Worth (part 3)

Shame, shame, go away,

come back another day.

Shame doesn’t work like that.  Oh, how I wish it did some days (ok, all the time).  I didn’t know what shame was until two years ago.  I had no knowledge about it, yet, I spent my life developing an intricate system around denying it.  The body is a remarkable machine, we can suppress an emotion the split second before we feel the physical sensation come on.  And shame comes with a full body experience.

My chest gets tight in order to close off oxygen to my body.  It freezes it, no motion is allowed for a second and no thoughts run through my head.  It happens quickly, maybe less than 30 seconds.  It feels like I’ve temporally lost control and I have to remember to ‘choose’ to breathe again.

When I eventually exhale, I never seem to bounce back from it before the minute is over.  My body is still trying to catch up with my breathing.  When it eventually does, it feels like time has slowed and my thoughts gently reenter the space between my ears.  They are trying to catch up too.

I didn’t understand how much of my body is required to let myself feel an emotion, it was something I learned when beginning this chapter.  I spent the following year working on my shame triggers (vulnerabilities) using Brené Brown¹ exercises.  Within a few months, I put together a list of shame triggers and spend the rest of the year adding to it and completing the hardest aspect of her exercise – identifying its origin.  Digging meant unwrapping memories that were neatly tucked away.  Visiting painful memories was torture.

The least surprising part of this was seeing that many were influenced by my parents, cultural/societal upbringing, childhood friends – many of my triggers had to do with early childhood memories.  The most surprising were the ones added in adulthood – my MiL influenced a few.  Brown focused on the fact that we must find the origin of the trigger, otherwise, we will not gain any knowledge or understanding of our true self.

One ‘positive’ aspect of going through this was the ability to discern someone purposefully shaming me vs someone hitting a shame trigger unintentionally.  Because I had now seen, read, re-read, and stared at my list, I knew certain subjects were going to be tough to handle, which with some awareness allowed me to hear the words being used rather than only ‘hear’ my shame (influencing my blaming behaviors).

Around the time my list was somewhat complete, I had dinner with friends and we began talking about psychology as one of the friends is interested in the subject as well.  I explained Brown’s shame trigger exercise.  She then asked if I could give her an example.  I told her a few of my shame triggers and briefly the origin and she said after hearing me: Wow, those shame triggers are ones that you deal with when you first meet someone, those subjects come up usually in a first interaction.

Her comment floored me and I am so grateful for it.  I hadn’t looked at my shame triggers like that.  How they factor into social interactions and how I face shame a majority of the time when I first meet someone.  It changed how I viewed my vulnerabilities.  And maybe why I am drained from social interactions especially when it involves meeting new people.

After this discussion, I spent quite a bit of time focusing on what happens when I first meet someone.  It was so weird to ‘tally’ how many new people I actually met over the course of one year and I’m an introvert!  From new students/professors at language class to social groups to new friends of old friends, the number was enough to see a pattern.

I felt shame, in different degrees, in almost every single situation where I met someone for the first time.  I can imagine that that emotion could be read across my face and communicated subconsciously to the other person.  Thus, helping narcissists hone in on me as a potential target.  It is exactly like PWC (@Polly Want a Narcissist?) said:

“Do I gravitate towards them? Yes, it’s as simple as that. I could walk across a crowded room and collect three Narcissists on my way, I’m that good at finding the N in the room.”

I finally get why!

2013: The Year of Shame

A closing to my “Year of Shame” (as DH likes to label 2013) included what I now consider (hindsight) a ‘pop quiz’ to the work I had done prior.  During our FOO visit in December (2013), we met up with an old group of friends where one of them had a new fiancée whom I had never met.

When we shook hands, she said to me, “I’ve heard a lot about you.” and that would begin the long evening ahead and my battle with shame.

She managed to touch on every single shame trigger that could come up in a first encounter and then some.  What initially seemed unintentional became intentional when ‘weird’ questions were directed towards me to dig for more information – not to get to know me but more like an interrogation.  It felt like I was being suckered punched and the only thing saving me was the fact I decided I wasn’t going to drink alcohol that night.  As her words gravely affected me, I remembered that I don’t have to stand here and take ‘getting to know me’ as chiseling away at my self-worth.  I left and went to the bathroom several times (albeit hardly drinking my coffee).

