Posts Tagged: shame

The Enemies of Intimacy: and How to Work Through Them

Do you ever feel alone in your marriage?

Do you want to have close relationships, but feel awkward initiating intimacy?

Do you feel like something is missing in your relationships, but you don’t know what it is or how to make it better?

Today, you will learn the THREE ENEMIES of INTIMACY and how to beat them back before they advance any further. Intimacy in relationships is the thing that makes us feel seen, and known and unconditionally accepted. Intimacy is also something that we naturally avoid because of how vulnerable it makes us feel. This vulnerability is the key ingredient to the growth and healing God has for us. Why is intimacy so hard to achieve sometimes? There are internal and external forces that keep us from the intimacy we so desire.

  1. Fear- Fear of rejection, abandonment and loss of identity are real things that keep us from intimacy with others. These fears keep us trapped in isolation and loneliness. They tell us to “be quiet, don’t say too much,” and “act like nothing’s wrong,” and “don’t have needs- you’re fine.” The fear of rejection keeps us “safe” far away from real relationship. The fear of abandonment keeps us in a cycle of defensiveness and retreat. The fear of identity loss keeps us territorial, fighting for what’s ours, worried about being smothered and controlled. These fear stem from real rejection, abandonment and control in our past. When we were younger, we couldn’t make rejection, abandonment or controlling abuse stop because we were young and weak and needy. But now that we are adults, we don’t have to let those fears win anymore. Now we have the power to hold on to, be kind to and stand up for ourselves. All fear is gone.
  2. Pride- Wanting to be admired, set above, or viewed as unblemished is a desire that each of us have. Each of us at various times in our lives want to be idolized and thought of as perfect. This desire is largely unconscious because we hide this drive from ourselves. We know that it is wrong to be prideful, or to be put on a pedestal like God, so we unwittingly lie to ourselves about our cravings. The truth is, however, that we all want to be idolized- it’s as human as wanting chocolate or sex or a new Coach bag. Even Jesus was tempted by celebrity status and powerful domain (Matthew 4:8,) but He chose intimacy with God instead. To be admired is to be disconnected. To be idolized is to be one-up with others one-down. We can’t have close companionship when we are trying to look or act flawless to others. Having an accurate view of our selves keeps us from thinking better of ourselves, or worse of ourselves than Jesus does. When we give up our desire to look perfect in other people’s eyes, then true intimacy finds you.
  3. Shame– Often, we find ourselves hiding from our true selves because we are in denial of just how imperfect we really are. We’d like others to see and believe that we are our ideal selves, but we are not- we are just our REAL selves. We also feel secretly ashamed of our weaknesses and failings. We don’t accept ourselves as mere human because we believe we ought to be super-human. Sometimes, feelings of unworthiness keep us from disclosing our true selves to ourselves and others. Feelings of shame keep us in denial of who we really are, making it impossible for other people to really KNOW us.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. The Enemies of Intimacy don’t have to win. In fact, each time you pay attention to your inner self, you are practicing intimacy. Each time you accept yourself unconditionally, you practice intimacy. Your spiritual reality can be void of fear, pride and shame- they no longer have the power to separate you from yourself. We may still struggle with fear, pride and shame, but they no longer have ultimate power over us. We now have the power to chose self acceptance.

if Shame is a Bank Account, it’s Trauma that Makes Deposits

Thank God we are getting smarter about Shame and Trauma. In recent years, the mental health field has given much needed attention to the affects of trauma and it’s after math condition of shame. People like Dan Siegel, Peter Levine, and Brene Brown have brought needed attention to these debilitating forces. But today, I want to help you see how they work together.

If you’ve been reading recent blog posts, you know that Soul Holes are unavoidable. We all carry them around with us. Soul Holes are emotional wounds that occur as a result of not being seen, known or unconditionally accepted. Each Soul Hole is a trauma to the body, the heart, the mind. 

Trauma is defined as a deeply distressing or disturbing experience, and is experienced differently by each person. What one person sees as disturbing, wounding or traumatic, another person may not depending on environment, ego strength, resiliency factors, and genetics. 

There are different kinds of Traumas. There are Super T Traumas and Little t Traumas.

Super T Traumas are what you’d think, and people usually know that they’ve experienced something traumatic.

