I Didn’t Get It – I Do Now

By Laurie Allen

God showed me why I self-implode today.  He showed me why I slide down the mountain over and over again. And as God so cleverly orchestrates, he used this moment to help shine a light on current events and the #blacklivesmatter movement. It was unexpected and profound.

I’m embarrassed to admit, as a white woman, I didn’t understand it until now. And please forgive me for not taking the time to listen sooner. I’m sorry it took another beautiful person’s life to wake me up. I see it now. I hear you.

Realizing the source of my own pain opened my stubborn eyes to the pain of others. 

This is the key to it all by the way… turning inward first before pointing fingers or dismissing another point of view. But the work is tough.  Your soul feels unguarded and exposed but for the first time I’m ready to listen.

I’ve been working through Dr. Caroline Leaf’s Switch App.  I’m on my 3rdround, day 7 of the process.  It’s taken 49 days (and 30 years) to find out why I get offended and hurt beyond reason sometimes.  Why I slip into darkness for weeks and overreact to situations others view as a relatively manageable issue.

49 days of daily digging to figure out why my stomach becomes nauseated when I’m not seen or valued or ignored. 49 days to understand why I shrink, hide and let others disregard or even abuse me without saying a word.

I’ve long believed my crippling depression and anxiety was a physical problem that needed fixed, adjusted.   I assumed the right pill, the right supplement, the right hormone would cure it. After 30 years of seeking answers and 10 years of research, I’ve discovered, it’s often not a chemical imbalance.

I’ve touched on the concept of shame for a few months now.  But I kept forgetting about it, until today. I kept moving on to other subjects and possibilities only to realize this deceptive emotion is the source of many of our battles.

“Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.” -Brown

Shame is an emotion, a feeling. Shame is our mind protecting us when we are trapped in abuse. It’s useful and life saving, and necessary to avoid drawing too much attention to ourselves. Or when attempting to breathe.

Before I understood the source, I’ve clumsily tried to express the feeling as being trapped, frozen, overwhelmed, like a caged animal trying desperately to get. On the outside, as trained, I smile, but on the inside it feels like my eyes are wide, scanning for danger all – the – time. I had no idea I was describing shame.

It’s a relief and infuriating to understand now, my insecurities found their roots in such a suffacating source.

As I sort out the impact shame has had on my own life, I fall in the ranks of those who are trying to make sense of why people are destroying their own homes and why #blacklivesmatter is shouted instead of #alllivesmatter, but today, I FELT it.  I understand it. I didn’t get it before. I do now. Forgive me. I wish someone would have stood up for me too.

I was sexually abused as a little girl by a family member and had to pretend it didn’t happen for most of my life. I found the courage to tell someone soon after the abuse and they decided, together, it was best for everyone else that this stay quiet. No one defended me.  No one STOOD UP for me. I was being pushed further and further into shame with every family reunion, every holiday, every time I hugged my abuser. Others might get suspicious if I didn’t and of course we don’t want to cause a scene…

It was my job to protect others and to stay safe and keep the peace and keep my mouth shut. There were too many other important people to consider.  People more important than me.

When I was assaulted in the military, and found the courage, again, to tell my chain of command, they did nothing. They rolled their eyes and told me to go back to work. The message received was: YOU DON’T MATTER. When raped as a civilian, then mustered the strength to go to the small town police station to report it, and two unmoved, blank stare cops made me feel like I MUST have done something to deserve it, the message is: YOU DON’T MATTER.

Silence, shrinking, trying to stay hidden, not trusting, and turning anger inward… because it has nowhere else to go is toxic. It’s going to explode outward, eventually.  

Shrinking so no one gets hurt. Silence because those in authority aren’t going to listen anyway.  Desperately trying to stay invisible so the assaults will stop. Fear of abuse, daily-will take its toll.

I think the country is finally aware that racism is still present.  And each death, each unchecked abuse without consequence reinforces the message that YOU DON’T MATTER. 

And it took one horrific death to fuel the wave of nausea that has been stuffed down, discarded, ignored and dismissed.  Shame rushes through your body like a wave.  It makes you feel like you are going to vomit and then burst out your heart.  It makes your heart pump faster, your body flush and every muscle tense.     

If you don’t realize that the feeling is shame, you might think it’s anger or hatred. And so does everyone else. It’s not, it just desperately shouting: “Enough!”

Shame makes you vulnerable.  And the only way to heal it is with more vulnerability. It doesn’t feel right at first, but we must kneel first to God for mercy and then to each other.

Shame makes you sensitive to situations that remind you of feeling trapped, or ignored or invisible. 

Most of the time, shame makes you shrink. 

But sometimes, when it doesn’t shove you down quite hard enough. Without even really meaning to, you begin to fight back.  To the blinded eye, it looks like rebellion and senselessness.

To the person finally resisting the shame, it’s a cry to freedom.

If you are interested in learning more about the topic of shame, I recommend The Soul of Shame by Curt Thompson

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