Shame Holds us Back from Our Possibilities

This is a great talk by Brene Brown.

She describes the difference between shame and guilt very elegantly here. She has done extensive research about shame, and states that it is a cause of depression, anxiety and suicide in most cultures. 

She talks about shame as an epidemic in our culture and how the media and society program us for shame. The ads that tell us how we “should be,”
 and what we “should be doing.” …to the people in our lives that expect us to live up to unreasonable standards. 

Shame can come from abuse and emotional trauma in our childhoods, and in our adulthood experiences. Shame is programmed into us by others. You can re-wire the brain with thought patterns that are more supportive for you. Shame is a destroyer.

I believe that many mental disorders are based in shame. I work with abuse survivors that carry loads of shame from their past. Even when people come to the realization that they were abused, the shame does not just go away. In fact sometimes it becomes worse, during the healing process because old wounds are being opened up. 

Walking through the programs that are in your brain is important, to be able to find the truth about yourself. You are a special, unique person.

You do not have to carry toxic shame with you.

You cannot change the past, but you can change the meaning of the memories that you carry of it. 

The people that planted those seeds were just trying to meet their own agenda by keeping you down, and unsure of your value and place in the world. 

Brene Brown makes the point that creativity, inventiveness, and change come from a place of vulnerability. Doing things that are different, and uniquely you means you have to be somewhat vulnerable.

The greatest minds of the world came up with original ideas and creations and discoveries. They were not always met with acceptance. 

You do not have to follow the crowd. You have your own voice…you just have to find it and differentiate that authentic voice from the programs that were implanted into your brain. Shame is one of those programs that is no longer serving you. 

 

Touch is a fundamental communication between people. It allows us to communicate compassion better that words or facial expression.

Touch is the most important element of bonding and compassion between humans.

There are neurochemical effects of skin to skin touch. Compassionate touch is critical for the brain and the body to be healthy. We need human touch to be well.

We need  human touch in order to have good mental health. People who are touch deprived can develop mental illness.

People with mental illness can become worse from a lack of pleasant  physical touch.

Compassionate touch reduces stress hormones, including cortisol. When someone touches your skin in a pleasant way, it makes you feel calmer and safer. Anxious feelings  can be reduced and your nervous system can be calmed. 

People deprived of pleasant physical touch  can develop high levels of stress hormones.

High levels of stress hormones on a regular basis will cause a condition of severe anxiety disorder. Depression is often a condition that goes hand in hand with anxiety disorders.

“When a person receives a pleasing touch, the hormone oxytocin is released in the brain. Oxytocin is linked with human bonding, socializing and maternal instincts. It helps alleviate anxiety and fear and is critical in trust-building. There is even a specialized part of the nervous system in our skin, known as tactile C fibers, that is specialized to pick up compassionate touch.” Pracha Touch

Physical touch can promote healing in the body and reduce the likelihood for disease and illnesses.

This includes both physical and mental illnesses. Insomnia can be relieved by the hormone balancing effect of skin to skin touch that is pleasant.

Some people with mental illness may have been touch deprived as infants and as children.

There is research about the necessity of touch for proper development and growth.

There was research by John Bowlby and Renee Spitz, during WW II, about the effect of touch on infants. Infants that were orphans, living in institutional settings were not held by the caregivers.

The lack of compassionate touch caused a 75% mortality rate. Also, the infants had a lower weight and length than infants of the same age. They did not develop properly due to the lack of being comforted. The compassionate touch of the mother is comforting to an infant and reduces fear and anxiety of the baby.

Babies need to have their nervous systems regulated by the mother. Infants do not  have the capacity to regulate their own nervous systems. Infants even regulate their breathing with their mother’s breathing. Babies that sleep with their mother have a dramatically lower incidence of infant death syndrome.

If the baby forgets to take a breath, the mothers breath on the baby’s face will cause the baby to draw in a breath. The baby will be calmed by the sound of its mother’s heartbeat.