It was in the sanctity of a bar restroom that I was able to lock myself in a stall and let myself feel shame, allow myself time to regroup.  It was my escape for a few minutes from a woman who seemed to know how to touch my shame triggers exactly like my mother.  She was smooth.

It is situations like these that I fear (anxiety).  It is someone taking an ‘innocent’ question and going too far in the guise of ‘small talk’ or ‘friendliness’.  Sending me into a spiral of self-loathing.  It is why I talk myself out of social situations.  I can see the shame coming from a mile away.  And I still run in the other direction.

After what felt like a long night, I walked back to the car in my fabulous shoes understanding a lot more about myself – not all great but more conscious of it, more aware and alive.  The cold, winter night air hit my face, awakening me in a way, reminding me that I was still holding on to the one important thing – my self-worth.

Something I need to remember as I continue facing shame:

“Every time you meet a situation, though you think at the time it is an impossibility and you go through the tortures of the damned, once you have met it and lived through it, you find that forever after you are freer than you were before.” ~Eleanor Roosevelt

Further Reading about Shame

Caliban’s Sisters: Shame and the Decisions We Make

Related posts @IBC: Worth (part 1); Worth (part 2)

Footnotes

¹Brown, Brené, Ph.D., L.M.S.W. (2007). I Thought it Was Just Me (but it isn’t). New York: Gotham Books.

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25 thoughts on “Worth (part 3)

  1. I never looked at it that way before. Yes, it explains so much about my anxiety with meeting new people. They don’t even have to say anything for me to feel ashamed. It starts with my weight and the scars on my face, and we haven’t even said “hello” yet. An excellent example of the sensation I’ve always had of having “abuse me” tattooed on my forehead. Good for you for hanging onto your self-worth. Brava! ((TR))

    Liked by 1 person

    • That is it exactly, it is even before I say ‘hello’ that I feel the triggers come on. Thank you, it was one of the few positives from the holiday FOO visit. ((Judy))

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  2. Same here. I didn’t know what shame was until I read your earlier posts about it. It has been such a revelation: that something I was being aware of was so triggering and was having such impact on my life. And for this, I’m forever grateful to you 🙂

    Man, your encounter with that woman was no picnic. You did amazing to be able to keep yourself grounded like you did. And yes, similar to your end quote: “what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger”. No kidding, right?

    Onwards and upwards…

    xxoo

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    • This woman was a challenge. She was also the bride in the wedding we went to in July. Luckily, being the bride, she didn’t have time to mingle with us but for only a minute 😉

      You’re welcome, I’m glad it helped. xx

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      • The thing is, that once you work out that they are “closet” jellyfish 😉 you are prepared for the next time, and can protect yourself from their “darts”. I had an experience with a “jellyfish” that caused a shame trigger of epic proportions. It was only when I read your posts on it (and you told me about “jellyfish”) that I was able to put two and two together. She was also at the wedding that we attended to recently, but like yourself, I only spoke to her for a minute.
        I’ll write a post about my previous experience with her soon. I’d like to compare notes on their patterns. xx

        Liked by 1 person

        • You bring up a good point, knowing that allows one to recognize the unhealthiness sooner, way before it gets to deep of a friendship and we can better protect ourselves. Looking forward to the post, this bride is also a jellyfish.

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  3. I feel a lot of shame around meeting new people who I try to strike up conversations with, but are brusque in their responses and basically ignore me. It could be that they are uncomfortable in meeting new people, but I always feel like it’s me being boring and not worthy of conversing with. If I have to be around a person like that more than once and I’ve examined my part in what might be a problem, I often find myself raging at some point, seemingly out of nowhere because I’ve stuffed my feelings down for the sake of being pleasant until… well, it explodes.

    Sometimes the introvert in me just doesn’t want to bother with all the analysis and negative feelings.

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    • I’ve had that happen too and noticed it more recently. There could be many reasons, like uncomfortability and shyness, – another possibility is their exaggerated need for attention might not be met in the conversation. Some, as we know, find it hard when the attention isn’t always on them which might lead to them being brusque.

