Shame, a painful emotion resulting from an awareness of inadequacy or guilt. There are many reasons why we should feel shame and why we do feel shame. There can be shame from a personal failure, regardless if you did your best, or not. There can be shame from going against you own personal morals: such as lying, cheating and stealing. Shame should be a personal experience based upon an inadequacy we feel with ourselves. The problem is that our society, our peers, our friends, and our family continue to pile it upon us with little concern for the effect it has on us.
Society impresses upon us to feel shame about many things. Not being successful enough, not having the right material goods, not looking handsome enough, not having enough intelligence, or being the right race/gender. We are taught, from an early age, to feel shame from not living up to the expectations of others. We are taught from advertisements to feel shame for not having a certain product or service. We are taught that we should feel as the majority feel about politics, news, and opinions. These lessons effect our psyche. It pushes us into feelings of guilt and inadequacy.
Shame haunts me in my thoughts, my emotions, and my actions. I do not always recognize the effects my shame has on me. It keeps me frozen. Frozen in the effects of my past abuse. Frozen from admitting the effects my pain has on those around me. Ultimately, my shame prevents me from forgiving myself. Time does not move on. Instead of drawing strength from accomplishments I achieve, my failures are focused upon. From the seeds of shame springs a mangled, stifling growth that twists my heart, losing the ability to feel the joy of life.
The shame from being in a violent and abusive situation is only the beginning of the deadly spiral that lead many to suicide. There is the trauma of the abuse that one experiences. Sadness and pain fill the core of your being. Desire for a normal life and despair at not having one encompass the heart. The feeling of worthlessness, the feelings of isolation, begin to permeate you.
All of us are born into a world that we see is ultimately good, as a child. Then the unspeakable happens:
It can be a belt being wielded by an angry mother who loses control.
It can be the loss of a parental figure at a key development point in your life.
It can be a flash of anger between two parents that ends in violence.
It can be someone who you are supposed to trust causing unspeakable trauma.
The memory of this trauma begins to build upon other experiences. Your memory hangs upon you like a massive weight, keeping you as the abused. The feelings associated with abuse never leave you. You end up always feeling the abuse continue. The fear and the pain stab at you. At school, in church, and at home.
You learn to despise all memory. This tactic leaks into other areas of life. Some begin to believe that if you cannot remember, you are preserving yourself. In reality, you are killing yourself. Without memory, you become locked in the pain. Losing your memory leaves you with feelings that have no explanation. Unrelated experiences will trigger feelings You may become angry or sad, but know not why. Without your memory, the words of your heart play like a movie dialogue without the scenes showing. Without memory you cannot replace the bad experiences with the good, and you cannot find purpose for your feelings. You may begin to seek similar abusive situations in order to give validity to the feelings you currently have from abuse that has occurred in the distant past.
You begin to hear words, in front of you or behind closed doors, from parents and from friends. You get consequences for things that you do, but do not understand why. You are taken to doctors, talk to therapists, but still this pervasive emptiness grows. Every doctor you see makes you feel more and more like an outcast, an oddity.
Unfortunately, parents of those who have a mental illness begin to show their frustration, by trying to fix something they do not even understand. Some resort to tactics that begin with empty compliments, trying to build up a problem they may view as a self-esteem issue. Some try to pamper their children, thinking that physical gifts will repair the shattered spirit. When these passive tactics fail, many resort to violence, to try to correct the behaviors exhibited.
From my experience, the use of spanking as a correction for behavior evolves into violence as a means of control. That tends to lead the parent to feel the need to control other aspects of their child's life unnecessarily. Until the unthinkable happens, the concerned parent becomes the abuser themselves. Suddenly, they feel that punishment is deserved for anything that the child does that does not meet with their approval.
Not eating food that is served, regardless of reason.
Not achieving grades that are deemed by the parent as satisfactory, though it passes in a school system.
Not wanting to do something when being told to, and assuming it is because of rebelliousness.
This leads into hindering the victim from developing their own personality, their own identity. It destroys the ability to grow past any trauma. Stunted personality growth forces dependence on others for the right to feel personal satisfaction that should happen with personal achievement. Your happiness becomes dependent on significant relationships, because you cannot appreciate yourself.
You begin to feel the pressures of society. You no longer have confidence in your own decision making ability. This leads to becoming a non-entity. Feelings you may have no longer count as valid in yours, or anyone else’s mind. Without a controlling factor in your life, you lose direction. You do not know what to feel, what to think, what action to take.
When in social settings, you may only follow the suggestion of others. When asked what do you want to do, you say you do not know. When you are alone, you find you do not know what to do with yourself. So, you retire and watch TV or play X-Box. You lose the initiative do go out and experience for yourself, by yourself.
This becomes a double edged curse, by not becoming for your “personal self,” it allows you to use others as the excuse for your personal choices that lead to failure. Suddenly, the shame you feel for yourself, you spread the same view on the world around you.
Many put on masks to try to feel accepted in society, to fill the emptiness that in some small way. To recapture the innocence and the normalcy that is taken away from you is folly, without knowing how to separate yourself from the people around you.