Monthly Archives: September 2013

Random Shameful Memories

English: Beaches houses on the western side of...

English: Beaches houses on the western side of Misquamicut Beach, Westerly, Rhode Island. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A psychiatrist once asked me what my earliest memory was.  I told her I was alone in the basement of my parents’ house looking for a toy car I had lost.  She remarked that was interesting because most people will recount an experience with one of their parents.

I remember as a young kid (maybe five and younger) having a desire to make babies cry.  At the time I felt no remorse.  I enjoyed it.  Later on I felt guilty about having that desire, like it was further evidence of how flawed I was.  Now it makes sense.  Everybody shamed and picked on me and it made them feel good so I tried to mess with kids more helpless than I was to make myself feel better.  I don’t recall ever doing anything too horrible.  Still I am sorry for anything that I did in this regard.  They truly did not deserve the shame that I attempted to pass on to them even if it was passed on to me when I was innocent.

I remember my grandmother (my father’s mother) at our house.  I think there were other relatives there as well.  They were all sitting in the kitchen.  I remember walking in and talking to them about a dream I had.  All I recall about what I told them was “the pinecone with wheels”.  I don’t think I actually had any such dream.  I’m pretty sure they all knew that what I was talking about was being made up on the spot.  I remember going down the basement stairs and saying to them all in the kitchen, “now remember, it’s the pine cone with wheels.”  The feeling associated with this memory is complex.  I have the feeling that I thought it was funny.  I also have the feeling that my relatives were annoyed with me.  I don’t think I cared at the time but later on the memory made me feel embarrassed.

I remember when I was 5 or so telling my mother that I was running away.  She said, “ok” as if she didn’t care.  I went out the door and made it half way across the front yard and turned back.  Now that I look back on it I wonder why she didn’t ask me what was bothering me.  I feel like she knew that I could never actually run away.  The prison of shame was already well constructed at that point.

I remember taking my sister’s girl-scout canteen and going out the formal front door (as opposed to the door in the family room normally used for going outside).  My mother ran out the door in the family room to see where I was going (as if I was doing something wrong).  She took the canteen from me.  I remember feeling I had been caught doing something terribly wrong.

I remember one summer I kept sleeping in later and later.  Eventually I could not get to sleep at night.  I went into my parents’ bedroom and told my mother that I could not sleep.  She said, “just remember that you have a wedding to go to.”  I thought that was weird and left the room.

I remember one summer not having anything to do and running around the house a few times.  I came in and told my mother and she said sarcastically, “oh yeah, now what are you going to do for the rest of the summer?”  I suppose she wanted to send me back to Village Day Camp (a camp I hated because all the kids in my group and even the counselors picked on me).  Recently the subject of Village Day Camp came up and I mentioned how much I hated it.  My mother responded, “but you told me you loved going there.”  This made me very frustrated and angry.  I explained how everyone there humiliated me.  She acted as if I was attacking her.

I remember riding my bike to the pool at the country club by myself, getting in the water getting bored and riding my bike back to the house after about 15 minutes.  Similarly, when I was in college home for the summer I drove to the beach in Rhode Island by myself.  I went on to the beach got bored and drove all the way back after a half hour or so.  I think it was cold that day.  I associate these events with feeling lonely and isolated.

In middle school I got a detention slip.  I forged my mother’s signature and the teacher figured it out immediately.  I had to go to the office.  I cried.  The assistant principal asked me why I was crying as if he thought it was inappropriate.  They put a new signature line down under where I signed and made me go home and have my mother re-sign it.  It was very difficult to work up the nerve to tell her but I did.

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Shame Begets Shame

Shame-based people become the targets of other shame-based people.  The only relief a shame-based person can find in this world (without going through the painful work of therapy) is to shame other people.  Like an addiction this only provides a very temporary relief but temporary relief is better than no relief at all.

My oldest sister was killed in a car accident before I was born.  My parents were probably shame based before this event but I believe this event intensified their sense of shame.  Because they had no healthy way to address this shame they passed it on to my two older sisters who were alive at the time of the accident.  When I came along I was the easiest target for all the other shame-based people in my family.

