If we don’t claim our emotions, they claim us.
I understand what it feels like not to be enough. It was an emotion introduced to me by my abusive ex and it’s an emotion that I don’t ever want anyone close to me to feel.
It’s a false emotion that is empty of truth and causes severe damage. It comes from a place of personal shame that the one who is projecting it wants to escape. They are unable to cope with it so they shame you by using whatever they can to make you feel not good enough.
My ex suffers from Narcissistic Personality Disorder. His ability to feel guilt is flawed. Instead, he feels shame and his shame causes him to shame others and it results in his abusive behaviour. He is unable to separate himself from his behaviour which deepens his shame and because he can’t objectively control his behaviour he is at its mercy.
He becomes the abuser – he can’t help himself. He is lacking the internal mechanism that allows human beings to see that they are hurting another person. The only way he can manage his shame is by being abusive and disdainful of others. It is a character flaw that can’t be changed.
If you suspect this in your partner, walk away. The violence it can trigger can be extreme.
What is the difference between shame and guilt? Guilt is felt objectively. We feel guilty because we recognise that our actions were wrong. They go against the person we would like ourselves to be and so we apologise. We recognise that we could have behaved differently.
Shame is a different type of emotion. It is felt subjectively. We take our offending action as a sign that we are bad and we take it personally. There is no objective room for change to occur and an inability to separate who we are from our behaviour.
How do you know you are being shamed? Shame triggers trauma and leaves you feeling hijacked. You start to disappear from your own life. You become withdrawn and self-conscious.
How did he shame me? He shamed me by rejecting me. He held me up an ideal type of woman and expected me to live up to it. If he was unhappy in his own life he would shame me. There are many examples but there is no need to get into them because this feeling is now, like him, a thing of the past.
I know now that his shaming was an expression of his own inability to deal with his own personal shame and it had nothing to do with me.
Making someone feel not good enough and shaming them into feeling this way is something I believe a human being with a heart is incapable of doing.
When we shame someone it corrodes the part of them that believes that they can do better. It is like pushing them into a dark hole that is difficult to get out of – where they feel flawed and unworthy of connection.
It’s enough that we live in a culture of not enough. Let’s not bring it home or to each other. Instead, let’s protect each other’s self-worth.
I hold space for my man to feel however he wants to feel. I don’t label him and I don’t assume I know how he is feeling. Whatever he may be feeling, I would like to feel with him. I strive to give him a constant sense that he is worthy of connection and I expect the same in return.
We are in this together.
Let’s be delicate with each other.
Inspired by Men, Women & Worthiness: The Experience of Shame and the Power of Being Enough by Brené Brown