Day 106: Shame Should Follow Blame <major rant>
Mary M's blog has a poem that has been revealing layers of understanding for me this week. I have been thinking and thinking about it.
http://frametheshame...ir-meaning.html (It's beautifully written!)
Her words speak to me about the ironies SA survivors face. Something about shame hit me really hard just now in reflecting on her poem. I can't articulate the idea nearly as well as I know Mary could, but the gist of it is, "shame should follow blame but instead it clings to vulnerability."
I think a lot about this topic of who carries the shame and how hard it is to transfer it to the perpetrator. The perpetrator is the one to blame not the vulnerable victim. However, for many reasons, because of many structures, because of aspects of our culture, because of the legal system, because of the guile of the abuser, though the blame belongs to the perpetrator, the shame tends to cling to the victim like tar . . . or perhaps super glue.
In therapy we are reminded time and again to give the shame back. My therapist uses a metaphor about someone giving you a gift. "When you do not accept the gift, whose gift is it?" She asks.
The answer is that the gift belongs to the giver.
It sounds so simple.
But, with shame it isn't that easy for me. It's more like, in the middle of a transplant surgery the team realizes you don't need the heart, so they don't implant it in you. However, the corpse it came from can't exactly accept it back and won't have any use for it anyway. It's just not so easy as saying, "I refuse to accept your shame."
Yes, we certainly need to say that.
But, it doesn't do the job by itself, because we still face the daily attempts of others to keep giving us the gift. You turn away the gift and tomorrow they're back at your door holding it out to you. You turn it away again, and they find your doorstep the following day. Plus, it's different people who show up trying to give you this gift. One day its the perpetrator, the next day it's your mother, after that it's a TV show, then a neighbor, an insurance company, a politician, or your best friend.
Furthermore, many tricky techniques are used. It's not as if people say, "You need to accept the shame for what happened to you." Oh no! If it was that simple we'd find it easy to recognize and refuse. It's more like they hide the gift in something else like your groceries or they put the gift inside of a box with pretty wrapping.
- "Do you think it would have happened if you hadn't been dressed that way? If you hadn't been there at that time of night? If you hadn't gone to that event alone?" - there are many version of this theme.
- "You should have spoken up when you first felt uncomfortable."
- "You should have kicked him in the nuts."
- "Why didn't you run?"
It can feel sometimes (maybe a lot of the time) like everyone wants you to accept the gift . . . everyone except you and your therapist . . . and the members of this community.
OK. So, the thing is, I already accepted the gift. I was f***ing six years old when it was given to me the first time. How in the world was I supposed to know what was inside? How was I supposed to understand I even had a choice not to accept it?! HOW, DAMNIT?!
<uh, oh . . . definitely feeling angry again>
And, it wasn't just one gift. Shame was given to me repeatedly. Age 7, age 8, age 9, age 10, and so on. Over and over, a new gift. There are so many of them they fill an entire mansion. Room upon room of vile boxes full of shame.
Oh sure: "here, you can have it back."
That helped! I feel better now.
If I load all of the boxes into a bomb and bring together the ten thousand messengers who gave them to me then drop the bomb on them and wipe them off the face of the Earth, then I'll feel like I gave the gift back to them.
<Ugh. How's that for angry?>