Understanding Shame, part 4: Growing up shame-based

Editor’s note: This week, we offer you a 5-part series — originating in The Attached Family online magazine’s “Parenting Without Shame” issue — to help you better understand the development of toxic shame. Part 1 explained how trauma includes 3 components: Fear, Disconnection, and Shame. Part 2 explored Fear. Part 3 defined Disconnection. In this Part 4, we take a look at what it means to become shame-based.

Shame is a visceral and pervasive feeling of being fundamentally flawed and inadequate as a human being.

Shame is primarily relational: Although shame leaves us feeling absolutely alone, its roots lie in an implicit conviction that we are somehow unworthy of having meaningful relationships with other people.

Shame vs Guilt

Shame is often confused with guilt, but with guilt, we feel bad about things we have done. With shame, we feel bad about who we are.

Guilt is about our actions. Shame is about our being.

Shame is mediated by the emotional networks of the brain, so although shame is typically accompanied by self-critical thoughts like “I am stupid/useless/fat/pathetic,” it is ultimately lived as an embodied experience that resides deep beneath our awareness and sucks us into the psychological equivalent of a black hole.

When Shame Becomes Toxic

Shame is a product of evolution, and it is experienced as a passing emotion in almost everybody. It exists to tell us that we are at risk of losing important social relationships, or that we might be thrown out of our group.

However, if we’ve been traumatized, then shame becomes indelibly interwoven with our implicit sense of who we are, whereupon our identity becomes “shame-based.”

There are several routes to becoming shame-based:

  1. Shame can originate outside of us — When we are made to feel inadequate by our family, caregivers, teachers, peers, culture, or socio-political environment, we absorb that shame and make it our own. In this case, being shamed constitutes the original painful and frightening experience around which our trauma-world is built.
  2. Human infants need sensitive and responsive nurturing from caregivers — When this need is not met, children develop an embodied and nonverbal sense of being inadequate. They also develop an embodied and nonverbal sense of inadequacy around their actual need for nurturing — implicitly feeling that there must be something wrong with them for having the needs.
  3. Shame can originate inside us as a response to more overt traumatizing experiences — Painful and frightening experiences occur that have nothing to do with being shamed. However, we have evolved a need to understand why these things have happened to us, and for various reasons, we tend to believe that we are at fault. For example, children whose parents divorce commonly feel that if they had been “better,” their parents would have stayed together.
  4. Once we’ve entered a trauma-world, shame can be created in response to our own behavior — There are times when we know we are over-reacting. However, because we aren’t aware that our fear system is hyper-sensitive, we take our behavior as evidence of our own supposed inadequacy. In addition, when we bury parts of ourselves in order to make ourselves acceptable to others, we implicitly sense that we are being inauthentic, which in turn creates shame.

Irrespective of how our shame originates, once we’ve become shame-based, we can’t recognize shame for what it is. Thus, we see ourselves through a distorted lens. As a result, we are likely to experience ourselves as contemptible and feel a victim to our own believed inadequacy.

What Doesn’t Work to Heal Shame

In this state, we get sucked into a downward spiral of shame. We can become even more desperate to obliterate the parts of ourselves that we believe make us inadequate, redoubling our efforts to shame those parts into submission. However, when we use shame against ourselves, we retraumatize ourselves. Then, instead of fostering change, we reinforce the status quo and fortify the walls of our trauma-world.

At the same time, we try to cajole ourselves into success, believing that if we can force ourselves to become more than we are — or ideally perfect — then the gnawing pain of being shame-based will abate. However, if we are shame-based, then no amount of success will be enough. No matter what we do, we are never enough.

Being shame-based doesn’t only poison our relationship with ourselves, it also poisons our relationships with others. When we are shame-based, we will be terrified that if others get to know us, they will see us as the inadequate person we believe ourselves to be. In an unconscious attempt to prevent that from happening, we may put up barriers, push people away, and sabotage relationships. Alternatively, we may try to control others, hoping that we can prevent them from doing anything that might bring our shame to the surface.

We are generally not conscious of what we are doing, or indeed why we are doing it. However, we are left with a murky feeling that our relationships lack authenticity, trust, and intimacy. As a result, we feel increasingly isolated.

Also, because human beings are such a profoundly social species, when we don’t have meaningful relationships, we feel sub-human, and that, in turn, exacerbates our shame.

In short, shame creates more shame. Shame also generates isolation and fear. And shame reinforces the need to disconnect. Ultimately, shame keeps us locked in our trauma-worlds.

Tomorrow, in Part 4, we’ll explore what does work in healing shame

Photo sources: Pixabay.com

Understanding Shame, part 3: Disconnection

Editor’s note: This week, we offer you a 5-part series — originating in The Attached Family online magazine’s “Parenting Without Shame” issue — to help you better understand the development of toxic shame. Part 1 explained how trauma includes 3 components: Fear, Disconnection, and Shame. Part 2 explored Fear. In this Part 3, we take a look at Disconnection.

