Shame Relapse

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It’s safe to say that most of my life has been lived from a pessimistic viewpoint.  Glass half-full was my default and Murphy’s Law governed my outlook. I strongly believed that optimistic people were living in a fantasy world and sorely needing a swift kick in the ass from reality. My ever increasing depression and anxiety further supported these ways of thinking. After going through a significant amount of emotional healing, I found myself slowly growing out of my pessimism. My growing belief in possibility and increased sense of trust are traits I could never have imaged having. From time to time I am surprised at how optimism has grown on me, or, how I have grown into it.

Then came last weekend.

I received a huge reminder that emotional healing and being optimistic does not mean that life suddenly ceases to have it’s pains and discomforts. Nor does it mean that depression and anxiety never come ‘round for a visit. Although I have experienced this at relatively mild and manageable levels, last weekend truly threw me into a pit I haven’t sat in for quite some time.

I was over-my-head deep in what Brené Brown calls a shame (shit) storm. Early Sunday morning, someone offered to fix a dent in my car. It was very unexpected and I suddenly found myself paralyzed with uncertainly and the inability to say “no”. I didn’t feel a big bad “NO!” but I felt icky in my stomach. There were three men, and the main guy talked fast and didn’t fully hear what I was saying. I was worried about being mean to these strange men who were offering to do something “nice”. I was simultaneously scared of how they would react if I said “no”. When all was said and done, the “work” they did resulted in my car being worse off than when they touched it. I was mortified.

For the rest of the day I oscillated between absolute shame and self-punishment, to acceptance and letting go. In my deepest shame I berated myself for being a stupid idiot who deserved what happened and can’t be trusted with her own life. I was dumb, a sucker, a jackass, and much much worse. These thoughts seeped into other parts of my life where I doubted my ability to do my job and feared I had lost everything I worked so hard for. I was certain I fucked up my whole life – again!

Then a slight wave of my optimism would glide through. Like a wisp of smoke I could hear and feel “You’re okay now, this will pass”. Then I’d plunge into complete self-hate again.

I reached out to a safe friend, and as we talked I wept like I haven’t wept in a few years. It was scary to cry at this depth. I feared for my life, and my emotional health.  I thought this was the beginning of the end, and here is where my emotional and physical life would unravel.

After processing it with my friend that day, and further processing this with my therapist today, I came to find enough ground to feel like myself again. My therapist gave me a reality check that con artists are good at what they do and that many intelligent people get scammed. Although I hate having been scammed, the reality is, what she said is true. Their use of fast talk and positive demeanor are weapons they are skilled at using to manipulate others.

I also learned that my childhood experiences of being silenced when scared and uncertain were repeated that Sunday morning. My mother often reacted to my fears and uncertainty as: inconvenient, embarrassing, a sign of weakness, a sign of stupidity, and intolerable. When scared or uncertain, she would abandon me emotionally by either ignoring me, yelling at me, or hitting me. I understand now that she was too emotionally fragile herself to handle my emotional needs. But as a kid, I learned to believe that being scared and uncertain was a personal flaw that yielded punishment.

Last Sunday my inner kid was uncertain, and wanted more time to think about the situation. Instead of stepping up like an adult to handle the situation, I did to myself what my mother often did to me when I was scared and/or uncertain. I abandoned her and left her there to deal with grown up stuff. How could she possibly be skilled enough to deal with three grown con-men?

In my counseling session, I made amends to my little girl and acknowledged her wisdom in needing things slowed down when I’m uncertain about making decisions. I told her that I can listen to her needs, because she knows my needs best.

I also came to realize that I really need my inner bitch in my life more. In an earlier post I wrote about understanding how she helps me make time for myself. My bitch is my protector who is loving, strong, and bold.She is the mother bear I never had and the mother bear to my little girl.  In making an agreement between my little girl, protector (bitch), and myself, to show up, listen, and take action, I am re-parenting myself and continuing to heal old dysfunctional family patterns.

Does this mean I will never be scammed again, or be taken advantage of? Probably not. Con artists are good at what they do, and continue to become more sophisticated in their skills. What will be different is I will be more integrated, more attuned to myself, and more loving and forgiving of myself. I will also continue to reach out to safe people because i can;t do this alone.

Although I would not want to repeat the depths of the darkness I was in this weekend, I realize that my friend was right about this unfortunate event being an opportunity to heal a deep core belief that no longer serves me. I have certainly paid more for “transformational workshops” that yielded less results, so I suppose it all works out.

After some more ground settled under me today, I posted this on my Facebook page as a reminder of the importance of listening to that little girl who knows so much more than I gave her credit for.

I cannot say it enough. How you treat kids is how they will treat themselves in adulthood. Not just the nice parts, but the not very nice parts too. ALL OF IT!!!

In our childhood, we hold the clearest awareness of our needs. Because we ARE children, we don’t have the adult capacity to communicate these needs in a way adults always understand. All too often, adults criticize and/or shut down kids when they are trying (in their kid ways) to communicate their needs. Kids often hear: “You’re crazy!”, “What’s wrong with you?!?”, “What do you want?!”, “Stop bothering me!”, “That’s dumb/stupid!”, “You’re not scared/angry/sad/etc.!”. Get the picture?

Over time, with these words hurled at us along the way, we learn to doubt our needs, and our intuition becomes muffled. As adults, we try to do what’s “right” instead of what we need. We criticize ourselves for even having needs! We may even judge others for having needs. To twist it even further, we judge ourselves harshly when we fuck up, because we didn’t listen to our intuition or attend to what we needed. How could we when the adults who raised us taught us that our intuition was: crazy, wrong, inconvenient, a problem, embarrassing, etc.

I know I’m not just talking about myself here. Right?

Yeah, so, listen to that kid inside you. They have wisdom you have long forgotten. Stop trying to be so grown up, and let’s grow in. Grow into ourselves, and into our lives.

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