Friday, December 23, 2011

Toxic Shame, Deep-set Lies

This will be a difficult post to write for me.  Not difficult because I'm afraid to share it.  Difficult because of the pain I know that it's going to touch on.  Once more, into the breach.

In my support group this week, I did something where I looked into events where I had felt shamed.  Sometime soon, I'll have to start up a series of posts called 'From the Memory Vault' where I share things from my past that I'm able to remember.  I actually have a draft for one, but I'm too afraid to share it.  I'm frankly worried about how I could explain it without the event becoming too pornographic.  Here's a list of some of the shameful memories that I was able to remember this week:
  • In kindergarten, I colored a hand purple.  The teacher had me re-color it because it was the 'wrong color'.
  • In kindergarten, my teacher found my lunch, raised it up, asked who's it was.  I raised my hand and she didn't see me, and it caused trouble later.
  • I was forced to recount in front of the whole primary a time when I didn't come when my mother called
  • At 8, I was told 'He shouldn't have gone in there!' by a man at the front desk of a military locker room, after I had gone in with my dad
  • My dad telling me, at 8-9 years old, "If you were older, you would have needed to talk to a bishop"
  • Various events with yelling and throwing of toys
  • Me getting caught playing the Legend of Zelda early in the morning...Sunday morning
  • Me getting in trouble for spitting on a girl
That was the list of memories of shame that I had from this group.  As a kid, these were some of the messages that I got:
  • I don't belong here
  • I'm not valued
  • I don't belong with men
  • I don't matter
  • I do everything wrong
  • I'm always in trouble
  • You don't care.
At some point early in my life, I decided that people didn't care about me.  I must have started ignoring any attempts by people around me to love and care about me.  Even if I was able to perceive it, I would eventually rationalize it away.  In short, I was detached from the people around me.  I figured, if they don't care about me, why should I care about them?  I decided to go off and live in a fantasy world.  At the same time, I became a 'people pleaser'.  I did whatever it took to make people leave me alone.  I would satisfy people and try not to draw attention to myself.  I did my best in school for fear of 'doing things wrong'.  I remember being mortified the first time I was late to a class in my life.

I delved a bit deeper into that first memory I shared.  At one point, I came to the realization that my teacher didn't care about me.  No one seemed to care about me growing up.  I was just another warm body.  I was an object in the room.  And deep down, all I wanted as a kid was to feel special, loved, noticed, cared for, delighted in.

I also got some good insight into one of my 'flavors' of attraction.  I generally feel attracted to men bigger than me, to men that I judge are stronger than me.  I also feel afraid around them, intimidated by them.  It's an interesting internal conflict.  I think it goes back to feeling shamed by various adults in my life.  I wanted to feel loved by them, and instead I felt shamed by them.  To this day, I find myself seeking that love and approval from the 'big men', from the 'adults'.  I still want and crave that acceptance, affection, affirmation, from them.  That flavor of attraction is one of the hardest to 'shake off'.  It's one of the hardest to resolve for me, probably because it's very deeply set.

Last night, I went to hang out with some friends.  As soon as I showed up, they said 'hi', but then went back to talking with each other.  I felt that same story come up. 'They don't care.  They've never cared.  You're just another person to them'.  I tried to compensate by smiling and making jokes.  On the way home, I felt lonely.  As I was driving, I was looking at the world around me, admiring Heavenly Father's handiwork.  A thought came to me: yes, this is a manifestation of His love.  But, it's a manifestation of His love to everyone.  It's a blanket statement.  It's sent out generally to everyone.  I do acknowledge there have been a few times when I have seen tender mercies in my life, when I have felt that I was specifically cared for.  Somehow...I'm just not feeling it right now.

This morning, it finally hit me.  The same idea 'You don't care' shows up in my relationship with my Heavenly Father.  When I pray, I tell myself that I'm just another warm body to Him.  No wonder the heaven's have felt so closed.  No wonder I feel like I've slipped through the cracks and have fallen of His radar.  I keep telling myself the same lie.

The same lie that has been lodged deep in my psyche.

I've even tried telling myself positive stories.  Sure, they help for awhile, but the same old lie creeps up and slowly strangles my attempts at changing how I think.  The poison is set deep.

Now I sit here, feeling empty, with the beginnings of tears in my eyes.  I don't even know if I can see the depth of this wound that was dealt to me.  I feel angry that I've continued to tell myself the same lie.  I'm angry that I made the choice to feel ashamed and to detach while I was young.  I feel like I've screwed up my life by making the choices I did.  "It's all my fault".  I chose to react the way I did.  I chose to detach.  It's my choice, I have to live with the consequences.

Perhaps I'm not heeding the saying that I came up with while talking with a friend a few weeks ago.  The saying is 'You're supposed to carry your cross, not nail yourself to it!'  I need to find a way to carry the burden this lie has created without it paralyzing me.  And ultimately, I need to find out how to heal it and how to surrender it.  There is a way.  I believe that there is healing through Christ's Atonement.  There is strength there, and there is grace.  There is forgiveness and love.  My heart feels too afraid to trust.  It's been hurt so many times before. I keep hurting it by feeding it the same lie, and yet I keep sheltering it from any outside attempt to heal it.

Sounds like madness to me.


  1. My good friend, you are one of the most deep and profound thinkers it has been my pleasure to know.

    What a truly touching and meaningful post.

    Thank you for going out on a limb to share such painful thoughts. They help others like me contemplate our own needs and achieve a true catharsis.

    My best,


  2. Wow! There is power and healing truth in this post. You are so close to it, bro! That trust that you fear is the key. Thanks for being brave and insightful enough to write this. It spoke very deeply to me this morning. You're still not alone in this walk.

  3. I appreciated your post. There are so many of us that gave in to those lies that we weren't valued, or matter. The line, "You're supposed to carry your cross, not nail yourself to it" is really powerful, thanks for your post.

  4. Once again you have bared your inner soul giving us all a better understanding of your struggles while helping us to understand our own inner struggles of self-worth. You point out that we are victims of our choices but you offer hope that our choices now can help us to achieve better consequences in the future and also a better self-image. We may be warm bodies but our talents make us unique - your gift of words is amazing and your ability to describe your inner feelings and thoughts make you unique. I encourage you to continue to use this talent for your own self-edification as well as to help others. Thanks again for your insightful words.