Friday, November 16, 2012

Shamed Children become Shamed Adults: Shaming and BPD Part 3

As I said a couple days ago; what happens to you as a child, affects who you become as an adult. That doesn’t mean who you become is completely dictated by what you’ve been through, and it doesn’t mean you have no control over who you become. All it means is that there are influences from the past. You can fight them, you can embrace them, you can let them rule you, or you can choose to face them, and by facing them, learn to control them… and eventually heal from them if they’re something that needs healing.
Shame is a powerful weapon. One that is too often aimed at children. It’s sad too, because sometimes the people doing the shaming don’t even realize or understand that that’s what they’re doing. This generation, where I live in New York, New York U.S.A. is pretty progressive. However where I grew up with more mid-Western conservative. Fortunately my parents were themselves very progressive. My father’s father though, the environment he grew up in, was certainly not. His father was military and an abusive alcoholic. Comfort and sharing feelings wasn’t exactly encouraged if he was around at all. I’ve always been ashamed of showing my feelings in real life. Any emotion that isn’t “strong”, that is. Or any emotion at all. I know in part it was due to the general attitude my father had. Whenever I was upset or frustrated he would tell me to “suck it up” or “toughen up”. That’s all he ever heard so how would he know to do things differently? It was never done meanly to me. However..

I also have the Borderline predisposition towards hypersensitivity and everything hits me harder than it might your average person, so it felt like I could never show any emotion or else I’d lose the approval, and therefore the love, of my father. Any non-positive word was like a bullet to my heart. I love my daddy, I’m definitely a daddy’s girl. So feeling like I was letting him down in some way was really frightening.

I have very strong memories of love and him being a part of my life. He was always there. He’s just human and the generation that raised him was a very conservative tough guy military generation. It’s an attitude that’s still strong in a lot of places in this country. Don’t even get me started on some of the stricter cultures around the world. Even the most well intentioned parents can impact their kids, especially ones prone to hypersensitivity and a fear of abandonment. It can get really scary when parents aren’t well-intentioned, abusive, or just generally lack an observational awareness of how they affect the people around them… which is common with personality disorders.

Shame, Invalidation, and Secondary-Wounding go hand in hand and follow each other around like sick puppies.

So how does Shame translate into adulthood? The following is quoted from Shame & Guilt: Masters of Disguise by Jane Middelton-Moz, Ph.D.

1. Adults shamed as children are afraid of vulnerability and fear exposure of self.

I used to be intensely guarded. Evil-Ex broke this down when he would humiliate and attempt to humiliate me. I grew from that though, and learned that the things that I thought I needed to hide… really weren’t anywhere near the shameful things I thought they were. Sharing those things with people that were actually worthy of my trust actually brought us closer and made our friendship stronger.

2. Adults shamed as children may suffer extreme shyness, embarrassment and feelings of being inferior to others. They don't believe they make mistakes. Instead they believe they are mistakes.

I can’t say I’ve ever felt like I was a mistake. I generally just feel like everything I do isn’t good enough. I have definite failure issues.

3. Adults shamed as children fear intimacy and tend to avoid real commitment in relationships. These adults frequently express the feeling that one foot is out of the door, prepared to run.

This sounds a lot like many aspects of BPD and intimacy to me. I know I have emotional intimacy issues. I’m working on them and they’re getting better, but I know I’m not the only one with a fight or flight response to love.

4. Adults shamed as children may appear either grandiose and self-centered or seem selfless.

It’s been suggested that narcissism in adults is related to defenses against shame and that narcissistic personality disorder is connected to shame as well. Psychiatrist Glen Gabbard suggested that NPD could be broken down into two subtypes, a grandiose, arrogant, thick-skinned "oblivious" subtype and an easily hurt, oversensitive, ashamed "hypervigilant" subtype. The oblivious subtype presents for admiration, envy, and appreciation a grandiose self that is the antithesis of a weak internalized self which hides in shame, while the hypervigilant subtype neutralizes devaluation by seeing others as unjust abusers. < --- Thanks, Wiki.

