I hope you enjoyed this series on shame … or at least, it made you think. Questions and comments always welcome. You know where to find me.
Nope. Not me. I’m in for the rainbows, puppy dogs and sunshine. Make me happy and we are all good. Keep me out of the shit – yours, mine and ours – and I am on board. Don’t think about threatening my world with more for I am secure under the auspice of my protection. So, just half-of-you, please. That is all I need to feel some connection, to know that I am not alone, and yet I can be spared waters too deep and too treacherous.
Yep. Yessiree. I am in. Just keep your baggage and don’t make me work. Sign me up. All the way. Just half-of-you, please. That is all I can tolerate.
Shame is the legacy of family generations. Like a hot potato, we pass it down from the most powerful to the least. In blatant terms, shit flows downhill. We cast off what we cannot tolerate in us and ask those with less protection to carry it, to be the one who suffers. Children pick up that unwanted feeling and internalize it. They come to believe that they are the warped, defected ones in lieu of protecting parents upon whom they depend. It’s a bad deal … and yet, the only one we got. Like a fast spreading cancer, shame begets shame and shame-filled parents raise shame-based kids. They cannot do otherwise. That is all they know about themselves and it is from this core, that they create the internal world of self-reproach in their offspring.
Shame differs from guilt. Guilt focuses on behavior – I should or should not have done something. I shouldn’t have eaten the box of cookies. I should have gone to see my Grandmother before she died. I should not have cheated on my income taxes. Guilt surrounds an action – it is about a behavior, a thought, a feeling – something I did or did not do. In that sense, it is situation specific. A moment.
Shame, on the other hand, is a feeling that surrounds the “I.” It is a deeper, longer-lasting feeling that is about who I am as a person, as opposed to an action I did or did not do. It is a feeling that describes my relationship with myself and dictates how I act in relationship with others and in my life. I go out into the world in a one-down position, as if others are more important and acceptable than lowly me. I am the imperfect item in the markdown pile … inferior to all the perceived bright and shiny ones. I am living in humiliation and mortification – far from the value I perceive others to possess.
Grandiosity Healthy Shame Embarrassment Toxic Shame Attack Shame-Based
Thus, shame can rear its ugly head in many forms. We can have a shame-attack whether it is triggered externally or internally. Something can happen in our life which causes our head to drop, our heart’s spirit to deflate and our sense of rightness with the world to be dislodged from center. Fortunately, this is most often a temporary state which we can get better at catching and correcting with practice.
Until then … go easy, my friend. And remember, we are all in this together.
Ok. I admit it. I either am – or on the brink of being – an Ebay addict. Whenever I can find something for cheap, my juices start flowing. I somehow have “beat” the odds and found a deal – or so I think.
And then there was the case of the dresser. They warned me that one of the drawers needed fixin’. But they praised its charm – “chic and shabby” was the description. Sounded perfect – just my style. And only $20.00! How can I go wrong? But then they said you had to pick it up. Hmm … last I looked, Memphis, Tennessee was quite a drive from Washington, D.C. Could they ship it? Of course! But that would be another $150.00. My cognitive wheels started to quickly justify – that only makes it a total of $170.00, right? That’s still a good deal – even if one out of three drawers is dysfunctional. Greyhound was the best way to go, said the Seller. Ok. Never heard of that, but why not? Oh, but then I have to rent a truck to go to the bus station to fetch it. Chink, chink. Another $50. And then the box is so heavy … I have to have the bus driver help me load it onto the truck. And he needed a tip for the years I took off his backside – chink, chink. So, $250 later … yes, I could have bought a brand-new dresser with all of the drawers intact and in working order. And had it delivered at that! But it certainly would not have been so “shabby and chic” – of course not. Or so I told myself.
So, we finally got the $20-turned-$250 dresser into the house. But that was only the beginning of the story. My friend took one look at the unwrapped monstrosity and asked me what color I planned to paint it. Paint it! – I screamed. It is shabby and chic, one step short of falling apart – and I absolutely love it. She ignored me and strained as she took take a longer look. She then admitted that with a little of this and a little of that, it could be fixed up real nice. Hold on – I said. You can’t criticize my dresser. I just got this great deal from Memphis, Tennessee. It traveled by bus all the way to the haunts of my closet. It’s old, Deco, half in pieces and I already adore it – just the way it is.
So, after she left, the first thing I did was to get out my hammer and start to nail the broken drawer together. She was right – sort of. It’s not perfect the way it is. It’s an old piece of furniture that does need some rehabilitation. (I guess there was a reason that it was only $20!) It is a work in process – and I do absolutely love it just the way it is.
Perhaps, it reminds me of me. I too am showing some wear-and-tear. The signs and stresses of my humanness – the wrinkles, the years, the mistakes, the regrets, the character imperfections, those cracks in my inner workings that just can’t ever get it right. So, I’ve got some work to do. I have yet to become what I would like to become. But yet, I want to be loved for the way I am. I am chic and shabby and I want to be accepted for who I am in this moment in my life – even if I too traveled the long road from Tennessee by way of many bumpy detours. And just maybe that is what we all long for – to be loved enough for who we are today, while being loved enough not to stay that way.
Every time I look at that dresser, I smile. My friend even says that she has grown to like it just the way it is. Granted, I have to be a little careful opening those fragile drawers, but our relationship is growing solid. We are in this for the long haul and I wouldn’t dare paint it now.