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Shame and Attachment — from Attachment Disorder Maryland

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.


Recognizing Complex Trauma | Psychology Today

Recognizing Complex Trauma | Psychology Today.

It is essential for them to understand that their symptoms come from somewhere, so they can have compassion for themselves …

Developmental Trauma Disorder, Frozen Trauma, Complex Trauma, Attachment Disorder — whatever it’s called, it’s been a long time coming for the weight and the cost of repeated childhood trauma to be given its proper weight.

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The Three Factors of Loneliness | The Emotionally Sensitive Person

The Three Factors of Loneliness | The Emotionally Sensitive Person

by Karyn Hall, PhD, at Psych Central

I simplified the wording of the actual three factors:

  1. Level of vulnerability to social disconnection.
  2. Ability to regulate the emotions associated with feeling isolated.
  3. Mental representations, expectations and reasoning of/about others.

My favourite paragraph:

Sometimes lonely people have difficulty because they view themselves as inadequate or unworthy. Shame about who you are will block making connections with others.


Trigger #2millionfourtytwo.five:

How am I:

I’m either in crisis, incredibly scared and shaky and just barely staying out of the hospital right now OR I’m doing more wonderful than I’ve ever been. Coming to bloom in the garden of life. Experiencing enlightenment. A bright shining light of inspiration and wisdom. Enjoying summer and friends and my happy new home.

On Friday, I began the day by reaching out for help in the face of having been distracted by increasing thoughts of how to kill myself, feeling hopeless, that no one was ever going to get me. Coming up with a plan for how to stay alive over the weekend, alone in the house with my roommate gone. It was an accomplishment that this was taken seriously and I received the caring I needed in order to have a re-do.

That the doc was not treating me less seriously than the ones who act out instead of hold it all in. That I need to feel the depth of these feelings in someone else’s presence, and how hard that is. Finally, I felt got!

I went for a walk with a friend that afternoon, mentioned nothing to her of my morning or what was going on. Took her lead instead to speak about writing and indulge ourselves in simple time together in the sun by the river, feeling peaceful and content and having good conversation about creativity and healing. Feeding the creative muses in both of us.

I got home, thawed out some home-made chili from the freezer, ate it, and went to my ACA meeting.

As soon as I walked in the door, I was struck by the feeling of not knowing how I was – was I in crisis, or was I enjoying the fruits of my labour in life? I honestly did not know.

This confusion was (is) so terrifying for me that I went into shock. I felt the Dead Feeling in my body and face, barely able to rouse a facial expression, sitting slumped in my chair, unable to look at anyone. Managing to read aloud my part in the opening to the meeting, managing to function just barely enough to not disrupt the meeting or draw attention to myself, and meanwhile sliding further into shock and the Silent Panic.

By the end of the meeting, it was so intense that I reached out for help, and concluded with a close recovery friend that I should not spend the night alone, and should go to the hospital if I couldn’t get a hold of anyone else to stay with.

The recovery friend went back into the meeting room for the second part of the meeting, and I moved to my car with my cell phone to find a place to go that night. I finally cried and shook when she hugged me good night. I was really scared and not in control of myself – not myself, and feeling exposed in that state, unable to think clearly and make decisions.

I couldn’t get a hold of anyone on the phone, so I decided to show up at someone’s house. But it was near the hospital too, so maybe I should just go there. I turned around several times, driving back and forth between the person’s house and the hospital, eventually up to the hospital. But then I realized I was almost out of smokes, and didn’t want to spend the night in the emerg room without smokes. So I went home and continued my phone search. By this time, my abdomen was in pain, enough for me to be slightly doubled over and moving quite slowly. I equate this with emotional stress, as that is where it tends to be stored in my body. I spoke with a couple other recovery friends, telling them what was happening. But they were unable to put me up for the night. I had never reached out in this way before.

Finally found someone who could. As soon as I left the house, on my way to be with someone in my time of need, I felt calmer, and began to come out of the shock and panic.

By the next morning, I felt like myself again. I invited some people for a potluck, made soup, and went for a hike and a swim with the same friend as the previous day.

This friend had no idea that my visits with her had been sandwiched between near admission to the hospital.

Is this real yet? What will it take for my Child to believe that her pain is real, her feelings are real, her distress is valid. What has been happening to me?

Does this not sound insane?

It scares me that I have this range, and the capacity for such extremes.


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what’s your book cover

I’ve been having book covers and titles coming to me. What, if anything, I ever end up doing with them, it seems like part of my therapy to express them. What is your book cover?



one’s positivity is another’s trauma

I’ve had several opportunities lately to affirm, identify and stand up for what is right for me in the face of what I perceive as being the popular culture’s view of health and well-being, and in some cases, ignorance, and a lack of respect or compassion. I’m learning to give it to myself where others fall short, and to give extra to others wherever I am able.

I’ve noticed that I aspire to the affections of one particular person in my professional sphere, to a degree that is a little bit unhealthy. I want her to be a certain way so that I can see her in a certain way. I see so much potential for us to be kindred spirits, and yet, we’ve now known each other for over a year, and our connection still has yet to be authentic. But the other day, I think I discovered a big part of why this is the case.

Y has built a life around spirituality and cultural practices, and she runs her business on principles of communication and community engagement that I admire. It’s interesting to notice people returning to spirituality via very different routes — some through trauma and loss and some through a sincere and heartfelt desire to create peace and healing in the world. In Y, I see the later. At times, we speak each other’s heart, but at times, I perceive her as naive and superficial; I perceive that she has not come to this place from having been to the breaking point and back and I feel that this keeps us separate. We were carpooling to a class a couple of days ago, and talking about changing habits and recurring dynamics in our lives. In her experience, she has been able to change these dynamics by making a conscious decision to change them. Always put her things back in their place so that she is not scrambling around looking for them and arriving late to her engagements; make a point of remembering names of musicians and actors and people in general by realizing the importance of doing so.

