This is a message I have lived with for as long as I can remember. It is REALLY hitting home as I plug away in preparing this blog post. “There is no way this post will come anywhere close to the worthiness and intellect of the other posts – especially the ones written by our Board members. They are extremely smart and highly regarded professionals. I am not.”
Like me, do you have messages from within that plague you?
Recently, I pulled from my library a book entitled, Shame & Guilt – Masters of Disguise. I have found this a helpful resource with my personal and professional endeavors. As the title indicates, one of the topics covered is shame. The author, Jane Middleton-Moz, lists her ideas of how we may have been shamed as children; and then she lists characteristics that may be seen in adults who were shamed in childhood. Here is a partial list of the latter:
Adults shamed as children are afraid of vulnerability and fear exposure of self.
Adults shamed as children may suffer extreme shyness, embarrassment, and feelings of inferior to others. They don’t believe they make mistakes. Instead, they believe they are mistakes.
Adults shamed as children fear intimacy and tend to avoid real commitment in relationships. There is often a feeling that one foot is already out of the door, prepared to run.
Adults shamed as children may appear either grandiose and self-centered or appear selfless.
Adults shamed as children feel that, “No matter what I do, it won’t make a difference. I will always be worthless and unlovable.”
Adults shamed as children frequently feel defensive when even minor negative feedback is given.
Adults shamed as children frequently blame others before they can be blamed.
Adults shamed as children may suffer from debilitating guilt. Apologizes constantly. Assumes responsibility for behavior of those around them.
Adults shamed as children feel like outsiders. They feel a pervasive sense of loneliness.
Adults shamed as children project their beliefs about self onto others. They engage in mind reading that is not in their favor.
Middelton-Moz lists ten more “Adults shamed as children” characteristics. I invite you to check out her book or send me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll send the remainder of her list.
Another author, Curt Thompson, a Christian psychiatrist, wrote The Soul of Shame. Very simply stated, he brings to the reader the nature and neurobiological roots of shame. He talks about how vulnerability is difficult and many times we run away from vulnerability rather than move into it, which is what is needed in order to deal with it. Here’s a quote taken from his book, “ …those things that are most personal are most universal. There is no greater evidence for this then when someone reveals the shame he or she carries while gathered in a group of safe, expectant listeners. …When we acknowledge our shame, it resonates with the shame carried by all of us. With confession, it is given the opportunity for resonance, exposure and healing in the life of the listener as well as the speaker…”
When I start falling prey to my life long-message of destruction: “I’m stupid. I’m not good enough…” (1) I stay with the shaming induced thoughts, feelings, emotions, behaviors and believe the messages and images. This takes me into a stuck place mired in deceit and evil. Or, (2) I notice I am falling prey to shamefulness and all that it can and will encompass; catch myself ruminating in the darkness of my lies, and I go to a trusted, beloved, safe, person. I can depend on this beloved one to listen and speak with great care and truth. This person will be Christ-like. In order for me to grab on to logic, rationale and truth, means I must be able and willing to hear. But first, I must have courage enough to speak. Speak my diseased thoughts and beliefs and all that comes with it. Doing. So. Each. And. Every. Time. Is. Not. Easy. It. Is. Uncomfortable. And. EXCRUCIATING. Plus! It lifts me out of the gnarly darkness into light.
So, I agree with Thompson’s point: Exposing shame is vulnerable and often doing so is what keeps us from moving into this very scary area. I have found that sharing my shame with trusted brothers and sisters brings connection with fellow believers and renewed connection with Christ. This is what it is like to live a God three-in-one-relationship – moving toward one another and with our Sovereign One. This gives me hope and has brought healing in the knowing that I am good enough because of who I am through the covering of Christ and not shame. I pray this type of healing for you as well.
Written by Lisa Rhodes-Strickler, BSW, MA