Saturday, July 30, 2016

Relationships that Cause Shame

Some people grow up feeling shame, whether because of physical abuse or sexual abuse, bullying, emotional neglect, or some other reason. But have you ever thought about this question: Why does one person, who feels shame, feel the need to shame another, while another person, who feels shame, feels no such need? Why does one person, who has struggled, seek to help others, while another person, who has struggled, feels the need to knock others down? 

I know some will say it's a choice. And of course, that's partly true. The one who doesn't choose to shame others or knock others down makes the kinder and wiser choice.

But that doesn't totally answer the question. I still wonder why. Why do we make those choices? I can't just put it all into neat little boxes of "good people" and "bad people".

I don't tend to judge people harshly…which doesn't mean I don't get angry at people for the way they treat myself or others; but I usually stop short of thinking of them as "bad people"…probably because I was sometimes treated badly as a child by other children who I cared about, and I didn't stop caring about them as a result.

When someone treats us badly, it's my guess that it probably doesn't take their own feelings of shame away. I think it would only add to it.

But as much as it hurt me, I can't throw out the good which I remember, too. It's there, all tangled up with the bad. It's confusing.

What I can do, and what I feel I must do – and what it took me years, even decades, to do! – is acknowledge that I was wronged. It wasn't my fault that I was mistreated. It wasn't that I was weak. It was simply wrong. "They" were not "wrong", like a "wrong person" or a "mistake", but neither was I.  

That doesn't mean I didn't ever do anything wrong or didn't ever hurt them too! It's just that some of us have a harder time acknowledging that not everything was about something we did, that we didn't do anything to warrant cruel mistreatment.   

Somewhere, buried deep inside, we must know that our own happiness and well-being is not less important. Secondly, someone else's mistreatment of us cannot - I believe now - bring them greater happiness and well-being.  

But we can allow ourselves to remember the good times or thoughts when they pop up, even while acknowledging the bad times. We can forgive someone for the very real harm they did to us without letting them do it again. 

In some cases, we may still be in touch and set boundaries; but I know there are cases where it isn't safe for someone to be in touch, and other cases where one grows weary of reaching out; but we can say a little pray for them, when we think of them, and wish them well inside our hearts. 

I believe that caring for ourselves – not only physically but emotionally, too - is not selfishness, but the kind of self-love that gives us the capacity to love others, and especially to find those with whom we can have relationships which are "right". In a "right" relationship, we care for one another, not just care in the sense of liking someone, or having fun with them, but also care in the sense of desiring the mutual happiness and well-being of both people.


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