Thursday, July 9, 2015
Shame: The Deep Struggle of Scapegoats and Others
Shame is an emotion I have been struggling with. I think about how shame has been used to hurt me all my life. False shame is something I am seeking to overcome. Silencing the voice that says, "I am not enough and a failure", is something I am working on steadily. The days where this voice is silenced are the happier days, the days where I falter in silencing it, are the sadder days. Not all guilt or shame are bad things, but I am focusing on the false shame unloaded on so many of us to carry as a burden.
Peter 3:16 Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ.
Scapegoats especially have come from a legacy of shame, where they were told over and over they were not good enough. When I looked back at old pictures of myself, I was actually a pretty girl but at the time you would have thought I was a monster by how my parents talked to me. Criticism was never ending. Every minute there was a put down. While they boasted of their perfectionism, it was just another vehicle for control and to hammer everyone down that did not meet their demands.
The other day I found this book at a thrift store, and knew I had to read it:
"I Thought It Was Just Me [But it isn't] Making the Journey from "What Will People Think?" to "I am Enough"
Brene' Brown in this book defines shame thusly:
"Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing we are flawed and therefore unworthy of acceptance and belonging" [page 5]
Think about how the focus today in our culture are our flaws. They sell clothes, make up, plastic surgeries and many other things to people saying, "You must measure up!", You must keep up!". These are billion dollar industries that work from the center of shame. This is a society now where there are so many things they expect of people. They demand that you must be thin, middle class, employed with a good job and with certain looks to be deemed "acceptable". The majority of humans probably do not meet the more impossible standards.
If I was to define my biggest source of angst, shame would be one of those emotions. One considers the life-long effects of being told one is a failure and "not enough" by an entire family net-work and it is painful. Many ACONS are told they are not acceptable and that they do not belong. These messages bring life-long shame to far too many until they break away.
One thing I reminded myself is my standing among the family was just as low when I graduated from college and then was an art teacher. I struggle with the feeling of not belonging anywhere. This may be the worse inheritance a narcissistic parent has to offer. Home is not a safe place. Home is the place where they remind you of your many flaws. Even the comments I suspect my mother of making on this blog, was more of the same. "You are not enough, you are flawed" was inherent in her statements. That was just more of the same I heard all my life. "You have nothing to show for your life!" said over and over to me.
I struggle with false shame. Some definitely have already read aspects of it.
Let me give you some examples.
1. At the church I left, the women in the church as a whole was invited to a wedding shower. I thought about going to "meet" people since social and fellowship events there were very limited. I could not afford a gift or even think of what to buy. I didn't have 10 dollars on me even for a thrift store gift. This brought me shame..."Why do I have to be so poor?' I didn't go. I was too embarrassed to show up without a gift, after the service I left quickly.
2. One kind lady who I am in a book club with, talked about coming to visit me with her just as nice mother. I don't know if these were real plans, or not but I thought, "They are middle class, they can't see my apartment with it's broken down old thrift furniture, and ripping apart and dirty rug." I nodded and smiled knowing they were very busy sorts who may not get around to it. Inside I had deep dread and more shame.
3. That one ex-friend shamed me constantly especially near the end. She told me I was "too messy" while never offering any real help, and that I was a "slave" to the social security system [my doctors fully and absolutely support me being on disability] and that I didn't do enough charity work even thought I spent several hours a week if not more making cards for a charity project for at least 3 years. Sadly I felt shame over being a bad housekeeper and sometimes after she went home, would start yelling about the housework.
Of course as the friendship broke up, she decided to shame me for my weight. The me of today now asks "Why did I put up with it?". I was lonely and wanted a local friend. This taught me a lesson that no real friendship can exist with someone who constantly shames you.
4. I live in a very affluent community, there is benefits to that in that the resources are far greater, but a deep sense of shame came with that too especially this is the place we moved to where my husband's career imploded. I wouldn't mind being surrounded by wealthy people. I have friends far richer then me, but the stigma of being poor quadrupled when we moved here. We were poor even for our old rural community but there, many people were poorer or in an equal boat. There is a lot of 'saving face' here. Most of the lives with suburban houses, vacations, and new furniture are so beyond my experiences, I don't even know what to say or talk about
There are definitely vast cultural differences between the working class and poor and the wealthier upper middle class. These are cultural differences I seem unable to overcome. One cultural difference that is hard for me to adjust to is conversation was more open among poorer people, while it is more closed off among the upper class.
