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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One response to “Shame Begets Shame

  1. Pingback: Shame Begets Shame (Shamefessional #1) | Daring Greatly

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