Tag Archives: Posttraumatic stress disorder

Another Way to Silence – Shame

Shame has a long and twisted history.   Over the centuries it has been used to coerce, to convert, to make people compliant, to keep people in line.  I’m not sure there is a “healthy” aspect to feeling shame, though I may be in the minority here as this article states, “Embarrassment and shame are important in the regulation of social behavior. Both emotions tend to occur when rules have been violated.”  But what if those “rules” are not actually in place for the good of ALL?  What if those societal “rules” serve the majority, but actually are a disservice to a minority?

The argument that without shame we would all resort to violent, unethical and amoral behavior is one I don’t agree with.  Plenty of people behave badly who are filled with shame, often as a direct result of the burden of shame they live with, but usually those who feel tremendous shame hurt themselves more often.  I question how often shame, actually motivates us to respond in positive and constructive ways.  In most cases, it seems to me, shame is less a controller of bad behavior and more an instigator of self-betrayal and self harm.

Shame is what people feel who have been on the receiving end of violence, violations, betrayal and abuse.  Numerous studies have linked shame with depression, suicidal ideation, post-traumatic stress, rape and incest.  The very people who could actually use a little shame appear to be without, while those they victimize carry the vast portion of it.  In these cases, shame is the emotional equivalent to metal restraints, intended to keep people in check, compliant and silent, particularly when used on children or a group of people who are already in the minority.

Many of the methods used, with supposedly great success, on Autistic children, has created a population of adults who feel tremendous shame, lack self-esteem, feel inferior, have anxiety, live with ongoing debilitating stress, all of which exacerbates the very “behaviors” these therapies attempted to remove.   The unending destructive cycle shame creates, does nothing positive for anyone, least of all our children.

I believe shame keeps us from flourishing.  It causes us to doubt, to become hyper aware, self-critical of our desires, our urges, our instincts.  Shame makes us feel incapable, unable, frozen and of little value.  From my perspective, shame is far more damaging than it is “healthy”.  Shame is exactly what I do not want my children feeling.  Ever.  In fact, shame is a warning sign that something has been taught improperly.  If either of my children exhibit shame about something, it is a signal that more needs to be discussed.

I do not want my children behaving in a certain way because they feel shame if they don’t.  I want my children behaving in a kind and loving manner towards themselves and others because they have learned it feels good to do so, because they have come to see that self-seeking, hurting others, gossip, betrayal and acts motivated by resentment and vindictiveness lead to more harm and like-minded behavior. All behavior is infectious.  All behaviors, good or bad can provoke others to do the same.  I am not naïve enough to believe it’s a given, but I do know that I like myself far more when I am kind and being of service than when I’m not.

I hope my children are learning the antithesis of shame and silent compliance, which is a strong sense of self-worth.  I want them to know now, while they are still so young, the beauty and joy of a healthy sense of self, that wonderful feeling of liking who they are as human beings, that feeling we are born with, but that over time can be taken from us.  I want my children to be in touch with those wonderful feelings of curiosity, awe and joy, so that when they make mistakes they aren’t destroyed by them, overwhelmed with shame and become silent.  I want to bolster them up, reassure them, encourage them, support them, so one day, they will be able to give hope and encouragement to someone else who may desperately need it.

Emma – three years old – 2005 

2005

Doing the Best I Can…

Yesterday I was targeted by someone whose name I am not going to divulge because doing so will only further engagement and unnecessary dialogue.  I am going to keep this about my reaction to being attacked and will not engage in a counter attack.  One of the things I have learned over the years is that when someone attacks, my knee jerk response is to attack back, but this never actually does anything to further the conversation, encourage discussion or an exchange of ideas.  Nothing changes when two people angrily engage in self-righteous, self-justified shouting matches.  So why do it?

Sadly, within any community, positions are taken, an “us” and “them” mentality which serves to separate each other from the very people we appear to want to engage.  I do not completely understand this desire by some to engage others with their anger.  However I do know first hand the feeling of frustration when I have believed something and had those beliefs questioned, judged or argued with.  When someone says with absolute conviction that they know for a fact that a certain therapy, treatment or way of supporting another does or does not work, I figure it’s worth investigating.  I do my best to look at the pros and cons, I try to read the various scientific studies, the anecdotal stories, and control studies if there have been any.  I take into account how many people were used in the study, I look at who conducted the study and whether there were any conflicts of interest in the study’s results.  I read any controversy surrounding the therapy.

If I know someone personally who is using whatever the therapy, treatment or support is, I reach out to them, ask them questions and observe.  If what I am observing counters the conclusions of some of the scientific studies done, I take that into account and look at why that might be.  Beyond wanting to do what will prove best for my daughter I try to remain open to both sides.  However, if a number of Autistic people have PTSD because of a particular therapy or speak out about it with their reasons why, I listen to their accounts and place more weight in their experiences than I do in studies conducted by neurotypical “experts”.  I also listen to those who are Autistic and have found something particularly helpful, even if many neurotypicals suggest otherwise.

These are the things I do.  Others may have different approaches, but this is what has proven most helpful for me.  When someone then attacks me for doing a particular therapy, treatment or support with viciousness, it hurts, but it does not make me change my opinion, in fact it does the opposite.  When someone personally attacks me with sarcasm, condescension and aggression it serves to make me wonder why they would do so.  When they then back their vitriolic, venomous statements by saying that “science” is behind them and that I cannot possibly have read the studies they cite, when they dismiss opposing studies as being “shoddy” and “poorly” done as non-science or “pseudoscience”, there is no point in responding.  When they then further their comments by saying that I am being “unethical” and suggest that by engaging in such support I am hurting those who cannot speak by putting words in their mouth, it crosses the line of being about ideas, opinions, science or anything else, it is a personal attack.

I come here day after day and share my thoughts, feelings, views.  I try to be honest, above all else and in doing so open myself up to attack.  I know that.  I cannot do this any other way.  I am vulnerable in a way that those who attack me are not.  That’s okay.  No one is forcing me to write a blog or to be as honest as I can be.  These are the decisions I’ve made.  I try hard to keep my side of the street clean, as they say.  Some days I’m more successful at that than others, but I always keep showing up and trying as best I can.  In the end that’s all any of us can do.

Unrelated photograph taken Christmas Day on the ranch

Christmas Day

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