I have been feeling very ashamed lately and struggling a lot with shame. Some of it is various circumstantial triggers. Some of it is dissatisfaction with my job performance. This year has been really hard, and the reality of how hard it has been has caught up with me. I didn’t do this, I didn’t do that. And these are not minor things. They are important things.
Suddenly this morning, I realize something about shame. When we are little, whenever we have intense feelings, we look to our parents to help us calm them. There is an automatic kind of magnet inside us pulling us towards our attachment figures, so that they can help us calm down. Three-year-olds who did something wrong still look to their parents in order to regulate their shame. C used to go into the kitchen and shut the door when she was in trouble, but 3-year-old C didn’t do that. Three-year-old C wanted her mom.
And her mom couldn’t help her regulate her shame. My mom couldn’t help me regulate my shame. Shame was not allowed. One reason the shame feels so intense is that it is not integrated. It isn’t allowed. It was prompted by my mother’s treatment of me, but I wasn’t allowed to feel it.