Disconnection involves cutting off from some aspect of ourselves.

There are different forms that disconnection can take. All provide us with some kind of protection, but all are ultimately harmful, because they leave us cut off from our own internal reality and from the reality of the external situation.

The Original Disconnection

Disconnection first occurs during the original traumatizing experience. In the midst of a terrible situation, the release of opiates from within us blocks the pain and fear coursing through our bodies, and we are numbed to the feelings.

This is an adaptive response, because it means that if we get a chance to escape, we can take it . Escape would be impossible if we were incapacitated by pain and fear.

Unprocessed Disconnection

Once we are out of danger, and if we have enough support, we may be able to reconnect to our pain and fear, and process them. However, without support, our unprocessed emotions remain locked away in our unconscious minds and bodies. This is because we simply can’t function if we allow overwhelming emotions into awareness.

There are many harmful consequences of remaining disconnected from the traumatizing pain and fear we’ve experienced:

1) We are compelled to avoid anything that might bring our unprocessed emotions into awareness. This compulsion to protect ourselves from what was once overwhelming poison in our relationships, creates a desperate need for control and prevents us from taking new opportunities. It can also lead to attempts to sabotage the healing process.

2) Having locked the overwhelming pain and fear in our bodies, we must disconnect from our bodies to prevent these feelings from surfacing. This creates new layers of suffering and difficulties:

  • Bodies that carry unprocessed pain and fear can become distorted. Parts of our body may be chronically frozen, collapsed, tense, or inflamed. Our posture might be off-kilter. Our breathing shallow. We might stutter.
  • We may be at risk of being drawn into addictions, both those that take us out of our bodies, and those which represent our bodies’ desperate attempts to be noticed and nurtured.
  • Needing to understand why we ended up traumatized, it is all too easy to blame our alienated bodies. Thereafter we try to perfect our bodies through compulsive dieting, obsessive exercising, or an endless string of plastic surgeries. In so doing, we become further alienated from our bodies.
  • We lose access not just to the original pain and fear, but to emotions more generally. Because emotions arise in the body, when we disconnect from our body, we prevent all emotions from making their way freely into our awareness. As a result, we may feel flattened, dulled, and lacking in vibrancy. Additionally, emotions evolved to guide our responses to the world, so when we can’t access this information, it is as though we have lost our compass, and the sense of danger that is already part of our trauma-worlds becomes more intense.

3) In its most extreme form, the drive to separate from the pain and fear of the original trauma can result in a dissociative identity disorder.

Disconnected Emotions

Underlying the disconnection that I’ve just discussed is a deep fear of the unprocessed and overwhelming emotions that we experienced during the past, as part of the original trauma. There is another kind of disconnection, too — one which is underlain by fear of being attacked or abandoned in the present. This typically occurs when certain parts of ourselves are unacceptable to our family, teachers, or society. Under these circumstances, we cut off or bury the unacceptable parts in an attempt to protect ourselves from the possibility of being retraumatized.

The parts we cut off might be so-called “negative” emotions like pain, fear, or anger, but we can just as easily bury our joy, passion, vulnerability, sexuality, intellect, ambition, and creativity. We might also disconnect from our need for love and connection, or from our need for independence and self-expression.

Sometimes, we try to bury the unacceptable parts of ourselves using self-control and willpower. Other times, critical inner voices try to shame these parts into submission. Sometimes, the “unacceptable” parts are locked in our bodies, perhaps through clenching particular muscles, and by adopting a specific posture. But often this kind of disconnection occurs unconsciously — we are unaware of what we have lost.

The Results

Being cut off from parts of ourselves contributes to the underlying sense of loneliness that is inherent to trauma, because we are abandoning aspects of who we are. It also exacerbates the sense of danger that is built into a trauma-world, because we are not rooted in the fullness our own reality.

Tomorrow, in Part 4, we’ll explore the third component of trauma: Shame

Photo sources: Pixabay.com

Will you accept the challenge of Attachment Parenting?

Positive discipline: The ‘golden rule’ of parenting

“From the attachment parenting perspective, positive discipline embodies the ‘golden rule’ of parenting: In other words, treat children the way you would want to be treated if you were the child.

Positive discipline is an overarching concept based on the understanding that when a child is treated respectfully within loving, age-appropriate boundaries, he will develop a conscience guided by his own internal discipline and empathy for others.

Positive discipline is rooted in a secure, trusting, and loving relationship between parent and child.” ~ Attached at the Heart: Eight Proven Parenting Principles for Raising Connected and Compassionate Children by Barbara Nicholson & Lysa Parker

Learn 25 tried-and-true tips for positive discipline, and so much more in this definitive guide to attachment parenting written by API’s cofounders. Purchase your copy through the Amazon link above to have a portion of the proceeds benefit Attachment Parenting International.