Or they turn in the opposite direction and instead of believing they deserve anything, anything at all, they pour everything they have into others and fear what will happen if they do something "wrong" and could be abandoned. 

5. Adults shamed as children feel that, “No matter what I do, it won't make a difference; I am and always will be worthless and unlovable.”

I’m really not sure how anyone could love me. Still. I’m beginning to see that I have decent qualities and not everything about me is bad. But I still don’t really have an internalized concept of how anyone could every really want to stay with me or love me forever.

6. Adults shamed as children frequently feel defensive when even minor negative feedback is given. They suffer feelings of severe humiliation if forced to look at mistakes or imperfections.

This is hard. Looking at yourself and your mistakes sucks and isn’t easy for most people. When you have something like BPD compounding it, those feelings can be debilitating. Criticism and rejection lead straight to those abandonment fears. When your emotions are volatile and you anger easily or feel the need to punish yourself for not being “perfect”… there are major problems that can occur. And it’s easy to trigger those feelings.

7. Adults shamed as children frequently blame others before they can be blamed.

            The Blame Game is unfortunately common.

8. Adults shamed as children may suffer from debilitating guilt. These individuals apologize constantly. They assume responsibility for the behavior of those around them.

Ah, guilt. BPD Friend Riot was constantly racked with guilt. She focused so hard on other people and felt guilty for everything that didn’t go right in their lives.

9. Adults shamed as children feel like outsiders. They feel a pervasive sense of loneliness throughout their lives, even when surrounded with those who love and care.

Oh yeah. Always have, still fear I always will. Which is silly because the more I open up to my family, the more I focus on the healthy relationships in my life, the more evidence I see that this just won’t be the case. I still don’t really feel connected, I still feel on the outskirts, but I can also feel the acceptance.

10. Adults shamed as children project their beliefs about themselves onto others. They engage in mind-reading that is not in their favor, consistently feeling judged by others.

            Projection! I’ve talked about this before.

11. Adults shamed as children often feel angry and judgmental towards the qualities in others that they feel ashamed of in themselves. This can lead to shaming others.


12. Adults shamed as children often feel ugly, flawed and imperfect. These feelings regarding self may lead to focus on clothing and makeup in an attempt to hide flaws in personal appearance and self.

Yeah. I actually do think my eating disorders and BDD is a result of feeling ashamed of my body. I remember the exact day, the exact conversation I had with my parents. They weren’t mean or spiteful, yet… It just goes to show how one well intentioned conversation can have such a severe impact on a kid with BPD.

13. Adults shamed as children often feel controlled from the outside as well as from within. Normal spontaneous expression is blocked.

I’m not very good with spontaneity. And by not very good, I mean, I can get very, very anxious and sometimes panic when things change and I’m not prepared for it. This is also getting much better, but having even a small loss of “control” (which can be as simple as following the original plan because that’s what we’ve had time to prepare for) can be difficult to deal with it.

14. Adults shamed as children feel they must do things perfectly or not at all. This internalized belief frequently leads to performance anxiety and procrastination.

            Hey look at that. Check.

15. Adults shamed as children experience depression.

            MajorDepressive Disorder here

16. Adults shamed as children lie to themselves and others.

            Go back and check out that series I wrote about Lying =)

17. Adults shamed as children block their feelings of shame through compulsive behaviors like workaholism, eating disorders, shopping, sexual addiction, substance abuse, list-making or gambling.

            Eating disorders, shopping, sexual impulsivity/recklessness, list-making…. Check.

18. Adults shamed as children often have caseloads rather than friendships.

            Hm…. I’m, not really sure how to interpret this. Note: Look into this further.

19. Adults shamed as children often involve themselves in compulsive processing of past interactions and events and intellectualization as a defense against pain.

            Think Ruminating ceaselessly.

20. Adults shamed as children are stuck in dependency or counter-dependency.

            I favor counter-dependency. Many of us prefer the former.