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  4. Hi TR, this post is amazing. I didn’t realize that triggers were flipped within the first few minutes (possibly seconds even, with micro-expressions), but it makes SO much sense to me. “Closet” jellyfish, what a wonderful phrase, K. The whole idea of “jellyfish” is so helpful, because they seem to float by innocuously but tentacles are always out there. Connecting what you write about the friend’s fiancee (and now wife) with my experience at reunion last month. I felt triggered by place itself; but walking in and seeing these old classmates felt like a full-body trigger. Why would I feel shame? I didn’t think that was what I was feeling, I thought it was just deep aversion due to having been so unhappy at that time. Like you, I couldn’t drink any alcohol at the event. Just knew I couldn’t do it. Your post makes me wonder if what I was feeling wasn’t really shame–the shame I felt all the time back in high school– the blanket shame of being an unloved child. I think the lack of love at home left me feeling completely naked to classmates’ judgements back then. In fact, writing this now, I know it did. And many of them would tease me, like people do in high school, about weight, clothes, whatever. Garden variety stuff, but I was excessively vulnerable to it because I had ZERO self-esteem. NONE. My parents gave me nothing that would lay self-esteem in. They actually worked to erode it when I began to stand up to them in my teens. I went through my twenties and if I’m honest, my thirties, with no self-esteem either. I was achieving, but that’s not where self-esteem comes from. So being back around some of these people at the reunion threw me back into the naked self who had no ability to keep out contempt of ANY kind. I was a walking sponge for any contempt aimed at me, and people can sense that. Now I can feel and identify it immediately in people’s gazes or expressions, before they even speak. A “skeptical” look in their eyes. That used to be the biggest shame trigger for me, because my parents dismissed everything I ever said (that wasn’t “supply” to them, or that made me seem smarter than they). ET’s squinting look at me, the disdain. So being “interrogated,” as you were, would hit a similar button, that feels like: “Justify your existence for me, convince me you are worth standing here.” And that triggers shame, which for me will always be feeling somehow, metaphorically, like I have to ‘get dressed’ all over again to prove I’m acceptable.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, CS.
      What you describe with what happened at the reunion is very similar to when I go back to places where I was ‘miserable’ or I behaved narcissistically. It could be blanket shame like you said – as the mind differentiates between reviewing a past emotion and experiencing a current emotion. It felt like a lot for me as there were so many simultaneous memories at once, like you dealing with schoolmates and what happened at home. Those parallel memories and the ability to see it all for what it is – all aspects of it coming at you at once, that is a lot to process and I can so relate to having a full body trigger from that event.

      When I wrote post “Fatal Attraction” Kara lead me to the Skynner/Cleese book where they briefly mention how we attract the same people from out FOO through facial expressions and then her introduction of Paul Ekman, I read his book “Emotions Revealed” where I was able to understand more about it. He doesn’t cover ‘shame’ however, after identifying some of my non-verbals and observing my FOO and in-laws the past year I began to notice my ‘shame’ facial expression. My eyes drop and my head even, it was weird to begin to notice my own bodily responses when speaking to someone (I had almost a resignation to my stature). After my friend’s comment in the above post, I observed when I met someone new and indeed, my shame was expressed subtly and like Judy said, even before the ‘hello’. xx

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      • Wow, that’s amazing. To be able to ‘see’ your own ‘shame posture.’ I’m going to think about what I broadcast when I first see strangers. One thing that impacts it is if or when one is meeting people for the first time alone (w/o a spouse or partner or friend). That happens to me a lot. I think I may adopt a defensive posture, perhaps overconfident or haughty. I’ll have to watch that.

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  5. Oh Jeez! LOL! TR? You are a brave soul…and what you write here is so instructive. It seems shame is something that is so deep, so pervasive, so constant, that few of us get to walk around without this invisible cloud called shame hanging over our heads.

    It can come in many ways I am finding. I wrote about this incident yesterday to you this morning, and it seems that the anxiety I am feeling then and now has it’s roots in some ‘shame’. And in discussing it with my husband and another person, this man is a monster.

