What do you think about shame?

Old 06-22-2009, 04:57 AM
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What do you think about shame?

I believe I have stumbled onto something important.

I believe that all of this *heartbreak* I have been feeling has its roots in shame.

When I think of my relationship with my XABF, including the awful feelings around the breakup and his new GF, the bottom line is that I feel humiliated, ashamed of myself. My cheeks burn although I don't blush.

I wonder if much of our codependent, self-destructive behavior stems from shame.

For me, I think this is the bottom line. I allowed myself to self-destruct. I allowed myself to be treated as an object. I allowed myself to continue in a situation that hurt, a lot.

And I feel shame for that, shame for being discarded, shame for not being a healthy person.

Does anyone relate? And how does one *cure* a lifelong feeling of worthlessness, shame?
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Old 06-22-2009, 05:06 AM
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I find that much of my difficulty lies in shame.

Shame that is crippling in its intensity. I am ashamed that I am married to a man who is an alcoholic, because of what I believe that says about my worthiness as a human being. I am ashamed of the details of what I have done and what I have put up with in my relationship with him because of what I think it says to others about my own self-worth. OOOh it's a tangled web of a need for external validation.

I know these are thoughts built on rotten footings, but my core beliefs are often not self-loving and this (amongst many other things) is part of the "evidence" that I recruit to back up that self-loathing.

*sigh* (LOL) I am working on it. Bah

do you think shame is ever a useful emotion? fear is useful as long as it isn't phobic and crippling, it can protect you from venturing further into dangerous situations: but shame?
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Old 06-22-2009, 05:09 AM
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Maybe you did allow those things THEN, but perhaps you didn't really know any better at the time. I don't really think you should feel shame for that. Maybe you were stuck for a while, but you bucked up and did what was best for you by leaving and for that, you should feel very good about yourself. I think we've all been able to look back and see where we made some bad decisions, but what matters is that we changed!

BTW - I don't think shame is at all useful just as I don't think worry is useful. Shame is for things in the past, which cannot be changed. Worry is about things in the future which 90% of the time never even occur.

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Old 06-22-2009, 06:03 AM
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This is a page in a book called, I Love Me Enough to... Let Me Go, by Jim McGregor.

I realize that I love me enough to remember that the actions in the past were the best I could do at the time. I have been amazed at my own behavior under extreme conditions. Sometimes my behavior was completely calm and appeared to be rational, and at other times it was outrageous and appeared to be irrational. I suspect that many of the calm times were really examples of stifling the fear of the present reality, instead of some noble act. The outrageousness was most uncomfortable. Regardless of my past behavior, I accept that my response or behavior was normal, if not admirable under the conditions and circumstances that existed at the time. As I move along the spiritual path, I can choose a more healthy response to unnatural, stressful situations. Letting go of me, and LETTING GOD is the key.

I added a few of my own words to this, but it sums it up. Don't be shameful, that leads to self destruction. I do understand where that concept of shame comes from, and as long as you recognize it you can then let it go.
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Old 06-22-2009, 06:10 AM
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I feel shame for letting this person run amuck with my life! I LET IT HAPPEN! I let a man who cannot deal with his own life run mine; and he ran it right into the ground, stomped on me, and walked away.
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Old 06-22-2009, 08:55 AM
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Absolutely shame plays a role in the co-dependent dynamic. And then guilt.

We have to learn to forgive ourselves, and move on.
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Old 06-22-2009, 12:03 PM
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I'll see if I can articulate this. I've been reading about the difference between guilt and shame. Guilt is about our actions. I truly don't feel *guilty* about my relationship with XABF or even XAH. I can tell myself that I did the best that I could, my intentions were good, etc.

Shame--different animal. Shame is about WHO WE ARE. At a very deep level. Self-loathing, self-destructive behavior stems from shame. Shame is very likely a result of dysfunctional family systems or abuse.

We have to learn to forgive ourselves, and move on.
I can forgive myself until the cows come home. I do think I've forgiven myself, for the most part. Forgiving oneself is about guilt, I'm thinking. It's about actions.

My feeling is that SHAME, as opposed to GUILT, is resolved by learning to love oneself. Learning to truly esteem and protect ourselves. Realizing that being rejected by another (whether it's parent, a romantic relationship, or whatever) is no reflection on who we are, fundamentally.

I'm thinking this is the most important part of moving forward, and truly having a joyful life. How can someone who feels defective and shame-filled have a happy life?

I'm guessing this is a spiritual thing, not intellectual or emotional. It's part of my process, part of moving forward. I hope it's part of having a new life in which I am healthy, non-obsessed, and engaged.
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Old 06-22-2009, 12:07 PM
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Originally Posted by nowwhat View Post
I'm guessing this is a spiritual thing, not intellectual or emotional. It's part of my process, part of moving forward. I hope it's part of having a new life in which I am healthy, non-obsessed, and engaged.
IMO, you are absolutely right. Keep moving in the direction you are moving. And try to be patient with yourself. These things don't happen overnight, you know?

