Fearing the unknown within myself has kept me crouching in a corner. I look to see who I am and discover much that is worthy.
When shame is met with compassion and not received as conﬁrmation of our guilt, we can begin to see how slant a lens it has had us looking through. That awareness lets us step back far enough to see that if we can let it go, we will see ourselves as clean where we once thought we were dirty. We will remember our innocence. We will see how our shame supported a system in which the perpetrators were protected and we bore the brunt of their offense — first in its actuality, then again in carrying their shame for it.If the method we chose to try to beat out shame was perfectionism, we can relax now, shake the burden off our shoulders, and give ourselves a chance to loosen up and make some errors. Hallelujah! Our freedom will not come from tireless effort and getting it all exactly right.
For change to occur in us, we must be willing to enter the wilderness of the unknown and to wander in unfamiliar territory, directionless and often in the darkness....We do not need to keep every little thing under control. In fact, we find ourselves only by allowing some falling apart to happen.
Power is confusing for us, perhaps even terrifying, because our relationship with it had an unfortunate beginning. Someone in a position of power over us used and abused us…It seems as if power were something to be wielded, always at someone’s expense, usually our own.
When we first begin to take power more directly, after long having kept our relationship to it underground...it is natural that we experience anxiety, even guilt, at putting ourselves first. These feeling let us know we are taking action; they do not need to stop us.
In the grief that comes with recognizing what happened to us, we often feel there is nowhere to turn for solace…We do things to keep it away, such as becoming overly busy or using drugs or alcohol to numb our feelings. When we are caught up in resistance, we do not feel hope, but when we surrender to our sadness fully, hope trickles in.
As we move away from the old role in which we were helplessly entrapped as a victim, we make friends with the people who affirm us. Their enthusiasm about us mirrors the positive experience we are having.
Because we were treated neglectfully and abusively in our young years—when we most needed self-love to be mirrored—it was difficult to hold onto…We take up the challenge of learning to love ourselves, through our highs & our lows, when we are finding acceptance from others and when we are being closed out and rejected.
We each have our own ways of sabotaging & keeping ourselves down…Do we need to remain the victim so strongly that we pull the ceiling down upon our own heads? There is a comfort in the familiar. Also, it is important to us to be in control because as children being abused we were not at all in control. In self-sabotage we can be both the victim & the victimizer.
In order to survive our youth, many of us became sensitized to which conditions we had to play to, to receive attention. No wonder we mistook this attention for love. We thought love came in finite quantities—it had to be competed for among siblings, or it had to be paid for with exacting dues.
Our need to be greater than or less than has been a defense against toxic shame. A shameful act was committed upon us. The perpetrator walked away, leaving us with the shame. We absorbed the notion that we are somehow defective. To cover for this we constructed a false self, a masked self. And it is this self that is the overachiever or the dunce, the tramp or the puritan, the powermonger or the pathetic loser.
When we are ready to let go of our old controls, we admit that we were powerless over the incest or abuse...We have often thought, 'If only I could have stopped it,' but we could not have stopped it. We let go of the 'if only' now and sit still with our stark powerlessness…In our surrender to powerlessness, we touch ourselves with the gift of truth.
Even if our survival skills have become impediments we would like to let go of because they have ceased to serve us, we can still love ourselves with them. In appreciation of our survival, we can be awed at how our resources brought us through, even when these resources were things like indifference, a wall of rage, a cold heart…We learn to embrace ourselves as humans with faults and problems.
Sometimes we self-sabotage just when things seem to be going smoothly. Perhaps this is a way to express our fear about whether it is okay for us to have a better life. We are bound to feel anxious as we leave behind old notions of our unworthiness. The challenge is not to be fearless, but to develop strategies of acknowledging our fears and finding out how we can allay them.
We can ill afford to wait until we have worked through all our memories & feelings about incest before learning to rest & play. While it may seem to be a natural impulse to get to the bottom of things & purge ourselves fully, we need to regularly examine the full picture of our lives for balance along the way…Learning to rest & play is an essential part of our healing.
Though our childhood abuse left us feeling someone ought to make reparation to us, if we wait a lifetime for that, we may never receive what we need. We choose instead to face the idea that from now on, we are going to take responsibility for caring for ourselves.
The bridge out of shame is outrage. Suddenly the obvious becomes stunningly clear—we have been carrying shame for the crime of the offender…In a clear flash we may see ourselves standing in a fierce stance, grounded by our knowledge, ready to throw off any wrongdoer. Our outrage can be a fueling energy, capable of making us as steely as we need to be.
It is a childish notion that once established, our boundaries will never be transgressed again...We shall have to stand for ourselves repeatedly for the rest of our lives. As we practice doing this, we come to greater ease...Eventually it may float over entirely into the positive realm—becoming only another chance to demonstrated our worthiness.
Your instincts may tell you that you can’t survive if you experience feelings. But they are leftover child instincts. They’re the ones that first told you to freeze your feelings. They themselves are frozen and haven’t grown with the rest of you. These instincts don’t know that you’re far more capable of learning to cope with overwhelming emotion now than when you were a [child].
It is not my wish to stay home so much that I become isolated, but to use the comforting influence of my home to restore and gather myself after each step I take in my expanding ability to participate in the world.
Many of us learned that keeping busy…kept us at a distance from our feelings...Some of us took the ways we busied ourselves—becoming overachievers & workaholics—as self esteem…But whenever our inner feeling did not match our outer surface, we were doing ourselves a disservice…If stopping to rest meant being barraged with this discrepancy, no wonder we were reluctant to cease our obsessive activity.
Denial protected us, screening out certain experiences & feelings until we grew strong enough to relate to them...Yet it also dropped a curtain over our experience, obscuring it, leaving us with a sense of missing pieces. For instance, when we achieved something, we felt like an imposter. Or, though we had a relationship with a significant other, we often felt alone and unrelated to anyone.