  • Parental death or abandonment
  • Parental Divorce
  • Sexual, physical, emotional abuse from a trusted family member, friend or stranger
  • Parental Addictions
  • Racial prejudice 
  • Sibling/Peer bullying without intervention
  • Violence or witnessing violence
  • Severe accidents or medical treatments
  • Religious control, abuse or manipulation
  • The threat of death

Little t Traumas are a bit trickier. Little t Traumas are anything less than nurturing. Persistent little t traumas that occur as a result of not being seen, known or unconditionally loved over the course of time can reach Super Trauma status. 

Little t Trauma examples: 

  • Critical words
  • Controlling attitudes
  • Inconsistent, un-involved parenting
  • Shaming statements, guilt tactics
  • Angry outbursts
  • Indiscretions, inappropriate expectations
  • Meeting childhood pain with un-empathetic stress or anger.
  • Emotionally absent parents

Traumas Make Deposits into the Shame and Guilt Accounts.

Shame and guilt are two of the most common and difficult emotions to treat when healing traumatic Soul Holes. Shame is often present in sexual abuse, childhood abuse and events that encompass death of another, eg. survivor guilt Shame and guilt are core feelings that eat away a person, constantly provoking Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) symptoms.

Guilt says, “I’ve done something wrong.

Shame says, “There is something wrong with me.”

Both Shame and guilt are present in those who have experienced Super T traumas and Little t Traumas because people mistakenly believe

  1. they could have or should have done something to avoid the trauma or abuse
  2. they did something to deserve or provoke the trauma or abuse
  3. there is something uniquely wrong with them on the inside that makes them different and less-than other people.

If you feel this way, you are not alone! These are common feelings of those who’ve experience Super T and Little t traumas. What’s more, there is HOPE.

Trauma and grief counselors are equipped with tools to help you through the negative emotional and physical results of trauma. Your Soul Holes can be filled. Stay tuned! Next week, I’ll help you with creative ways on how to address negative feelings.

Are Psych Meds for the Birds?

“Girl, did you forget your meds this morning?” My friends and I joke about needing meds to keep us functioning, because we want to laugh the shame out of it. I joke with the ladies at the gift shop that I need Xanax to be calm enough to watch my 9 year old play catcher (those bats swing fast and hit hard), and the store erupts in laughter because they all get it. They probably all use it too, they just don’t talk about it publicly.

Truth is, the people in my life who are the healthiest, most well adjusted folks are either in counseling, getting meds or used a combination of both at some point in their life. These folks are real. They’ve accepted the fact that they are not equipped to meet all their own needs, solve all their problems and face their demons alone. They are ok admitting they need help, asking for it, and then accepting help in its various forms. These people are my people. These people know how to fail, make mistakes, be weak, fall apart, and then get back up and knock the hell out of their “diagnosis” by doing stuff that their “diagnosis” said they couldn’t do.  They’ve learned to accept themselves as real, instead of ideal, and they’ve worked with what they got, even when what they got was not a lot, until they overcame each obstacle. They determined their “problem”, their “anxiety”, their “addiction” would not define them. They would define it. Period.

But not everyone in my life plays it like this.

There’s the people who should admit they need help, but won’t. They need to accept they have a problem that is affecting their family, their health, their job- but they won’t. These people are not my people. I love them, and even like them, but as far as getting close? I can’t because their “diagnosis” gets in the way. Correction. Their untreated diagnosis gets in the way. How can I have authentic relationship with someone who is inauthentic about their own weaknesses?

A word about “diagnosis”- it’s just a label to help us professionals categorize and treat- and to make your insurance company pay the bill. But it only means what you make it to mean.  Whether or not you have a clinical diagnostic label to call your own version of hang-up, bang-up, habit or sin, is not the point. Admitting that you have a few (hundred) hang-ups, bang ups, habits and sins is. And not just some random, “I know I’m not perfect,” crap. I mean a get-down-and-dirty specific naming of what your issues are, and how you are going to get help to manage them, grow out of them, and ultimately break free from them.

The saddest thing is to suffer with depression or anxiety needlessly because you’re too proud to get help. So many people tell themselves, “I should be able to beat this thing on my own,” and then punish themselves with their symptoms. They think they deserve their depression and anxiety symptoms because they are too weak to overcome them. This sounds silly and back-asswards, but it happens all the time, every day with people you and I both know. Christians may be the very worst at accepting help because they feel like they are not trusting God enough. That crack pot line of thinking makes me hyperventilate. Well, not anymore, because I take meds for that.

In my estimation, there are three kinds of people.

1)      The ones who know they are out of control and ask for help when they need it. They live victorious, and have the power to set other people free, too.