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Old 06-22-2009, 12:24 PM
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Let me just throw this in for some mind tinkering. I KNEW I deserved better, I knew I was not being treated fairly, I knew my responses were not imagineable because they were reactions to extreme and unthinkable behavior.....but I believed, really thought, it was my duty as a Christian and human being to love UNCONDITIONALLY. I didn't love him only under the condition that he was loving, caring, nurturing, giving...I loved him in spite of the fact that many of those virtues didn't surface. Still I looked for the good in him. I wasn't ashamed of that, until he left me and then the shame came crashing down on me like a tsunami. But I still have trouble putting ME first...and so my journey continues.
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Old 06-22-2009, 12:33 PM
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Over the past three or four years, many things I've discovered on my journey turn out to be paradoxical. All the time I was married, I KNEW many things intellectually. But, my subconscious, emotional self was on a totally different page. This is what led me to self-sabotage in many cases. And then I would wonder why things never worked out for me. By the same token, I was always superior and self-righteous toward the alcoholic, telling myself how much 'better' I was because I wasn't a drunk like him. At the same time, all that puffing myself up was really just a cover for my self-doubt and lack of internal worth.

So, nowwhat, that's why I say I think you are right in the sense that it's something spiritual. Because our intellectual selves aren't always in agreement with our subconscious selves. It takes a lot of digging to uncover those paradoxes, but shining the light into dark places has awesome rewards.

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Old 06-22-2009, 12:54 PM
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Let me see if I can articulate this

I believe that I suffer(ed) from a "shame based disease"

What I have heard is "you are only as sick as your secrets", to me this includes the secrets I keep from myself

Shame is like a mushroom, it flourishes best if kept in the dark and fed shyte (my thinking is 'not clear' around my shame if I don't address it, hence it's 'shyte' so my shame is based and fed on my thinking)

For me, if I cover something up, or "put it behind me" it will heal over, but the infection will remain out of sight, but if somebody else's actions "bump into it" it hurts like hell and I react strongly.

That's why the spiritual axiom is "If I am upset, there is something wrong with me"

So for me to heal this shame, I worked the 12 steps and with a therapist, I brought all of those old hurts "into the light" by sharing them with another human being. After I spoke out loud about these a few times, with the help of another human being, I was able to start understanding the impact of them on my life, and how they affected my decision making.

They are unable to "grow" when they are "exposed to light" so they lose much of their power, and my experience is they begin to heal and some simply wither away and disappear. Some are more tenacious, and require "more work".

I often say: People hurt us, seemingly without provocation, but we have invariably made a decision based on self that placed us to be in a position to be hurt."

In "my story" I wrote how I fell in love with a woman at ten years old, and knew if I grew up and met and got together with a woman like her it would solve all my problems. It would "fix" me.

I wrote that to show how this "decision based on self" led in my adult life to untold suffering.

Sometimes, in therapy, and in working the steps we have to go back quite a few years to find the "decision based on self", sometimes the decision was moments ago, sometimes it was in childhood that caused self destructive behaviors and patterns.

Anyway, the whole inner workings of my mind are unavailable to me, but with the help of a sponsor or therapist I can uncover these "shame based behaviors" that I have unknowingly carried with me that have had such destructive consequences in my life.

I hope my explanation made sense

Congratulations by the way, self discovery is cool huh?
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Old 06-22-2009, 01:05 PM
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Great topic, I think shame is embedded in many levels...

Shame because of being a woman, of making errors, of not controlling my feelings, of not "knowing better", of being from a 3rd world country, of not "keeping my man" (eventhough he was not good), for not having the body of an athlete+runway model, for not being further in my career, the list is endless.. but as you say even if you were all those things it would NEVER be enough...

Its so great to see that garbage for what it is and say: Enough... that is so Old School!!

For me shame comes because I do not recognize my link to God thus I do not give myself all the good things I deserve... I just do not recognize the enlightened part of me.

Funny how God/HP made us with codie tendencies but that same "need to help" let us find true support for each other

Thanks all for this thread.
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Old 06-22-2009, 05:09 PM
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I am ashamed of myself.

I don't like myself.

I feel unlovable.

I can rationalize that none of that is good, and that I am lovable. But it is not what I feel.

As long as I feel that way, I know I have a lot of work to do. :-(
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Old 06-22-2009, 05:37 PM
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I feel ashamed because I stayed with XAH even though by doing so I was endangering my children. I stayed because of my own fear and my own lack of confidence, and thinking I desevered no better treatment. I am trying to make living amends to my kids.

