Second Chance to Live

Sharing Hope in the Face of Adversity — One Piece at a Time

Whose Shame are you Carrying?

Posted by Second Chance to Live on May 25, 2007

Hi, and welcome back to Second Chance to Live. I am happy that you decided to stop by and visit. I want to share something with you that has helped me. My motivation is to provide insights to the parents that read my blog. My motive is to provide awareness. The beauty in living is that we can make a decision to change our behavior at any time. The process of behavior modification usually begins with awareness that is followed by acceptance and results in action. Awareness provides the opportunity to address whatever is not in our best interest or in the best interest of the people we love. Acceptance acts like a balm to soften the walls of our resistance and bring us to a place of action. The action that we take provides the momentum that resolves our guilt and shame.

When parents do not deal with their shame and guilt, they make their children carry it for them. In many instances, the shame transfer is a learned behavior that is passed from one generation to the next. Through my recovery process, I have learned many valuable lessons. One of the most valuable lessons is that I am not responsible for anyone’s shame or guilt. I do not have to carry the burden of another persons unresolved guilt or shame. Each person is given an opportunity to learn and grow from his or her individual experiences. If they chose to avoid or deny the reasons for their irritability, restlessness and discontentment, I do not have to absorb their pain. Debilitating guilt and debilitating shame can only be resolved through rigorous honesty and a commitment to personal accountability.

In transactional analysis there is an expression that sums up such a process. It goes something like this; we will work it in, work it out, or project it onto other people through blame, shame, or scapegoating. As I understand this concept, when a person chooses to work it in, they chose to deny that they have shame and guilt and act as though it does not exist. When a person represses shame and guilt, addictive behavior is frequently used to avoid responsibility. When people chose to work it out, they become involved in a recovery process / program to identify and repair the reasons for that shame and guilt. The last option involves passing the responsibility for his or her shame and guilt onto anyone that is willing to be abused. Transactional analysis sums up the last behavior as passing the “hot potato”. This last option involves making someone else the reason why they experience their shame and guilt.

In my experience, my Dad’s inability or unwillingness to accept that I had a disability motivated his behavior. He blamed me for not being able to be more and do more. His criticism of my best efforts made me responsible for his disappointment. My Dad could not or would not accept that I was doing the best I could, given the fact that I was a traumatic brain injury survivor. I also believe that my Dad transferred his guilt and shame onto me for his driving the night of the accident that caused the damage to my brain. Because my Dad was unable to process his own guilt and shame, he transferred that guilt and shame on to me in the form of blame and criticism.

I am not angry or bitter at Dad. I am glad I worked through a lot of my hurt and pain and was able to stop carrying my Dad’s guilt and shame for not being more. I believe that I am more than enough, disability and all. I am not my traumatic brain injury, but my brain injury changed the course of my life forever. I wish my Dad could have accepted that I was doing my very best, rather than wanting me to be someone with out a disability. I am sad for both my Dad and myself, because we could have had a much better relationship for many years before he died. His acceptance of my disability came in the last 3-4 years of my Dad’s life and he was able to accept that I was doing my very best. He also told me that he was proud of me on many occasions during those last years.

In conclusion, I would encourage the parents that are reading this post to encourage your children. Your child may have an invisible disability that has gone undetected for many years. If you want your child to excel avoid blaming, shaming and criticizing them for not being more. They may not be able to reach your expectations, however they may be doing the best that they can. By acknowledging this reality, you will be able to cultivate an empowering relationship with your children that will last a lifetime.

Parents by nature want their children to grow up to be professional adults. Having such a hope is not wrong, however your child may never be able to become a Doctor or a Lawyer or some other dream you have for them. Encourage your children, teenagers and young adults to follow their dreams, not yours. Nurture their strengths and you will both get what you desire, an empowered individual who is following after their bliss.

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7 Responses to “Whose Shame are you Carrying?”

  1. Susan Haller said

    Such wise words Craig. I have exerienced a similiar situation with my father. I have lived out of state for many years, my father is in his early eighties, and I can only pray that someday he will understand. The inability to talk to him and have him hear me over the phone at his age makes these topics of conversation very difficult. But, I do believe I may start a long letter to him, addressing my Invisible Disability and maybe get some closure for me.

    I have 2 children, one that has closed me out of her life and has chosen not to have a relationship with me for a year and a half now. Her last words were…”you make terrible decisions, you are hard to love, you’ve caused me to go to counseling for years now”… and that sums it up! This destroys me somewhat every day. I pray to God one day she will understand and maybe open the door for a relationship again. The only way to survive this is I know she’s was God’s child first and HE needs to work on her heart.

    Thanks again for bringing such awareness to topics we all need to address.

    God Bless You!

    Susan

  2. Hi Susan,
    Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment. For the past several months I have been struggling to accept some things that I can not change. Those matters coincide with what you spoke about in the comment you left for me. I decided to write a post to share my struggle and what I have learned through past experiences with my Dad. The post, Traumatic Brain Injury and Approval speaks to family and matters over which I am powerless my friend. Give the post a read and let me know if the information resonates with you.

