Guilt and Shame

Upcoming Holidays
July
7/25 St. James’ Day/Festival of the Horned God
August
8/1 Lamas/Lughnasadh
8/7 Full Moon
8/7 Partial lunar eclipse: visible in most of Europe, most of Asia, Australia, Africa, and eastern South America.
8/21 Total solar eclipse: totality visible in parts of Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Nebraska Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina; partially visible in other parts of the United States, Canada, Central America, northern South America, western Europe, and western Africa.
September
9/4 S Labor Day
9/6 Full Moon
9/5 – 9/7 Marriage to the Beast (Satan)
9/7 Feast of the Beast
9/20 – 9/21 Midnight Host
9/22 Fall Equinox
9/29 Michaelmas (?)
Important dates in Nazi groups
7/29 Hitler proclaimed leader of the Nazi party
9/1 Start of WW2
9/17 Hitler’s alternate half-birthday
.

Guilt and Shame

For a very long time, these concepts were mushed together in my mind. I knew they had something to do with each other. I knew they meant different things, or why would we have two words? Usually, if two words mean the same thing, one is short and Anglo-Saxon and the other is long and French, thanks to the Norman conquest.

Every now and then I thought I should look them up in the dictionary but I always forgot. Maybe I was scared to find out! Yesterday, for the first time in my life, I looked them up, using the dictionary built into my Mac.

Guilt: the fact of having committed a specified or implied offense or crime; a feeling of having done wrong or failed in an obligation
Old English “gylt”

Shame: a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior; a loss of respect or esteem; dishonor
Old English “sceamu”

As far as I am concerned, they still seem somewhat mushed together. I think I might be able to do better.

I don’t know where I heard this, but somebody said or wrote that the feeling of guilt comes from having done something that you think is wrong. Whereas shame is the feeling when you think you, your very self and soul, is defective or wrong.

And how did we come to feel shame? Well, somebody told us we were wrong without telling us how we got that way or what we could do to fix it. So we deduced that we were wrong, bad, defective, always had been and always would be. The only thing we could do about it was try to lie and hide it from others.

About twenty years ago, PC parents started saying to their children, “Don’t do that.” They never said, “Bad girl!” or “Bad boy!” Or, “You are lazy, stupid, selfish, etc.” In other words, they focused on the action and did not comment on their children’s character. They did not shame their children. I can’t imagine what my childhood would have been like or how I would have turned out if I had not been shamed night and day.

A few years ago I was sick and tired of feeling guilty over every little thing, so I decided on a fool-proof way to figure out whether I was feeling guilty about something in the present or in the past. I would just stop doing wrong things! Guess what? I was having a whole ton of flashbacks.

But shame is different. You cannot make a resolution to stop being a disgusting person. Remember, you were told, explicitly or implicitly, that there was nothing you could do to change. You were born a sorry specimen of a person and would die a sorry specimen of a person. Stuck with it forever, like the color of your eyes or your first language … or your parents.

Looking around, I couldn’t see anybody that I thought had been born that way. Even people who did horrible things, in my eyes, had been groomed since childhood to consider themselves evil and so they acted on that belief. If that is true of everybody else in the world, chances are good it is true for me, too, no?

I had to take another approach to working with my shame. I had to remember times when I was told I was rotten to the core, recognize that what I had been told was a lie, and mourn that I was lied to by people I depended on for my very life. With each wave of grief, the delusion that I was irrevocably horrible became weaker. I cannot say that I am free of the feeling of shame 24/7, 52 weeks a year, but more times than not I am free of it.

I believe you, too, can free yourself of the shame that was wrong fully instilled in you.

If you are in the mood for reading, here are some suggestions –

John Bradshaw: “Healing the Shame that Binds You.” A classic book, written in 1988. Don’t be put off by the discussion of “healthy shame.”

Byron Bown: “Soul without Shame: A Guide to Liberating Yourself from the Judge Within.”

Ronald Potter-Efram and Patricia Potter-Efram: “Letting Go of Shame: Understanding How Shame Affects Your Life.” Contains self-help exercises.

Paul Holway: “The Shame Identity: Discover the Truth about Grace.” A Christian approach.

 

Guilt is my Middle Name

Upcoming Holidays
June
6/20  Summer Solstice
6/23 Midsummer’s Eve
6/23  St John’s Eve
July
7/4  Fourth of July/US Independence Day
7/8  Full Moon
7/25  St. James’ Day/Festival of the Horned God
August
8/1 N Lamas/Lughnasadh
8/7  Full Moon
8/7  Partial lunar eclipse: visible in most of Europe, most of Asia, Australia, Africa, and eastern South America.
8/21 Total solar eclipse: totality visible in parts of Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Nebraska Iowa,  Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina; partially visible in other parts of the United States, Canada, Central America, northern South America, western Europe, and western Africa.
Important dates in Nazi groups
6/6 D-Day: invasion of France in WW2
7/29 Hitler proclaimed leader of the Nazi party

 

I’m sorry this is late. I got caught in one of those computer quicksand storms where every time I correct a mistake six more appear. Now I could have published it on time with mistakes, but I am too proud.

Guilt is My Middle Name

I feel guilty about so many things! Sometimes I feel that if there is a word for something, I feel guilty about it.

