Get Gangster on Your Shame

 

Photo by Wesker

 

Shame.  Ah what a cloaked villain!  In this post I’m going to tell you about why shame is not an enemy you want to ignore.

“Michael Corleone” in The Godfather Part II was not the 1st to say it, but maybe was the first to make the quote famous

Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.

Not many people would at first think that keeping shame close might be a good thing, but I’m here to tell you that it is.

Meet Bill the highway patrol.  He’s been seeing me for melancholic depression.  Sometimes he feels a little better, but those times even still are not so great.  Bill has told me about where he thought his anxiety and fear came from.  His story made sense to him.  This wouldn’t be too much of a problem except that he thought about it often.  Very often.  He was running in sprints away from it.  Somehow after all the time he’d spent reluctantly in the presence of his fears, he hadn’t realized that shame was connected.  Shame of being treated the way he had been.  Shame of being misused.  He hadn’t faced his fears because he was always angled away from his thoughts of shame.

If we don’t go where the shame is, we won’t be free from its effect on us.  Fear is a big bad bully.  Until you turn around and say stop, you’ll be running for a long time.

 

 

We all need to be a bit “gangsta” at times.  Ignoring shame is not.  It’s not emotion-street smart.  I’m waiting for Bill to think, “What’s the worst thing that could happen?”  And sit in the feelings that come with those thoughts long enough to realize that he’s still ok.

In obsessive compulsive disorder, there is a psychotherapy treatment called “exposure and response prevention.”  In this treatment, the person with the ego-dystonic fear exposes themselves to their fear for a progressive amount of time.  They realize that after going where the fear is over and over and materially seeing that nothing bad happens, the fear looses more and more control over them.

This is effective in any anxiety condition, including shame.

Self-Care Tip #83 – Get gangster on your shame.  Be a friend to yourself.

Question:  Has shame bullied you?  Please tell me your story.

Get Treatment to Move On – Addictions

Molested by his cousin, neglected by his parents, he watched his intoxicated father beat his mother.  Thinking she would die too many times, he ran away, returned in a police car over and over again, as if wanting to get away was a crime.  He came back and raped his neighbor, more than once.  He spent a lot of time trying to get sex even though he knew it was ruining him and others.  He lost interest in almost everything else.  He suffered uncontrollable impulses.

He was 18 years old when he left it all for the safety of prison.  During the next fifteen-some years he was diagnosed, treated, and kept.  But kept for what?  For eating.  He gained weight, until he needed 2 seats to sit in.  Eating became his preoccupation.  He didn’t have sex.  He had food.

He was released to a home for sexual offenders, put on a diet and lost weight.  He lost it big and fast and felt in control.  He started purging and not finishing his meals.  He thought about purging all the time.  He knew he shouldn’t do it.  His voice was changing, raspy and his throat hurt but he still purged.  He wasn’t having sex.  He wasn’t over-eating.  He was purging.

For whatever reason, no one had yet seen the pattern.  Mostly everyone saw sex offender.  Me included.  I was trying.  I was trying to treat him with empathy, trying to get past the bile that comes when I think of rape, trying to consider the courageous things this man was doing now in life.

In one of my favorite scenes from the film, Rachel Getting Married, Kim played by Anne Hathaway argues with her sister about her own chances to have a future:

Rachel: Kym, you took Ethan for granted. Okay? You were high for his life. You were not present. Okay? You were high.
Kym: [Whispering] Yes.
Rachel: And you drove him off a bridge… and now he’s dead….
Kym: Yes, I was. Yes, I was stoned out of my mind. Who do I have to be now? I mean, I could be Mother Teresa and it wouldn’t make a difference, what I did. Did I sacrifice every bit of… love I’m allowed for this life because I killed our little brother?

I thought of this and somehow through all that trying, I did. And because I could empathize, a space opened up for me to be more objective.  That’s when I saw it.  I saw the pattern.

Addictions migrate.  Someone who may have started out as a food addict, might turn to gambling, and then later to alcohol.  Someone with sex addiction, might turn to food and then later to purging.

It can be like that game I used to play at Chucky Cheese, trying to hammer down the little animals that pop out of holes.  We need to treat the disease of Addiction regardless of how it’s dressed, or else it will keep popping up.  And like Kym, if we do, although perhaps terribly wrong in some unchangeable ways, we will still have a future.  If you’d like to read more about this “kainos” (Greek word for the opportunity to be made new,) read the post New versus New.

Self Care Tip #62 – Get treatment to move on.  Be a friend to yourself.

Question:  What do you think?  Please tell me your story.

Journey

Mumford, The screenplay by Lawrence Kasdan, describes Henry Follet, a man who is living in his fantasies.  The superior problem isn’t that he’s living in his fantasies however.  It is that he has never been a character in them.  They only included other people.  At some point he gets more connected to his own journey, which is when he started appearing in his fantasies.  Or one could say his fantasies became his reality.

Connecting to our journey is multidirectional.  It includes the folding and opening of time.  Someone asked me why I started this blog.  I told him one of the reasons is that so much of what made me who I am was shelved when I went to medical school and then had children.  Time is folding for me when I write now, connecting me here to where this writing-self was last seen then.

When avoiding crucial work, it is as if a broken person’s bits of self are walking their different directions.  There is a divorce and the kids….  What does the father do?  Five years later he is still trying to get the courage to ask them to love him again.  Relapsing negative relationships, and she found herself again with someone abusive.  Overweight, and still buying and bringing binge-foods home.

As Will Rogers said,

When you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is stop digging.

Lately I’ve enjoyed my journey more since I stopped breaking traffic laws.  Exhale.  Now I can relax when I’m driving and think, pray, listen to podcasts, be with myself.

Immaterial things like our hopes can both connect us and disconnect us.  When a thought like, “I wish I did…” comes, when employment is more a job than an interest, when anger flares often – look at times like this as opportunities to find your path.  I found that this yearning in me was really a portal for my fantasies to come through and join me.

Self Care Tip #29 – Take your opportunity.  Be a friend to yourself.