We all know that we don't want to feel that way and yet it is built right into our cultural system as a means of control. In his book The Mind Body Code, Dr Mario Martinez talks about the archetypal wounds of shame, abandonment and betrayal and how the authority figures in our lives; parents, teachers, bosses and religious leader use the language of these emotions in order to bring us back into line or keep us from straying from the line in the first place.
Brene Brown, a shame researcher, explains the difference between shame and humiliation like this; Humiliation is I did a bad thing. Shame is I am a bad person. Humiliation is something that we will get over. We know that we messed up and we know that we will do better in the future.
Shame, on the other hand, seeps into our pores, it eats away at our self esteem and according to Dr Martinez, it leads to illness, inflammation and self sabotage.
We feel shame any time we step away from our tribal belief, any time that we deviate from the "norm" as set down by our elders whether they be our parents, our teachers, our religious leader or any authority figure that has a position of power over us. We move beyond the pale and often are shunned for doing so. In the Amish community "shunning" involves everyone in the community literally turning their backs on you, no-one will talk to you or connect with you in anyway until such time as you embrace the tribal beliefs again and fall back into line.
Stepping out onto your own path takes immense courage. Shame will be poured on your from many directions to try and pull you back into line.
Harriet Lerner, in her book The Dance of Intimacy, talks about it this way; that who ever we are interacting with we are in a dance with but if you start trying to dance to a different beat or in a different way they will pull you back to the original dance. That only works if you are willing to go back to the old ways though. Changing the dance, staying true to you regardless of the force of others wanting you to fit into their idea of "normal" takes courage, strength of character and a firm belief in yourself.
You are literally stepping out into the world on your own because the tribe will disown you.
I know because I've been there. When I finally faced up to my parents about the abuse that went on in my family when I was younger I was told in no uncertain terms that (a) I was delusional (b) I was now disowned and (c) that all photos of myself and my children would be removed from the house. The part about my kids is what got me the most. Sure, I could have caved in and reclaimed my place in the family by denying that anything had ever happened and following the party line. But here's the thing I had been denying things fro a long time and I wasn't about to try and put the cat back into the bag. I knew the minute that I put that phone down that I wouldn't be talking to my parents again. I had to make a choice in my life; to stand up to bullies or to continue being bullied. I chose Me.
Was it painful? You betcha. Did I fall apart? Absolutely - I sank into a depression that lasted for 18 months and ended up on antidepressants which I never , ever wanted to go on. Was it worth it? Absolutely!! I now live my life completely on my own terms. I feel free to do and be exactly as I please without fear of judgment or parental disapproval.
Things I learned in the process:
(1) Friends really are the family you choose for yourself.
Friends will be your saving grace. they will wrap themselves around you and fill up the spaces where family once stood. Plus they will never judge you the way your family did.
(2) You are stronger than you realise.
When I went on antidepressants my doctor told me I would probably be on them for the rest of my life. That was the comment that spurred me to get off them. I am nothing if not determined. Freeing yourself from your parents judgment and shaming ways will feel like a huge weight has been lifted from your shoulders, like you have been given wings. You will start to stretch and grow in ways you never would have thought possible before
(3) You will still miss family.
You will still feel pangs of missing them from time to time especially when you have big news to share. You will find other people to share all those highlights with though and you get to build your own family traditions.
(4) Some people won't understand.
If they have not come from a dysfunctional family or have never been shamed the way you have they won't understand. They will ask you why you hate your parents or why you don't just apologise or why you don't just suck it up and make amends. The reality is you don't have to justify yourself to anyone. I still love my parents I just choose not to spend time with them any more. Some call me heartless and use the emotive " you don't want your parents to die without saying goodbye do you?" all this does is add to the shame and puts me in the role of the recalcitrant child not obeying the family rules.
The reality is that you are choosing to love yourself more than you love the tribe you came from. Some see this a selfish. What it is is self full. We are here to heal ourselves and grow ourselves into the best version of us that we can. We are not here to kowtow to others ideas of how our lives should be run.