Welcome back to Second Chance to Live. I am happy you decided to stop by and visit with me. As I have mentioned in previous posts, my traumatic brain injury occurred in the summer of 1967. I turned 10 years old a few months prior to the accident. My experience at home prior to the accident was difficult for me because I rarely lived up to the expectations of my Dad. I was criticized and blamed for not being enough. My Dad would often say to me, why do you always do things in a “half-assed” way. My Dad was an emotionally wounded man. He was not a bad man. On the contrary, he was a man of high integrity and I believe sought to do the best he knew how to while I was growing up. Nevertheless, my Dad was unable to process his feelings. I believe my Dad’s parents never taught him how to or for that matter encouraged my Dad to process what was going on in his life. Consequently, I believe that my Dad internalized and then projected his sense of shame on to me.
On the contrary, my Dad was a man of high integrity and I believe he sought to do the best he knew how to while I was growing up. I know my Dad loved me.
John Bradshaw, an author, lecturer and creator profoundly influenced my life several years ago. In his two tape series, “Healing the Shame that binds You”, Mr. Bradshaw made an insightful statement that has helped me heal emotionally. Although the entire tape two tape series revolutionized my life, one particular line stood out, “When parents do not own or carry their own shame, they make their child carry their shame for them.” Because my Dad did not know how to process his shame, he made me carry it for him. In that two tape series, Mr. Bradshaw went on to say that parents, or people in general will either work in their shame, work out their shame, or project their shame onto other people through the use of blame, shame and scapegoating. (Please read my post, Whose shame are you Carrying?) I believe there are many people like my Dad who are wounded, and because they do not know any better seek to have family members and other people carry their shame for them. Transactional Analysis calls this behavior, “passing the hot potato”. I can also be susceptible to passing the hot potato when I am hungry, angry, lonely, tired or sick. The good news is that I no longer need to be perfect and the 10th step provides a solution “Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it”. When I hurt or offend someone I can make an amends. I no longer need to be perfect, just willing to keep my side of the street clean.
As a person who grew up with a traumatic brain injury, I had a difficult time distinguishing between being responsible to and being responsible for other people. Because I believed I was responsible for rather than to other people, I bought into the notion that it was my responsibility to not only keep my side of the street clean, but to make sure the other side of the street was also clean. My journey through life subsequently depleted vast sums of energy as I attempted to keep my side of the street in order, while making sure other people were OK, so that we could be OK, in order for me to be OK. At the base of my sense of shame was a fear that I would be abandoned emotionally, i.e. “If you were not OK with me then I could not be OK with me. If I was not OK with me a terrible sense of dread would be triggered which in turn lead me to believe I was unlovable. Consequently for many years of my life I spent much of my time trying to keep all the domino’s upright, so that I would not spiral down into depression, despondency and despair.
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