I am writing this while watching a documentary about the Godfather, looking at mandalas, recovering from the flu. It is rough and unkind, it is not my best work, I needed to say some of it, some will be pared off, carved away, regurgitated another day. It is Monday in November two thousand and eighteen years after zero, mankind years, 365 days measured in 24 hours measured in seconds of time that seem countable but we never tried sideways, or off-kilter, like a see-saw or weeble wobble.
It becomes something else. In the revision of the piece, congealed and clotted once its cooled over night, or days later in the thaw, new journeymen appear to tell it rightly so. It is 12:55 a.m., hard to keep track after sweating through three days of flu, sleeping in short intervals but in bed 36 hours is no way to live. I call it this strain the “kill me now” flu.
Three Joseph Campbell books, and Gwendolyn Brooks,
I just learned one of my favorite poets died recently, and I am sad, sad, sad like the hard way, blues harp swinging on down low, not sweet just low.
like the nightly news sign off seeing good boys and bad men follow the choppers, the jungle, the chaos, I knew this was serious, even 3 at 4 it was integrated into my little mind.
—when I wake up early in the morning —- I’m still — weeping.
LOVE FORTHCOMING NEVER-LEAVING
Methods employed by manipulators can be characterized as abusive, deceptive, devious, and exploitative.
Shame is a thing you are given to deal with when you are four and then five and then six and seven and all the way til you are 9 possibly ten, it’s not like the last time he fingers or photographs or crushes you registers since you never think it will end, after it’s been going on for years, before you even knew what puberty was.
When you are trapped in a hell of orchestrated behavior that confines you to abide, persuades you to persevere or else — what the alternative described, guaranteed in fact, and always threatened, was the certainty of a future where you’d be inexorably shunned, ceremoniously abandoned, and issued the annihilatory rejection for uttering one word about what was being done to you. This was for you alone to carry, from first watching “Wizard of Oz” to later having nightmares about the monster who asked where you were hiding and your tormentor always told it where to look.
So you “keep your fucking mouth shut,” as he warns. You don’t tell your parents because they will never believe you, as he promises. They will get rid of you, vilify you for lies against their own blood, he asserts.
You are told incest is okay because, after all, you’re nothing but a bastard child, adopted, for use and abuse by any and all, presumably for your entire life, and you take in the verdict. As the future lays bleeding in your hands. You don’t cry but go back to your room where you can’t sleep, trying to sob as quietly as you can so as not to be heard, discovered, questioned. To not say a word, remember that, a mantra.
Because you are 7, 8, 9, crying yourself to sleep every night in sixth grade because you can’t tell your mother what your family member is doing to you and so, instead, you learn to carry the shame.
Which of you shall we say doth love us most?
Where does one find such love?
“Our eldest-born, speak first.”
Our eldest-born, break the trust.
Do not say a word or else
Shame is the emotion that we feel when ‘we’ as a person are at fault, not our behaviour.
It is the way we feel if we have fallen short of our own internalised ideals or if there is a public disclosure of a perceived weakness or defect.
Erik Erikson argued that “shame is blame turned against the self” and Pete Walker writes that “shame is the death of self-acceptance and self-worth.”
We as a person are at fault? For not understanding how to navigate the darkness of sexual predators at 4 years old. Fallen short of what internalized ideals even possible? I just knew this wasn’t right. I cried myself to sleep each night.
“The thought process in shame involves self-focused attention.”
Um, yes, this is true when it is used to describe the example of wearing your underwear outside your clothes in public, that’s self-focused attention as no one admits they even know you at that point. It’s a clean, simplistic psychology today answer. The one we got from 1969-2017.
“Shame is a painful emotion responding to a sense of failure to attain some ideal state.”
A SENSE OF FAILURE TO ATTAIN SOME “IDEAL” STATE OF NOT BEING SEXUALLY ABUSED? I feel shame because I couldn’t manage to get through my childhood without being molested and then told it was acceptable because the very core of my existence was so amorphous, the being adopted part, that it basically meant I was nothing, certainly not equal in worth, adopted, the unknown, the mutt not the pedigree, the slave not the master.
Shame encompasses the entire self.
THIS IS THE ONLY THING THAT IS ACCURATE, sober-rattling AA, NA, Scientology, transcendental meditation, cognitive therapy soapbox of: Once again. you’re the one to blame because their program ain’t ever gonna work on you.
The truth is
Shame is the feeling that sits, waiting, it is not your enemy, it doesn’t know what to do with itself, it has nothing to do with some ideal self, it does have to do with telling society, pretty much anyone. I remember the first friends I told were awful — one told me that’s why I had a problem with men (I was very tall and shy and not dating much like her, who always had a boyfriend, so that made me feel worse) or the friend who wanted to kill the perpetrator who I was working hard to forgive because he in fact had received physical harm from family that I had witnessed. I was erasing my own pain to forgive and find some sort of way out of the ‘shame’ or whatever else it could be called but nothing has ever come along to suffice, that had consumed by early 20s, nearly destroyed me in my late thirties and continues to sit there waiting for what it’s gonna be, after 53 years on this blessed earth.
