Abuse Related Shame: A General Overview
24 October 2017
To those [women] who suffered domestic violence, rape, childhood sexual and other abuses: “I know, I understand, I get you. I am akin to you- because, me too.” Rev. BJ Buchanan, 2015
I had been married less than a week when I walked into the den to wake my sleeping husband. Playfully I poked and prodded at him thinking he’d wake up, see me and pull his new bride into his arms. However, to my surprise, he growled angrily, began swinging his fists and cursing [at me]. I ran to the phone, called my mother-in-law to relay what had just happened. She calmly said “Oh he must have been drinking. Let him rest.” And there again, my old nemesis seized me. I felt defeated and de-valued.
It was not the action displayed by my now ex-husband that hurt but the shame I felt because of it. I felt victimized all over again. Shame has been one of the most difficult strongholds I have had to overcome because simply opening up about abuse is to engage the force of shame. I call it an ‘invisible master’. There is much talk about abuse; yet we don’t talk enough about the emotional, spiritual and physical trauma it causes, especially the lingering power of shame. Shame brands the subconscious causing its victim to withdraw and hide beneath layers of defeating thoughts, low self-esteem, anxiety and depression. It is a constant mockery in social situations and an intruder in relationships. Left untreated, it becomes a self-destructive tool, and is often used by abusers as a weapon to control. Shame buries itself deep; it can look good, bad, pretty or ugly. It’ll wear a discount store dress as well as an expensive designer original. It speaks eloquently or stutters awkwardly. It is the epitome of civility and the audacity of rudeness. Shame can disrupt the persona and leave one in the throes of an identity crisis. Shame is defeating, debilitating and destructive. But, shame can be healed.
Healing one’s shame will take time and serious effort. There is more than one path to the bondage of shame, and likewise there will be more than one way to healing it. Healing
shame may require the assistance of a professional counselor, or clergy member. It will definitely require returning to childhood memories and other emotional and physical experiences in order to identify the root of shame. Recognizing triggers and working on self-compassion can help; as well as practicing forgiveness, accepting love and kindness and challenging negative thoughts. Run; don’t walk to your higher power source. For this writer it was and still is, the holy bible and Christian counseling. Do not deceive yourself. Live Strong and Bloom states: “We develop a myriad of unhealthy coping mechanisms to muffle our feelings of shame, all of which have a negative impact on our close relationships. Anger, withdrawal, blame, contempt, control, perfectionism, and people pleasing are all strategies that temporarily alleviate the pain of feeling inadequate and unlovable. However, these strategies don’t address the root cause of our shame.” And they do not help us to heal properly or completely.
Knowing the Shame triggers
It is beneficial to develop what Brené Brown calls Shame Resiliency. Brown states, “Shame resiliency is the ability to recognize what’s happening when someone trips your shame trigger and to respond by recognizing your self-worth, rather than falling into a pit of shame.” Knowing your shame triggers is important. Each time shame floods your heart, stop and ask yourself, ‘what is the cause my reaction?’ Keep mental notes and each time activate steps to overcome these feelings. Do not engage with people, things or go to places that trigger feelings or the physical effects of shame. Often, in reducing the triggers, one must rearrange their lifestyle.
Physical Effects of Shame
Physical effects of the stress of shame can cause nutritional deficiency, abdominal pain and other gastrointestinal problems, neurological disorders, chronic pain, disability, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as well as diseases such as hypertension, cancer and cardiovascular diseases. Victims are also at higher risk for developing addictions to alcohol, tobacco, or drugs. Sometimes the effect of abuse causes one to choose an abuser because in the depth and desperation of their depression the impulse to feel good is fuel for making a self-defeating decision. Remember, shame-based thinking is often based on fear, doubt, an inability to cope, focusing on negative aspects of events or the behavior of other people, and ideas about how people will behave or react.
Abuse is not confined to a residence. Sadly we also find it in institutions, even the church. Abuse crosses all color, age, economic and gender lines. Abuse causes one to experience the ill effects of shame. General shame and guilt are almost always related to abuse. Violence, sexual or other social situations may trigger symptom based shame. Other ways in which shame presents itself is skin picking, hoarding, body shame, negative and repetitive behaviors. DL Nathanson of NIH states “Competence in treating the victims of sexual/domestic abuse and exploitation requires an understanding of shame, the complex and multilayered emotion triggered when we have been exposed or when our self-esteem has been reduced. The experience of shame is initially physiologic, involving a cortical shock momentarily halting higher cognitive function, but followed immediately by a host of associations to previous experiences of shame. Acutely, the affect itself impels hiding, while defenses against it include anger, humor, silence, and a wide range of behaviors…” If you are a victim of shame resulting from abuse, there is help. One local source is HEART.
Rev. BJ Buchanan, B.A., B.S., Th.M. Certified Christian Life Coach is the founder of HEART Ministry (Formerly WINGS). HEART Ministry is a Christian Women’s Restoration Ministry established to support, serve and assist women of all ages to recognize and to learn how to effectively deal with and eradicate the effects of childhood and adult sexual, mental, spousal, and spiritual abuse, rape and incest that causes feelings of shame, guilt, instability, hurt, anger, and maladaptive behaviors. As stated in this article, victims of abuse may possess low self-esteem, social anxiety, feelings of not being ‘good enough’, disappointment, and failure; which are hindrances to effectively engaging positive feelings of self-worth, and healthy interpersonal relationships. HEART Ministry accomplishes this through the leading of the Holy Spirit, teaching biblical principles, Christian love, abuse education, referral and support, one-on-one and group dialogue.
Looking for a Woman’s Bible Study & Discussion, Life Coaching or One-on-One confidential meeting?
Contact Rev BJ Buchanan at (Email): email@example.com