How Do I Break Free of This?

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    So this is one reason I believe in past lives ~ Several years ago I bonded with a religious community and the leader in it was like this fatherly figure. He wondered whether his wife could take a look at my work. It was a friendly gesture. Basically she ripped it apart. She was like a Dementor from The Harry Potter Series. That’s the only way to describe it. But here’s the thing. Rather than let it slide off my back, and go back to the drawing board to improve my work, I took it SO personally! So personally that I was AFRAID of going back to the community. Ever. There were some awkward run-ins, but I never went back.

    Now he’s retired. He was asked quietly to leave but is still in the background. But the very thought of going to an event where some of the community even might be makes my cheeks turn red, my eyes well up with tears. If I get in the car to go, I get anxiety (brown paper bag, anyone?)

    Now, I’ve run into some real azz-hats in my day, and have been through some pretty harrowing experiences. And I’ve examined every nook and cranny in my past to ferret out why in the world this incident in particular has basically given me this sort of emotional/psychic/spiritual breakdown.

    There’s this silly Community Sing a Long but the thought of going to even that has me looking for the brown paper bag to breath in so I don’t get an anxiety attack. No, I don’t want to go to the event, per se, it’s more I want to feel free to go to ANY event in town with my head up, calm, confident, dare I say as if I were loved, like the queen of my domain (my town, held in “my” building, dammit!). It’s been so long, no one will remember me (but might recognize my face), they won’t know the story (or care), chances are he won’t be there, she won’t be there, BUT WHAT IF THEY ARE??

    Please help me get over this Fear lodged in my Soul. Never felt anything like this.

    Thank You


    Hi Inky,

    One thing I have learned from experience and counseling (that I really needed) was to never suppress my spontaneous reaction to people. You should always trust your instinct because it is a raw true unrefined compass of whether a situation is good or bad for you. The emotional mastery is to control the way you express that feeling. You have every right to feel anger toward such a destructive and offensive gesture, and are not wrong to start to be reserved about this community if such behavior is allowed especially if it comes from its leaders. A true spiritual leader should be able to communicate properly if there is something you need to improve, and in a respectful and considerate way. I don’t understand in the story if this woman told you what needs improving but nonetheless this gesture speaks of a very primitive person and I would not think she has mastered herself in the first place.

    Your fear of going to community events I also understand because I tend to react like this. You are protecting the involved people and yourself from your own anger. This is what more refined people usually do as they are not beasts that just go and explode in anger. However it also means that you are so sensitive that you have not learned properly how to assert yourself. Maybe the fact that this is a spiritual community also plays a role in the sense that you perceive it as authority and it is more difficult to question authorities. Maybe this gesture that angered you at first has grown into feeling that your dignity as been destroyed in front of these people, do you get too worried about people’s opinions of you? Anyway, every person that respect themselves choose to be surrounded by people that treat them nicely and this is completely healthy.

    So there are 2 things that I think you should focus on – your abilities to assert yourself, and maybe to decide whether you are choosing a healthy community.

    Give yourself some time to relax and do things that bring you pleasure 🙂


    Hi cherryblossom,

    It’s interesting ~ usually I don’t care what other people think because I feel equal to or above them (and if below, then only in a couple aspects). But this guy, YES, I DID care what he thought of me. Very much so. Thus the “Is this a past life run-in?” query.

    In my family (distant) there were clergymen’s wives. And they would often be as much a minister as their husbands, back in the days when women weren’t ordained and when religious elders ran the community. Interesting re-reading how I used the word “community” as opposed to “congregation”!

    And the authority ~ yes, not only was she the wife, BUT was an authority in the professional world. So he heard an earful about me and then suddenly never saw me.

    So it’s Humiliation and Shame I’m dealing with.

    And protecting me and others from my own anger ~ I never thought of that before!! If I get angry and express it, further opportunities for Shame. (Even though I heard he was kicked out because of impropriety, so why is he still on my mental pedestal??)

    So how do I assert myself AND protect myself at the same time? Avoid all such events like I had an allergic reaction? Or go and risk getting a reaction (or having one!!)


    Hi Irky,

    Reading your second post I realize I may not be able to understand completely your relationship with this congregation and your background. But again you point out that these people are some type of authority and I am not sure how much freedome you have in choosing whether to participate in these events.

    Of course that you are protecting yourself from that anger as this is a very powerful and destructive emotion. Thinks of it that it is better that way because you have the time to process it and decide how you want to react in this situation in a healthier and more effective way instead of saying or doing something blinded by anger.