2)      The ones who know they need help but won’t get it. They live defeated, and teach others to respond to them as such.

3)      The ones who flat out deny that they need help, never get it, and end up wrecking themselves and their relationships.

I’m not saying that everyone has diagnosable mental illness. I’m not saying every body needs meds.  But I am saying that everyone needs help from time to time to face their problems and move forward. Don’t let shame and pride keep you from experiencing the freedom of accepting help.

Preachers, Counselors and Doctors

I had the privilege of listening to a sermon last Sunday where the preacher came out of the depression closet, and announced that he struggled with lack of motivation, isolation, negative and obsessive thinking- all signs of the big D. Depression. After his symptoms went on a while, he admitted to himself, his wife and his church staff that something was wrong. He sought professional help in the form of counseling and psychiatric treatment. He told us about how Prozac helped him get his feet underneath him, and that getting help is Godly. It’s one thing for a pastor to get psychiatric help, it’s another for him to tell a church full of people. I wanted to stand up and shout hallelujah! I wanted to give him a standing ovation. I wanted to run up on the stage and hug his scrawny middle aged neck! I wanted to dance naked up and down the isles (what? David did it). This preacher completely trumped shame and sent it back to where it came from. I was elated.

Shame’s grip loosened on every person who heard his story. That’s the power of admitting our weakness and getting help. To the degree we experience freedom, we are able to set others free. It’s not the problem that’s the problem, it’s the shame that keeps us from getting help for the problem.

Coming Out of My Anxiety Closet

I come from a long line of anxiety-ridden kin. Through the generations, it has reared its anxious head in the form of panic attacks, rage, alcoholism, religious legalism, and most recently the redonkulous madness of PMS. A few years ago, when Mr. Dashing had his second come-to-Jesus talk with me about being a real peach to live with every fourth week, I had to take account of myself. Symptoms? Well,

  • Irritability (that sounds so much better than being a control freak with a short fuse). My sharp tongue wagged it’s blade right to the tender part of my childrens’ soul.
  • Hyper arousal (not in the good way. Let me assure you, Mr. Dashing would not complain about  good hyper arousal.) Hyper arousal is when you are so keyed up even the toaster popping can send a rush of adrenaline through you. And I won’t even get into my husband’s driving. Panic attack comin’ on! (unapologetic jab.)
  • Excessive Worry (about juggling work and home, about my kids’ childcare, about being a good enough mother, wife, you know, basically everything, oh, and what other people thought about me, bla bla bla). 

These symptoms were always present but were on steroids the week before Aunt Flo visited.

I was active in my own counseling and my own work (counselor speak for doing some trauma work, addressing family of origin stuff, staying differentiated and appropriately connected to myself, God and others without being co-dependent, etc, etc.) I worked the program and the program worked me- I practiced what I preached. But this repetitive anxiety spike was out of my control.

I made an appointment with my regular doc and she told me to eat more broccoli. No kidding. She gave me an anxiety handbook (as if I hadn’t read them all). She told me anxiety meds weren’t for people like me. She was resistant to prescribe anxiety meds for me- probably because she saw me as a put together mother of two with a private practice in counseling- a clinical counselor that she referred patients to…. Me, needing psychotropic help was cognitive dissonance to her- an impossibility. She probably needed them too, but wouldn’t let herself admit it. Just guessing.

People who “should” have it all together often receive the most judgment from others when they admit weakness. Pastors, leaders, counselors, doctors- they should be fit, healthy, calm, wise, ethical, moral, and have an outstanding devotional life. And above all, they shouldn’t need meds to accomplish any of it. Poppycock.

Well, I got a script and got out of there. And slowly but surely, my edginess leveled out, my worry fell into normal range, and I could toast my bread without peeling myself off the ceiling when it popped. I relaxed, and so did my kids. PMS? Eh, it’s a work in progress…

What Made the Mental Health Professional Take Something for her Mental Health?

Maybe I didn’t do it for me. Maybe I did it for them- my husband and my kids. I wanted to love them fully. I wanted to be all the way present, not preoccupied. I wanted to respond instead of react. I wanted to enjoy them instead of control them. I wanted the blessing of just being instead of the compulsion of doing.

Shame and pride can’t win over love. They are impotent against love. Love casts out all fear. Love wins! Ok, love and Prozac.

My “Relationship Savvy” blog gives you tips, advice, and flippin’ fantastic feel-goods to help with your most difficult relationship challenges.

Subscribe to our mailing list