It wouldn't matter except some seem to have no qualms in reminding me of my lower status as much as possible. Many do have Tea Party and Republican beliefs that the poor are failed and should be shamed and do not work hard enough. Disabilities are just an "excuse". Being middle-aged among the aspiration class when your aspirations failed [beyond long shot creative ones you still work on] is a nightmare of shame. Mid-life crisis doesn't even begin to cut that one. The worse part of poverty in America at least isn't the "going without" but the stigma. People of lower classes in American society are now dished out endless shame. Even working class and blue collars are told they "failed".
5. Often I have felt shamed for the way I feel. We know narcissists make a hobby of this. People with actual feelings are cannon fodder for them. While some may lack empathy for those who do not have a happy go-lucky attitude towards life, us melancholic sorts do know how being "depressed" or not "hopeful" towards life appears. We already telling ourselves we need to be more happy and less self-pitying. Here some will shout "Victim"! and give you a huge slap on the face. Thousands of depressed people are shamed for their emotions. I believe this has worsened depression challenges for many.
I have good days, like this afternoon when I had good conversation and went out to eat some tasty but cheap chicken tacos with my husband and walked outside to get a cool breeze but I also have bad days too. I am not sad all the time but then I work for the happiness I do get.
What is horrible if someone feels sad or struggles with depression, one can receive a ton of shame and be told they are a "bad person", or that their life has gone badly and it is all their fault. Every depressed person feels in the interior of their gut, this worry that everyone will leave them and or hate them simply for being sad. This is one that narcs use. Narcs due to their lack of empathy, I believe never feel sadness the same way a normal person can. Sadness is a vulnerability where they can get stab someone in the back hard. They shame people for sadness which well, only makes them sadder!
6. For Aspies especially higher functioning ones, the sympathy is low and your real learning disabilities and deficient are not apparent to others so the expectations they have for us match normal neurotypical people. They often get angry and them shame the Aspie for being who they are. This is one aspect of Aspergers that is very difficult. While the world says "Be you and the world will love you for it!" this isn't always true for the Aspie except in the case of fellow understanding Aspies and friends.
7. I have discussed the extreme SHAME foisted on fat people as an entire population and the shame I received for being in stratosphere weighs. Here fat people are told they are at fault and shamed. I was deeply shamed over being overweight and actually it almost cost me my life as I have illustrated on this blog. Even women with extra 30lbs are shamed in our sick society. I am very fortunate to have understanding doctors who know what Lipedema is today. Shame for obese people is now sadly the norm.
In this book Brown shares many stories of shame that others have shared. Many match my list above and also include weight problems, severe financial ones, substance abuse, depression, mental illness, and health problems and it helped me in reading these to know others too suffer the same way feeling like they are never enough. One considers the giant well of human pain out there, when it comes to shame and the problems in life. In the old days, trouble was an accepted part of life. Trouble was enough trouble without the shame now foisted on people for having trouble in the first place.
One thing I used to always say to my husband referring to my family experiences, "Shaming doesn't teach any resiliency!" In other words, I believe too many people are being raised being told they "will have it all" and not prepared or any mistakes, hardships or "set-backs" which is the normal course of life. If anything I believe because of the pressures of the media and a culture that worships wealthy and the powerful over the ordinary honest person, false shame has grown as an even stronger control mechanism.
Shame is often used as a control mechanism where people basically announce to the shamed person, "You are a lesser, and I am a better" and "you are unworthy!" Narcissists and sociopaths run with it, knowing that in people with feelings they can elicit strong and powerful feelings of shame. They remain shameless while dishing it out. It is one reason in society most people are busy hiding their problems and presenting a false social face. They don't want to be shamed and deemed unworthy. Some "hide-out" to avoid being scapegoated by narcissistic family members and bosses. They fear the many predatory personalities out there ready to take a bite. False shame is destroying our society from within:
"Like the growing epidemic of violence, for many, shame has strangely become both a form of self protection and a popular source of entertainment. Name calling and character assassinations have replaced national discussions about religion, politics and culture. We use shame as a tool to parent, teach and discipline our children. Television shows promising cutthroat alliances, backstabbing, hostile confrontations, exclusion and public humiliation consistently grab the top ratings. And at the same time we use shame to defend and entertain ourselves, we struggle to understand why the world feels so scary, why politics has turned into a blood sport, why children are suffering higher levels of stress and anxiety, why popular culture appears to be sinking to all time lows and why a growing number of us feels alone and disconnected."
