When I think about shame I think about my early childhood. I was reprimanded a lot for my behavior which I mostly attribute to my mental illness. As a child, being Bipolar II can result in not necessarily odd behavior but hints of mania that opens the door to be shut down. I wasn’t made to think I was “bad” or anything but the harsh discipline my parents imposed led to feelings of shame.
As an adult I still carry shame with me. Given certain situations usually I automatically think I am wrong, or overstate the word sorry when I’m not at fault, and that is a ramification of internal shame. It has weighed heavily on my shoulders and only now at 42-years-old, I am starting to work on recognizing that feeling and try and push it away. It’s a challenge cause since it was formed at such a young age, it’s almost ingrained in me or a part of my personality and I don’t even know if you can change a personality. You can work on behaviors but when shame is intrinsic to your being it’s a struggle. I have to make a conscious effort to stop myself when feelings of shame surface, and examine the situation that brings forth feelings of shame to try and circumvent that feeling. It can be something minor like I hear a harsh tone of someone’s voice and it becomes a trigger for shame which stems from recalling my father’s harsh tone when reprimanding me. Or someone says, “We need to talk.” I’ll immediately think something is wrong, and whatever it is, it’s my fault. It’s wild to think I have spent a lifetime lingering in shame and only now am I starting to understand to fathom it, and want to do the hard work to try and diminish it.
So here’s my plan. When a situation arises that results in feelings of shame, I am going to stop and analyze the circumstances to try and understand why I am feeling shame. If I know it’s going to surface, at least when it hits I can take a moment to push back and release it. That will be an easy fix. The hard fix is when I find myself at times walking around feeling it, and not even know it, or be able to pin point the source. Like I said it runs deep, and stems from my childhood so, there will not always be triggers to alert me. But, I think if I start off working on triggers that I can associate with shame eventually the internal subconscious shame will abate.
It’s going to be a process that has been a long time coming. But, at the very least, I have finally come to a place where I am ready and willing to do the work, and I do see light at the end of the tunnel of shamefulness.