    I hadn’t seen Jim for 40 years. He found me on facebook, and we made plans for lunch. Good enough, but I didn’t realize that the dog of a man of 40 years ago hadn’t changed one bit. I was there to talk about what we were doing NOW…and he was there to talk about his sexual peccadillos. He even flashed me a phone pix of his naked wife. I was so shamed that he would do this to a virtual stranger (we hadn’t had any contact in 40 years at least) and I felt demeaned…beyond a couple of other things. we were in a restaurant and I didn’t know whether I should pour my iced tea over his head and stalk out….or what to do, but I felt shame by his behavior. And why? These things were totally unwelcome by me. They were not solicited by me at all. The fucker was married (three times) and here he was assuming that I would be welcome to his ‘advances’? My dear husband said that he was trying to seduce me….and I had done nothing wrong except not remembering that he was a dog 40 years ago, and probably would remain a dog. this man is nothing but a predator, a narcissist and a wanker. I got two emails from him this morning….no apologies for his behavior, just that “I clearly didn’t have a good opinion of him”. You can say that in spades, and I told him that he was still a dog. period. And not to contact me again.

    So….I had done nothing to attract his vulgar attention, yet I felt shame for some reason. It’s because we, as women….are trained to feel shame when we attract such men. We are horrified by their behavior, but we don’t act on it immediately, because of many things. I should have walked out of that restaurant and not cared what other patrons thought. They were nothing but strangers. But women don’t do this: we internalize the shame producing events and take them literally to heart. This dog didn’t apologize to me, even when he sent me a short writing of his that turned out to be total porn. I was sickened and disgusted by Jim, but I still blamed myself for some damn reason.

    And today I have to work through this crap. I feel violated. This man bypassed the fact that I am a writer and poet and to the outside world, that is only what I am. He dared to try to interest me in his sexual behavior right from the time we sat down. I was working in a fog because I couldn’t believe that this man would open a discussion, a lunch , with this behavior.

    I had just given him my fourth book, Pitcher of Moon, and I thought he would at least be interested. He wasn’t. He had an agenda already in place, and it was demeaning on purpose.

    We adopt shame so easily and it’s because we live in guilt and doubt about ourselves. And we shouldn’t. It’s predators like Jim who demean our lives because theirs are full of self-centered and wanky behavior.

    Jane

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    • Hi Jane,
      Ugh, that man was being vulgar, disgusting and crossed a lot of boundaries. Good for you for saying goodbye!

      You bring up a good point about shame: “But women don’t do this: we internalize the shame producing events and take them literally to heart. ” Indeed, I think in a lot of cultures women are taught to do this. This was something I found to be true when I looked into my triggers, so much stuff exists in societal/cultural influences about there is something wrong with the woman for ‘letting’ something happen to them. Argggh – I get so angry at this. CZ’s recent post about misogyny and how a lot of blame is placed on women touches on this very concept. It took me a long time to understand these influences and how they impact me in a ‘micro’ scale – like the interaction you had with this man. Thank you for sharing this story, I can imagine how awful it must of felt. Would make me want to take a shower. TR

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      • Shower? I wanted to slit my wrists! Nah…..But the issue is boundaries, and I didn’t set them immediately. It was loud in that restaurant, and Jim is pretty deaf (with hearing aids…) but I should have dumped that iced tea over his head and marched out.

        Boundaries….why do they fly out of your head in the immediate situation? Because we as women…..don’t value our own boundaries. And we have been inculcated NOT to make a scene. Phooey on that!

        And…..the real downside was this: I am diabetic as you know….and I read my blood glucose Tuesday morning and it was 503. I could have been comatose with those numbers, which by the way, I have never even gotten to 300 at the worst of days.

        So….these entitled bastards aren’t worth our energy, time or our precious lives.

        The high reading was because of stress and rage. Now….had I punched him a good one in the mouth, I bet my glucose readings would have been delightfully normal! LOL!

        But I think we wear undeserved shame like a hat. And misogyny is behind it all.

        Hugs, Jane….feeling much better today.

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        • Wow, that is high! I am glad you are okay! There are so many ways in which all of this is linked to our body. I’m really glad nothing happened. Hugs.

          I get this: “why do they fly out of your head in the immediate situation?” The make a scene – indeed – act like every thing is okay and great and perfect when it is NOT. Ugh. xx

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          • “Hand me wellies”…LOL! I had to think what that meant. LOL!

            Shame: it’s a cloud that hangs around us, sometimes invisible, sometimes it blinds us. And IF only we could immediately apply boundaries, regardless the ‘surprise’ that some people have when you do so….they act like “well, this is unexpected”….but we don’t.

