Being a card-carrying resident of “Crazy Town,” it became very clear to me that most of my children’s wacky shenanigans were about their compulsive defense against feeling shame that plagued them. The currency of our Crazy Town was nonsensical lying, sneaking, never taking responsibility, blaming, minimizing, excuse making, and becoming zero-to-60 enraged when hiding from the truth is impossible.
Sometimes it is hard for parents of attachment challenged and traumatized children to pull out of the insanity long enough to empathize with how painfully horrible it feels for a child to dip into overwhelming feelings of being “bad, hopeless, worthless and unlovable.” After all, they think their own birth parents didn’t love them enough to hold them precious, hold them emotionally, or simply hold a safe and stable space for them to grow up with a true sense of self-worth. On top of that, some of our children were harshly and excessively disciplined; they were left alone and punished with isolation; they were rejected through love-withholding and emotional cruelty; relationship repair non-existent; they were criticized for their child-like thinking, feelings and desires; and, finally, they were abandoned, thus internalizing the destruction of their birth family as “their own fault.”
Every child experiences small amounts of normally occurring shame in the first few years of life following moderate Mommy and Daddy hairy-eyeball correction. That short loss of closeness during correction helps a child develop an internalized sense of right from wrong. These experiences of shame followed by experiences of parental repair allow normal development of socially acceptable guilt and remorse for behavior that is harmful. Excessive shame defenses in children cause an extreme self-centeredness that ultimately prevents the development of empathy for others and appropriate guilt accompanied by responsibility-taking for actions that have harmed. My kids were never wrong or totally wrong. Sound familiar?
When shame is acknowledged, negative feelings embraced, and regular repairs are made by loving parents, our wounded children slowly develop what we call conscience.
Ce Eshelman, LMFT
Too much shame causes
compulsive, self-centered avoidance of accepting responsibility.
It’s a lying shame.
Next Trust-based Parent Course is planned for March 28th and April 4th. Save the date.
Next Hold Me Tight Couples workshop by Robin Blair, LMFT at The Attach Place is planned for April 17th, 18th and 19th.
The Attach Place supports The Wounded Warrior Project by providing free neurofeedback to veterans. Feel free to send a soldier our way for an assessment.