Shame is a slippery slope when dealing with abuse. When I was being abused I was ashamed. I was ashamed of the situation, I was ashamed that I was in the situation, but mostly I carried the shame of my abuser. I carried his shame because he didn’t know he should. I carried his shame because I felt like someone should. He was not ashamed, and only ever pretended to be sorry. I carried his shame within me, and hid it, and allowed it to envelope me until I was merely a particle of dust floating through the world.
I carried my shame.
And I carried his.
I am not sure where I got the idea that it was necessary for me to hide his flaws, or to carry his burdens, but I did. I always have. I have been in multiple unhealthy relationships and I have always carried the shame of others. I have tried to downplay my feelings, needs, and concerns to lessen the blow to the fragile ego of the abuser, the manipulator, the addict. No one wants to admit that they love someone that is unhealthy for them. No one really wants to admit that in order for either party to get help something has to give, and in my opinion, that is typically shame.
You cannot MAKE someone be ashamed for their actions and behaviors. You cannot FORCE anyone to feel or take responsibility. You can however decide to not hide their shame, to not carry their shame, and to not take on their responsibilities. It is not your job to feel for anyone else. Which is to say you cannot go about life trying to feel your own feelings and everyone else’s at the same time. It is their job to feel their own feelings. It is their job to feel shame if that is what they should. It is their job to take responsibility for their actions and behaviors.
Standing up for myself was hard, and is still hard for me. It is hard because as a loving, caring person I still do not ever want to accept that people can hurt me, continue to hurt me, and not feel shame or remorse. It blindsides me every time I encounter any form of abuse. I still cannot fathom that there are really people in the world that are so reckless. That as honest as I am, or try to be, there are still people that will lie to my face. I do not want to accept that there are people in the world that truly only care for themselves, or how they may look to other people. As a warrior I find it outrageous that as I try to be loving and loyal in all relationships there are still people that are unkind. I make up excuses for the unkind behavior, I look for the hidden guilt (that must be lurking, surely?), and I imagine what the person must REALLY be thinking and feeling.
Because their actions surely do not show how they feel, right? Because I HAVE to imagine because, well, I sure as hell do not know. I don’t know because I am not them. I do not know because I have my own feelings to deal with. I do not know because I have my own shame to heal. I do not know because I cannot live inside their brains, and I cannot MAKE them feel any different, or think any different, or be any different. That is on them.
We have this one gift of self and we can chose to let it guide us into happiness or we can hide it away and carry the burdens of others in an unhealthy way. I have chosen to feel my own feelings so many times that a recording plays in my head saying “Are those your feelings, is that YOUR shame?”
When you see someone not carrying their shame it is NOT your job to pick it up. Leave it lay.
Repeat as necessary.