            I am going to seriously think about boundaries. I’ve written about them but damn….applying them means that you have to trample on the expectations of certain people…and perhaps these people are the very people that deserve STRONG boundaries against.

            It might be a factor of self-punishment, but today I am sitting down and starting (again) to read Simone de Beauvoir’s “The Second Sex”. She begins by attempting to define herself: and the first thing she comes up with: Well, I am a woman. And this proves to be a very deep well of undefined and unknown territory.

            Our lives are precious and valuable. Shame diminishes our self-worth.

            xxJane

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  6. Dear TR,

    I was swept into your series of posts about shame and self-worth and read all three, one right after the other. I love what you wrote: “I am enough. Right here, right now. I am worthy.” The psychologist told me to repeat a similar affirmation: “I am a wonderful woman of worth”. I taped this phrase to my mirror and forced myself—yes, FORCED myself to read it every morning. At first, it made me sick, almost nauseous. I mocked the doctor who prescribed the practice. “She’s an idiot!” I would think—demeaning the doctor to avoid facing the truth about how I felt about myself: zero, worthless, disposable. How shameful to think that about myself! At this point, I can shout “I am a WoNderful woman of worth!” without batting an eyelash or puking. I did not realize the extent of the damage inflicted on me by my FOO and my culture until facing the utter humiliation and objectification of a spouse’s rejection.

    The shame I experienced when my husband left was far deeper and more destructive than losing a rat bazturd to another woman. This degree of shame went to the core of my being and that is why it was immobilizing. Shame about my worth as a woman was based in childhood and whether I misinterpreted the teachings of my culture OR understood them all too clearly, who can say. Now that my self-worth is not under daily attack, I’ve learned healthy-enough boundaries to protect myself. Even so, I believe shame will haunt me from time-to-time…catch me by surprise.

    As you wrote in your WoNderful series on self-worth, we must go back to the original source in order to heal our shame. In service of our self-worth, perhaps we can view “triggers” as a means for understanding and healing ourselves. A means for “going back to the original source.” I have respect for the power shame has to limit and even destroy people’s lives. I am inspired by your willingness to claim and tame shame’s power over you. Bravo and “bon courage” to each of us whose worth was denied by parents, family, cultural prejudices, and ignorance. They lied. We are enough; we are worthy; we are WoNderful.

    Love
    CZ

    I think you are very insightful and kind person in recognizing how your unhealed shame affects others whether withdrawing from them, projecting your pain onto them, etc. That is not easy for anyone to do and it requires a certain humility to even admit we aren’t perfect (or justified).

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    • Hi CZ,
      Thank you so much for your kind words.

      I struggle with the “I am enough” often and imagine will continue to – I did read from Brown this is ‘normal’ – improving the bounce back period is what is crucial. My natural default is to withdraw to the point where it affects my life and then pick an argument with who is available – DH.

      I like the daily reminder on the mirror – maybe next to my computer screen where I have other reminders would be helpful. This is so hard for me to get back when I have done something awful, behaved narcissistically. My stomach aches – to remind myself of this when I have behaved in a manner, well, from the very thing I’m trying not to be like.

      There is so much of this ‘shame transfer’, a need to place blame in our society. Marriages ending, like you mention, often become the wife’s fault. How quickly one forgets a relationship involves more than one person. Your post on this as well as reading Harriet Lerner talk about this really tie some of those cultural pieces together for me. Other women shame other women, I am beginning to observe. The woman I speak of in the above post hit many on being a ‘proper Indian American woman’ – yeah, does that even exist?

      Perfectionism, yup – I really thought I could deflect criticism from my mother if I was more perfect. (I’m kind of half-chuckling at this as I write.) I exhausted myself and others in the process obtaining goals that well, are NOT obtainable. It still pains me to look at my long list in my notebook, it is a list with a lot of sweat and tears – a lot more sweat to actually get myself to write it down.

      I am so grateful for my friends here in the blogosphere, my friend who I went to dinner that pointed my social shame triggers – I get through the ‘swampland of shame’ because of your words and your ability to hand me wellies to get out of it.