21. Adults shamed as children have little sense of emotional boundaries. They feel constantly violated by others. They frequently build false boundaries through walls, rage, pleasing or isolation.

            …and I don’t think I need to elaborate more on how this applies.

I’ve discussed a lot of this stuff in my Schema studies and just as we’ve gone alone through all my posts. I’m not sure it’s all a result of shame, if everything is interconnected, or if different traumas can produce similar outcomes. I suspect it’s all 3 at various points. Maybe an overdeveloped sense of shame is the underlying tie that binds it all together. 


  1. I just wanted to say such a huge thank you for your blog. I'm struggling with a sister who is BPD, well, she's been diagnosed with 'severe emotional dysregulation issues', depression, ocd, anxiety and 'serious relationship difficulties' which our carer support team says suggests a BPD 'profile'.

    This post on shame is very interesting to me because I've never thought she felt that way. She always seems to feel she is right and that she is perfect. She can swear and scream and hit out and then ten minutes later deny she ever did anything of the sort.

    She also shames others, constantly. Instead of saying 'you hurt me because you forgot to call' she sends a five paragraph email stating that I am a 'bad sister' who is 'thoughtless' and 'selfish' and 'pathetic' and that I've always been her cross to bear and she only puts up with me because she has to etc.

    But...she clearly isn't as full of self belief as I used to think and it's reading posts here that's made me recognise that. She's very low functioning (doesn't work, no friends, no romantic partners) so you'd think that I'd be able to easily see that she feels shame and feels innadequate, but I honestly couldn't, because she spent so much time making ME feel bad and putting me down that I never stopped to think why, or how it might be a cover for her own turmoil.

    It won't be easy - and right now she isn't talking to me because of something I said about a film that she thought showed I didn't care about her or love her - but I do feel as if I have better insight and maybe some ways I can behave that won't be as triggering for her, and maybe too that I can understand more what she is trying to actually say to me, rather than just reacting to her anger.

    1. Don't kick yourself for not recognizing that she feels shame. Part of the need to shame others and always be right is to hide that shame. It's a subconscious defense mechanism. The may actually believe she's right or be trying to push that shame away as hard and fast as she can.

      Hell, I haven't always recognized that these behaviors were related to shame. It's more a sense of this feels bad, it feels bad when people do things like this, it feels bad when people associate me like this, I need to not feel like this now!

      Shame is a very deep wound though. It takes a lot of love and caring to feel safe enough to express that and then let it go.

  2. Oh my god, this list and your comments. The feelings of failure and outsiderness, body dysmorphia, oversensitivity to (perceived) criticism, dependency, almost every single part. I'm trying to climb out of the abyss I fell into but it's so, so hard to dig through it all when your connection to the outside world is so frayed and vulnerable. For every step forward I take I lose months trying not to feel too broken to do anything.

    It's oddly cathartic reading your blog posts. Thanks.

    1. ::smiles:: As long as you keep pushing yourself to take those steps forward it doesn't matter how long it takes before you can take the next. We all heal and progress at our own pace. It's nothing to feel bad about.

  3. Wow, I just reread #18 and realized how well that I applies. When I meet new friends I begin unconsciously cataloging their interests and tastes so as to... I'm not sure, really. Being honest with myself, it's to know how to stay on their good side because I want them to like me as much as I like them.

    I met someone I thought was really cool a few months ago and now their favorite band is my band. This is how my old favorite band became my favorite band. That's messed up.

    1. It's funny you mention this. I have a ton of mental lists for all my friends with things they like. I typically do this so I can do things that I think will keep them around. Make their favorite foods, get trinkets that correspond to their likes and interests... idk, maybe that's just an aspect of friendship though. Who knows!

      The band thing is interesting. I've noticed that when certain people introduce me to music I tend to like that music A LOT better than music I just find on my own. It's weird.

      I like to have that associative bond that links that thing to someone I care for.


Leave me a comment! It makes me feel good and less paranoid about talking to myself =)

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