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.

 

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.”

 

Scapegoating

Upcoming Holidays
May

5/10 S Full Moon
5/14 S Mothers’ Day
June
6/9 S Full Moon
  ce
6/18 S Fathers’ Day  ce
6/20 S Summer Solstice
6/23 S Midsummer’s Eve
6/23 S St John’s Eve
July
7/4 Fourth of July/US Independence Day
7/8 Full Moon
  ce
7/25 St. James’ Day/Festival of the Horned God
August
8/1 S N Lamas/Lughnasadh
8/7 S Full Moon
8/7 S Partial lunar eclipse: visible in most of Europe, most of Asia, Australia, Africa, and eastern South America.
8/21 S 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 N D-Day: invasion of France in WW2
7/29 Hitler proclaimed leader of the Nazi party

 

The concept of scapegoating comes from Leviticus, the third book of the Old Testament. It contains priestly writing explaining God’s instructions about how to live with purity and holiness.

On the Day of Atonement, part of the ceremony consisted of making offerings for the sins of the people. A steer and two goats were brought into the Tabernacle. Aaron, Moses brother and a priest, sacrificed the steer was as offering as an atonement for his family’s on Yom Kippur. One goat was sacrificed as an offering for the people’s sins. The other was the scapegoat, who carried all the sins of all of the people and took them away into the desert, leaving the people holy.

“Then Aaron shall lay both of his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the sons of Israel and all their transgressions in regard to all their sins; and he shall lay them on the head of the goat and send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a man who stands in readiness. Leviticus 16:21 Lev 16:21
“The goat shall bear on itself all their iniquities to a solitary land; and he shall release the goat in the wilderness. Leviticus 16:22

Today, scapegoat has come to mean a person or group who is blamed for the problems or transgressions of others. “If we could just get rid of them, all would be fine in our society.” Often this leads to severe violence, up to genocide.

This process takes place within families, too. One child becomes the problem child. If the child’s problems were solved, the family would be fine. But the child does not change, and the family does not change, either. The child is pushed to edge of the family, sent to live with relatives or abused, and, in adulthood,perhaps disinherited.  Even if the child moves far away or dies, the family still has problems. And so another scapegoat is chosen.

Sometimes the child chosen to be the scapegoat is vulnerable or weak in some way. They may need more attention, more medical care, more resources than other family members. Although that child does create stress, it is not the cause of all the families’ problems. Parents may hate their jobs (or each other), the adults may have poor communication skills, the family may have to contend with poverty or discrimination. Fixing or getting rid of the kid doesn’t solve everything.

More often though, the scapegoat is the healthiest member of the family. It’s the kid who sees too much, understands too much, says too much. That’s a huge threat in cult families, where secrecy is of the utmost importance.

It’s also a threat in less pathological families. It’s hard to pretend that there is no problem if your fourth grade child has to refuse all play dates because of baby sitting the younger kids. Or when your kid blurts out, “Daddy drank a whole bottle of vodka last night.”

Rather than confronting and doing something about the problem that the kid has put their finger on, the parents try and shut the kid up. And they try and hide behind, “That was just a dream, dear.” “We don’t talk about such things outside the family.” “Stop exaggerating.” “Oh, she has a vivid imagination.”

I was the scapegoat in my family. Part of the reason was that I was the oldest – I got there first. But the main reason was that I was resistant to their demands and I wanted independence. I was thirsty for life outside the family and managed to get out as much as I could, as soon as I could. I wanted to meet as many people as possible and, even worse, I wanted to emulate them.

To this day I remember my father saying, “It is very good that you learn how other people live and what they believe, so that you can see for yourself that we are right.” Oh, really?

And oh, the trouble I gave them. First it was that I was slow to read, then I read too much. I had no friends, then I had friends my parents disapproved of. Not only did I sing off- key, I deliberately taught my brother to sing off-key, too. I didn’t do what I was told, and when I did, I managed to mess it up. I was stubborn and rude and stupid. And very, very selfish! They didn’t catch on, but I was also quite good at being manipulative and getting what I wanted by disguising what I did.

It was a huge relief for them, I am sure, when I finally did get away, thanks to marrying somebody they didn’t approve of. My brother was obviously the next in line, but he was too compliant. So my poor mother inherited the job. Eventually, when the cult disbanded from old age and lack of interest, the need for a scapegoat waned. Or if they found another, I wasn’t around to see who it was .

What’s sad is that in spite of all my resistance and rebellion, I did internalize a lot, or maybe all, of what they accused me of. It makes sense. Little kids take all adults very seriously and soak up their every word. By the time I had enough experience to question their views, my unconscious was full of poison. I built a new view of the world, a new view of myself, and the beginnings of a new life. But what was in my unconscious was in total conflict with my felt beliefs. It was very, very confusing for the longest time.