16 Comments

  1. I thought of my mom as I read this; she was never able to relinquish the shame she felt about having a child out of wedlock, and it colored her entire life. Her self-destructiveness was painful to watch. Your post helped me understand her that much better, and I so wish she’d been able to trust a therapist who could have helped her see her worth as a person.

    1. I am so glad it was helpful. It’s not easy to talk about and I am sorry your mom could never relinquish her shame. And that you didn’t get to experience her like you could have. Thanks for writing such a personal response.

  2. I lost my job in 2008 and moved to Texas (my 2nd home) to look for work. My sons were 21 and 15 at the time. I couldn’t pull them put of school, and was only thinking of myself and how to pay the bills when I left. I had a support system, I thought, in a man who lived there, and my ex lived in the state I left, so my kids had someone close.

    I was gone 9 months and lost my car, my home and had to file bankruptcy the following year. The shame and guilt I felt for losing everything I’d worked so hard for, paled in comparison to the guilt I felt for leaving my boys. To this day, I’m not as close to the youngest as I could be, and I feel part of the reason is because I left him.

    I know they weren’t babies when I left, but they were my babies. Both are college graduates with careers that are self-sufficient. They are both good, decent, compassionate human beings and sons.

    So why can’t I get past the guilt? I’ve gained 100 lbs in 7 years and spend more time inside then out. I’ve lost all motivation unless it involves my boys. I’ve been an empty nester for 4 years, and moved closers to work in the past 4 years.

    1. Hi Emmes. Yours is a situation that many people suffered through late in the first decade of the 21st century. It doesn’t sound to me like you were only thinking of yourself – you didn’t pull them out of school, for example, a choice many people would have made for their sake. No matter how hard it was for the parent. The fact that they have done well is a lot about what you offered them early on. It may well have been a choice between a rock and a hard place. Sometimes it’s just that way.
      It sounds as if your relationship with food has gotten out of whack. I wouldn’t presume to give lots of advice, since this is via the Internet. But I would suggest you find a mental health clinic – and if money is an issue there are ones that offer services for very little or nothing – in your area. Your relationship with them now may be more about your own depression than the past. You have many classic symptoms. Feelings of guilt, depressed mood, isolation. There are even antidepressants that might help with weight loss. The book, “Healing The Shame That Binds You’ by John Bradshaw might be a wonderful place to start. And please, do take my advice about letting the shame go. You have to practice. Catch yourself when you are letting your mind go there. Then practice more. It’s a habit, and a destructive one, to put yourself down all the time. Good luck.

  3. Thank you Dr Margaret. I found this useful and enlightening for those who suffer shame and haven’t been able to ‘move on’ whatever that means. I dealt with mine whilst writing my book I DID TELL I IDDI, the story of my childhood, full of sexual abuse and cruelty. Yes shame played a major part in my life and I too had an inability to trust. Three marriages, a dependency on prescribed medication, a child lost to adoption and a stillborn son. I am now a qualified Cognitive Behavioural Pychotherapist with a Masters in counselling. Writing my story helped me put it further back than it was. Shame never really leaves you, countless times I have been told,’ it wasn’t your fault’. I believe them for a while but having been told everything was my fault for most of my life and all of my childhood, it is a habit hard to break. So, Thankyou for sharing this blog and good luck with your new book. Fellow therapist and author Cassie Harte

  4. I have been in a two year same sex relationship and my partner struggled with shame. We were raised that our relationship was immoral. From shame we turned to fighting and began to hurt each other emotionally. We recently broke up and I miss her so much. Is shame always due to something we are doing wrong or could it be because of the pressure of other people’s values? This is so hard.

    1. Of course we can absorb depression and shame from others. The culture. Our families. It takes a lot of work to let go of those and decide for yourself what your own morals and values are. I am sorry you and your partner have suffered. Great comment and I hope things work out.

  5. Dr M., I certainly appreciate your post on “shame”. This was certainly a tactic used in my family.
    I later came to realize that the horrific consequences of “shame” result from the message–not that you made a wrong choice, but rather THERE IS SOMETHING WRONG WITH YOU! Ouch!

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