Friday, June 13, 2008

Shame - A Driving Emotion

I noticed in Kahless's post My Decision Tree her references to guilt as a motivation for her decisions. Making choices driven by guilt instead of by what out inner voice tells us we need is a trap from a "shame based" upbringing.

The Hiding Places of Toxic Shame describes defense mechanisms employed by those raised in abusive families. While all things, of course, don't apply to all people, it's an insightful look at the shame based system and how we victims have developed the patterns we have.

While we all need "normal" guilt to keep us in check, the guilt that comes from that "shame based" upbringing is (I'll call this abnormal guilt) very destructive. It guides us to make decisions based on a false premise. It keeps us caught in a cycle that cannot be successful no matter how hard we try.

That abnormal guilt is based on the belief that we are responsible for how another person feels. If they feel badly in any way, it is our fault. However, nothing could be farther from the truth. Understanding that shame based upbringing can be a big step towards getting our abnormal guilt under control.

I know we've probably all heard this a zillion times but how many of us actually believe it. We cannot control how other people feel by our actions. If we could most of us would have families laughing and giggling all the time. It's not that we don't try. It's that the premise "if you are good enough, I'll be happy" is based on a lie.

The fact is that despite our best efforts at keeping others happy, it just doesn't work. That's because true happiness comes from within and not the external forces of other people's action. That means our efforts will be unproductive because we cannot change another person or make them appreciate us no matter how hard we try.

Spending our efforts on these unsuccessful attempts makes us doubt ourselves, feel out of control and down the line lead to depression. Well, the out of control feeling is right on because we're spinning our wheels on something that cannot work because we have NO control over how another person feels but the self doubt and depression, I'm pretty sure we can all do without.

We can do the very nicest thing we can think of for a person only to have them not like it at all. That is the nature of we humans. We each have our own issues, our likes and our dislikes.These are all made up from our genes and our personal history. No one understands or knows them like we know ourselves so it only makes sense that we are better equipped to make ourselves happy that someone else.

Instead of accepting that fact that we can't make "it" right, whatever it might be, to keep the other person happy, we continue to strive to find ways to do just that. On the outside chance we decide to do otherwise, we let "guilt" over the possible consequences keep us in line. All this does is keep us caught pursuing the impossible and setting ourselves up for failure. It is a no win situation.

The only freedom from this trap is to quit trying to keep those other people and try to find what is good for ourselves while still behaving in an appropriate manner. Once we begin to grasp the concept of being responsible for our own happiness, we can start the journey of getting our lives on track and finding true happiness.

While learning to let go of those pangs of "abnormal guilt" can be difficult at first, the rewards of taking care of ourselves emotionally can be well worth the struggle. Once we learn to sort through that guilt to determine which is "normal guilt" (that associated with truly inappropriate behavior) and "abnormal guilt" (that associated with appropriate behavior that causes inappropriate emotions responses in others) we can make informed decisions and not let abnormal guilt rule our lives. This is a battle that we can win.


Anonymous said...

thank you RR x

Kahless said...

I am doing better on the guilt one I think, but hadnt realised that I had mentioned guilt a few times in my diagram before you pointed it out.

My T keeps saying to me "fuck guilt" so I am trying to remember that as my mantra.

I guess catholicism is a religion about guilt which is my upbringing.
You know I used to make things up at weekly confession as a kid as I didnt know what to say. So I got punished for things I didn't do! And then I felt guilt about that!

On reflection I think one onerous thing was somehow I was responsible
for my mothers feelings.

I'll be back in a mo and explain in a bit..
ps Hope all is well in the Rainbow family and the curve-balls are being battered away.

pps The link is a good one.

Isobel Rowan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
April_optimist said...

I love what Wayne Dyer says: You can't be sick enough to make someone else well, poor enough to make someone else rich, or depressed enough to make someone else happy.

Lily Strange said...

Oh holy crap, I feel guilty about absolutely everything! Probably mostly about existing but as well about everything connected with it. If I could still drink I would just to stop feeling guilty.

jumpinginpuddles said...

Guilt makes us feel we dont belong because of the bad inside and out that we saw were witness to and were involved in. Guilt has bene one of the many reasons we have attempted to take our life, guilt is a terrible burden to carry