The Nature of Shame and Abuse, Date Smart! Chapter 1.9

Thursday, April 30, 2009 1:00
Posted in category Date Smart
<div class=\"postavatar\">The Nature of Shame and Abuse, Date Smart! Chapter 1.9</div>

Post written by Rick Doyle and Dave Coleman (See Relationships page for author information)

The Nature of Shame and Abuse

Date Smart! Chapter 1.9

Why do men and women remain in abusive relationships, eventually break away from them, and immediately turn to another abusive one? People in these situations usually have several dynamics in common. In nearly every case of abusive relationships, relationship addiction, co-dependency, counter-dependency, or inter-dependency, you’ll find deep-seated roots of shame, fear and trauma. These characteristics are usually connected to experiencing one particular incident or trauma, growing up in an unhealthy environment, or having sustained exposure to an abusive relationship. Frequently, an abused individual is referred to as having a shame-based, victimized personality.

A person who operates from a foundation of shame usually does so to validate their feelings of “See, I’m no good.” They’ve been abused either emotionally (the withholding of love or attention), verbally (berating; issuing threats), spiritually (ridiculing beliefs; forcing beliefs; preventing the practice of their faith), physically (beatings; sexual abuse; slapping; shaking; rape), psychologically (abusing a victims pets, friends, or family; breaking personal items, etc.) or other forms of abuse. What is done to them can be so severe or chronic that they begin believing (not necessarily consciously) that this is how they deserve to be treated, and have become acclimated or accustomed to abuse.  Trauma begins to feel normal.  They begin to develop an unconscious dependency for some how “always being the victims or victimized”.

Abuse can make you feel that this is the best you can do or that having someone, even someone abusive, is better than having no one at all. As abuse continues, an individual’s self-esteem, self-worth, self-image, and self-confidence get’s whittled away until they become so shame-based that they can’t break the cycle. They get accustomed to living with pain.

A perplexing question continues to be asked. Why would anyone who has been in an intensely abusive situation immediately get involved in a new relationship or return to the previous abuser? The answer is simpler than you’d think. Their prior mistreatment has shaped their personality and basic character. As a result, they’ll continue to seek out abusive and unhealthy situations or even sabotage healthy relationships with family, friends, or colleagues to maintain their feelings of being a victim (again not necessarily consciously). The revolving door relationship, whether old or new, is a result of the behavior we’ve described.  The unhealthy chronic dependency that keeps them going back or engaging in one bad realtionship after the next borders on addiction. Defined as continuing to engage in something despite the consequences. 5 black eyes in 5 years and a dozen trips to the trauma unit while still rationalizing what a great catch the abusers is, is addiction, not love.

In some cases, if you’re shame-based and choose not to repeat external abuse, there is a propensity to continue abusing yourself internally by “beating yourself up” in one way or another. This is done in a variety of ways: isolation; chemical abuse or dependency; eating disorders; self-mutilation; psycho-somatic illness; workaholism; sleep deprivation; other forms of self-punishment and destruction.

The third form of shame is called the “set up.” An individual who has stopped external abuse, probably sought help, and recognizes their various forms of internal abuse characterizes this. Yet because of their shame, this person takes perfectly healthy relationships and sabotages them by not returning phone calls, being emotionally unavailability, and arriving excessively late for dates and appointments. A healthy person eventually gets frustrated with a shame-based person’s chronic behavior and terminates the relationship. The shame-based person can then look at them and say, “I knew you didn’t really love me. See, I’m no good.” Unfortunately, society doesn’t provide easily accessible or affordable assistance to victims of abuse or the always the right kind. In many cases, an appropriate treatment for each one is hard to come by. It’s not uncommon for these individuals to come from abusive family situations where relatives and friends support their denial and delusion, which may exist for people with a shame-based victimized personality. The family feeds their denial. Employers may also be guilty of enabling employee denial. For example, rather than forcing an employee to seek assistance or counseling for their problems, companies allow chronic sick days to pile up, and stress-related social life issues to permeate the workplace which affect their performance, without addressing them.

As we mentioned earlier, fear is a topic unto itself. Our experience has taught us that abusers and victims tend to operate out of a fear of not getting something they want and a fear of losing something they already have. There’s a strong connection between guilt, fear, and shame. People regularly confuse guilt with shame. There’s a distinct difference. Guilt is usually a correctable mistake, such as feeling guilty about lying to someone before confessing. After telling the truth, you’ve cleared the wreckage and corrected the situation. Guilt acknowledges, “I made a mistake.”

Shame is a validation of “See, I’m no good” or “I’m never good enough” and is chronically based in a person’s character. These feelings are often blown out of proportion compared to the actual incident that caused the shame. For example, a person suffering abuse from a spouse or partner, despite physical and emotional damage inflicted upon them, will believe that “It was my fault.” “I deserved it. I brought it on.” They can be manipulated into believing it won’t happen again, despite this being their fifth trip to the hospital in the past three months. Shame believes, “I am a mistake.”

Please come back each week as we will post the next piece of each chapter broken down into posts that you can comment on, ask questions or share your thoughts. We will eventually update and post the whole book Date Smart!

*Special thanks for co-writing this article goes to Dave Coleman AKA The Dating Doctor. Dave and I wrote Date Smart! back in Jan. 2000. The publication rights have now reverted over to us equally and, with Dave’s permission, I have edited the book and modernized some of the ideas we originally wrote. The book, Date Smart! is still available through some stores and you can contact Random House to request the book be reprinted. With enough demand they might just contact Dave and I to republish and possibly write another one. We are basically giving you the book to read in posts and encourage you to visit both Dave’s website and of course all parts of our website Neither the posts nor the book are in any way to be republished or sold or used without our express specific written permission and all posts are copyrighted and protected (ISBN-10: 0761521739,ISBN-13: 978-0761521730). Dave and I have written a number of articles together as well and so this serves as the byline. A huge thank you to Dave for sharing both our efforts and time to write what we hope are insightful, intriguing and informative articles that we share the creative collaboration and credit for working on over a number of years.


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