Lately I’m feeling inspired by Janina Fisher’s work on shame. Pervasive feelings of shame are often the result of childhood abuse, neglect, or trauma. Through the process of expanding my knowledge and working with clients, I’ve developed a deeper understanding of the relationship between shame, the inner critic, and self-loathing.
Shame begins as an interpersonal experience between the child and caregivers in his or her life. When parents are limited in their ability to provide “good enough” parenting they often resort to punishments to keep the child in line, or discharge their own anger. Punishment can involve acts of commission, such as overt abuse, or acts of omission, withholding love and care. Both experiences are felt as a threat to survival by the smaller and more helpless child who depends on his parents for all his needs.
When humans are faced with a threat to survival, we typically attempt our first line of defense: fight or flight. Yet those strategies are often ineffective in cases of childhood abuse. The child often cannot escape her parents whom she also depends on for her very survival. And fighting a bigger and scarier parent is not only ineffective but can result in more severe punishment. At that point, the body and brain turns to it’s last available defense strategy: freeze. By becoming still and not resisting the abuse, the child protects himself from the consequences of fight or flight. Continue reading “Shame, Inner Critic, and Self-Loathing”