Shame differs from guilt
First of all, I am not sure why this statement needs to be stated, even in the bastion of brain science, psychology today. The blog “I’m sober and judging you” I had the misfortune of reading today would of course state this as irrefutable fact.
The end result is “shame differs from guilt” got me thinking about shame and how it’s never quite right, in the articles and the therapist’s earnest pleas before they say time’s up, shame isn’t guilt, Katherine. Well that’s good, coz I never feel guilty, it’s one of my things.
Time’s up, 48 minutes — not even close to the hour they pitch when you sit across from them desperate to be healed, to get the monkey off your back, to be ‘normal,’ happy, successful, stop listening to that Radiohead song. What do they need 12 minutes for? Pulling out the paper, sharpening the pencil, boning up on Freud/Jung, forgetting the last client’s psychopathic threats? For notes that never take 12 minutes to write: “continues to improve” since her insurance will run out in three sessions, “no longer talks about” things that make me raise my eyebrows in judgement (because I hate the therapist by now and watch their reactions so I can say the things that get the reactions I want to see, which are blank stares at this point).
I had a therapist who was seeing me for work-related and spousal-abuse depression actually refuse to let me discuss my childhood sexual abuse. I can’t remember the reason Faye gave but it was something to redirect me back to the relative non-issue of my recent dread of the workplace (I was working in an old sugar plantation infirmary that was now a social services office and I was convinced my office had blood under the painted walls, which it probably did, but it was more the lack of windows and my boss with the wig and 1 inch kabuki style pancake makeup that were unnerving and made me feel trapped in a career of helping underprivileged kids get access to pre-school education). After a job investigating abuse for child protective services had lead to a bureaucratic shit show, I took the infirmary job to learn how to write grants.
I volunteered for the Rape Crisis Center. I learned there are four types of rape. I wondered how when you were faced with the imminent threat of such, you were supposed to deduce which kind it was and act accordingly. Basically the one you can do nothing about is the Ted Bundy category. And yet I remember the woman who jumped out of his car, broke her arm. Lived to tell the tale.
Life went on. It was never a convenient time to mention – TO ANYONE. My poor boyfriends. They got the brunt of it. Not being perverts or pedophiles themselves, they were perplexed, sad and wanted to do something to the perpetrator (like punch in the face), to which I said no, made excuses, my family had passed down a legacy of violence and then he just ‘kicked the dog.’ The only thing I could do was vow it stopped with me, which was easy because it wasn’t ever even in me as a thought — probably the adopted part, no gene of sickness for that particular heinous urge – to sexually molest your baby sister before she even knows what sex it, the Polaroid shots hidden Playboys, forced to read the Joy of Sex — the athletic positions were not ‘fun’ or ‘joyful’ at 6, 8, 9 years old, just scary, shameful. Worse yet, something expected of me in the future.
I’m still processing this. The irony is my identity has been erased (the good part, the one where I am related by adoption to my dad who died a few years ago and told my husband some choice words about the matter that freed me of that worry — that he wouldn’t believe me; but my mother who is still alive, and also believed me, said nothing. But after two months had gone by with the perpetrator vilifying me, causing us to become homeless and ordered her to ‘disown’ me for being obviously crazy and suddenly after 39 years a pathological liar and drug addict who would say anything to — do what? — in reality, for asking them for help with therapy as by now I was overwhelmed by an abusive boss on The Apprentice and a central nervous system disorder caused by black mold my landlady refused to address despite being cited by the State). This was my reality. This was my shame. This has never ended, just continues, and will be silenced, as per his wish, because disclosure did nothing but hurt me beyond anything I could have imagined at 4 years old.
I am not sure there will ever be healing for me, as my life seems only to get worse. It is true. I am not a sad sack. I am one who will sacrifice more than you can fathom for certain ‘principles’ that, it turns out, don’t even matter, and nobly suffer at my own expense, but for what end, I’m no longer sure since it seems to be leading nowhere.
Negative intelligence, anti-intelligence, beliefs, propaganda and the part that rewires religious as justification for personal psychosis, imprisoning people in the name of the god who is supposed to free them, killing human beings who god supposedly went to so much trouble to create, desecrating life on earth, the garden of Eden, we look elsewhere because we are in denial, the good cannot face that we have destroyed what we were given stewardship of, the evil can’t wait to challenge whatever it is up there or outside the atmosphere we can see, the reality we accept with our human senses, they are welcoming the death of everything, thinking like lizard brains that they will be able to ‘take it with them’ and the more ‘it’ that they obtain through hook and by crook, the better suited they will be when they throw holy book at the lot of them.
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Emmy award winning episode The Amazing Race
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Published poet, filmmaker, photographer, music aficionado. Canoe paddler, horse wrangler, gem dealer, fixer, The Wolf.
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