Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Shame is a four letter word

People ... all ages and all stages ... can allow shame to own them.

Trauma can produce, in some people, deep and overwhelming feelings of worthlessness.

This can then manifest itself in many different ways. Ironically, it appears in some as narcissism.

Weird, huh? Looking at that person who says they are above it all and expects the rest of the world to revolve around them ... THEY feel worthless?

Yup. As a matter of fact, they do.

We made some coping cards this week. They state a lie, followed by the truth. Example:

I must keep doing bad things because I am bad.

I am GOOD!
I was born GOOD!
Everyone makes mistakes, and so do I.
I do not need to punish myself.
Feeling more pain will not make things better.
Doing the right thing will make things GREAT, and

We have made several of these, letting the section titled "Answers to Usual Objections" on this page spark ideas for us. We have these cards taped up around my kid's bed. We have started to read them morning and night. We do them playfully and get silly at any sign of them shutting down.

This morning, they were cycling in and out of regulation as we read, I made a guess. "Perhaps you are afraid of letting go of the shame. You are afraid that you will be getting away with being bad, and that would be wrong." Slow, soft tears began to pool at the bottom of their eyes.

Our kids feel like it is their job to punish themselves for the rest of their lives. That is why they sabotage the good stuff. That is why there is payback constantly (payback guarantees a consequence, which they believe, is what they deserve - all the time - no matter what).

Now, can you see how a parent who is feeling deep shame may really struggle to help their own child whose feelings of shame are the same - times a million - and on crack? Do you use negative self-talk? Do you have unresolved trauma, shame, loss, etc.?

Another thing we do when my kids are talking about something very deep and difficult, is to step outside of "us" and do the work with someone else. For instance, "Your friend Emelia [not real name] has gone through a lot of trauma, too. I bet she might be tempted to use her bodily fluids in really gross ways, because she feels gross on the inside. Which one of these lies on these cards is she believing? What would you tell her?" And then I pretend to be the friend, and make all the common arguments (that my very child makes). This does not set off a light bulb in their brain. They know what we are doing. My kid is GREAT at advising other kids in these moments - real or fake. However, my kid still believes that they are the only one who feels it so deeply and so genuinely. We do it anyway. It is just one more day of repeating the truth and creating new ruts in her brain.

If just reading about it causes you heart palpitations ... you've got some stuff, my friend. You need to help YOU! What are you doing to repair yourself, first? Do YOU need coping cards (I've had so many coping cards over the years, I could have built a house with them)? Do you need time with a therapist who can walk you through it (I tell people all the time that I think attachment therapy may have been more for me than the kids! lol)? What are your reasons for not helping yourself? Why are you not seeing a therapist? Why are you not directly addressing the very things that are stalling everyone and everything in your life? Write them down and look at them.

Stare at them.


Then do what you have to do. When I finally addressed my own stuff, it didn't just change me, but everyone I touch.

The hardest part is just getting started.

(photo by Kat Jackson, used with permission)


GB's Mom said...

Important stuff. Everybody deserves good things to happen to them. God didn't make any junk!

Annie said...

I need all the cards.

...maybe she is afraid of letting go of shame because it means letting go of the only personality (security) she knows. I just have an image of someone drowning and clinging to a very unstable branch.... But, calling to her is a loving mama with a life raft....but the BRANCH is THERE; she knows it. It is the only safety she's ever known. It's held so far. Who knows about the loving mama? What a risk.

Kerrie said...

Princess's therapist made her a card that says "I am smart! I am special! I am somebody!" We put Smarties on each statement and let her eat her affirmations.

Tonia Says said...

I just love your videos and your blog. I just posted about the Attatchment Challenge in my blog for a friend who will be a foster parent for the very first time, as soon as she gets the phone call.

As someone who did respite for family friends who were FPs 6-7 years back, I wish I had had these resources then. But I'm glad to have found them now. Wonderful for attatchment disordered kids, but there is also quite a bit useful for all kids, regardless of diagnoses.

Tell that precious daughter of yours to keep up the hard work. She is worth it! You, too!

