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?
I finally allowed myself to enjoy sex, and stopped myself from feeling shame over normal sexual desires. This has really helped me function better and made me significantly happier.
In early 2015, under pressure from a 28 year marriage, I moved out of state and in pursuing medical assistance, insurance, housing and basic necessities, one community reached out to seamlessly help meet those needs. Most of the people in the community supported and recommended the LGBT lifestyle. It wasn't long before the hand that feed me influenced where I looked for the rest of my support. So for two years I struggled as I tried to participate in it. But just as I had done 30 years ago, realizing there was nothing in it but destruction for me, and coming to a safe place in the loving arms of Jesus, I have been able to see Truth as I perceive it and follow it as I desire. a year and a half ago, I moved back into the city not far from my divorced wife and our young adult daughter to be what she needed as a father nearby.
After returning I became increasing lonely as I isolated myself out of the shame of what I was doing, even though I was finding words to justify the actions, until I came to my senses and began to resist sexual activity with anyone, leaning now toward celibacy, unless the right woman comes into my life. By the way once out of town, I had to wait 6 months after establishing residency before I could file for and complete the divorce, making me single a year and a half ago.
Now I am able once again to pursue goals and build healthy relationships with others, unbridled by shame and guilt.
I really have a difficult time with shame. Once I realized what my father did and what I participated in was unhealthy at least and devastating at worst to my own sense of self, I was filled with shame. The shame cycle led me into behaviors and relationships that were very destructive.
After going through years of counseling and recovery therapies of various approaches I felt better but still had trouble in the bedroom. My marriage suffers from my inability to be vulnerable and intimate. So much of what my spouses wanted, (on my third marriage), was very close to what kinds of things I did with dad and others. I found myself avoiding intimacy because I felt such shame come over me when attempting to make love to my wife. I am getting better as I keep myself pure in thoughts and fantasy and that has helped. Still there are moments when I am triggered and can lose focus all because of those memories that can suddenly intrude on a moment of intensity.
Still, any progress is progress.
For some of us, the perpetrators create two victims. The first is the sexually abused child, who grows into an adult and marries. The second victim is the spouse, who has done nothing wrong to the sexually abused spouse. Years of marriage often go by before "boom" the "shame bomb" goes off. Neither party is guilty, but both suffer from the actions of the abuser.
And, in my case, to make it really fun, the second spouse is an adult survivor of childhood sexual abuse as well. There's some awesome hot mess!
I'm still praying for healing.
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