      Love, TR

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  7. Hi TR, CZ, Lady N, Kara,
    One thing that strikes me through this comment thread is how weird it is that a symptom of being an ACoN is that other people’s awful shameful behavior triggers shame in us (instead of them, where it belongs). This is a key aspect of being brought up to receive projections, no? Lady N, that guy was beyond disgusting, I too would’ve felt shame at being shown a pic of his naked wife. But not for long. Bounce back time is ever so much faster than a few years ago. “Swampland of shame”–lol! we’ve been slogging through it forever, it seems. It’s like we were turned into mediums for all the unwanted feelings that others had (or should have had) would flow through us instead of them. I remember SO many times being at restaurants with my NFOO, and feeling embarrassed by my father’s treatment of waiters. Finally, one time, I got up after his NW Zsa Zsa had berated a waiter for something, left, took a taxi. They were all furious at me, the entire FOO, for embarrassing my father. UGH UGH. UGH.

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    • Oh…that is so rich! The taxi.
      Yes, it seems that we are (or were) magnets for the shame that others SHOULD have felt. There is something about our sensitivity in being ACONs. Something that should be a good, compassionate ability is turned on its face.

      Yes, Jim was beyond disgusting. I am still angry and (my blood sugar was 503 right after this incident! I could have ended up in a hospital!) trying to deal with this disgusting stuff. I won’t have to deal with him again, because I think I made myself clear to him how miserable a piece of humanity he is…..but the bastard has a history stretching back 44 years.
      The night before I was married (the first time…) he threw me up against a wall and tried to molest me. I kneed him and got away. But his wife was 8 months pregnant and my only bridesmaid. And I have lived with this for 44 years. I did discuss this proposed lunch with Jim with Fred…and he asked me IF I could forgive him after all these years. I said only if he had changed: apparently he hadn’t one f___king bit.
      Well, Peggy is coming for lunch Wednesday, and I am determined that I will never tell her what happened all those years ago: she is a wonderful friend, divorced from Jim for many years, and she was shocked by what I told her already about this ‘lunch’ last Monday. He really has two faces here.

      And the psychological fallout I have had to discuss (just beginning to..) with Liz the therapist. I have not had a great way of dealing with men who do these things…and it’s happened before. For a few decades, I put on the pounds because it was the only way I could avoid the unwanted attention of men. I think this is pretty common for many women. Then, I decided that my life, my beauty, my abilities shouldn’t be ‘covered with a bucket.’ That Jim thought he could come back and ‘try it again’….with out considering that I was married….HE was married…well…I believe that some men are just sociopaths….no conscience here at all….and we adopt the shame that THEY DON’T FEEL. His last words (email) to me was “Apparently you don’t have a good opinion of me.” ‘

      Oh, you stupid bastard. You will NEVER understand what you have done or what you are. 44 years is too long for me to carry the shame of what he did.

      And shame is what we have learned at our mother’s knee (or fathers, etc.) We carry a burden that is not ours.

      Jane

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      • Hi Guys,

        Great point about shame transfer – ‘bad’ emotions have to go somewhere and who better than to choose a child to transfer it to. What is amazing is how it is really socially acceptable to do so. When it comes to sexual assault and educating ourselves as women about it, the responsibility is shifted towards the woman – she is the reason, how she dresses, how she looks. I think over at CZ’s blog we spoke of this. The problem and the shame is with us – reminded through sexual assault education.

        After learning more about it, I am beginning to see subtle shame transfer happen in ‘everyday’ conversation. DH and his friend Lou were talking of their careers. Lou is in a job he dislikes and he has hoped around from company to company. His first job from university was with the same company as DH. He got laid off and this was 15 years ago (so long that I had forgotten that they worked at the same company once). He transferred his shame about that to DH – subtly ridiculing him for being with the same company since university, etc.

        Not to mention the excessive ‘apologizing’ that happens in the US culture. That is a way to not deal with shame of something. Because the person will usually respond to an “I’m sorry” with “That’s ok”. I started to notice this in myself and with store associates, friends of origin.