Now I know that I can’t possibly do that many things to feel guilty about in a day. Therefore it must be a “feeling” flashback to one of the innumerable times I was told as a child that it was my fault, that I was bad for doing or saying or thinking such things, that I should be ashamed of myself. Those messages were repeated so often that they coalesced into a basic belief about myself. I’ve known for decades that it’s hooey, but the feelings still flood over me.

Here’s what inspired me to write about guilt. For the last few days I have been upset by something I wrote in the last post. What popped into my mind was “OMG, I lied. I wrote something that wasn’t true. What should I do? Say nothing, and hope nobody notices? Confess and apologize? Or just explain?” I’m choosing to explain.

See if you can spot the lie – um, inaccuracy – in this paragraph. I don’t imagine you can.

“My horse’s name was Badger. He was a beautiful dark brown, nicely proportioned, and very mellow. We rode on trails in the park, some paved, some dirt. There were native flowers in bloom and also “exotic” ones like climbing nasturtiums. There were stretches where I had to duck to avoid low-hanging branches. All we did was walk, but I didn’t care because I could pay closer attention to the plants and sunlight and the smell of the horses.”

But I know. I didn’t smell the horses because my sense of smell is going south. I no longer can smell flowers or cheeses or cat boxes. I also often smell things that aren’t there and most of the time I can’t identify the odor. It feels like something unpleasant that I have never smelled before. It’s all just a normal part of aging. <sigh>

All horses have a strong, distinctive smell, even when they have just been washed. I was around horses a lot when I was a kid, and I loved their smell and loved the way I smelled after I had hung out with them. These experiences were in the forefront of my mind when I wrote that paragraph and I came from that place, not the present.

Was it a lie? To me, a lie is something untrue said on purpose to protect oneself or deceive somebody else. So no, not a lie. A falsehood? Certainly. An error? Certainly. An inaccuracy? Certainly. Something to feel guilty about? Certainly not!

Guilt is such a big issue for me. I bet I could spent a whole year writing about it. But I have a short attention span, and luckily other things would catch my interest!

Ambivalence … and Courage

Upcoming Holidays
July
7/4 Fourth of July/US Independence Day
7/8 Full Moon
7/25 St. James’ Day/Festival of the Horned God
August
8/1 Lamas/Lughnasadh
8/7 Full Moon
8/7 Partial lunar eclipse: visible in most of Europe, most of Asia, Australia, Africa, and eastern South America.
8/21 Total solar eclipse: totality visible in parts of Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Nebraska Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina; partially visible in other parts of the United States, Canada, Central America, northern South America, western Europe, and western Africa.
September
9/4 S Labor Day
9/6 Full Moon
9/5 – 9/7 Marriage to the Beast (Satan)
9/7 Feast of the Beast
9/20 – 9/21 Midnight Host
9/22 Fall Equinox
9/29 Michaelmas (?)
Important dates in Nazi groups
7/29 Hitler proclaimed leader of the Nazi party
9/1 Start of WW2
9/17 Hitler’s alternate half-birthday
.

Ambivalence … and Courage

I subscribe to the San Francisco Park and Recreation newsletter. I read in it that a company from Arizona was bringing horses to Golden Gate Park for a month and anybody could sign up. I am not *that* daring, so I wrote and told them all my concerns. I hadn’t ridden for forty years. I was afraid I couldn’t get on and off, afraid I couldn’t get from the parking lot to the stables, and most of all (I didn’t tell them this) afraid that I would throw my back out and not be able to leave the house for a year. They were very accommodating; if the worst came to the worst, there was a strong young man who could lift me on and off.

For a couple of weeks it was, “yes no, yes no, yes no, yes no, yes no” and finally, “fuck, why not? “So I signed up. So much for ambivalence! I took the chance! Still, being somewhat cautious, I only asked for half an hour.

I got on fine, with no help except for the mounting block (it looked like a sturdy little staircase.) The manager, Donna, took me out solo so that she could give me all the attention she thought I needed. It was overkill, but I didn’t care. We got along great; we both found plenty to talk about and had the same slightly twisted sense of humor.

My horse’s name was Badger. He was a beautiful dark brown, nicely proportioned, and very mellow. I would show him to you, except I forgot my iPhone in my excitement. Although this isn’t Badger, he looked like this, except his tail wasn’t as long and his saddle  was a a good deal rattier.

We rode on trails in the park, some paved, some dirt. There were native flowers in bloom and also “exotic” ones like climbing nasturtiums. There were stretches where I had to duck to avoid low-hanging branches. All we did was walk, but I didn’t care because I could pay closer attention to the plants and sunlight and smell of the horses.

We had the trails all to ourselves. There are two huge Dutch windmills at the north and south sides of the park near the ocean. We visited both of them and glimpsed the ocean from the trail. Huge waves breaking on a long stretch of sand. Heaven.

It didn’t hurt to sit on Badger, and it didn’t hurt after I got off. To my amazement, I didn’t hurt any more than usual or in any new places when I woke up the next day.

I thought of signing up again, but decided it would dilute the specialness of the ride. Besides, they are an Arizona company, and I will be in Arizona again this year running away from Christmas with my BFF (best female friend.) Two of the company’s branches are in places we plan to visit!

I wonder what it would be like to be on a horse in the desert. I could cover a lot more distance, even at a walk, than I can normally in a week. Even a tortoise could, come to think of it.

I’m already playing with my ambivalence. “Yes no, yes no, yes no, no rush, there are still six months to decide.”