one hundred & sixty eight: shame

the good ol’ search function on our blog reveals that i’ve written about shame 33 times (and i can’t even believe it’s that infrequently). i didn’t count the number of pocketbrit’s posts that came up but i’d guess it’s similar to me.

it feels too huge to even try to tackle tonight. it is the thing i’m working on in therapy right now…in particular, the shame i feel about the inordinate amount of shame i have, and the horrifying way i often succumb to its downward spiral. how knowing him and naming him don’t seem to help not to listen to his voice. how i am still so affected by him, how fully i still believe what he has to say.

to be fair, i have made baby steps, namely, that i am able to tell nearly instantly when i encounter the voice of capital-s Shame. and every once in awhile, i’m able to steel myself against him, sometimes sufficiently enough that i can defend against his wily, evil ways. however, even those times, i am not grateful to him for getting me here, i fucking hate his guts. and lately, it’s seems to be a losing battle and i get sucked into the undertow, choking and sputtering for days on end.

the shame about Shame is the worst, though. because most times, i don’t want to admit that he’s got me. that i’m not better than that, yet. that i am too weak and too small to fight him, that i let him win. that i’m siding with their voices, that i’m not as healed as i pretend to be.

insidious bastard.

he makes me think that dying is a viable option. that the best thing would be to remove myself from all of it. to protect others from me, to shield them from my rot, to excise myself from the world, to erase my existence.

he steals pocketbrit from me, and me from her, so much lately. he tells me that my wife and daughter would be better off without me. that i am pathetic, that i am never going to get better, that i am wrong and stupid no matter what i do. that i deserve to be alone, just like they said. that i’ll never get it right, even if i try my hardest.

he gets in my ears and transforms the words, expressions, and tone of the people who love me. puts me on edge. isolates me. sings me to his side of things. and reminds me, at every turn, that there is something so unbelievably wrong about me that my own parents couldn’t love me.

my therapist tells me, over and over, with unbelievable patience and gentleness, that he’s the one who’s wrong. that his voice was directed to me, that it’s not mine. that just because shame speaks, doesn’t mean that he speaks the truth. that in fact, it is his voice that got me here, that enabled me to survive to this point. with amazing, persistent, optimism, she tells me stories about how we can listen to it without accepting it. (ha. maybe she can. i am less successful at this).

coz really…the cadence of his voice is so familiar, his words so horribly intimate. he knows how to make us curl up into a tiny ball. makes the tears prickle with alarming immediacy. helps us pack it in, tells us to quit trying to be too big for our britches.

i wish i knew the antidote to his convictions. i’m open to ideas, honestly, so feel free to share in the comments.

4 thoughts on “one hundred & sixty eight: shame

  1. I don’t think it’s something you can tackle directly, as in, it won’t stop you feeling ashamed just because someone – even someone you trust a lot, like a therapist – tells you you don’t need to feel ashamed. You need to kind of absorb that mesage indirectly. Ways that I have found helpful are reading other people’s blogs and feeling compassion for them and realising that if I don’t think their feeling ashamed about something in particular is warranted, maybe I can apply the same standard to myself in a similar situation; the cumulative effect of being around someone who demonstrates by their actions rather than just words that they are not ashamed of you; and learning by experience that you can do something wrong that might make you feel ashamed but you can also make things right after that eg by apologising and having that apology accepted, until it gradually sinks in that while it can be helpful sometimes to be ashamed of what we *do* (in that it guides us to behave better towards others) we do not have to be ashamed of who or what we *are*.

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  2. I don’t have words for this beautifully written post about horrible shame, so I’m just sending hugs over your way xo

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  3. hi DV. thanks so much for your comment, i think you are right in what you say about reading other peoples’ experiences and not holding them responsible can help with shame’s voice. it has, and it does, absolutely.

    for me, though, i don’t think it’s about other people at all; it’s not about others being ashamed of me. like you also alluded to, it’s a total inside job, both the experience of it and trying to work to the other side of it.

    there’s also not really much logic to it…it’s likely the least logical feeling there is, i think. my shame is about who i am, how i respond to the world. his voice, for me, is a commentary on how i operate in the world, and about all the ways in which i am a horrible human being. how damaged i am. how much i mess up. as i said, entirely illogical.

    i suspect it’s all part of the process..teasing out what’s mine, what’s theirs. what needs to stay, what only hurts me. i told my therapist once it’s like sorting socks…that’s always a good analogy in general, lol.

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