My oldest living sister was probably the nicest person to me in our family but she was still capable of cruelty.  I remember her holding me down and slowly letting spit drool out of her mouth onto my face.  When I had a girlfriend in high school and was happy and felt good about being a male for the first time she tried to convince me that I should break up with her.  My whole family participated in this.  When I did not break up with my girlfriend both my sisters treated her badly, like she was less of a person and unworthy to be associated with our family.  My oldest treats my wife in a similar way today.  I am not sure how aware of this she is.

My second, oldest, living sister was perhaps the most overtly cruel person in my family when I was young.  She would laugh at me and tell me I was weak.  She would make fun of the fact that I played computer games.  She would take things from me and tease me.  I remember one time she was picking on me and bullying me.  I had a pole in the garage that I would pretend was a martial arts bo stick.  I brought it out and she took it from me.  I remember crying and following her around begging for her to give it back to me but she refused.  Eventually she broke it in half right in front of me and dropped the pieces down a pole in the yard used as a property marker.  She would beat me up and then tell me that she was doing it to toughen me up.  The day when I pushed her back and stopped her from attacking me was a good day in my life.

My Aunt and Uncle (my mother’s brother) also saw me as an easy target.  They would always tell me how “sheltered” my life was as a reason to discount any opinion I might have.  I remember talking to my Uncle after Thanksgiving dinner one year during the 1980’s before the end of the Cold War.  We were talking about nuclear weapons.  I asked why we had to keep making more missiles even though we had enough to kill most of the life on the planet.  He argued that it was not the number of missiles but rather the technology development that was important.  When I persisted he told me that I lived a very sheltered life implying that I was not as qualified as he to offer an opinion on (I suppose) anything. I committed the sin of being born into an affluent, suburban family and even though I thought myself to be very sensitive to never come off as vain or snobbish I got the sense people just assumed I was just that.  Because of this any opinion I had to offer was invalid according to them.

I don’t write this to place blame.  I write this to describe the no-win predicament of a shame-based person.  I am sure if any of my family members read this they would feel betrayed or insulted.  But this is exactly the predicament that I and all shame-based people live in.  My family shamed me but if I protest I become the one at fault.  I am disloyal, weak, selfish, incompetent, lazy, pampered, foolish.  I want to blame other people for my troubles instead of taking personal responsibility.  This is the way shame always outflanks the shame-based person and keeps them imprisoned.  To break free of the prison I have to honestly describe what happened.  I will be shamed for doing it (of course) but facing and experiencing shame is only way of becoming free of shame.

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Intergenerational Aspects of Shame – The Legacy of the Greatest Generation

Shame is passed down from generation to generation.  I was the youngest sibling and if I am being honest I must admit that on some level the members of my family all took sadistic pleasure in making me feel ashamed of myself.  I am sure a lot of this was done without thinking.  In other words they probably did not make the connection that they sought to make me feel ashamed because it was pleasurable to them.  Rather, they saw me as a flawed person and probably thought they were being virtuous in pointing out my flaws.  To them I probably came off as a contemptible, weak creature undeserving of respect.  My mother criticized me so that I would see the error of my ways and reform myself into the person she wanted me to be.   She limited me to protect me from my inevitable failures and reckless behavior.  My father criticized me because I annoyed him and was undisciplined and therefore deserved punishment.  My older sisters bullied me in order to toughen me up.