Let's be frank false shame is the tool many narcissists use to keep people down. Some of our shame may come from other sources and among well meaning people but certain all this shame serves the wicked in our society. The demands for perfection are not according to God's rules, but even there God knows we are not perfect and offers us grace via Jesus. According to the perfectionists and according to the corporate masters who want the slaves fighting each other and playing a Hunger Games in every personal interaction, no one is ever perfect enough.
Brene' Brown describes shame as a web women get trapped of expectations about "who we should be", "what we should be" and "how we should be". Expectations we do not meet sums this up My family wanted a thin person who made 6 figures and had several children and who had a pedestrian personality. I am not that person, so why eat the shame for not being what they wanted? Go ahead and ask yourself the same question.
One thing I ponder is how depressed many many people are in our society because there is this never ending feeling of NOT BEING ENOUGH. Our consumerist society runs on selling people things to make them "better" people. It demands we measure up to certain expectations. I believe this is one reason our culture is declining and mental illness and stress is rising in American society. Instead of just "being", everything is about competition and running a race mandated from hell itself. False shame is the control mechanism. This book does lead people to question these cultural demands. Movies have stand-ins, magazines have air-brushing, so the perfection presented is often pretend and impossible.
Brene' Brown does go into how shame disconnects us from others. Even in my examples above, I was led to insulate myself fearing judgment from others. I was hiding myself away in at least three examples above. Sadly this is what happens when one is shamed. People already hide themselves away for health problems, poverty and other things that make them feel like they don't fit in. I am housebound often from real breathing problems, but many severely overweight women, who still have a level of stamina and breathing, often start not leaving the house, because of the stigma of obesity.
She talks about how shame insulates people where they feel they must even go into hiding. This is where the disconnection comes in. Our society is becoming disconnected because of the false judgement and shame. People are isolating themselves and becoming less and less social. If every person in your community is "competition" to compare yourself with, when are you going to be able to have a real relationship? To be frank, this is becoming worse in families. If everything is about how much money this one made and that one didn't and one has to be "successful" to be loved by your family, what is the use of having a family at all?
You have to hide your problems in a society like this where so many are ready to use shame and criticism to shrink you down, and or stab you in the back with your problems. She discusses how vulnerability is how true intimacy and friendship happens and how compassion happens away from the shame and blame. There are reminders to be careful of who you put this trust in, but for women especially social connection comes with vulnerability and sharing one's personal self inside.
She sums this point up: "The culture of shame is driven by fear, blame and disconnection, and is often a powerful incubator for issues like perfectionism, stereotyping, gossiping and addiction."
She goes into solutions to beat all this shame and how it shreds people apart. These ideas include reaching out to others, who have been shoved into the "other" and shame category, practicing courage, and developing shame resiliency which means letting go of perfectionism, realizing shame triggers and practicing critical awareness and practicing compassion. This often means questioning societies false message and taking risks in reaching out. She also goes into how stereotypes and assumptions are made about certain groups. Definitely I am more familiar with those unloaded against the poor. I have already practiced a few of these in my life, finding friends who saw through the shame and blame matrix, but she definitely gave me more ideas in coping with shame in day to day life.
One interesting thing she goes into in this book, is the "culture of blame". All the blame means this society's narcissists desire to pick a scapegoat to carry the blame. Brene' Brown writes:
"The culture of blame permeates our lives. We are constantly blaming and shaming ourselves and others."
I enjoyed this book immensely and loved how she pointed out how more authenticity would bring less shame and more connection with other people. All the shame and blame in this narcissistic society is leading people to shut down. She is right when she says the opposite of experiencing shame is experiencing empathy. I don't want a life enslaved to the shame of narcissists and sociopaths and their enablers. I question a society where everything is about blaming and shaming, instead of human growth and connection. Empathy brings far more joy to life then false shame.