Integrity Singer said...

providence. I was up all night praying for you and Mar. In my prayers I imagined you and Mar having a conversation about Mar believing she is inherently bad and you trying to prove to her that in fact, she is GOOD. I prayed that it would be a defining moment for Mar and that she'd be willing to embrace you, REALLY embrace you and receive your love for a minute.

intercession, intervention, coincidence or maybe I'm just a whacko.


yes to getting through our own stuff. I think this challenge for many is turning up worms under the well placed stones in their gardens - worms in their own hearts that have prevented them from attaching, loving and moving through their own shame, grief and pain. I have a sneaking suspicion that if we were all REALLY honest on our blogs, we'd discover that a good many RAD mommies have endured their own abuses and RAD tendencies - that it is a psychological pattern we have subconsciously followed when we adopted traumatized children with attachment issues.

yes? you are nodding your head. I can see the dreads bobbing in your face.

yes. Survivors helping others survive. There be crowns of jewels awaiting us all in the Kingdom of God but all i really want is to have a real conversation and loving hug with my kid.

Unknown said...

Christine, I'm thinking this through as I type it so bear with me if it rambles.
I think shame has a purpose. It lets me know I'm not right with God. Holding on to the shame and claiming it as mine when Jesus said He took my shame from me because He bought and paid for me and I am completely His is pretty arrogant on my part. But when I do or think something wrong, the guilt and the shame remind me I am valuable and the life I've been given shouldn't be abused. I shouldn't abuse it myself nor should I allow anyone else to abuse me.
Just a stream of consciousness rambling there. Feel free to do with it what you will.

PS - I'm lol-ing right now. The word verification wants me to type "scemen" to post this comment. hahahahahaha

Unknown said...


What you are describing is guilt. Guilt says, "These actions are wrong."

That's not shame. Shame says, "I am bad. Every single part of me is bad. I was born bad and I will always be bad. I am disgusting. This will never, ever change. I am cursed."

I want my children to experience healthy, action-promoting guilt. Shame, though. Shame is a blatant lie. Shame destroys the very soul of a person.

Now, granted, the average person who has not experienced severe trauma uses the two words interchangeably. However, they are painfully different.

Shame sucks.

Anonymous said...

ZING! this one stings. bad. just yesterday i was feeling all of the shame, loss, anger, grief and self-loating and bathing in it. walllowing in it. telling myself everything i do turns out wrong, i can't ever do anything right, i'm useless, a failure and all the rest of the lies. and here it is today, right in my face like a mirror. where the hell did it come from and just how much of it have a wrapped up, stuck a bow on and handed to my kids. Ouch.

J & A said...

How do you guys balance Christianity with RAD? I.e. the "sinner and grace" concepts with the reality of RAD?

I'm asking as a curious Christian who loves your blog and thinks what you are doing with and for your kids is amazing!

Unknown said...

J &amp,

We parent our kids where they are developmentally, mentally and emotionally. So I don't feel like I'm ever balancing faith with that, because I simply don't push or expect my child to grasp something a 10 year old would, when their dysregulated existence is on the level of a 4 year old, etc..

Is that what your asking? If not, give me an example so I can be a little more clear than mud. :)

Annie said...

As a professional Religious Educator I think Christine put it perfectly. Guilt is a healthy feeling we have when we have done something that our conscience tells us is wrong.

Just as she says, people in ordinary conversations may use "shame" interchangably with "guilt"....but we are looking more closely at the words. In ordinary conversation shame might simply mean a feeling of being worthless DUE TO our own bad behavior. "I felt such shame after I stole the money."

But, our RAD children feel shame not due to anything they did, but because they were not loved when they had every reason to be loved. Perhaps that is the sin being passed down through the generations.....but not the child's sin.

And in fact, in my theology, whatever horrible things our kids might do, due to RAD, is not sin - but confusion; sin requires full knowlege and full choice. If you do not KNOW love you can't choose love.

I think it is part of God's plan that parents are the channels of His love to HIS/our children. And perhaps this is some response to J &amp, it is by His Grace that our children can heal, as we are instruments of His grace and peace and love to them.

Maybe this challenge echoes that - God will never give up on us....and we are His instruments so we have to keep channeling that love and Grace, no matter how it is rejected, deflected. God won't stop, and as long as we want to be His handmaidens we won't stop letting Him work through us.

I find that my radlet rejects God's love along with mine. She is very cynical about religion/church and boldly proclaims she doesn't have any faith in God. Well, it is up to me to change that by letting Him shine through me straight onto and into her.

Jessica Lynn said...

just wanted you to know that I just wrote my shame blog, and linked back to yours repeatedly because you gave me the bravery to write it. thank you!!!!