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Blame and Shame - Protections Against Pain

By Dr. Margaret Paul
December 31, 2006



Shame and anger are easier feelings to feel than loneliness, heartbreak, or helplessness concerning others. We often avoid these painful feelings by shaming ourselves or blaming others.



angerLoneliness, grief, heartbreak, and helplessness concerning others are very hard feelings to feel. The feelings of loneliness and helplessness concerning others can unconsciously trigger infant feelings of being left alone, crying and no one coming. If no one had come when you were an infant, you would have died, so the feelings of loneliness and helplessness are often associated with the fear of death. As infants, we were totally helpless over others as well as over ourselves. If our cry didn't bring the help or the love we needed, there was nothing else we could do. Sometimes, even if help arrived, there was no love with it, creating an overwhelmingly lonely and confusing experience for the infant. As a result, both of these feelings - loneliness and helplessness - can trigger intense anxiety.

As adults, if we open to these feelings, as well as to gried and heartbreak, with deep compassion, we can learn to acknowledge them, accept them, nurture them, and release them. Because we could not handle them as children, we automatically continue to avoid them in the various ways we learned as we were growing up. The problem is that anything that we do to avoid them as an adult is an abandonment of self, and we end up not only with these deeper painful feelings of life, but also with the aloneness and emptiness of self-abandonment.
 

Our addictions have their root cause in the intent to avoid pain.

Most people realize that addictions to food, drugs, alcohol, gambling, TV, work, spending and so on are ways to avoid pain. What many people don't realize is that blame and shame are also addictive ways of avoiding the pain of life.

For example, Abigail often finds herself in self-judgment. When she feels rejected or ignored in some way by her husband Michael, she often tells herself that "I'm not good enough." This brings about a feeling of shame. When she is not judging and shaming herself, she is likely judging and shaming Michael, blaming him for her feelings with her anger or irritation.

The reason Abigail does this is that it is easier for her to feel anger or shame than to feel the loneliness she feels when Michael is angry or distant, and to feel her helplessness over his feelings and behavior. As uncomfortable as anger and shame feel, they actually feel better than loneliness and helplessness, due to the extreme anxiety still attached to these feelings, which originated in infancy.

The anxiety around the feelings of loneliness and helplessness will not go away until Abigail learns to embrace these feelings as a loving adult, rather than abandon them with addictive behavior. Once Abigail learns to welcome and embrace loneliness and helplessness with deep compassion, she will learn that they are no longer about death, because she is no longer helpless over herself as she was as an infant. They are just painful feelings that, as an adult, can now be managed.
 

These feelings have much information for us.

They tell us a lot about what we need to know to take loving care of ourselves. If we are lonely because we don't have anyone with whom to share love, the feeling is telling us that we need to reach out to others. If we are lonely with another person, the feeling may be telling us that either we are closed, or the other person is closed, or both of us are closed. In any case, having this information can open the door to loving action. If we look within and discover we are not open, we can choose to open our hearts to sharing love. If we are open and the other person is not, we can choose to move into the intent to learn with that person, or we can leave the interaction and so something else that would meet our needs.

However, if we are not aware of our feelings of loneliness and helplessness, we will automatically behave addictively, thereby abandoning ourselves. For Abigail, this meant shaming herself or blaming her husband.

Abandoning ourselves with our various addictions is what eventually creates feelings of despair. Leaving our inner child alone with the feelings of loneliness and helplessness, as well as grief and heartbreak, is overwhelming and leads to a spiral of addictive behavior.

You will not die or go crazy if you open with compassion to your deeper existential feelings of life. In fact, you will discover an incredible freedom from addiction when you learn to acknowledge and have compassion for these feelings, rather than avoid them.

Join Dr. Margaret Paul for her 30-Day at-home Course: "Love Yourself: An Inner Bonding Experience to Heal Anxiety, Depression, Shame, Addictions and Relationships."

Image by Henryk Niestrój from Pixabay



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