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Thoughts On Shame

As a Psychiatrist, I, Jerry, have long known about the disastrous effects that shame can have on the psyche of an individual.

I recently began to explore as much as I could of my first conscious memory of being shamed.

One such memory is from was when I was three years old and was having a bowel movement. I discovered I could use my shit as if it was paint, and I proceeded to finger paint different designs on the wall.

I remember hearing my mother call to me and ask why I was spending such a long time in the bathroom. I responded, “Oh, I am just having fun pretending I am a painter.”

I remember her running into the room, seeing the shit all over the wall, and giving me the spanking of my short lifetime.

I remember that I never drew for fun again. When I told her this story, my wife Diane said, “Maybe that experience caused you to be fearful of any kind of drawing, and that’s why you have always diminished yourself when it comes to drawing.”

As I look back at my childhood, I see many incidents when my mother was filled with her own shame and was afraid people would not like her. I think that was a reason she had so few friends with whom she felt safe.

I remember another incident from when I was in kindergarten. I raised my hand to answer a question, except the answer I gave was obviously the wrong answer, and the kids around me laughed at me.

I can consciously remember making the decision to not to raise my hand in class any more. If I did not raise my hand, I would avoid the risk of being humiliated.

I flunked kindergarten; all my friends went on to first grade and I had to stay behind and repeat. I felt such shame about myself and also began to feel stupid. I could not learn to read or spell, but I did not know that I was dyslexic

It took me a long time to learn that I am not my shame, and that holding on to shame or fear to hide inadequacies can wreak havoc on a child’s self esteem as he or she grows up. It certainly did with me.

Now, many years later, I am an amateur sculpture. My first piece was that of an infant with wings, demonstrating his innocence. I see that statue every morning as we pray - it reminds me of the Innocence our creator put in our DNA.

Love and Peace,

Jerry and Diane