We were talking about the pattern of perpetual chaos — last-minute plans, changes, missing or losing things, etc. She spoke about it in her husband. I said I relate to him, and that this pattern seems compulsive and deeply rooted; that in order to change it, I have to discover what the root of it is. She responded with a metaphor of the ocean floor affecting surface wave patterns — that we can change the ocean floor by changing the wave patterns, with small acts of change in our daily lives. In the moment, I responded that it was a two-way communication. It wasn’t until retrospect that I realized this is really a very big issue for me, and that her analogy brings up a lot of shame in me. Why am I toiling away trying to get to the roots when I could just change the surface patterns and have the same affect? Am I stupid? And if I have tried for half my life to change the surface patterns by simply disciplining myself to make small changes in my life, and if I have failed, then I must be a total loser — stupid, lazy, … you get the picture.


Seabed (Photo credit: s__i)

There seems to be such a predominant notion these days that we can change ourselves from the top down. that we can choose how we feel. we create our own reality (surface waves). no matter the past or the balance of chemicals in our brain. I know this is meant to be empowering and encouraging. I speak here for someone who has experienced traumatic invalidation from her earliest years, and I know that I am not just speaking for myself here when I say that each ripple in the ocean floor — each invalidating experience, — especially those that have been shaped and hardened by years and years of denial and repression, needs to finally be fully seen and understood before it will dissolve. An invalidation is like a piece of me that has been lost, banished, shamed into exile. Changing the surface waves without seeing, acknowledging and reclaiming those lost parts of me is like re-banishing them, re-traumatizing them, digging the knife in deeper, rejecting myself all over again. To me, it is a violent act of dysfunction and destruction. The very essence of the dis-ease I must cure in myself, and the damage I must repair. These notions of top-down transformation, even though they may come with the best of intentions, are like a carcinogen to me.


At an afternoon of food and games with 3 other women, a woman I had just met discovered I am an only child and exclaimed at how totally normal and ‘ok’ I seemed (not like other only children she’d met). I immediately felt pressured to keep up the reputation, and almost instantaneously stopped being genuine. I was like an icon on a computer desktop that suddenly became greyed and un-clickable. No one noticed because 2 of the others then began digesting all their friends and family dramas. Someone’s husband had an anger outburst, and his wife had told one of the women at the table this day that “he can’t help it.” The woman telling the story rolled her eyes, and the other one joined her. Then the other one launched into a vent about one of her friends — how she had deeply wanted to come and play with us, but that she would probably be too sensitive. That she was one of those annoying people who would let things fester, and then bring them up several days or even weeks later. Do you think I said, “Wow, that sounds like me!”? No, I did not. I continued to laugh at appropriate times and make little jokes and chime ins for a while, but the two just continued on their catch-up vent session. I’m proud of myself that I eventually got up and went out side, not needing to explain myself or make judgements. I wasn’t even very aware of what was really happening at the time; all I remember feeling was bored, out of place, and then reminding myself that I was not obligated to stay in this situation, and liberating myself away from it.

What I like about this group of women is that they are incredibly free-spirited and liberated from the mainstream. I am shocked that the 2 gossipers are such good friends of the hostess, who I have known to be so open-minded and non-judgemental (while being extremely intelligent, sensitive and creative). I had been excited to meet her friends and begin a weekend ritual of scrabble and the likes. Now? I guess I am grieving that my little fantasy of this group isn’t true. Either I be willing to challenge them and learn whether or not they are receptive, or my quest for a sense of family continues. At this point, I cannot know them well enough to know whether it is even worth my while to find out more. So, that’s where I sit in this moment.


If all these women, and Y from the story above, had been dressed in leathers shooting up with heroin, it would have been more obvious that they are not my crowd, but the Universe does not always speak so black and white. There’s that damn subtlety again. The Universe speaks through the way I feel in my heart and body in response to any given situation or idea. I am exercising the muscle to listen and respond to these communications, as disappointing as it may be to let go of what I want a situation or person to be. Maybe I am being trained to listen on a deeper level.


need a portable trap door

I’m not sure how I would name this experience, but I’m gleaning that it’s part of what is ill in me. It’s extremely disturbing when it happens.

Tonight at a social gathering I suddenly lost all confidence. The guy next to me kept finding the song lyrics and passing them to me and said how maybe it was time for me to ge my own binder. I got more and more shy to sing, and my inner critic began telling me how predictable and stupid my harmonies are. Then they all had guitars and I didn’t and they were talking about their instruments and I got lost. I started to feel really awkward, suddenly afraid to look anyone in the eye. I’d been there for a couple hours, and had begun the evening having good connections with people both talking and singing. I moved across the room and started stretching (as I often do). At some point it became evident that the others wanted me to sing and I just pretended I didn’t hear them or didn’t understand what they were saying. I said i was tired and needed to go home, and managed to say good bye to people; and if anyone had noticed that I seemed off, no one let on.
Driving home, I had an inner voice reassuring me that it was okay to show my illness sometimes; that enough people have enough of an inkling of my type of challenges these days that they would be able to figure out how to understand these phenomena in me. I then remembered how this experience felt before my diagnosis, when I was in school with a National leadership award funding me. In those moments, I remembered, the shame and panic and stress became more and more unbearable. That I was a fraud and people were eventually going to find me out. The same way I sometimes feel about my disability application. Some days I seem so emotionally stable and strong that I can’t remember these “awkward” moments that wreak havoc in my life and inspire my application. and in the insecurity and emptiness, I can’t remember the feeling of confidence and connection. Around and around …