I think both of my parents grew up in families where they were treated harshly by their parents.  I have no doubt if I presented this theory to either of them they would respond that I am wrong and that their parents were wonderful people who made great sacrifices to provided for them and brought them up to be honest, hard-working and responsible contributors to society (or something along those lines).  I also have no doubt that is true.  My grandparents (the “Greatest Generation“) lived during the Depression and World War II.   They struggled and persevered and probably had to adopt a severe approach to life because survival was at stake.  Enduring these experiences probably also motivated my grandparents to provide a “better life” for my parents’ generation.  I suspect along the way my grand parents’ generation became jealous or ashamed of their children who grew up in a relatively more comfortable life but did not have to make the same sacrifices to earn it.  This translated to a sense that my parents’ generation had to behave themselves and be grateful for what they had and to the extent they did not do this they were severely punished.  Some of this punishment was physical.  But all of the punishment (including the physical) included shame.  My parents’ generation then grew up and internalized a great deal of this shame.  There was a sense that they inherited the benefits of my grand parents’ struggles but did not have to struggle themselves.  My parents in turn raised my generation in an even more comfortable lifestyle which in turn touched their internalized shame.  This shame manifested itself in irritation with my generation, alcoholism and a tendency to lash out in an extremely disproportionate manner when they perceived a lack of due respect, irresponsibility or un-gratefulness on our part.

I grew up constantly feeling like I was not entitled to what I had and that I should somehow feel ashamed of it because I did not earn it.  For most of my life I thought that I felt this way because I was inherently flawed as a person.  I now see this is the result of faulty programing (perhaps even well-intentioned).  The prior generations did not have the resources to see what they were doing and the damage it caused.  For some reason I was blessed with the ability to see this and am now in a position to mitigate its effect on my children.

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Feelings Associated With Shame

Draupadi as humiliated in Virata's durbar by K...

Draupadi as humiliated in Virata’s durbar by Kichaka (left). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Although the quality of my life has vastly improved over the past four years there are still demons that lurk under the surface.  I am aware of them now and awareness brings separation.  The biggest one, or perhaps the one that encompasses them all is shame.  It manifests itself in a myriad of feelings.

There is a sense that the rules for everyone else do not apply to me.  There is a sense that I have been set aside for special punishment and other people deserve happiness, success and wealth.  There is the sense that I uniquely deserve to be humiliated in life.  I have never felt otherwise except that now I am more aware of it than I ever have been.  I feel a vast reservoir of grief and anger buried inside of me that is met with humiliation when it surfaces in front of other people.  So I keep it hidden.

I often feel like I should not be where I am and that I should feel ashamed for the position I find myself.  I often expect to be told that I’m not allowed to do what ever it is that I am doing or that what ever it is that I am doing, I am doing it wrong.  I feel this way when I am chopping wood in the yard.  A car will pass by on the street and I will feel angry.  I will feel that the people in the car are laughing at me.  It’s as if it is funny if I try to do certain things.  If the wood falls over unexpectedly they will laugh at me.  I remember as a kid thinking that all those assholes from the Village Day Camp were watching me through a crystal ball when I was alone and everything I did was cause for ridicule.  As a grown man, when I mowed the lawn of my house in Philadelphia I would imagine that the neighbors were looking at me and thinking that I was mowing the lawn incorrectly.

People who judge annoy and trigger me because I was judged incessantly when I was a kid.  For the same reason my default setting is to judge other people.  No one has ever apologized for treating me so poorly.  No one has ever apologized for creating this burden that I have carried my entire life and that has turned something that could have been joyful and interesting into something that is stifling and a misery.  My only solace is the hope that I can turn it around.  I can’t dwell on all that I have missed out on.  Nor can I dwell on all that I will never come to experience because my growth and development has been delayed.  The grief and loss that dwelling on these things would cause would be too much to bear.

The healthy thing, the only thing I can do now is to move forward, forgive myself and focus on what I am grateful for.  To do otherwise would only keep me stuck.

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I Have Darkness and Light

Inside me there is both darkness and light.  It is the darkness that gets joy out of fucking with people on message boards and it is the light that has compassion for my children (for example).  After I fuck with people on message boards I feel bad.  It might be tempting to say it is the light that is making me feel bad for doing wrong.  That is morality.  But really this is my darkness now turned on me.  My darkness loves to fuck with people even if (or even especially when) that person is me.  Fucking with someone in this context means deriving pleasure by making another person feel bad.

