Shame and self-talk

You don’t want to know the sheer number of bookmarks on my phone and laptop related to psychology, PTSD, Complex PTSD, high sensitivity, overexcitability, boundaries, attachment problems, communicating effectively, anger, shame etcetera etcetera. The list goes on and on.

There’s a lot to unpack. There are a number of takeaways from the past year.

  • I struggle with boundaries. Like, massively.
  • A lot of anger is coming to the foreground lately. Which, if Peter Walker is any judge, can be a helpful energy. Damn, I really need to buy his book.
  • The stories I tell myself about who I am are very, very negative. I have ingrained shame as my default working model.

I grew up ashamed of my parents’ behavior, ashamed of being bullied (and unable to do something about it), ashamed of my limited social-emotional development, ashamed of the mistakes I made, ashamed of not having an identity, ashamed of feeling the way I did, ashamed that my underwear was sticky as a young teen from vaginal discharge, ashamed for grabbing my crotch in public when I thought nobody was looking, ashamed of not knowing how to live a happy life, ashamed of the way I laughed, after a friend pointed out I laughed in a hiccup-y-sort of way, ashamed of the way my voice sounded, after hearing it on a recording. Shame, more shame and self-blame, is my working model. No wonder I’m unhappy.

Why write all this down? Why would you ever write that on a public blog for God’s sake? Because I have nothing to lose. I literally have nothing to lose. Not talking about this, not writing it down, is tantamount to not working through this at all, ever. I’ve found that a private journal doesn’t work for me. I wish it did, but it doesn’t. Not in the way that writing it down for others to read does. In order to become part of the world, to work through everything I’ve seen, heard and felt, I need to share it. No matter what someone else might think or say. To dismantle shame, I must no longer let it silence me.

My mother seems ashamed of nothing. And you know what.. she seems to have a pretty goddamn happy life. Not an easy life per se, but she has decided to figure out how to be happy and do exactly those things. She is in fact pretty disciplined about it. Many people who are happy, have decided that they won’t let what others might think have any negative influence on their well-being.

To figure out how I feel, to make sense of the world and to figure out what makes me happy, I need to put it in words. Not writing this down, means that in 40 years from now, I will be the same person I am today. Shame would have me risk becoming someone who never learns how to just be. I cannot let shame lock me in my own mind. Or lock me out of my own mind. Whatever.

In a sense, I think we are all suffering from a form of locked-in syndrome. None of us are able to truly and purely, perfectly communicate to another person. If we could communicate perfectly, we would instantly join into a single being, a single consciousness… By definition, we are locked into our own mind. The world we perceive is the one we create with our eyes and thoughts and what we express is just a part of all the intricacies and nuances that bounce around our head. I think that one of the tragedies of being human is this: nobody can know exactly how we feel and what we think, nobody can say “I fully understand you” and speak the truth. At least, that’s what the experience feels like for me. Nobody can ever know the full you. All they can know is the image they built up in their head of who you are. This image in their head of who we are, shapes their interactions with us and therefore shapes us. Other people cannot really hear us.

For me, it often feels like I’m in a void without anyone else. My thoughts bounce around my skull and I feel like it’s no use, another person cannot really hear me. Is this a result of my mother not knowing how to get me quiet when I was a baby, and my father pulling her away to go for a walk together, leaving me to cry myself to sleep, night after night? I’ll never know. Right now, as an adult, it seems I cannot hear me. For some reason, I cannot or will not see that which is at the same time clear as daylight to some part of me. A part of me often observes and knows a deeper truth, that I, the anxious, stressed out, hurried part of me, cannot see.

Some part of me is observing my every move and making sense of it all. Could it be the right half of my brain? It could be. The right side of the brain cannot speak, but it deals with quite a lot of emotion. Research has shown that maltreated children demonstrated lower corpus callosum volumes. Guess what the corpus callosum does? It takes care of communicating between left and right hemisphere. Oh and the corpus callosum also helps in motor function (and other interesting things), which explains why many adults who were abused or neglected as children have problems with motor skills and tend to bump into tables all the time and have poor handwriting.

By the way, the right hemisphere also houses musical skills.

I often have a song in my head that is either appropriate for a situation or (if I would take the time to listen to it properly) signals to me how I feel. When I was sick, I had a song stuck in my head for a long long time. In hindsight, it was my right hemisphere trying to tell me what was wrong. I had the song “Titanium” in my head on repeat, going on and on about how there was something wrong with my implant. I was always dimly aware that I had a song in my head very often, but thanks to my abscess, I’ve discovered that this is how my right hemisphere talks to the left side. Is it a workaround for having a smaller corpus callosum? Who knows. All I know is that the right side hums a tune and if I complete the words and sing the song, I can figure out the message. I can figure out what the right hemisphere has seen or heard. Or how I’m feeling. Time to stop being ashamed of my quirks and start listening to the tune.

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