    Maybe if you start thinking that no matter what authority a person is, they are still people with flaws. We are often disappointed by people on whom we projected super qualities, like a father figure or spiritual guide. I also don;t know how young you are, I would assume you are a young person.

    The way to protect yourself is to realize that these are only people with flaws like every human being. And they may not realize completely the effects of their actions or this may even not be something to be taken personally. It is hard to forgive a person on whom you project so great qualities and easier when you start seing them as normal human beings.

    Why do you assume that if you go there you will have any reaction or they will react to you? It;s natural to be nervious at first when you start going there again given your latest experience but this will pass.

    Do you want to go to these events, do you have to?


    No, I don’t have to go to any events if I don’t want to. Sometimes, though, our town has a lot of Interfaith stuff. Like, one church will host something and people from different denominations will go, or a temple will host the same event and everyone will go. So “our” events are also “their” events some of the time.

    I would never say something truly in anger (except be snarky or do word play if literally backed into a corner) to these people. I’m afraid that they’ll be all, “Oh, hi, welcome… again” and them expect everything to be “fine”, or, if I dare say something that they look at me like I’m the one with the problem.

    I felt such great fondness and affection for the congregation, and then she turns out to be emotionally abusive, and he turns out to be inappropriate with women. I know that people are human everywhere, it’s just so disappointing that they are, um, more human than most people LOL. It was a blow. I truly felt I lost a “father” on some level.

    Mentally I put myself in this paradoxical role. Like, “How dare they treat me this way?” coupled with, “I must be somehow defective to be treated this way.”


    Aw, man! That is a sucky way to lose a community you enjoyed being part of.

    OK, so you’ve tried to figure out just why this event had such a profound effect on you, and you’re not sure. Some time has passed, it seems, and you’re not over it. That takes the obvious advice out of the equation.

    Maybe it would help to do some separation rather than dealing with the entire tangle at once. So, there was the feedback which was soul-destroying. And you dealt with that, I don’t want to say badly, but in a way that fell short of full resolution. That’s one thing.

    Then there’s the next thing, which was the prospect of facing these people again. Your feelings were so strong that you decided to avoid that, and you left the community. This, too, is an unresolved situation because now you’re worried about going to this event even though they’re not likely to be at it. But I want to stress that your decision not to go, your decision not to face them was completely legitimate. We all do what we have to do to stay safe, emotionally. And sometimes we do things that, from the outside, might look silly, but at the time they were necessary or we wouldn’t have done things that way.

    I think there might be a third layer in that if you now go back, you may feel pressure to explain your absence or just feel awkward because you left in such a sudden and strange way (and not because this congregation wasn’t right for you).

    I think the key is going to be acceptance, and that may have to be a slow, creeping progress. That’s why I tried to tease the different strands apart, because what you’re writing feels a bit like this kind of shame-ball that sounds a bit like butwhatiftheyrethereIcantfacethemwhydidIevenIdontunderstandwhythiseffectsmesomuchImsodumbIshouldbeabletohandleitimagineseeinghimandhesallpoliteandshitbutwhatwouldhethinkbutwhydoIevencarewhathethinksaaaaaaaaah!

    See if it becomes easier to digest once you tease some of the fibres apart.


    Hey Inky!

    I guess shame is one of the most powerful emotions we got – designed to help us to adapt to a community and thereby survive!
    You went there with trust. You opened up and showed your work in the belief you would get some constructive and great feedback. Instead it was a shameful situation, where you were told by an important person of the community that your work is not good enough.
    Your reaction is completely natural!
    But shame only makes sense when it helps you to adapt. Therefore a good teacher or leader should be constructive. But your feeling of shame persists because there is nothing you can do to adapt to such a rude form of criticism! So every time you even think about it, the feelings comes back like a wave. You kind of “lost your face” in front of the community – at least this is what it feels like!
    The reality is that she probably does not even think about it, and would greet you friendly without even knowing how she made you feel – she just feels great about herself because she could find some sort of perceived weakness and point it out! So in the end she is just a very bad teacher/leader without empathy, who is destructive towards her own community to push her ego.
    When you meet her or her partner: Be nice to them, they deserve your pity!

