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Is That Feeling Shame?

Shame can hide inside many other feelings. Is what you're feeling a result of deep shame? Mine was.

My mind starts to reel. I have a hard time speaking up. My eyes lower, head droops. Feelings of inadequacy, anger and indignation burn through my veins, creating a tingling in my hands and fingers. I hate it. I avoid it. I run from it - but it chases me down and tackles me. I'm in full shame-mode.

Look, I LOVE my husband. He's absolutely AMAZING. Matt is one of the most patient, kind, supportive people I have ever met...but that doesn't mean he can't get under my skin. He usually doesn't even know it's happening until I snap (poor guy).

Matt and I have a blended family with 5 awesome kids. No matter how incredible each individual is, there are going to be disagreements, and adjustments when two separate families come together under one roof. Here's what usually happens...

One of my kids (saying "my" to show I am the biological mother) will not complete their chores, homework, or exercise and Matt (who is very good at sticking to a routine) will talk to me about it. On my side of the fence, I've been working all day, ended work in time to make dinner, and still have two growing businesses that depend on me to get things done (like this blog post you're reading right now). From the time I awoke, to after dinner, I have been so focused on all the tasks I'm trying to check off my never-ending list (maybe a little workaholic syndrome there?), I haven't yet asked kids about chores and exercise.

As soon as Matt approaches, I can tell what he wants to talk about - he walks a certain way when he wants to discuss something serious - and I look for an escape route. I HATE talking about how I haven't yet discussed getting chores and exercise done with my kids. It makes me feel horrible and (until today) I didn't understand why.

For 16 years I was in an abusive relationship, but it was only recently that I realized not all of the abuse came from my ex-husband. I was listening to an episode on Dear Gabby about IFS (Internal Family Systems) work and a flood of memories came back to me - all times where I was shamed by well-meaning family members for not being the type of mother they thought I should be. I remember very vividly being so excited about starting my master's program until my then mother-in-law said to me, "Well, that doesn't sound like you have any plans of quitting your job and being a mother any time soon." She meant well, but I was crushed.

Wow. I really internalized other's opinions without even knowing.

On top of that, my own mother re-married several years after my father's death and her new husband literally took her away from me (yeah, I was actually left alone, with my older brother, in Utah, while everyone else moved to Oklahoma). As a 14-year-old girl, felt completely abandoned and promised myself I'd be a better mother for my kids someday.

Fast-forward to a very emotionally secure and successful 41-year-old woman who can't understand why she feels like both running away from and throat-punching her husband when he brings up a chore not getting done. It was because I was feeling that same anger of abandonment and shame of not being the type of mother I "should be."

Well, hells bells, why couldn't I see that sooner?

Have you ever had a moment in your life where you get extreme clarity and you can see how the past, present, and future all come together? That's totally what just happened to me this morning. Now that I know why I'm acting and feeling the way I do when Matt comes to speak to me, I can have awareness of my responses and change them. I can choose to work on my feelings of inadequacies as a mother. I can choose to heal the anger I still hold against my sweet mother while she is still on this earth.

Shame isn't always just a deep feeling of distressful humiliation and sense of not belonging. Sometimes shame exists inside other feelings, which makes it hard to discover. Mine was anger. It wasn't until I gained clarity on my situation, that I am now able to make changes.

Clarity is a chance to start anew. I intend to take this gift and use it to gain deeper insight on my journey to a life of peace and joy. I hope this experience helps you on your own journey.

Sending love!

Faith Joy

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