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thereby preserves her primary attachment to her parents (or other
abuser). Because the inner sense of badness preserves a relationship, it
is not readily given up even after the abuse has stopped but becomes a
part of the child s personality structure.
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100 Breaking the Cycle of Abuse
Exercise: How Shame Has Affected You
1. Think about how you have coped with the shame you endured
in childhood. How did you defend against the shame? How has
shame contributed to your abuser or victim style of relating to
2. If you internalized the shame, think about the ways shame has
contributed to your victim mentality.
3. If you have externalized shame think about the ways you have
projected your shame onto others.
4. Some people defend against shame by projecting it out on oth-
ers and by raging at others. If you tend to do this, particularly if
you tend to lash out at people or have sudden, unexpected fits of
rage, pay attention to the ways in which you convert shame into
anger. Do you put other people down because you feel rejected
by them? Do you go on a verbal rampage in an attempt to
shame anyone who dares to criticize you? Do you yell at any-
one who makes you feel inadequate? Do you become difficult
or insulting when you feel like a failure?
In order to break the shame/rage cycle you will need to ask your-
self,  What am I ashamed of? each and every time you get angry.
Think of your anger as a red flag signaling the fact that you are feeling
shame. This is especially true whenever you experience sudden bursts
of anger or when you become enraged. It may be difficult to find your
shame at first and you may not be feeling shame each and every time
you feel angry but with some practice you will be able to recognize
those times when you are feeling ashamed and discover what has trig-
gered it in you. Once you ve identified the shame/rage connection you
will need to break it. This means you will have to stop yourself from
becoming angry as a way of defending against your shame.
How to Cope with Shame
Until you can learn to manage your sometimes debilitating shame you
will not be successful in your attempts to break the cycle of anger,
pain, and abuse that have likely defined you and your family. Shame
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Learn How to Identify and Manage Your Shame 101
can trigger abusive reactions. It can cause us to compensate by need-
ing to have power over others, and it is often responsible for encour-
aging people to stay in abusive situations.
You can learn to cope with shame by following the process out-
lined in the previous chapter: (1) Identify the emotion; (2) determine
the message the emotion is conveying to you; (3) feel the emotion
without becoming overwhelmed by it breathe into it and accept it;
(4) ask yourself if it is appropriate to be feeling this emotion at this
time; and (5) take action to remedy the situation (e.g., communicate
your feelings to someone, change the way you look at things).
Identify the Feeling
Identifying the emotion of shame is not as easy as it is with some of
our other emotions.
 I just want to dig a hole and hide myself in it.
 I wish I could just disappear. I m so ashamed I can t look anyone
in the eye.
 I can t tell anyone about it. It s just too humiliating.
These are the kinds of comments that clients have made through
the years concerning how they feel about incidents in their lives when
they felt humiliated or shamed. When we feel strongly shamed it is
common for us to want to hide. In fact the word shame is thought to
derive from an Indo-European word meaning hide. There seems to be
a consensus among theorists, researchers, and lay people that the
experience of shame involves an impulse to hide from others, to avoid
having one s personal failure observed by anyone and to escape from
But the problem with shame is that there is also a tendency to want
to hide from ourselves when we are feeling shame. Many people are
simply unaware of the fact that they are feeling it. H. Lewis in Shame
and Guilt in Neurosis coined the phrase unacknowledged shame to
refer to the fact that shame can be concealed from our conscious
awareness. As she put it,  Difficulties in identifying one s own experi-
ence as shame have so often been observed that they suggest some
intrinsic connection between shame and the mechanism of denial.
According to Lewis, denial operates in two ways, the first being
that shame affect is overt or available to consciousness but the person
experiencing it either will not or cannot identify it. Another person may
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102 Breaking the Cycle of Abuse
identify that the person is having a shame reaction, or the person may
identify it as it recedes, but while shame is occurring the person is
unable to communicate. He or she often says only that he or she feels
blank or tense or awful. This kind of shame is referred to as overt,
unidentified shame.
The second kind of denial-tempered shame is referred to as
bypassed shame. This type of shame can involve a great deal of worry
and obsessing about what other people think of you. There seems to
be little feeling connected to this type of shame except for a momen-
tary wince, or jolt that consists of a peripheral, nonspecific distur-
bance in awareness.
 I felt exposed and speechless. This highlights the fact that many
people feel such utter self-consciousness when they are shamed that
speech can become silenced. In addition to finding it difficult to talk
about their experiences with shame many people simply do not have
the ability to articulate their feelings. Often, instead of identifying our [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]


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