    How to face this, and just go to events anyway, and feel you are accepted and can be yourself? I wish I knew 😀
    I try to remember that everyone feels like this from time to time, and that others won’t even know or notice it. If you go there anyway you can maybe “overwrite” the feeling of shame by making new and better experiences, even if it is painful in the beginning.
    Sometimes you just need to let go and find new communities. I once went to a theatre group with lots of hopes, but they were arrogant jerks who made new people feel unwelcome and treated them like sh… When I moved to a different city I wanted to go to a new theatre group, and I spend an hour outside because I did not even want to go in… when I finally did I was greeted with so much warmth and I gained several great friends and my bf of five years!
    However, just thinking about that first group still gives me a sense of shame, even many years later! Knowing that I don’t need them to survive, that they are not worth a single though and that they will not even know how horrible I felt with them, I try just not to think about them at all.
    In short: Go there, face your fears & the reaction, if it still feels shitty you know it’s not you but them – then accept the feeling, go somewhere else and find people who make you feel good! It’s just like a relationship 😉

    PS: If you find other ways to deal with this please let me know – I figured recently that I try to evade that feeling most of the time, which might be healthy sometimes, but not everytime…


    Thank you so much, everyone!!! I will go back here again and again as needed!!

    What helped me with the Shame Ball at the time was a Focus Wheel exercise. So at twelve o’ clock is the best feeling/thought in the world, and at one o’ clock is the worst feeling/thought or what you’re feeling now. So if I write “I feel like I’m drowning in a shame ball” the next thought at two o’ clock might be “With time, I’ll crawl through the shame ball.”

    At the time, the best thought I had was, “I now remember my Grampy was great, and no one was/is like him. So why be disappointed with disappointing “parental/authority” figures? He was irreplaceable and I was the jewel in his crown”. I had that feeling of “AAAHHH”! which kind of held me together

    So, strategies:

    1. If I don’t go to any event, ever again, it is TOTALLY understandable, and a healthy person would TOTALLY feel and act reserved going forward with this group.

    2. Go to an event and test the waters. See how it is. Perhaps overwrite old experiences with new, better experiences and new friends. Perhaps go with somebody for support.

    3. Find another group. (Would be awkward as would have to go one or two towns over and there would probably be questioning as I don’t live there. But, possible!)


    Good to see you are feeling better 🙂 Not going somewhere when you don’t feel like it, or going somewhere when someone may ask whether you belong or not – you don’t have to justify this, you don’t owe it to anyone 🙂 this is also a way to assert yourself!


    Sounds good. I like that focus wheel exercise, that sounds helpful.

    Martina Weiss


    it seems like you gave this man and woman the power to judge over you and your self-worth. You allowed the woman’s feedback to touch your heart, your soul. It seems like in their (mental) presence you aren’t able to define your own self-worth. That’s ok. It’s actually normal. Unfortunately. However, you can change that. Find out what hit you, what hurt you in your relationship to them. How did they give you the feeling that you are inadequate? There is an opportunity for change. To love yourself the way you are, no matter what they say.


    I think because I had felt SO GOOD before, and then I got knocked down. The dichotomy was too great.


    I agree with the thoughts of the previous posters however, the part of this thread that screamed at me was where you wrote:
    “usually I don’t care what other people think because I feel equal to or above them”
    Perhaps there is a lesson to be learned in this whole scenario about feeling “above others”. Feeling above leaves you a longer distance to fall doesn’t it?
    You put this leaders wife above you so her opinion knocked you down when in reality her opinion is just her opinion and just because she is the leader of the communities wife does not put her in a position above you. The leader himself is not above you.
    I just think you might delve in to what it really means to feel above another person….I don’t believe in that concept but again, that is just MY opinion. Food for thought.


    Maybe a little off topic but reading some articles I found this interesting and very true statement:
    “When you give your power to outer sources you attract aggressors”.
    Aggressor could not always be a violent or destructive person, it could be someone who wants to have any form of control over other people, they may even think that they are doing this for other person’s good. The need to control is the main distinction of neurotic personalities. And victim would be a dependent person, someone who has not learned to rely on their own inner power, who allows to be defined by outer judgement, either good or bad. Of course if someone is used to being defined by outer good affirmations it is less painful and less probable to wake up to the fact that they need to learn to define themselves. Think of Siddhartha who was a prince living an abundant and loving life. He left all this because he sensed the need to wake up his inner strength in order to become Buddha 🙂
    Just continuing the discussion 🙂


    I think my attitude towards myself has been like a line from Oklahoma ~ “Now I’m not saying that I’m better than anybody else ~ But I’ll be damned if I’m not just as good!” LOL

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