselves. It creates a constant ongoing checklist in the mind, a constant and fearful battle to figure out the next little step. Sometimes those around us who have labored in it longer than we have cheer us on. Many times they do so in jest… or more blatantly with little comments, facial expressions or reactions.
It can tinge in almost any situation. In making choices about what to wear, what to eat, what to say… who to invite, who to call, who to visit… where to buy groceries, how often to clean the house, how to arrange the furniture… what kind of job to have, what kind of friends to have, what kind of wedding to have… where to go on vacation, what kind of bathing suit to wear, what kind of activities to do… what kind of haircut to get, what kind of makeup to wear, what kind of music to listen to, what kind of movies to watch… who to talk to at the party, where to sit in church, how much to charge your customers [if you’re acquainted with this Guilty Way as I am, feel free to add to this list in a comment!… ]
It can become so insidious and accepted that we live our lives turned inside out. We live to exclusively please others or fulfill impossible expectations because we doubt that it’s good enough for us to make choices with our own happiness in mind. We doubt that paying attention to our real desires and thoughts can lead us towards the good life. The Guilty Way wraps around our hearts like a snake, squishing out our life, our spontaneity, the vibrant, good and healthy us. And it is never quite satisfied.
More on a DIFFERENT way this Friday…
Taking a thinking break, I looked over to my calendar. The saying for February was about growing quietly but persistently… I liked that one. Suddenly I realized that it was time to turn it over to March! Pulling it off my cubicle wall, I excitedly peeled up the next page to read this month’s quote. It read:
“The most powerful agent of growth and transformation is something much more basic than any technique; a change of heart.” ~John Welwood
In a split second, I took my pen, crossed out “heart” and wrote a different word underneath.
A change of heart… My heart has to change? How?…
It was as if I was a little girl in church again and the pastor was telling me that I needed to change my heart. Feet dangling above the floor… innocent eyes and ears drinking in every detail, every voice inflection, every verse read, every song sung. Change my heart? Make it somehow… better?
Does this mean I have to change how I feel? Yes, I guess it must be that. I have to have better feelings. So some feelings are bad, and some feelings are good. Okay… so how do I change the bad feelings to good feelings? Because that “good” heart?- that’s what I want. Oh, and having a change of heart means I need to be good on the outside too? Maybe that will help… Okay, give me the list of what’s good and I will work very hard at it. Very hard! If I can work hard enough at this list, then will I get that good heart? Where do I go for the stamp of approval? What signs can I look for to know that my heart really has changed for the better?
I don’t think the writer meant for his words to be taken in quite this way… but that is how they struck me today. Instead of the phrase change of heart, I’ll be looking at the phrase change of understanding for this coming month.
Understanding. After I wrote it, I thought about that word. I pictured something strong standing up on the inside of me, strong legs and strong arms holding up my heart, holding it in place, letting it breath, letting it pump and flow and give and receive and BE alive. Understanding. Knowing that way before it got so confused with other people’s versions of “good”, my heart was good. It was born that way. It’s not my heart that needs to change. The thing that creates the vitality of transformation is a change in the underpinnings of what I believe about myself and a new understanding of where the faulty underpinnings came from in the first place.