The darkness is cowardly, dishonest and hides itself because it feels ashamed at its core.  It makes sense that darkness thrives on the anonymity of the internet.  To alleviate the pain of shame it acts out on other people, deriving pleasure by making them feel bad.  The darkness pretends to be the light by espousing morality and punishing immorality but what it is really doing is shaming other people and deriving pleasure from it.

By contrast, the light has compassion, forgiveness and acts wholeheartedly.  Several Bible verses come to mind. In Genesis the first thing God says is, “let there be light.” (Gen 1:3).  Then God separated the light from the darkness.  (Gen 1:4).  In John, Jesus said, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”  (John 8:12).  Paul speaks of love but I suspect love in this context is the same thing as light.  “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”  (1 Cor. 13:4-7).

It might be tempting to say that labling the good part light and the bad part dark is a way of avoiding blame.  It is a way of saying that I am not responsible for my bad actions but rather the fault belongs with the darkness.  I think this is a message from the darkness which tries to shame and cast blame.  I think recognizing and accepting the darkness inside me is recognizing the truth and thus embracing the light.  When I recognize the darkness and how it acts inside me I am better able to stop myself before I act out and act from a place of honesty and light rather than shame and darkness.

 

Read my ebook Shame and Internet Trolling. Available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and iBooks.

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10 Topics That Anger Right-Wing, Conservative Republicans on Message Boards

I have argued with many right-wing, conservative Republicans and Tea Party members on the internet over the years.  Most notably on a Star Trek message board called Sistertrek.  For some reason this message board had a very active politics section and most of the members of the board were conservative.  When I joined the board I tended conservative politically but not over the top.  I voted for George W. Bush in the 2000 election because I was turned off by the Monica Lewinsky scandal.  I supported the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq initially after September 11.  I began to get turned off to the Republican / conservative movement after it was discovered that the justification for the invasion of Iraq was based on a false premise.  When I started voicing this opinion on the message board the neocons attacked.  I was taken off guard by how nasty they became. My many battles with conservatives have taught me their many buttons to push to make them angry.  The following is a list of ten that come to mind.  Note: I will use the term “conservative” hereinafter to generally refer to anyone who is right-wing, Republican, conservative or a Tea Party member.

1.  Liberal Media Bias With conservatives all arguments begin with the assumption that the “mainstream media” is biased in favor of the liberals and against the conservatives.  This is how they justify denying facts and reality.  If the credibility of the source of facts is undermined then nothing is factual and anything can be factual.  Conservatives will choose media that tells them what they want to hear calling it “fair and balanced” and dismiss media that tells them what they do not want to hear calling it “mainstream”.  I have found that questioning of this concept is viciously attacked by conservatives and justifiably so.  Undermining this argument undermines most other arguments conservatives cling to.

2.  Global Warming Even though there is general scientific consensus that global warming exists and is caused in part by man-made activities most conservatives will deny it.  They base this denial on “junk science” promoted by the liberal media to undermine the fossil fuel industry or some such.  Anytime global warming is brought up in a conversation from a perspective that assumes it exists will irk most conservatives.

3.  Criticism of George W. Bush or Ronald Reagan Conservatives are generally protective of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush.  They tend to overlook that both presidents relied on deficit spending to finance their agendas, were heavily influenced by big business, the defense industry and served the interests generally of the wealthiest at the expense of the poor and middle class.  Conservatives also overlook the fact that George W. Bush was a horrible public speaker, often appeared foolish, invaded Iraq on a false premise and spent billions of dollars and American lives in the process.  The mere mentioning of any of these points will make a conservative defensive.

4.  Praise for Barack Obama or Bill Clinton By contrast praise for Presidents Obama or Clinton will draw the anger of conservatives.  They will deny that Bill Clinton balanced the budget (they will say that claim is based on false numbers), that Obama ended the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq (Bush was already doing that).  They will blame the economy on Obama even though he inherited the worst economy since the Great Depression largely caused by the deregulation pursued since Reagan but continued through George W. Bush.

