There is a pervasive and incorrect belief that shaming is an effective way to inspire change and improvement. Psychological studies and research in the past ten years have proven conclusively that this is untrue.
The effects of shaming are that we disconnect from ourselves and from a sense of our own value. This feels so devastating that we escape in any way we can, often through addiction and other unhealthy and damaging activities.
I had a moment the other day when I was reminded of how checked out I was when I was a young adult. I had been through years of being shamed as a teenager and feeling shunned and alone. I married at 18 (aka desperate bid for inclusion and society’s approval), my son was born when I was 20, and I divorced at 23. At age 27 I began a relationship with someone who was abusive to my son. It didn’t start out that way. And I didn’t see it. For the first time, I felt seen and loved and protected by my partner and I couldn’t see clearly.
What really lands hard is how devastating that was for my then 7 year old son. Exposing him to her is by far the worst thing I have ever done. Just writing these words, I feel strong energy in my heart center. Grief. Sadness. Knowing I let him down.
Learning about Developmental Trauma has allowed me to understand the mechanisms at work. To see the early damage and the lifetime of healing that is my journey and is my son’s journey. Through meditation and the Living Inquiries, I have experienced a direct way to connect within. What is different now is that I no longer shame my self. The weight of responsibility is heavy. I did let him down. It wasn’t intentional. It was not a lack of love. I always loved him. And I understand. I let it in.
“The result of trauma is disconnection from yourself and the present moment.” Dr Gabor Maté
I turn 65 this year. I am internally free from toxic thoughts and shame. I know myself. My own basic goodness. I have such compassion for myself, for my grown son and his family. For all of us parents who let down our children because we were disconnected from ourselves. For all the children who are adrift.
I sit here with my hand on my heart, feeling the poignant intensity of love and compassion. Words associated with this drift through. Forgiveness. Responsibility. Shame. Disconnection. Alone without protection. Words don’t hook me now the way they used to. I know that shaming myself leads to further disconnection from me and my son.
I am human. I am included in the human family. I include myself.