        Hahaha – yes ‘swampland of shame’ – Jung referred to shame as a swampland. It helped me understand how it feels to go through it. Indeed, it is a slog! xx

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  8. I came back to this thread early this morning, because of it’s presence in my life…..but also because of a dream. My mother, as some know here, is 94. She is a supreme pathological narcissist. And shame was the cudgel (one of them) she used all my life. Even projecting things that happened with other people onto me! I was a dumping ground for her abuse, and I NEVER could strike back. I was immobilized. Until I went NC and meant it 4 years ago….I never could avoid this undeserved abuse. Problem is…..I think it is human nature to stand up on our hind feet and hit back with what is the truth of the matter…and when we don’t (for so many reasons…cultural, age, etc…) we carry a big ball of shame for NOT ‘putting right’ to the abuser. We hate ourselves for our ‘weakness’.

    I think that the issue is indeed boundaries. We were not able (or actually in my case, forbidden to set boundaries to our mothers…) to set boundaries early….and we just didn’t understand the necessity of them. Sure, we could tell dangerous situations instinctively, especially sexual ones….and usually (hopefully) set and defended boundaries….but when it comes to family? Very hard to do. Still. I think still of the times when I was insulted by a sales clerk (I went to pay for a short skirt…and the clerk put it up to her waist and said: “Who are you buying it for? Not you, certainly”….) and I should have called her supervisor and made a complaint immediately for her insulting actions. She overstepped boundaries…a number of them. I think of former friends….especially men…..who overstepped boundaries and then turned on me and blamed ME for their actions when their wives found out. (Ok, only one in particular….my first boyfriend in hs….and this bastard was a very powerful person in publishing. Our emails were innocent (on my side) but he left his email open for his wife to see….and admitted it to me and then blamed me for the disruption, saying ‘don’t mention me in your blog posts, etc.’ The man….who is nothing but a spoiled boy at 63…..had 15 affairs in a few years….and he was blaming me??? for what HE did?

    People shift blame because they can’t look at what they do and claim it. And we, because we are women (and ACONs) are so trained in accepting blame and producing shame, it’s like we are dumping grounds for the behavior of others. Jesus! That dream…which I can’t remember right now…but it woke me up with a tight band of shame across my chest…and the usual anger at my ‘mother’….well, I need to really think further about boundaries…and write something! And name names! LOL! THAT is what these shame makers fear the most…exposure. But I think we suffer in silence for most of our lives….and we pay the price.

    All of us here are competent women…talented, worthy woman with much to give to society and culture in general. What I have noticed it is the slackers…the people driven either by narcissistic behavior or some other pathology (and I have come to believe that the seat of all pathologies starts with narcissism…) who constantly cross or ignore boundaries. Next time this happens…I am going to not remain silent. I am going to openly sum up the obvious issues of this person in front of them….talk about crossing boundaries! I’m about to do some damage of my own!

    xxJane

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    • Hi Jane,
      That is unbelievably true, we were the dumping grounds for their shame. We were extensions of them and all the ‘bad’ stuff were put on scapegoats. That was the nature of the relationship – their self-worth exaggerated to unique and ours non-existent.

      I feel the same way, shame about not saying things to her, standing up for myself. I think that although some may feel shame for that, we have to be compassionate with ourselves on that one. We continue to hold onto shame even in that way. There are so many things that I wish I said to her and I think that in a way that is how they really scar us. Those emotions that go unresolved. I think there will be stuff that will remain unresolved and knowing what we know now we can make small steps in dealing with the people we interact today.

      You link boundaries and shame and that is what I found in this journey to be true. I would shy away from posts about boundaries early in this recovery because I really didn’t think I was worth it to do so. I have had store clerks like the one you mention say things that are inappropriate and somehow I considered what they said!

      Like you said, everyone is worth it. No one is more so than anyone else. And those boundaries are our rights. Boundaries goes beyond the physical. Once we see it happening in the smallest of phrases we gain a different perspective of what is really happening.

      People who continuously over step boundaries probably due so because no one has told them that what they said is inappropriate. My FiL steps on so many boundaries, in fact, 90% of what he says is a boundary violation. And DH and I would get silent when it happens, we would be speechless and change subject. And now that I see a pattern in his ‘speak’ I hope to get the courage to face it. Because I really don’t believe that in his life many people have told him what he is saying is inappropriate.

      I am with you in the challenge to set boundaries. Not easy when we haven’t been taught them healthily. Here’s to our self-worth. We are worth it! xxTR

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      • “Boundaries are our rights”….boy, that says it all to me! I love that..wish I could tattoo that on my forehead! LOL!

