In order get out of the hell of my job I had to get laid off. I was too ashamed to quit with all the bills I was responsible for and the family I had to feed and clothe. If I quit my job simply because I found it unsatisfying I would be irresponsible and undisciplined. But, if my job could kick me out of our relationship I could tell myself and the world that it was not my fault. I would avoid the shame of being irresponsible. And so I self-sabotaged until it happened. I put less effort into my work. I did not learn the million rules to the document review that bored me to tears every day.
Passive aggression is the primary tool a shame-based person has to get what he wants in the world. To come out and claim what he wanted would be selfish, childish and undisciplined. To be honest would risk hurting someone else’s feelings. To the shame-based it is always better to employ a strategy of plausible deniability.
Once I left my job I found myself in a position where, if I chose to, I could finally begin face the issue of shame in my life. But, in order for me to finally face my shame I could not do this through passive aggression. I had to face my shame honestly. For me, that meant I had to go back to the source of my shame, which is my parents.
This sounds condemning and critical from a shame-based perspective because shame cannot admit its faults. That is too painful and opens itself to attack. In a shame-based world there is no mercy or forgiveness. There may be the pretense of mercy because to be unmerciful is shameful but below the surface were truth resides there is none. All mistakes, faults and flaws are punished and leave a permanent mark that can never be erased. So for me to say the source of my shame is my parents is very difficult. To say this is being ungrateful for all the good they did for me. To say this is to be disrespectful to my parents, which is something that a good son would not do. To say this would hurt their feelings and would be selfish of me. All these moral precepts were instilled in me by my parents. All these precepts (whether true or not) are my shame’s way of keeping me from facing my shame. So, in order for me to face my shame I had to see clearly and honestly what my parents had done to me. In order to do this I had to see clearly and honestly that this shame did not come from a place of love. That is not to say that they did not have love for me but rather the shame they instilled into me did not come from love.
Of course I did not know any of this before my wife, our two daughters and I moved in with my parents. But I was in a position to find out. I had finally reached the rock bottom of my shame. I was 39 years old, unemployed and living with my parents in my childhood home. I was so humiliated that I was laid off and could no longer afford the mortgage on my house. I was so ashamed that my wife and I were not getting along. I was so utterly ashamed that I could not afford to buy my kids the things and the lives I thought they should have.
I had hit rock bottom and there was nowhere to go from there but up. To go up from there, however, required effort and understanding. Thank God I received the teaching that gave me the understanding. Thank God I developed the courage to put forth the effort and truly face shame.