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Barbara Greenberg

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How Shame Destroys Relationships

Posted: 05/ 1/2012 12:40 pm

Shame, one of the most difficult of all emotions, can slowly eat away at your heart, soul, stomach lining and relationships. And the relationships that it eats away at most are probably the ones that are most important to you -- the ones with your kids and your partners.

Now, let me tell you a little bit about shame. It is that soul-stirring, gut-wrenching, I wish I could vanish feeling that you get when you think that what you have may have done is unspeakable. At least you think that it is unspeakable. The tragedy is that if you didn't feel that you'd be further shamed by speaking about it then you might feel relief after talking about the "shameful" behavior.

Let me bring this to light for you with some specific true stories.

1. A child waits 4 years before telling a parent that she has been sexually molested because she is not only ashamed, but is afraid that her parents will be ashamed of her. The sad fact here is that those who recover best from these life events are those who have confided in parents and gotten support.

2. A teen does not tell his father that he is being bullied because he thinks that his father will be ashamed of him as he is of himself for not fighting back. So, this kid silently endures being called a "fag" for months. Perhaps his father might have defused the situation by helping this child deal with the situation effectively.

3. A girl lies to her parents about being friendless because she doesn't want her parents to think she's a loser. She refers to her "friends" frequently and makes excuses about why they can't get together on the weekends.

4. A wife does not tell her husband that she feels ignored because she doesn't want to appear needy. You see, in her own family, being tough, not needy, was valued. Well, sadly, this woman divorced her clueless husband. Yes, he was clueless because of her shame. She was too ashamed to tell him how she felt and to give him a chance to make some changes.

And how about this one?

5. A beautiful woman is told that she is fat and spends the rest of her life reviled by her body. Her body becomes a constant source of shame for her and a target for her hatred. She alternately starves it, feeds it and picks it apart.

When we think about the most corrosive feelings we immediately think about depression, but for the sake of our relationships we should look shame squarely in the face.

Your thoughts?

 

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