Thursday, October 15, 2009

Shame... Obsession... and Recovery

Thomas J. Scheff, Sociologist has made some observations about shame, humiliation and obsession. These views are an excellent reminder of the reason we take recovery to heart, making time each day to practice self care and keep our tools sharp. We are grateful for the role recovery plays in our lives keeping us from being absorbed by humiliation and shame. We know who we are, we are honest with ourselves about our capabilities and our flaws. We see ourselves in truth. Each of us has our unique gifts and we celebrate them in our daily lives.
Here are Thomas Schreff's words.

Many of us have painful obsessions, lasting for hours, days, weeks or months. Someone has been rude or rejecting, so we think about what we should have said, or how we could have avoided the incident entirely. These thoughts go on night and day. We try to think about other matters or do other things, but we eat obsession with breakfast, lunch and dinner. These small obsessions eventually leave. We can still remember the moment, but the pain and compulsion have disappeared. What happened?

Perhaps emotions are the secret, particularly humiliation or shame. Instead of acknowledging the pain in the moment, we internalize it. The danger is that we can become ashamed of being ashamed, and so on, a spiral. People who blush, for example, can be ashamed of the blush, and so blush even more, round and round. So humiliation can spiral to the point that it haunts us. Emotions, at their core, are bodily states of arousal. It is bodily arousal over which we have no direct control that makes the obsession painful and compulsive.

At times, instead of merely swallowing the insult, we responds in kind, either in the moment, or more likely, in thinking about it afterwards. Instead of suffering humiliation in silence, we activate our defense... anger. We are still obsessed, but are now driven by anger about being humiliated, and shame about being angry, a loop. Both shame and shame/anger spirals can lead to endless obsession.

As we remember who we are and were we began our journey into recovery we can appreciate how easy it might be to allow ourselves to spiral out of control into the dark recesses of obsession and shame. We practice self care giving ourselves all we need to create a safe place where we can blossom. Our tools are our lifeline keeping us grounded in our gifts and our abilitiy to create a better tomorrow for ourselves and those we love.

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