self-sabotage and shame

'Self-sabotage behaviour can come in many forms' by Mark Tyrrell

‘Self-sabotage behaviour can come in many forms’ by Mark Tyrrell

In the process of writing my disability application, a person helping me asked me how I would define self-sabotage. He kind of answered for me when I hesitated because I didn’t really understand why he was asking; but three weeks later, totally out of the blue, this comes to me:

Self-sabotage is doing the same things repetitively to fuck things up; recognizing what you’re doing, and still not being able to stop doing it.

That was me, particularly intensely in my early twenties. I could feel my (inner) child clinging to others, and I could watch them back-tracking; I could understand what drove people away, but wasn’t able to stop what was happening, over and over again. I’m fairly certain I was one of those people who drained people’s energy, or caused them to unconsciously avoid getting too close to me, and yet there was nothing I could do about it.

The shame was crushing, but the most horrible thing about it was being aware of it, even while it was happening, but not being able to stop it. I guess I’m writing this because, although it has shifted quite a bit for me since then, it still comes up now and again, and I still feel the instinct to deny it to others and bear the weight of it myself. That is shame:

Shame is the instinct to hide a truth about ourselves because if others knew about it, we would not be loved. Shame makes us feel like a liar or a fraud at our deepest core, afraid of being discovered.

No one has ever confirmed for me that this dynamic was really real. It has taken a very long time for me to step out of the confusion, and trust that what I experienced was real. The notion that my mind was making up ‘stories’ and thus creating my anxiety did far more harm than good by prolonging this confusion and the healing it prevented me from experiencing, and this is exactly the root of why CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) was such a waste of my time in so many ways. I still find this notion so invalidating — that the adversities in our lives are not founded in anything real at all (so we are even crazier than we’d thought) — change your thoughts, and suddenly you were never abused, rejected and avoided in your life; none of that really happened. Our minds created those stories and all of the grief, depression and anxiety that has fucked us up all these years. So just stop listening to your mind and your senses because they are full of shit. They cannot be trusted. Our perceptions cannot be trusted; they are distorted. Ignore the stories in our minds at all costs and we will be fine.

'Monster in the Closet' by Efrem Palacios

‘Monster in the Closet’ by Efrem Palacios

I’m influenced here by Brene Brown’s talks on vulnerability and shame. It seems like when we can be brought to expose what we are most deeply ashamed of (impossible if we are still thinking that the source of our shame might actually be just a story in our minds), it is an act of deep vulnerability — the kind Brown describes as “the birth place of creativity, innovation and change.” There is so much healing in putting words to “it” (whatever it might be that is itching us inside). The things we are ashamed of are what create the pattern of chronic self-sabotage; but these things are able to be transformed by acknowledging them to the extent that they can be expressed, exposed and understood — the opposite of what our shame would have us do.



what’s your broken record, shame & a step ten interpretation

broken record image

unknown source

I’ve been hiding from blogging lately, having the inner critic step in. Inner Critic (IC) says something like, “You are so self involved. Why would anyone be interested in the inner workings of your brain?”

I’ve continued writing, but have not posted anything because what I have written seems somehow unfinished, extremely brash or out of character, and I have not brought myself to post any of it. This is a side-effect of identity confusion.

In response to the re-emergence of my IC, I remembered writing on a fridge whiteboard two Falls ago, “What’s your broken record?”. I’d written it in the spirit of the relationship between me and my new land lord there (this is really not where I thought this post was going). Although we hadn’t ever really hung out, we’d at least known each other for both having gone to the Haven.

The thought that inspired me to write that was that broken records destroy lives because we can’t get them to stop playing. They need a good dose of understanding and validation to let go of their grip on us — the grip of Shame (in the spirit of Brene Brown’s talk on TED entitled Listening to Shame). When we remove shame, we can see what’s underneath it; we can see an event or characteristic of ourselves for what it is when we stop being ashamed to the point of denial about it. Because as long as we remain in denial about it because the shame is too painful, we can never integrate that event or characteristic into the rest of ourselves. We remain split, between an inner world and an outer one; shame creates that.

I wrote a definition of Step 10. It’s much shorter than the definition of Step One I had written (and posted) several months ago.

Step Ten is a daily practice of noticing and surrendering our answer to the question, “How is your relationship with your Higher Power today?”

It’s strange to come back full circle to the realization of “What’s your broken record?” now seeing it in the context of Step Work. What comes out of me can seem like a broken record, but the only way to heal it is to keep talking about it. That’s what I keep hearing from fellow members who have encountered this type of IC before. The only way to heal it is to keep talking about it. And to sit in a room full of women who have been through child abuse and violence and suicidal depression saying that, I do feel the truth in it.

Integrating is hard work, and no one who hasn’t had to do that can truly understand it, the fact that it requires us to become willing to sound like a broken record to see what our broken record actually has to say and finally respond to it.

This is my scattered brain today. I will put the links in this post in later.