In the co-dependent family system, feeling are uncomfortable to talk about and they are usually disregarded or minimized. I often heard things like “we don’t know why you feel that way,” or “you shouldn’t feel that way.” So pretty soon, you don’t. Or you try not to. Though not always intentional, invalidating a child’s feelings always produces shame.
If my feelings are wrong or bad, I must be bad.
I believe shame is at the root of most destructive behaviors, particularly addiction. Shame says: “it’s not my behavior that’s bad, it’s that I’m bad. No one could love me, I’m unlovable.” This belief also whispers: “no one can help me. Help cannot be found outside myself. I’m on my own.” This is how shame launches a self-destructive pattern of emotional stuffing, self-sufficiency and isolation. These and other harmful things open the door to damaging behaviors and unmanageable feelings.
Not surprising, shame causes most of us to develop what is called a ‘false self.’ This is the ‘self’ we put forward that we think others will like better. We are afraid if people see the real us, they won’t like us. Sometimes we don’t even know our real self since we created this more ‘likeable’ version of ourselves long before we were self-aware.
Shame created anxiety, panic attacks, anger, addiction, and relational turmoil for me as I tired to earn people’s approval. I also allowed power imbalances in my relationships.
Shame is a master of disguise. It hides deep in your soul and charts it’s catastrophic course through so many self destructive behaviors.
Shame doesn’t allow for the open expression of feelings because at our core we are ashamed of those feelings…even if this belief is unconscious, which it often is. In my case, I had been stuffing those ‘shameful’ feelings since I was three or four years old. I didn’t figure out I was doing it until I was in my mid-thirties.
Anything ‘stuffed’ can only hold so much before it leaks, pops, or explodes. What’s inside overlap’s and is all mushed together. When it escapes, it can be messy and hard to sort out. Kind of like your sock drawer! I started digging into that mush, wondering what was underneath my anger, addiction, control issues, and performance anxiety – It was shame.
Not the ‘I’ve done something bad’ kind of shame; the ‘I’m bad’ kind of shame.
That. Is. The. Lie.
We are sinners saved by grace. We may have done bad things, but we are not bad. God cannot create anything bad. Everything God created is perfect.
However, getting to the root of that shame can be a painful process. We need to allow God to shine His light into that ‘sock drawer’ in our soul. After that, we need to start sorting through all those ‘mismatched’ emotions. As we progress on this journey, our false self will begin to fall away as our true self emerges.
Jesus describes this pruning process in John 15:1-2: “I am the true vine, and my father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit, He prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.”
This pain is part of God’s pruning
This is why the Bible says we are to count it all joy when we face struggles because they are strengthening our character. When God is finished we will be complete and lacking nothing (James 1:2-4).
God longs to unveil the ‘you’ He created!
However, you must be willing to take the first step on the journey to recovery. He will be with you every step of the way…I promise.
If you would like to hear more about my recovery journey please check out my latest podcast “Shame and the False Self” by clicking here. God bless you and thanks for reading.