        Oh, dear TR…it is a life time struggle for all of us ACONs I believe. I think that we ‘grow up’ when we start to find out the answers around personality disorders…but we struggle so damn hard because the wounding is so constant and deep. Some will say, ‘relax…you are acting paranoid’…but they don’t know what we have experienced, and how much it hurts….they are more ‘normal’…with perhaps loving parents, spouses, etc…..though, I also think that they are bewildered when they find themselves with a personality that makes them uncomfortable.

        And I agree! No one would DARE tell my 94 year old mother that she is full of shit, but those people who should have said something have just melted away. No one wants to be near such a person when they finally figure out what they are about…that’s if they are not opportunists. Those that stay around usually have something to gain….or great expectations. And that is the situation with my brothers: they want her money and antiques. But they have been supply slaves all their lives. I was for a long time, because thought that was the way to ‘gain her love’….but being the scapegoat takes more than flesh from you: it kills you if you don’t resolve the horrible situation in some way. For me, it was not confrontation, because I realized that she is basically mentally ill….and I got tired of people telling me ‘how much your mother is proud of you’….but to my face telling me that I was just shit. You have to live in the truth of what a person is….not what they say to others. And she would only say nice things to cover her violent little ass.

        Yeah, shame is the ‘gift’ that keeps giving! LOL! I was once again, shaken awake by this fool Jim: I knew boundaries necessary, but only applied them after the fact. And I am struggling with why now. But I am determined to not let that happen again….when it’s clear that my boundaries are being violated.

        Jim tried to convince me that ‘porn is unfortunately necessary in this life, and for married people especially, and I knew this” but what he refused to acknowledge is that not Everyone embraces porn. The man was determined to ‘convince’ me of something that was just an interest of his….and didn’t care about any boundaries that I had. The very worse and demeaning man I ever knew and was involved with because he was a writer ….was a big fan of porn, and he was a sexual sadist. I’m not at all saying that porn leads to sexual sadism, but in some cases, it supports it. Affirms it. Now, this blog isn’t a place for a discussion of this, but this is my experience, and it was a very dangerous situation that I found myself in. Every boundary I set was crossed with this bastard until I felt like a piece of dirt. Though he never got what he wanted and that was the only saving grace. It was all humiliation for him, and that is what he wanted to do to me. when I realized what he was, it was a lot easier to remove myself from his ‘disease’. And most of us soon realize that we are worth it…and these people who do these things are just…corrupted. Totally. I believe my mother is totally corrupted….and there is no changing that sort of person. we all know people like that.

        Had Jim realized just how many triggers I had in me, he would have stepped back fast. I am so sick and tired of men who attempt to do these things to women I could scream….or seriously hurt them. Physically.

        Yeah, I did the same: shied away from discussions, posts about boundaries…..I couldn’t relate. And the problem was me: I felt worthless and was living out my worthlessness. And this was so wrong. but we are ‘taught’ to feel this way…demeaned…and we know where it starts. In the cradle for many of us here.

        What I wanted to finally say Is this: We come through a horrible life of abuse, even if we don’t realize what it has done to us: we will. Given time and attention we will feel the fullness of the abuse. The problem for me is this: we need to go beyond that reality and claim something good and positive for our lives. I started with painting, but it branches out…there are so many things we can do to rebuild our self-confidence. And it’s endless. The possibilities there are just waiting to open. But we can’t get caught at any particular stage. I did for a little while where I planned my suicide. Now?? I have to laugh at myself: I was so much more worthy than the bastard I would allow to take my precious life. (the sadist from Montreal) I am glad that I came to my senses, but it was serious for a bit.

        And therapists are a problem at times. People here have read that my first therapist seduced me and his wife seduced my first husband. he was nothing but a cheap narcissist and I did sue him for his actions. Only after I won did a number of women come forth because they had been abused in the same way as I was. But even this victory was turned to ‘shame’ by my stinky mother. She said I was at fault because I could have said no. She…who has never been in therapy (narcissists are perfect in their eyes) don’t know what happens. So…we learn, and we are faced with a lot of stuff.

        But life is good when we allow it. And that allowing it means we form and hold close to our boundaries.

        Love, Jane

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