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giving that guard dog something else to do

Posted Oct 11 2013 1:51pm

I love you guys' comments about what the heck to do with the guard dog.

And I have some ideas.

I think about this "shame guard dog" very similarly to the way i think of the eating disorder- that it's trying to help, and that it's primitive and doesn't have much of a repertoire at its disposal. So, it uses what it has. In the case of the eating disorder it's things like restricting, bingeing, purging, over-exercising... you guys know the ways the eating disorder tries to help. In the case of shame its: making you feel ashamed. Yeah, shame is a one-trick pony...that's all its got. Boy, it can be powerful feeling though, right?! So for a one-trick pony it's maybe a Thoroughbred!

So, the basic idea, just like with the eating disorder, is to show the shame guard dog that you really can do life without it being so active. If we remember that its there to try to help and protect us, we can begin to show it that it doesn't need to do its job so seriously. More about how to work on that if you guys think it'd be useful.

Here's a thing to also remember about shame. The shame that I see in people I work with is based on not truly understanding what's accurate. No, I'm not saying anybody is crazy or delusional, so chill :) What I'm saying is that when someone talks to me about shame they are usually taking responsibility for and feeling terrible (ashamed) about things that they never even did and/or truly are not responsible for.

Shame can be a useful societal tool. If you are running around town breaking windows just for no reason and for fun, then, dude, you really ought to be ashamed of yourself. Stuff like that is just not cool. But... that's not the kind of shame lots of people have, certainly not people who suffer from eating disorders. They have the kind of shame where they feel awful for something they blamed themselves for, which is not theirs, and never was theirs to blame themselves for in the first place.

The person who was told he was "a loser" because he didnt' get straight A's in school. The girl who was attacked by an uncle. The girl who coudln't be "perfect enough" and make her parents happy. The teenager who had a "bad boyfriend," and the 11 year old boy who's mom had an alcohol problem that he felt was his fault.... None of this kind of stuff was the kid's fault or responsibility. The kid took on the shame because he or she felt somehow he did something bad and didn't something/s right- and caused all these bad things to happen.

So, while you're thinking about shame and the shame guard dog, also consider whether your shame is truly something that ought to belong to you. And you need to try to be scrupulously honest- you knew I'd have to get that in there somehow right??

Because people who suffer form eating disorders and related things are sooooo quick to feel responsible for things, take on shame if they can't make everything ok- AND they find it VERY HARD to learn to accept that the responsibility and the shame never belonged to them in the first place.


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