Trigger warning – this post about shame may be triggering for some to read, so please tread with caution.
I did a day long course on the topic of shame yesterday. It was intense, we were vulnerable with each other, the topic touched me and had me digging into responses, behaviour and experiences.
I’m still processing it. I’m still trying to work out what shame actually is and how it is different if at all from self hatred, self rejection and the fear that comes from that.
Triggers of shame
• Ridicule – being laughed at, teased, humiliated
• Comparison to others – being compared to others as less than
• Judgement – being judged by others, not living up to expectations
• Invalidation – being ignored or dismissed
• Inadequacy – sense of failure, feeling incompetent, not good enough
• Self-blame – taking on the blame and shame of others, self-hatred, self-contempt
• Negative thoughts – negative messages about self, negative self talk
• Vulnerability and dependency needs – invalidation of needs, contempt for having needs
• Abandonment and rejection – boing pushed away, excluded or isolated
• Exposure to shame – discovery of hidden shame, making shame conscious
We were asked to discuss in groups a recent experience of shame. For me it was coming into a group setting and not being happy with how I look, having a belief that I am old and ugly and might be judged negatively. ‘Looks’ in my family were very important and became wrapped up with my self esteem. If I thought I looked great I felt great and the opposite.
In groups on zoom I find myself putting the computer at a height I consider most flattering, and during meetings checking how I look often. How my hair is, how obvious my cheek jowls are, making sure I smile often as I believe I look better smiling. The cheek jowls aren’t so obvious. With one to one on zoom with clients I turn ‘self view’ off so that I’m not distracted by seeing myself. I feel a lot less self conscious and more freed up to focus on the client with self view off.
It has been a difficult journey of adjustment to getting older in the sense of looking older. I’m hoping in 5 or 10 years I will be beyond caring about it. Most of the time I look in the mirror and think that I look just great for my age and I feel grateful. And I don’t walk about around people or with friends thinking about how I look at all. It’s when I’m on zoom or video calls on the phone I feel very uncomfortable and self conscious in a self critical way. I think and consider a facelift at times.
It’s interesting to observe how strong these beliefs are from childhood and for me how much of my identity being attractive is. Even with all the wisdom I have come to be acquainted with this still lingers.
On the course, getting older was just one in a long list of occasions that people feel shame around. here are some more
• Aging(e.g.lossofphysicalandmentalprowess,lossofidentity,retirement, menopause)
•Abuse(e.g.physical,emotional,sexualanddomesticabuse,reactiveviolence,rape, bullying, enslavement)
I can be a little bit status conscious at times, playing the middle class card to belong or feel accepted in some company, or feeling self conscious if I can’t. Not a big one that.
I have a bit about partner choice too. I feel shame that it’s so obvious now looking back that I chose such awful male partners. And what that might mean about me? I have no idea actually what it means. But others have commented that it’s been one lame duck bad choice after another.
Nearly every boyfriend was or is dysfunctional, maladjusted, abusive…2 are now dead from substance abuse, one is currently suicidal, one is disabled from smoking. Another has settled down with a partner, has a job and has anxiety and depression. One is doing fine in terms of success, not sure inside other than he is highly anxious and status and money fixated. One is pretty much a psychopath and the last one has borderline personality disorder and even a friendship was unsustainable due to his volatile angry outbursts.
What a sorry bunch. What a drama filled story this has all been.
And I’ve been single for 10 years now and it has been beautifully peaceful and stable in comparison. Yes it’s lonely at times, a small price to pay for stability and joy that I have discovered, I have learned to love myself, and now look back in horror at what I tolerated when my self worth was lower.
So how I look, partner choice, are the two big ones. Sounds quite superficial when I write that down.
It is something that was done to us by another originally, whose view of us really really mattered. We internalised as children poor treatment of parents and concluded we were not lovable enough and carried that.
Today I have a client shortly. And there will be a walk in nature of course, and I have a loose plan to see P. Will be processing this shame stuff for a while and doing my own research into what it actually is.