“In some of the most dramatic new findings, premature infants who were massaged for 15 minutes three times a day gained weight 47 percent faster than others who were left alone in their incubators – the usual practice in the past. The massaged infants also showed signs that the nervous system was maturing more rapidly: they became more active than the other babies and more responsive to such things as a face or a rattle.” Daniel Goleman New York Times

The United States is one of the most touch deprived countries in the world. In studies, we come up second to England

In the 1960s, psychologist Sidney Jourard, studied the conversations of friends in different parts of the world. He observed friends as they spent time together in a café.

In England, the two friends touched each other zero times. In the United States, there was an average of 2 touches during the conversation. But in France, the frequency of touch was 110 times per hour. And in Puerto Rico, the friends touched each other an average of 180 times!

It is possible that the mental health crisis in the US has something to do with the fact that we are a “No-touch” culture.

A Little About My Mother – and How we Can Re-program our Brain to not Accept Abuse

We repeat the behavioral patterns that we were brought up with. As adults our brains are wired from the programming we learned growing up.

The bad programming can be overcome.  First we need to become aware of what the programming is and what incidents caused it.  It is hard work, because we have to dig into our past and remember things that we may have repressed and buried deep in our brains.

The problem is that those things are still there. The way we were taught to see ourselves and our roles, is still there.  The way we were taught to deal with our thoughts and feelings is still there. Our general self esteem or lack thereof was programmed into us too.

People pleaser syndrome is a reaction to an unsafe and unstable environment.  Nearly everyone with People Pleaser Syndrome was conditioned to prioritize others, and respond bases on other people’s feelings. It was a self defense mechanism that we learned, in order to survive in a hostile environment as children and teenagers.

I have never spoken about my mother on this blog. I have repressed my memories and my feelings about her for years. I have not heard from her in years. She has no desire to speak with me and I have no desire to force myself back into her life. 

I have reasons for this. You won’t even guess what the main reason is. My secondary reason is because I do not want to deal with her abusive behavior towards me.The primary reason is about my sister.

My other had this very weird kind of disorder that caused her to only have one daughter at a time, It is very strange and the reason I do not talk about her to people, is that I do not think they would believe the stories I could tell about her.

Telling someone painful stories and then having them think you are making  it up or exaggerating, is painful and in validating. That is why most people think my mother is dead. I have been asked that before.

“Is your mother dead?”

I said “No, Why do you say that?”

They say “You talk about your father , step mother and sisters, but you never mention your mother.”

So, the answer is “No”, my mother is not dead, but she is mean and cruel to me. I could possible get her to be nice to me again, but that would mean her writing my sister off as dead, and then talking mean about her and to her face.

My mother had lots of problems…alcoholism, raging…probably borderline personality disorder…and hot and cold moods. 

She had one daughter at a time. She would validate the existence  of one of us and at the same time, banish, disown, leave for dead…the other one of us.

This could change on the spur of the moment , based on something she imagined in her head, that one of us did to her. or did on general. It was not logical or based in any reality.

Once I was in the car with my  mother and my younger sister. My mother screamed at me and told me to shove my sister’s head down in the back seat. so that when we drove past her boyfriend’s apartment, he would not see her.

She wanted Jenn to not exist. 

I asked her why I should do this. She said “I told him I had one daughter. I did not mention her. If he sees her, then he will think I am lying, but I am not”

I asked her why she told him she had only one daughter and she said “You know how your sister is. I do not want him to know about her. It will be embarrassing to me and he might not want to date me anymore.”

It was always about the men and what they wanted and what would keep them from breaking up with her. As far as the men she dated goes…this particula story I just told you was when she was dating this guy that was 10 years younger than her.

I finally found out why he was dating her. He had seen us together at the pool.  He wanted to sleep with a mother and a daughter. He was in the middle of our ages, and this was his perverted idea.

He dated her first, then he started inviting me to his apt to listen to music. I was 16 and very naive. I did not know he was trying to get into my pants, until he came out and said something very disgusting to me one the phone one day..that  I will not repeat here…but the lightbulb finally went off in my head.

So, she went back and forth like this between my sister and I.  One day she had one daughter and a few months later, she would change daughters and disown the other one. Whichever one of us she was talking to, she would bad mouth the other one of us to.

