Monday, July 26, 2010
The Power of Shame
I ask her where she got this idea from? She tells me her mommy told her that when she goes to kindergarten she MUST NEVER EVER suck her thumb and that she can NEVER take her blanket with her. If anyone sees her sucking her thumb or holding a blanket then ALL of the children and ALL of teachers will tease her and make fun of her. No one will want to play with her or sit next to her. Everyone will know!
This sweet five year old little girl is so filled with shame and guilt that she can hardly stand it. She had no idea that something that made her feel safe, secure, and comforted, was so bad. She had no idea other children did not do this. She did not know she was the only one. She felt ashamed. Why hadn't anyone told her before? She was filled with anxiety wondering if anyone outside of her family knew her "secret" and if they did, what did they think of her. She also began to wonder what her family members may have really thought about her now, now that she knows what she had been doing all along, was wrong.
Her mother does not realize that this is the little girls only way to self comfort herself from the arguing, fighting, and alcohol abuse that she see's between her parents. For as long as she can remember she has sucked her thumb and held her blanket, usually when she went to sleep, but also at times when she was scared, lonely, or confused. Her mother thinks that she is protecting her daughter, but the reality is that she is filling her with guilt and shame and putting the idea into her five year mind that other people will always be watching and judging you. I do not believe that this mother is aware of what she has done. The mother most likely was made to feel the same way, at some point in her childhood. She does not realize she is setting her daughter up for a life time of guilt and shame. And always second guessing herself and wondering if other people approve or not. Always wanting to please others before she pleases herself. The mother does not realize the damages she has done and that her daughter looks up to her and trusts and believes every word she says.
I hold this sweet innocent little girl for a few minutes letting her cry and stroking her head as I whisper to her, "its ok". As her breathing begins to return to a normal pace I tell her that it's fine that she sucks her thumb and has a blanket, in fact there are MANY MANY children who do the very same thing. There is nothing to be ashamed about. It's really ok. I also assure her that her teacher will understand and can possibly help her with other ways to bring comfort to her when she needs it. I go on to explain that I know that there will be one, if not more, children in her class, that will have the same or similar habit. I help her to understand that everyone, even grown ups, do things to help us cope with stressful, sad, or scary feelings or situations. I also tell her that her mommy loves her. She only reacted the way she knew how. The mother does not realize that this pattern (the pattern of guilting and shaming) will continue on between the two of them until her daughter is well into adulthood.
The story I have shared with you is a true story to some extent. The little girl and the mother, they are real and the situation was real. The woman helping the little girl is not real, This scenario was something that I recently worked through with my doctor, The little girl is me. I shared it in this way so that it might make more sense to you, as a reader,
Maybe someone will see their self in the role of the mother or even in the little girl. If you see yourself in the mother role it's never to late to stop the cycle of guilt and shame. Today is a new day! Negative and shameful words (talk) is a hard (generational) cycle to break, but the more you are aware, the less power they hold over you, Remember words have power. As parents we can help our children see the glass as half full or half empty. Now that you are aware, you can make a choice. If you see yourself as the little girl, I pray that you are willing to open the door to healing, forgiveness, and believe there is always hope and know that you CAN move forward,
Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature, the old things passed away; behold, new things have come 2Corinthians 5:17