Shame. Such an icky topic and feeling.
I am not a licensed therapist.
I am still trying to figure all of this out myself, but I am learning and I am working to diligently avoid shaming words being said by any member of my household (including myself). THIS IS HARD WORK. 😩
When I see myself, my spouse, or my children slipping into a shame spiral, I try to acknowledge it and stop it if possible. This is treacherous, however.
The danger in stopping a shame spiral is the risk of entering into toxic positivity.
Toxic positivity can equally invalidate
and minimize a person's feelings.
One can go from "I am not good enough" to
"I am not good enough to have this emotion right now."
One can go from being told "you worry too much, you are such a worry wart" to "don't worry, everything is always going to work out." Neither instance feels good.
Has a friend or loved one ever told you what you should have done and how you should have responded? How did that feel?
Even better, have YOU ever told a friend or loved one what they should have done or how they should have responded? That mirror comes up quickly.
The Shame Spiral can start immediately or hours, days, weeks after the "injury." It can last a lifetime. My therapist just asked me if I had ever heard the story about the father and son and the nails on the fence post. I had not. I tried to find the original author and the original full story, but I could not find it.
Please let me know if you do.
The quick version is that the father gave the son some nails to nail into the fence post. The boy did and came back to his dad.
The dad said "good job son, now go take them all out."
The boy wondered what in the world his father was thinking but he did as he was told. Upon his return, the boy asked "okay, I took them all out, but why did you have me do that Dad?".
The father replied "Son, those nails are like words.
You can say them and you can try to take them back, but the holes will always remain."
Credit to MaryAnn Denwood @ The People's Therapist and
Richard Bamford Therapy for the above images.
Credit to Michigan Health Blog and ThePsychologyGroup.com for the above images.
I could not locate the exact source from these SlideShare images,
but I found them to be extremely valuable.
When I began my own work with my own shame, it felt bad of course.
I wondered why I "felt so bad" when "I don't think I really did anything wrong." And I don't mean I've never lied or disappointed someone or made a poor choice. OF COURSE I have done all of those things. I meant that sometimes I feel like I'm doing good things, kind things, making smart choices, and I still feel SHAME. Why in the world am I feeling shame when I "act right" and make kind, intentional choices?
I quickly learned that we can be just as shamed for doing GOOD as we can for doing BAD. (Excuse all grammar rules here - just go with me). I can be a good girl and be shamed for it. I can be the best in the room (at a sport, in a class, on a project, or at work) and be shamed for it. Am I crazy and causing myself all this shame or do other children and adults actually shame us when we excel? The truth is BOTH. We receive messaging from infancy to the grave that shape our responses. These messages come from our loved ones and from strangers. Today, they often come from avatars on a screen in the devilish device in our hands. The messages come from television and advertisements. They even come from our beloved children.
Are other people TRYING to shame us? Probably not. But they may be full of shame themselves, so it's a language in which they are fluent. OR, they don't know how to handle their own emotions and we are the nearest punching bag.
It's all complicated. It is layered. It is old and it is new. None of it feels good.
As part of my own shame work, I was asked to draw my own shame creature. I think this is an excellent exercise for anyone. I included the most shaming statements I have received from strangers and well-meaning loved ones. So here I am, undressing on the internet and showing you my boo-boos. It is scary to be this vulnerable, but I want to do and feel better. I don't want to push the shame button of anyone I love, especially the sweet souls fast asleep under my own roof right now as I type this. So here goes.