5.  Moral Relativism  Conservatives hate “moral relativism” even though none of them seem to use the term in the same way.  Like “liberal media bias”, “moral relativism” is a conservative boogeyman that can mean whatever a conservative wants it to mean depending on the situation.   Any attempt to get a conservative to define or pin down these definitions will most likely be met by personal attacks.  You will be called a troll, stalker or trouble maker.  Conservatives do not like strict definitions or interpretations even though conservatives do claim to want the US Constitution interpreted strictly (unless it undermines their arguments).  Again, the truth is mailable when the credibility of the sources of facts are undermined by calling them liberally biased (e.g., media, universities, legal scholars or scholars of any kind).

6.  Separation of Church and State I have seen conservatives actually argue that there is no separation of church and state in the US Constitution.  They generally base this on “activist judges” who have “interpreted” the Constitution.  Judicial review of laws (i.e., the interpretation of the Constitution) is something that has been enshrined in our legal system since the case of Marbury v. Madison in 1803.  What is behind this is the increased diversification of the American population.  Basically we are no longer an overwhelmingly white, Anglo-Saxon and Protestant nation the way we were since the founding to about 1960.  Long story short, question whether the “War on Christmas” is a real thing and conservatives will get pissed off.

7.  Gun Control Gun control is an example where conservatives do not want the constitution strictly interpreted.  The 2nd Amendment talks about well-regulated militias.  Make this point and enjoy the fireworks.

8.  Implying conservatives get their ideas from Rush Limbaugh Without exception, conservatives become angry and embarrassed when Rush Limbaugh is mentioned by a non conservative.  They do not like the implication that their ideas somehow originate with him and that many conservatives merely parrot what Rush says.  They want to think that their ideas come from the strength of their convictions.  Point this out and engage a conservative’s fight or flight response.

9.  Taxes To a conservative all taxes are bad and so is deficit spending.  As such deficits can only be cured through spending cuts.  Any reasoned argument that a mixture of both spending cuts and tax increases are needed are met with scorn and personal attacks.

10.  Military / Patriotism Conservatives also seem to think they have a monopoly on patriotism and support for the military.  They assume that non conservatives are unpatriotic and have contempt for the military.  There is also an assumption that Republican presidents have a better record on military issues despite the fact that Woodrow Wilson and FDR successfully led the country during World Wars I and II arguably the two most successful military actions by the US in the modern era.  According to conservatives Reagan and George W. Bush are better commanders in chief.  Question this and they will surely respond. At this point I am beyond who is right and wrong.  I try not to judge.  Inside me there is lightness and dark.  The dark in me enjoys making conservatives angry.  Why?  Two reasons.  Because they annoy me and it is so easy.  The light inside me realizes there are better ways to spend my time.

 

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I Got Banned From Another Message Board

I have been banned from two message boards.  Sistertrek (a Star Trek message board where I went by the names Gvok and later The Gnostic) banned me a few years ago and Redlettermedia (a movie message board where I went by the name Gelthor) banned me more recently.  I did not set out to be the message board criminal but somehow the dynamics of message boards consistently make it easier for me to fall into that role than not.  I have to take some of the blame for this.  I clearly did something to make people angry with me and then when they got angry with me I fought back. There is something about my personality that consistently leads me in that direction.  But there is something about them too.  They are quick to anger and downright  annoying and deserved whatever it was I did to them.

The most annoying poster I ever encountered was Fesarius the Christian on Sistertrek.  He was not annoying because he was a Christian.  I am a Christian (Roman Catholic).  But he made Christians looked bad.  He talked about holding sabbath on Saturday because he could find no biblical justification for having it on Sunday.  He argued with atheists that the bible itself was proof of God’s existence because it was so elaborate and symbolic that “it just didn’t add up” to say humans wrote it free of divine inspiration.  He claimed he did not fear the terrorists because the worst they can do is kill him and he did not fear death.  All of that would have been fine if they were not been combined with his two other annoying qualities.  The two most annoying aspects about him were his smugness (masquerading as sincerity and non-judgmentality) and the fact that the vast majority of his posts had no substance.  Typically, he would publish one or two-word  posts until his post count reached an a milestone.  These milestones were nice round numbers.  It got annoying. I pointed it out, said if he would write substantive posts that would be fine but he was just posting in order to get his post count up.  He stopped responding to me.  If I asked him direct question he would write a post directed to another person.  Other people agreed with me and then he went into full-scale drama mode saying good-bye to everyone, telling them how nice it was to know them as if he would never communicate with them again.  He was back the next week.

