The holiday is over and now Monday is drawing to a close.
I am in pieces.
What I mean by that is it’s evident to me that I cannot manage my brain anymore and my sense of myself is rapidly switching between states. So I want to die and then I feel fine. This does not actually sound better, but I do feel better.
It was a long day. I didn’t go to class or teach. They are holding a principal’s meeting and we were in charge of decorating the hall where it was held, which is rather an elaborate affair as there aren’t, for example, curtains hung permanently and these had to be borrowed and temporarily hung with plastic twine (after long discussions about what to do.)
I was on my feet a lot, so I am tired, and I also spent all day working out how to pitch in and help when I can’t understand what people are saying.
They were providing dinner at school, but I left a little early. It seemed as though the work was wrapping up and I had already cooked in the morning. There was something I needed to buy and I knew I would forget later. So I went.
I feel better because, although my brain is falling apart, I feel I may know something of the cause and I also think I can get through the evening alright like this.
I have been reading a lot about self-conscious emotions–especially shame and guilt–and I feel it gives me more to work with at those times when I feel bad and also more ways of understanding early trauma.
First of all, guilt develops much later than shame. Guilt doesn’t show up until around 7 or 8, probably because guilt is connected to negative experiences and internal, controllable, unstable causes. Shame shows up by 3 and is linked to negative events and stable, internal, uncontrollable causes. However, young children feel ashamed of all negative events with internal causes. They don’t distinguish between outcomes within their control and events outside their control, probably because they lack the cognitive capacity to hold so many elements in mind long enough to to figure all of that out. They may also lack the experience to know what is stable about themselves and what is unstable: you feel guilty if normally you can do something and flounder, but ashamed if you regularly struggle with it. That’s the difference between a mistake and a character flaw. Very young children also don’t distinguish well between internal and external causes. They expect others to feel proud over lucky breaks and ashamed over bad luck. (Although they themselves may feel more visibly proud over success in difficult tasks as compared to easy ones.)
What that says to me is those very early traumas which now stimulate washes of shame felt that way to me when they happened, because I could not reason well enough to know what caused them. I just knew they were bad. Shame was the best sense I could make of things. I really could not do better. Even in situations which repeated at later stages in my development, I don’t think I could revise my understanding of them, because they were so overwhelming to think about.
Something else I ran across is that toddlers feel upset about lost, broken or messy things. Rules about intactess are adopted quite early. My memories of distress about bodies being dismembered and believing parts of them could get lost makes sense in this light. I didn’t understand murder, but I knew about the importance of wholeness.
I was also reading that shame (adult shame) comes from deficiencies which are core to your identity. So if I see myself as an independent person or I aspire to be independent, then I will felt ashamed at instances of dependency. But I won’t feel ashamed if that’s not an important goal for me. The things that spark the worst s1q
hame act as clues to my values and my views of myself. I suspect they also serve as vulnerabilities for someone who uses attacks on the self to win in conflicts, as I think my ex did.