One day I was perfect… and Jenn was horrible. Then Jenn was perfect… and I was scum on the bottom of her shoe.

When I was 19, my sister lived with my Dad, who had moved to Florid for work. He paid for a plane ticket for her to come visit me in Baltimore. I was so excited to see her and to have her spend the week with me!

At this point in time, my mother was talking to me. She had disowned my sister for getting into a bad crowd. She had not spoken to my sister for several months.

I felt bad for my sister that my mother was not talking to her. I took my sister to my mother’s house , to try to play the peacemaker….

It was awkward at first. My mother had not seen her in a long time. But within about 10 minutes they were chatting away, like old friends.

Then my mother suddenly got very cold to me. She said,”You can go home now. I will bring your sister home later this evening.”

I told her that I thought the three of us would have a nice visit together. I do not know what in the world made me hope that it would work. It never did, no matter how many times I tried it.

She sent me home and I sat there alone for hours, waiting for her to bring my sister back to me. I was looking forward to spending the week with her, I had not seen her in many months.

My mother finally showed up at the door. Her boyfriend and Jenn were sitting in the car. She looked at me very coldly and said “Go pack your sisters stuff up. Put it all back in the suitcase and do it right now. We are going to dinner and she is staying with me.”

I was very confused and I asked her if she was taking both of us to dinner. I seemed like a reasonable thing to ask.

She looked at my like I was very rude. She said “I  did not invite you to dinner. You are NOT invited. Go get her stuff.”

I said to her that I was looking forward to spending the week with my sister. I said that Dad had sent to her visit me for the week. I was happy to let her see anyone, but she was staying at my house for the week.”

To which she said “You do not invite yourself to dinner, when no one invited you. Your sister will be staying with me for the week and you are not welcome to come over. Get the stuff and do not make me get the boyfriend to MAKE you.”

So I was afraid of whatever threat she was making about the boyfriend that I did not know at that time. I went downstairs and got all my sister’s stuff packed up. I was sobbing as I put her things into the suitcase, because I missed her very much.

My mother was yelling down the stairs about how slow I was and that any person should be smart enough to able to pack a suitcase faster than that, when they were told to hurry up.

She took the suitcase to the car. She did not let me say goodbye to my sister. The boyfriend did not say a word to me.

They left and I never saw my sister for a long time. They took her for the entire week and they would not answer the phone when I called to say hi to my sister. I was not allowed to call .

I saw her for an hour, when I first picked her up from the airport. I drove her to see Mom. That was stupid. Then I lost the entire visit because I wanted to be the peace-maker.

So, I grew up to be the peacemaker that does not even recognize when I am being abused. The severity of my mother’s mental abuse on my sister and I, was so bad that I hardly notice milder levels of abuse.

I grew up knowing that sometimes I had to sacrifice myself for someone else. In order for my sister to have a mother, I had to give up having one. I had to endure being the bad daughter that had been excommunicated, in order for my sister to have a mother.

This went back and forth so many times. When I was in my 30’s, I let my sister have her mother. I stepped out because anytime I go back, she could turn on my sister.

My sister has been through enough trauma and she needs that relationship with my mother. I am better off away from the entire thing.

This is why I am writing this. We have to know where our behaviors come from. I know that when my mother used to drink, I had to walk on egg  shells not to piss her off. I was 16 and she would throw me out of the house at 10 pm, and I would be walking the streets trying to think of where I could sleep.

I was taught to be hyper vigilant about other people’s feelings and to do whatever would keep them from getting angry. yelling at me , hitting me, throwing me out of the house, or disowning me for months.

These programs in our brains, have to be rewired.

We have to identify the viruses and where they came from. Then we have to look at them rationally and see what purpose the behaviors served at the time. They were needed for survival at the time, but now, they are causing us to end up being abused by other people.

Once we retrain our brains, then we can prioritize our feelings and recognize abusive behavior when it begins. Rather than tolerating it because we go into post traumatic stress and then react the way we were conditioned to react.

Blessings,

Annie

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