Children communicate their needs through behavior…what is your child communicating?

How little we really know about the topic of shame

pixabay-child-on-dads-lapWorking on the “Parenting Without Shame” issue of Attached Family was unlike any that have come before. I didn’t realize, when I began, of how little I knew about shame as a topic.

“Shame” is a term used often in parenting and parent education circles, but do we really know what shame is?

So much of putting this issue together came down to doing the research — and soul-searching — to really understand the differences between shame and guilt, and shame as a normal emotion and when it crossed into unhealthy territory, the effects of that toxic shame, and then the sheer enormity of effort — and courage — that must take place for a person to heal from a shame-based self-image.

Healing from toxic shame is no small feat. It serves as a cautionary tale that we parents must take care to be intentional about promoting secure attachment in our relationships with our children and in guarding our children’s hearts while we guide them through how we discipline.

But at the same time, it’s important to not inadvertently turn that shame onto ourselves for not being perfect parents. No one is perfect, and fortunately, there are healthy ways around those imperfections to help our children process their normal feelings of shame when they happen.

So, it’s not so much how to parent without shame, but rather how to parent our children — and ourselves — to best process the normal emotions of shame that will arise in their lives, just as we teach them to do when they are angry or disappointed. I hope you enjoy this in-depth study into this important topic.

~ shame-cover-v2Rita Brhel, Executive Editor of Attachment Parenting International on the latest issue of Attached Family, “Parenting Without Shame”

The greatest gifts I can give

best-gift-to-my-boys

The core theme of the seasonal period in my opinion has always been to give thanks, appreciate what you have and reflect on the year that has just been. However, I like you for a long time have fallen prey to the notion that I must buy materialistic objects of expensive value in order to show and validate that thanks to others and of course this couldn’t be further from the truth. I love giving my loved ones handcrafted personalized gifts, because I think they are very personal and they all love them when I give them those gifts on their special occasions. Israel souvenirs are cherished around the world and make great gifts for friends and family. Most people visit catholic store, so they look for gifts that reflect its unique cultural and religious identity. Whether you’re looking for gifts in Jerusalem, from particular significant sites, or are searching for something on your friend’s gift registry, you’re surely to find plenty of stunning option on GiftObserver.com.

In the last few years I’ve become more aware of the minimalism movement and the message behind it, which promotes less is more and to live a meaningful life with what you have. Now let’s not get this twisted, I am not one of those people who labels themselves a ‘minimalist’. I don’t believe in labels as we are all just humans with multiple interests so i used custom labels.

The minimalism movement like the workings of stoicism has some valuable lessons to share with us on valuing what we have now and what we can offer others too. One of those core lessons is around using things and not people, valuing the time with those around you and not the superficial feelings from an object. what is cbd oil?
CBD is оn thе list of ѕеvеrаl compounds саllеd cannabinoids fоund in thе саnnаbіѕ рlаnt. Many rеѕеаrсh studies have bееn done tо find оut different thеrареutіс uѕеѕ of thіѕ oil.

Derived from the hemp flower, CBD oil соntаіnѕ concentrated fоrm оf CBD. Hоwеvеr, it’s іmроrtаnt tо keep in mіnd that thе соnсеntrаtіоnѕ аnd their uѕеѕ vary. Sо, уоu mау wаnt to соnѕult аn еxреrt before uѕіng CBD fоr уоur соndіtіоn.

Even Drake said that he wishes we would learn to love people and use things and not the other way around.

The gift that can keep on giving

I’m sure we all look for that one gift that can bring the ultimate amount of joy and keep providing great times for your loved ones and guess what? You have access to provide that each and every year, because that gift is you.

Now I know that sounds corny, like a line from some Hollywood film, yet it’s true. The greatest gift you can ever give people is yourself, your time and your love as these are the most precious resources we possess and can share with others. If you find yourself in the position where this isn’t enough for those around you, then I would suggest you look reflect on the people you surround yourself with and at the end if you want to give them a gift of something material, just take them a fruit or any wine baskets you can easily get and everyone loves them. To manage the budget carefully, many organisations will work with their partners and suppliers to have the budget door gifts, sponsored, with a range of corporate premiums, custom toys, branded gifts being combined into a goody bag that is customized with the event orgainser logo or the event name.

This time of year should be focused on spending quality time with those that matter the most to you and building new experiences that can last a lifetime. It should most certainly not be putting you into a panic, running around stores to partake in a consumerist thirst of spending the most money to impress whoever with the present you feel is going make them happy beyond what words can describe. I have a horrible newsflash for you if you are doing this — you will never find the thing you or others seek in those places.

 

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