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.
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.
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.