I've learned a lot this week about myself, about other people, and about the world we live in. All of the lessons seemed separate from each other but in reality it is all one lesson. For me it started with me getting sick. It started with a sore throat and cough. It has been eight days and it is still hanging on and won't let me go. What I learned is that I don't do sick well. I don't like to be sick. I don't know how. It's like a personal failure to get sick, shameful. I tell myself that I'm going to rest, take care and ask for help, but I don't. Then I get sad, mad, and I want to blame people. Why are my kids so demanding? Why do we have so much going on every night that I cannot get any rest? Why doesn't anyone notice that I'm not feeling well and help? This is BLAME. I want it to be someone's fault that I am sick, miserable and tired.
Then I think that it is my own fault for agreeing to soccer, work, cross country, birthday parties, etc. It is my own fault my kids expect me to help them all the time. It is my own fault that I don't get help because I never ask. I just do it and get mad. THIS IS SHAME. Something is wrong with me. I have failed. It is why I am miserable. I deserve what I get. I don't like to feel this way so I will probably go back to BLAME. On and on and on. It doesn't end. When I blame, I'm trying to control and uncontrollable situation. When I shame I'm trying to punish myself. None of this feels good or does me any good. None of this benefits my family and those close to me. They don't want to feel blamed, who does? They also don't want to be around someone miserable and feeling ashamed. This can cause them to feel like they have done something wrong (shame) or can cause them to feel the need to then blame also.
See the thing is that no one wants to feel bad. No one wants to admit a weakness or character defect. No one wants to be accountable for their feeling and actions because sometimes we don't like what we feel or do. Instead of thinking, I'm human and I'm learning, we think it is someone's fault. Someone has to be blamed.
I feel like no where is this being demonstrated better than in our country today. The blame/shame cycle is on full volume starting with the leader of our country. He seems to have his hand on the lever and whenever it starts to slow down he gives the wheel a big spin. Blaming other people, pointing fingers, stirring anger, passing judgement, etc. I can't know what he goes through personally, but where there is blame there is usually shame. Hearing blame and shame be encouraged can normalize it.
We feel shame for the wounds, the human faults, the wrong actions we commit as individuals and as a country. But to admit those faults would be to admit our shame and we can't. So we blame. We do it loudly, angrily, forcefully and with words like "you should be ashamed" ,"you are a disgrace", "disrespect", "it's your fault" ,"it's their fault" etc.
Blame and shame form a wall, a barrier, where love, respect, and honor are not possible. Ask any couple that lives together and fights to be right, blames, shames, how good they are feeling about themselves and their relationship. Probably there is unrest, discontent, not feeling valued, heard or loved. If not interrupted this cycle will continue for life and there will not be harmony in the home. The wife will not give in because to admit she was wrong would bring her shame, she can't lose face. The husband will not reach out to her and tell her he is hurting because she might see this as weakness and use it against him. No trust, no love, just hurt, shame, blame.
I realized this week when I was sick that I was miserable. Not just from being sick but something deeper. So I brought it up with my counselor and we worked through it. I learned something about shame and blame that I never knew before. I can get out of the cycle, I can stop or slow it. I can even refuse to participate in it! What???
Okay, so first of all I did not know what was going on with me was blame, shame, etc. I just knew I didn't like how I was feeling and how things were playing out. I had been learning so much about self care, being good to myself, being understanding and gentle with myself and others but I was unable to do this when I was sick. Illness brought about shame for me. Why? I don't know. But I know it was there. It was evidenced by my feeling that I was being lazy if I rested. I was letting people down if I cancelled on plans. I would be weak if I called into work. Shame. What is wrong with me, why can't I just be better?
So since I'm trying to learn to be good to me even when I'm not my best or even if I fail to meet expectations, the fact that I wasn't doing it caused me to feel shame. Shame makes me mad. I don't want to feel crappy about me. I don't want to admit that I speak to myself that way. I don't want to admit that I think I should never get sick. Rationally I know that that is impossible because people get sick but in my mind, not me. Being mad at me just feels bad, so naturally I look to blame someone else so I can be distracted from my shame, my failures, my stuff. Enter husband, children, grocery store clerk, etc. and I can blame them. Why would they ask me to do that, can't they see I'm sick? Jerks. If I make someone feel like a jerk, they are going to feel ashamed of themselves. Shame doesn't sit well, so they will also find someone to blame-the cycle continues.
The exciting part for me was learning that there is a way out. It is not easy or perfect and it is certainly going to be hard for me. Here it is. I can forgive myself for feeling shame. I can say, I don't like how I react when I am sick, but it is okay, I'm trying. Then I can get still and quiet enough to know what I need and then I can give it to myself if possible. I can sit in the uncomfortableness of shame and choose not to blame anyone else. Just feel it until it passes. Or tell myself that it isn't deserved. That I'm allowed to get sick, I'm allowed to fail, I'm allowed to make mistakes, and that I can always do better next time or learn from it.
If I did this I would get back to normal faster. The cycle would not be activated because I would not take my internal shame and turn it outward so I didn't have to feel it. I would not blame others. I might even be able to be vulnerable and let down my walls to get love, comfort, understanding or support. If I challenge my shame and say no not today, I might not feel the need to defend all the time. Defensive people are protecting their weak spot.
Getting off the cycle means that even when you attack me out of shame or blame, I don't have to do it back to you. You can't shame me or blame me if I feel good inside myself. If I know I'm human and I don't know everything, I'm not perfect, and that I'm just doing the best I can, you can't make me feel bad about any of that. When I am claiming to be perfect and know everything and have closed my ears to anything I disagree with, I'm hiding my wounds and I need to attack you before you get to it.
I don't know folks, but I think I'm getting further on this path of becoming a mature adult. A mature adult that can make mistakes, be wrong, feel bad for hurting others, acknowledge my bad behavior, listen to others shame or blame without feeling the need to jump into the cycle with them. It is hard work. And I'm being tested. Many people pulling on me to come back and play the game. I don't want to. It feels bad and it doesn't help anything or anyone.
My wish for us all is that we could know the freedom of accepting imperfection without shame. If we could stop shaming ourselves, we might be able to stop shaming and blaming others. We could just learn. From ourselves, from others, from our mistakes and our failures. Because make no mistake, we are living in our mistakes and failures everyday, everyone of us. We live in the mistakes of our parents and their parents and we have inherited generations of shame and blame if our cycle was never interrupted. If I can give nothing else to my children and grandchildren I hope it is the ability to live as a fully imperfect human without shame and the need to blame. What freedom! Just imagine. Be well. Be imperfect. Be kind to yourself and others.