shame, shame, shame, shame on you !
Reflections on trauma & abuse 2
I start this next reflection with that groovy 70s disco song echoing through my head:
"Oh, shame, shame, shame, shame on you, if you can't dance too !"
And actually, a part of my thinking here started a while back, when I was wondering why it is, that my kids tell me everything, whereas most/many other kids & teens seem to keep secrets or tell lies.
There is a connection. Bear with.
As far as my kids go, I realised a big part of it is that I (and there Dad) have never shamed them.
Nor do we express anger or punish them, when they've made a mistake or gotten something "wrong."
Instead, we listen with an open heart and mind, ask questions and, if appropriate, explore together what can be learned and how to do things differently.
And so, they don't live in fear. They freely volunteer all their thoughts and actions, including mistakes that might cost us money or inconvenience, which I know other kids would hide or lie about.
I trust them to tell me the absolute truth. And I know they are 100% well-intentioned, and yet human. So, of course, they're going to cock up from time to time or make a misguided choice. That's normal. They trust me to hold a safe and loving space for them. And to guide them, as appropriate, if some insight or change of behaviour might be needed.
Oh, and, of course, I'm utterly willing to model for them my own imperfection and vulnerability. I don't know it all. I get it wrong at times. I fall apart. I'm totally authentically me.
This is a far cry from the parenting I received, where, especially as a teen, my Dad would yell at me if I accidentally dropped or broke something and frequently call me "stupid" for this or other misdemeanours.
Whilst modelling his own absolute authority and invulnerability.
Sometimes there was a smack or slap too. And often some kind of punitive measures for being "naughty".
And similarly, when I was playing tennis matches, at which I was close to county standard, my Dad would tut and criticise every error. Which, of course, undermined, rather than bolstered my performance!
Oh, and then there was my Christian faith, which had me feeling massive shame about any sexy or unkind thoughts. Thank God I could pretend they didn't exist. Smiling beneficently in church. Wanking to porn in secret.
So I lived in fear of getting things wrong. And speaking up. Relieved that no-one could read my mind & see how truly sinful I was.
Shame-based parenting, plus right/wrong religious doctrine instilled a sense of wrongness in me about me full-stop. Shame for being me. For not being perfect and able to do it right all the time. Shame for any thought or action that wasn't aligned with Christ's perfection !!
That shame and fear kept me from speaking up in class to volunteer a point of view.
Even now, it's a huge barrier for me to speak up in a large circle of people. Especially if I feel like an outsider.
And, of course, it encouraged me to hide all the thoughts, actions or beliefs that my parents/school/church taught me weren't acceptable.
That's how we create the shadow.
Now, I'd venture to suggest that shame-based parenting is way more common than love-based parenting.
I'd also say, that the shame model is still upheld by our educational system. Not to mention the military.
So then, here we all are: a bunch of adults, who are driven by shame. And that's if we've had a relatively "normal", decent upbringing.
Now, as I'm learning even more in reading about trauma & abuse at the moment, the one thing all trauma survivors experience is huge shame.
Victims think they're disgusting. They think it's their fault. They hate themselves.
Shame prevents them from seeking help and speaking about what has happened.
Shame prevents us from owning our shadow.
Shame prevents us from speaking up in a group.
We're afraid to get it wrong. To stick out. To cause offence. To be disliked, shunned or laughed at.
But what could really help stop this cycle of violence and abuse would be if we all were willing to cross the thresh-hold of shame and hold space for one another to follow suit.
This would mean, facing the fear of "being wrong" and yet speaking our truth anyway.
It would mean being willing to share our naked truth - warts and all. To confess those "sins" we are so scared we'll be judged for and show our true human-ness: imperfect, broken, 50 shades of grey.
So that which we imagine to be our darkness is brought out into the light.
Leaving nothing hidden. What you see is what you get. Here I am.
And this would mean dropping the expectation of whiter than white perfection in others and extending the same compassion we crave for ourselves to one another.
To quote yet another song: "I'm only human after all."