Shame is taught or learned in many ways. I have compiled an extensive list, but I’m sure that there are many more ways that shame develops into self-defeating patterns in our lives. Even if you do not recognize the example as happening in your life, you may realize it later as you explore examples that are familiar to you.
Shame-based people block out the past because it is so painful, but you must allow yourself time to explore your past.
Universal Criticism is the belief that nothing you do is good enough. If you get three A’s and one B, you only focus on the negative of the B as opposed to the positive of the A’s. You clean the house, and then find one corner that still has dust. You find yourself fixating on that small area as opposed to appreciating the rest of the clean house.
Neglect is knowing that you are loved, but still having a sense that something is missing or that something is wrong with you. This can be the result of a lack of physical presence. You can also experience this feeling on an unconscious level with a lack of emotional presence even if there is a physical presence.
Children usually celebrate if there are No Rules, but the unconscious message is that they are not important enough to have rules and boundaries. When there are not any rules, parents do not pay attention to their children.
The exact opposite is Rules that cannot be met. This occurs if Rules are unreasonably high or too rigid to be achieved. The unconscious message is that there is something wrong with you because you cannot follow the Rules.
Lack of Touch and not being held is very abusive. When you see your friends being hugged, and you are not then you perceive it as there must be something wrong with you.
Physical Abuse is touch or sexualized behavior that is hurtful and given without compassion. The message again is that there must be something wrong with you. Otherwise, it wouldn’t have happened.
Responsibility for other people’s behavior, something that you have no control over. Examples include a parent’s drinking problem, siblings destroying things, and conflicts in the family.
Blame is the result of feeling responsible for other people’s behavior. You feel that it is your fault, and you become a scapegoat.
Unrealistic Expectations is being expected to know how to do something despite never being taught or given the opportunity to learn. You are made to feel that because you make a mistake that you are a mistake. That because you do not intuitively or instinctively know how to do something that there must be something wrong with you.
Sibling Comparisons include being smarter, more athletic, prettier, and more responsible.
Religion told you, or you defined yourself as evil or a sinner, and that you need penance to be good. This causes you to be shame-based rather than grace-based.
You must allow yourself time to explore your past.
It will not be easy and can be very painful, but it is necessary.
Ken Thom, MS, LPC is a nationally recognized Christian counselor and writer. He is available for parent and individual coaching. Ken is a Post Institute Certified Family Regulatory Therapist, Certified Coach and Great Behavior Breakdown Instructor as well as a certified BCI parent trainer. Ken's book Christian Parent Wisdom is a daily scripture based medication book for parenting children with challenging behaviors. Contact Ken.