innerlight

Shame and Attachment — from Attachment Disorder Maryland

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Shame and Attachment

The page linked above is talking about ‘wishing to disappear’, states of experiencing the world in slow motion, and the endless cycle of sabotage. I’ve possibly never been so relieved to identify so deeply …

Description: The feeling of shame can be described as a sense of smallness, worthlessness, and powerlessness in a given situation.  …  It is triggered by a “perceived” break in one’s connectedness to others or to oneself. This is compounded by feeling exposed and extremely concerned about another’s evaluation of oneself.  Shame can be defined as the emotional experience of another’s devaluation or disgust, real or imagined. It is a self-absorbed, self-centered, and isolating experience.  While acutely feeling shame, an individual is not considering the implications of his behavior for others, but is focused solely on the possible impact on self.  Shame essentially splits a person into both an “observer” and “the one being observed”.  The observer part witnesses and criticizes the part being observed.  Sometimes, the presence of another is not even required to generate shame.

Shame & behavior:  Shame is self-perpetuating.  Internalized shame tends to induce behavior in the future that will lead to an outcome of further shame.  This is not recognized at the time.  The original motive for the behavior appears to have nothing to do with shame.  Yet, shame invariably results, and this final outcome indicates the true, underlying motive for the behavior as being the generation of shame, rather than the prior illusory motive.  Behavioral attempts to escape shame always work this way.  This can easily lead to an upwards spiral as increasing amounts of shame accumulate within which then fuels further shame-creating behavior.  …

Systemic impact:  Shame is more than a feeling.  It is an entire organismic state that affects multiple systems in the body.  Shame operates at primitive levels below the reach of rational thinking.  Shame brings with it a subjective sense of time slowing down which serves to magnify anything that occurs during a state of shame.  It also is accompanied by intensified feedback from all perceptual modalities, particularly autonomic reactions such as blushing, sweating, and increased heart rate.  These autonomic reactions induce a state of heightened bodily awareness which combines with the slowed sense of time to produce the extreme self-consciousness that is a part of feeling shame.

Shame and trauma:  Shame both mirrors trauma and is bound up with it.  Much of the power of what we term traumatic events lies in the shame bound up with these events.  Through traumatic events, perpetrators can download their own shame onto the victim who ends up being pervaded by it.  For the victim, this becomes an experience of powerlessness or helplessness.  Perceptions of being powerless create shame, for the self is seen as being weak / ineffective.  This often leads children to vow to “do it right” the next time in an attempt to overcome the trauma and prevent further trauma.  This can easily evolve into a perfectionistic stance which, in the end, only fuels the shame, as perfectionism generally guarantees failure.

Shame signals:  In addition to aversion to all eye contact, shame can manifest as fragmented thought and speech including: pauses, repetitions, false starts, inaudible voice level, and unclear diction.  All of these are common with AD children.  Subjectively this often gets reported as “going blank”, somewhat like dissociation.

Coping Defenses: The primary defenses for handling shame are denial, dissociation from all feeling states, splitting, withdrawal, perfectionism, entitlement, externalization, rage-driven behavior, pre-emptive shaming of oneself, and inability to give or receive praise.  With repeated use, these defenses, like all defenses, can function so quickly that the child never even consciously experiences any shame….

… Attempting to counter all this with positive reassurance is potentially damaging, for it can accentuate the shame by being so at odds with the self-image, and it can make the person offering such feedback seem completely out of touch to the AD child.

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Author: innerlight

A capricorn horse. Creative dreamer, over thinker. bpd, insecure attachment and any other labels for deep and chronic wounds and other gifts of brilliance that propel intense and eclectic lives and make for good art. We are high needs and high return, all the way, all the way. Surrender, integration, repair, rebuild, connect, create, evolve. Deeply.

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