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
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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.

 

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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!

Money Woes

I only know a very few ritual abuse survivors who don’t have problems with money. How they manage to have a healthy relationship with it, I have no idea.

There are about sixteen different reasons why I have messed up ideas about money. Probably the factor with the most profound influence is low self-esteem. I don’t think I’m worth very much; if I had been worth something, I would have been treated well by my parents. So therefore I’m not worth spending money on. (I know that doesn’t really make sense, but it seems to make sense to me.)

In the supermarket, I look for marked-down items. I don’t buy clothes if they aren’t on sale. Actually, I prefer to buy them at thrift stores, especially if they are on sale. I used to mend my socks and underwear, but I have gotten lazy in my old age. Now I just wear them with holes.

While I’m stingy with myself, I’m pretty generous with other people. Since others are worth more than I am, they would obviously make better use of money and things than I do. They get the cupcake with the most icing every time because they deserve it, while I barely deserve the air I breathe.

This attitude is reinforced by guilt from watching others get hurt by the cult and not being able to help them. Now, in an effort to re-enact that scenario and make a happy ending, I have the urge to help others almost compulsively. It’s usually not good for me and usually not good for the people I’m trying to help, who, after all, are perfectly competent grown-ups, not little kids being tortured by a cult.

Finances make me very anxious. I was taught that I would not be able to support myself as an adult and that I would always have to be dependent on the cult.  I never worked as a kid, not even baby sitting or pulling weeds. I didn’t have my first job until I was twenty!

Believing, deep down, that I never will be able to support myself has made me worry inordinately that I won’t ever have enough. At the same time, I feel money is nasty and dirty and I don’t want any part of it. I think anybody who has been prostituted as a child or has been used in pornography views money very, very negatively.

(Actually, money in itself has no moral value. It’s just a tool. It can be used for good purposes or bad purposes or just so-so purposes. It’s up to us to use it differently than those that abused us.)

Since I’m so anxious, I have a real hard time keeping track of things. How much is in the bank? What bills are due? Overdue? How much interest does the credit card company charge? All these practical things swim through my mind like fuzzy out-of-focus jellyfish. Now you see them, now you don’t. Each time I sit down to sort things out, I have to start from scratch because I just can’t retain anything.

Then there are survivors whose alters all think they can buy things. Each purchase is reasonable, but when you have twenty or thirty inner people spending a couple of dollars here and there, it sure can add up. Many of them are child parts, and don’t understand budgets or deferred gratification. Sometimes one alter will hide cash to prevent another from spending it, and then not let on where it is.  Or forget where it is. Cooperation, while leading to less chaos over the long haul, is bound to mean short-term deprivation.

Money can be used self-destructively, as anybody with several maxed out credit cards can tell you. Stealing is another self-destructive way to try and make up for childhood deprivation. How many of us have shoplifted, not because we needed something or wanted to fence it, but just to flirt with getting caught and punished? How many of us have done this as adults?

I have. I didn’t do it to get caught; I did it because I thought that was the only way I could get things I wanted. As a kid, I thought I didn’t have the money to buy those things and I knew better than to ask my parents to get them for me. Whenever I let on I wanted something, they made it a point not to let me have it. I stopped shoplifting in my twenties (hmm, that was right after I had my first real job.) I occasionally get tempted even today.

Lately, I’ve been trying to change my attitude. It’s not helpful to tell myself I am a mess and will never get it right. Far better to think, “Wow! With all I have going against me, look what I just did!” Each time I react with pride at my accomplishment it’s a little easier to do it the next time, whether it’s calculating taxes or buying a nice tomato. And I each time I react with pride I kick a little hole in my negative self-image. With this attitude, there’s no reason to procrastinate – I’ll just catch up on the bills and feel great.

Although I admit that’s easier said than done.