My therapist says I am being too hard on myself. I had two little babies, no family support, and an A husband that acted out and caused a life altering injury to himself, and I did the best I could at the time with what I knew. The accident was the first nudge to becoming conscious of my situation. It took 7 more years and an affair on his part for me to come to, so to speak, and begin to earnestly and consciously work on my recovery.

Through therapy I discovered what happened to cause all the self loathing and when I think of the survivor my little girl self was...I stop feeling shame because she did a tremendous job under horrible conditions. It's those hidden pockets of shame that still hook me....progress not perfection.
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Old 06-22-2009, 06:37 PM
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As I have worked my way down this long road of recovery, I learned that shame was something I learned from way back as that little girl with two alcoholic parents.

That little girl is still inside of me and still feels the shame instilled by my abusive father and neglectful mother and all the "stuff" that I learned along the way. That I was never going to be good enough no matter what. That my parents drinking and behaviors were all my fault. That if only I tried harder I could fix everything and life would be wonderful like those lovely families I saw on tv.

That little girl's shame though was part of the reason I married an alcoholic and certainly was ther reason I became overtly codependent in may marriage. Its part of the reason it took me as long as it did to leave him and admit I had made a mistake in marrying him. That shame is deep rooted and has sent out sad little tendrils that I didn't notice 'cause they had always been there.

I got rid of the rational, thinking parts of that shame long ago. But I ignored the emotional innner little girl who swallowed it whole and still believes it. She is still inside and needing the care and nurturing she never got. I am working on doing that now. I will be working on that for some time to come. But I've made progress. I can now give myself the love I never got from my parents.
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Old 06-23-2009, 07:16 AM
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It is really interesting to me that so many of us share this problem. It makes me feel a lot less alone, kinda normalizes the whole thing.

Today in therapy I am going to talk about this instead of recounting all the drama (oh, I might do a little of that).

I am also NOT going to edit my previous posts, even though I see some errors, one particularly upsetting misuse of a preposition ;-) because I think my perfectionism is also a symptom of shame.

I need to accept that I will never be perfect, and I don't have to perfect in order to be loved.

My therapist told me last week that I am "adorable and very endearing." This seems like a weird thing to say, but it really made me feel good.

Maybe I can start getting some of my positive attention from people who aren't just using me for romance and sex? I believe many of my relationships with men have been with people who valued the WRONG things about me. I don't think it's wrong to want positive feedback. I think it's just that I've been going to poisonous sources for it, and so it's tainted.
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Old 06-23-2009, 08:04 AM
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Your last paragraph is very interesting, nowwhat, and made me think: When did I get my shame under control? ( note that I don't say: when did I get rid of it completely )

I think it WAS when I started actively seeking relationships with people who I respected, but who weren't after anything from me. They were people doing good in the world, people with strong compassion, or strong convictions, or who were really working toward a healthy dream for themselves and others.

I'm thinking right now of my friend CB, who teaches people how to use their journals to heal themselves, and who taught me the phrase: Ask for what you need, and offer what you can.

I'm thinking of my healthy non-A brother, a stellar dad and husband, who lost his job in this economic fray but said, "I'll move into a trailer and sell everything I own before I'll tell my kids I can't help send them to college."

I'm also thinking of other people who, with their very lives, are showing me how to feel completely engaged in life by finding something I believe in and hurling myself into it.

Positive feedback from these people really MEANS something. Positive feedback from people who wanted to have sex with me, or who wanted me to validate them, was indeed tainted like you've said.

Great food for thought there -- thanks!!
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Old 06-24-2009, 12:29 PM
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Some interesting stuff on this topic here:

Also, here is a little "exercise" that I have sponsees do when it becomes clear shame/self-loathing is a big issue for them. A program friend told me that her sponsor made her do this when she was newly sober (over 25 years ago) and that it was really powerful. Since it is hard for me to "get" to shame on a personal level, I thought it sounded pretty corny, but I have (in desperation) used it with several sponsees since then, and I have to admit, it has proven to be very, very healing and helpful.

Think back to /pray for a memory of / or do some dream & imagination work to identify a time in your early childhood before you felt shame (unsually a time before you internalized your first "core wounding").

Once you identify that age, find a picture of yourself at that age.

Take the picture to the store and choose the most perfectly beautiful, complimentary frame you can find for it.

Frame the picture and put it somewhere in your home where you will see it often.

Every time you see it, stop, center yourself, and say to the child in the picture: "You are precious and I love you very much. I am going to take care of you and protect you."

It's really amazing how well this works -- but it also brings up a lot of feeling and a lot of resistence. I've gotten so that, when I "ask" a sponsee to do this, I set a firm, short time limit by which the picture has to be in-place, because it is pretty friggin' amazing how much sub-conscious fear and discomfort people seem to have around this.


Last edited by freya; 06-24-2009 at 12:46 PM.
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