Shame is one of the common elements of us who are survivors of childhood abuse. My definition of shame is that it’s a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong behavior or imagined bad behavior.
My definition means that regardless of who assaulted us, on some level we sensed it was wrong. Individuals older and larger took advantage of us, and we didn’t know any better. We were immature children and didn’t know what else to do, but we had some awareness—possibly while it was going on or later—even though our perpetrator certainly didn’t inform us.
Because of that, as adults we struggle with shame. We have no logical reason for those feelings. We were innocent and powerless. We forget that shame is an emotion and doesn’t obey rules of logic.
As an adult, I understand shame is part of our socialization process. Someone said, “No action is required; merely existing is enough.” We can’t change the feeling, but we can change our attitude toward the effect.
One day I realized, “I wasn’t a bad kid. Those who abused me were bad.” The shame didn’t disappear, but it troubles me less and less. After that, one of the things I said to myself daily for months was, “I wasn’t bad; something bad was done to me.”
How do you deal with your sense of shame?