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
I DESERVE GREAT THINGS!
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.