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Friday, April 1, 2016

Observations on shame: "The Shame Cycle"

Tonight (3/31/16) I dealt with what I considered a 'harassment' letter from an attorney for my dad's nursing home.  Long story short: My dad stayed there and ultimately had a lien placed on his house so they could recuperate costs not covered by Medicaid.  Anyway, I as his POA signed an agreement about a year ago which included promissory note giving them the authority to seize the house should his bill not be paid in full by the end of last year.  The attorney has been a real jerk and my attorney who is familiar with him says that he is pushy.  Anyway, thinking this whole matter I realized that I wasn't really fazed by the letter pressing the family for money.  I realized part of my serenity on the matter is that I realize that they will get my dad's house and it is up to them to flip it to get what they are owed.  But, I also realized something else: I have serenity on it because I am no longer caught up in what I call a "shame cycle".   Over the past number of years, I have felt shame over not being able to save my brother and a friend, respectively,  from harming themselves.  I have felt the shame of a failed marriage, a foreclosed house, bankruptcy, underemployment, not being a 24/7 parent of my daughter, not being there enough for my mom before she died and then having to walk away from my dad at times while his health was failing for my own sanity in the face of his insolence/difficult behavior as his health was progressively failing.  My friend Ben refers to a shame based "bottoming out" as a "shame crater".  At times, my "shame crater" seemed to be as large as the volcano crater I walked through in Hawaii.   

As anyone who has stopped to think about it has realized, when you are operating under a cloud of shame, your decision-making and/or confidence is compromised.  It doesn't matter if the shame is justifiable or not, the result is still the same.  I refer to this as a "shame cycle" because I think a lot of times shame has a way of keeping us in a rut or bad cycle. Furthermore, I think circumstances and/or people can wittingly or unwittingly support the continuation of this rut.  I am grateful that God has moved me to a place where I am not stuck in that cycle like I was, but I am well aware that sometimes the cycle is so deeply embedded in one's persona that it takes a/some dramatic event(s) or a dramatic change to shake us out of the rut or cycle.  Unfortunately, for me it took the complete implosion of the marriage to my ex and the suicide of my brother to start to start to put a stop to the cycle.  I think sometimes when we are stuck in a bad cycle, especially a shame one, we know something has to give for us to start feeling healthy or recovering again, but the fear of what it has to be keeps us from going there.

One more quick note, I have found the following are useful in stopping or breaking a shame cycle:
  • Counsel of trusted others - Whether it be a friend, minister or actual counselor.
  • Measuring myself and my worth in God's eyes, rather than my own or the eyes of the  world.
  • Confidence  - Especially when you know it is supported by a sense of honor or propriety.
Anyway, just think of a shame cycle like a wash cycle.  Eventually, it has to end to allow go onto the next the next step in the process.   Just my thoughts for the evening...

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