    I believe everyone’s journey is different. Your daughter may be hanging onto matters that she is powerless over too. I have found that when I become sick and tired of being sick and tired, of being sick and tired I become willing to make changes. Sometimes these decisions involve hard choices. Many times the best solution to resolving relationships with family is to let go and let God. I need to practice this principle with my family member. God knows and He is good all the time.

    Life is filled with ongoing learning curves. All is good and we learn the lesson when we are supposed to learn the lesson. I believe our willingness to be willing prepares us to learn the next lesson.

    God is a miracle worker. I believe you will be reconciled with your daughter Susan. Keep the faith. We grow wiser as we get older. She will too.

    Have a wonderful rest of your weekend my friend.

    Craig

  3. Jeri said

    I am the mother of a child with a TBI. I am the one carrying the guilt and after reading your blog I am very saddened. I do not want to be the parent who passes that guilt onto their child. My daughter has enough struggles and really does not need that from me. Thank you for sharing your story. I only hope that it helps me to get passed it. I have lived with it for 3 years and it is time to let it go. Again thanks
    Jeri

  4. Hi Jeri,
    Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment. Invisible disabilities can be very hard to understand and deal with for both the person who has the invisible disability and for the family and caregivers. Frustrations can mount which are understandable my friend. My encouragement to you is to not give up the process. I commend you for being willing to understand. The intent of my post, Whose Shame are you Carrying is to educate not to perpetuate guilt and shame.

    My experience has taught me that I need to first have an awareness before I can get to a place of acceptance so that I can take the necessary actions to address the awareness. Sometimes the process of grieving any loss of an unfulfilled expectation can take a very long time. By you being aware Jeri you are on your way and I am proud of you. The stages of grieving that have helped me to understand the healing process are Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. Moving through and back and forth through these stages can be a very personal process.

    Please do reach out to a support group for caregivers in your area. You may find a group through the Institute of Rehabilitaton in your area that works with Traumatic brain injury survivors and their families. You do not have to be alone in your process. Please read my post, The Power of Identification, http://secondchancetolive.wordpress.com/2007/04/18/the-power-of-identification/ so please do not isolate. Reach out to a counselor to be able to process what you are experiencing. A counselor that has worked with tbi survivors and their families may be just what the Dr. ordered, so to say. The counselor will help you to sort out what you are experiencing so that you do not internalize guilt of shame, because you are only human. A counselor may be able to get you involved with a facilitated family support group that can help moderate and provide solutions so that the family members do not stay stuck in shame and guilt.

    Please also read through my Site Map http://secondchancetolive.wordpress.com/site-map/ where you may find other titles and topics that could help you heal. I share from my experience as a person who has lived with an invisible disability for 40 years. I focus on providing solutions to helping the reader live life on life’s terms. We all have a lot to learn and that is OK. One day at a time Jeri. With every thing there is a learning curve. In the process of learning, staying in the day is very important. Please be gentle with yourself Jeri.

    I hope the above has been helpful. Please feel free to stay in touch with me in the event that I can be of assistance.

    Have a pleasant rest of your week and God bless you.

    Craig

  5. Jacqui said

    I am very grateful for you the comments on the page. I have a hard time with guilt and shame.

    Thank You

    jacqui

  6. Hi Jacqui,
    You are so very welcome my friend. I amplaud you for taking the risk in leaving a comment. You are a blessing to me! A couple of books that have helped tremendously in my process are: Drama of the Gifted Child by Alice Miller and Shame and Guilt — Master of Disguise by Jane Middleton-Moz. Alice Miller’s book is a slow read, very rich and Jane Middleton-Moz’s book is easier to read. Jane uses a powerful fairy tale to help the reader to understand how debilitating shame and debilitating guilt deceive us into believing that we are not good enough. Both of the above books have had a profound impact upon my lfe.

    I don’t know where you live, but I would encourage you as I have done, get involved with Adult Children of Alcoholics support groups and Alanon family groups. Go to meetings, get a sponsor and work the 12 steps with your sponsor. The 12 Steps adapted from Alchoholics Annonymous are meant to be empowering, not punitive. Because I was so shame based for many years I did not realize the empowering nature of the steps. I have been able to let go of my resentments and much of my pain through working through the 12 steps with a sponsor.

    I would also encourage you to read my post, http://secondchancetolive.wordpress.com/2007/04/18/the-power-of-identification/ There is power in knowing that we are not terminally unique.

    I hope the above has been helpful. If you have any questions, you can leave me a confidential email and I will respond to your concern / questions. You don’t have to be alone in your pain.

    Have a restful evening my friend.

    Craig

  7. Hi Diane,
    Thank you for leaving a comment. Thank you for your time and kindness my friend. I have found some truths to be evident. Life is a learning process and I learn as I go. The wonderful thing about life is that I can choose to make a new start. I recently wrote a post that you may find to be beneficial Second Chance to Live — Action Steps http://secondchancetolive.wordpress.com/2008/05/03/second-chance-to-live-%e2%80%93-action-steps/.

    In my life I have found that with everything there is a learning curve.

    Be kind to yourself as you learn.

    Have a pleasant evening and God bless you Diane!

    Craig

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