There was Grendel’s Dad.  He had the highest post count on the Redlettermedia message board which of course reminded me of the douche bag Fesarius.  Grendel’s Dad hailed from Australia and called me an asshole for not knowing that fact.  I don’t take shit from the established members and if they give me shit I give it right back.  This turned out to be a bad strategy on Redlettermedia because the established members there like to dominate the new ones.  Because Redlettermedia had little oversight from the moderators it developed a wolf pack ethic.  In this pack mentality the established members considered it their due to dominate the new ones.  I guess if I submitted I would still be a member on that message board but I got off on the wrong foot and got labeled as a troll early on.

There was Minuet on Sistertrek.  She moderated a few of the topics and was pretty close with the administrator named Wichita.  She was Jewish and was always accusing other members of being antisemitic and then became offended when I pointed out that she over used this accusation.  She argued with Wichita incessantly.  These argument threads went on and on quibbling and counter-quibbling about the minutest points.  She hated when I asked questions of other members.  Apparently proper message board etiquette is to post your opinions but not ask questions of other members or at least not do it to the extent I did.

There was Action Jeans on Redlettermedia who was Grendel’s Dad’s lackey.  For some reason he found it incredibly rude of me that I asked a question that had been asked a year ago in another thread.  He claimed I should have researched this question by reading all the previous posts on the website before asking it.  After asking this question Action Jeans would hound and harass me whenever I posted anything else.  When I called him on this he called me a stalker.

There was my arch-nemesis Admiralbill  on Sistertrek.  He was a textbook Conservative “Ditto Head” from Texas.  He supported everything George W. Bush did and criticized everything about Barack Obama.  To him, the “mainstream media” has a liberal bias but Fox News is fair and balanced.  I liked to post news articles on global warming just to get him riled up.  He was always accusing me of “baiting” him.  In my defense there was so much that baited him it was hard not to.  That said, I did bait him because he was an angry, insulting asshole and it amused me to make him angry.

Currently I am not a member on any message board.  The pattern is clear to me.  It was fun for a while to battle these people but eventually the negative energy caught up with me and I started feeling angry.  So I got myself banned.  On Sistertrek I pushed it until they banned me.  On Redlettermedia I asked to be banned.  They ignored this request for a while so then I pushed it and then they banned me.  (I wonder if they would have banned me if I never asked for it.)  For years after being banned from Sistertrek I thought about those people with anger and shame.  But eventually it faded.  After being banned from Redletter media I did not feel much of anything except relief that I did not get as addicted to baiting the bullies there as I did on Sistertrek.

What can I say?  I like to see reactions to my posts.  Maybe that was the reason the people on message boards always hate me.  I always assumed everyone else has the same motivation but now I am not so sure.  Maybe the others just post and do not care how other people react.  I find that mindset hard to fathom though (and maybe that is another symptom of the underlying problem).  What ever it is, the other members seem to be able to pick up on my energy and it irritates them.  That is some of them anyway, the ones who are not like me.

If there is one piece of advice I can give to a person in a similar situation, it is never apologize.  I think apologizing is a good thing (ethically), especially if in the wrong.  But I never encountered a message board accuser who has ever had an iota of compassion.  I tried to extend olive branches to Admiralbill and Grendel’s Dad and both times they used it against me as evidence of my guilt.  I think it has to do with anonymity on message boards.  People are cruel and unforgiving when they are anonymous.  Who knows if they also lack empathy in real life.  The best thing to do is what I did.  Get yourself banned and walk away.

 

Read my ebook Shame and Internet Trolling. Available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and iBooks.

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