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trying to live with unrelenting shame (maybe I should kill myself)

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  • #377614
    ninibee
    Participant

    anita,

    You said, “Maybe that’s the emptiness you talked about at the time, not having anyone to live for, is how you put it, if I remember correctly.

    Is that it?”

    I can remember at the time thinking if I had someone to share my goals/projects/achievements with that I would be more motivated in life. For much of my life, I have been solely motivated by getting attention (or connection). As you can imagine, sometimes this was very unhealthy. Sometimes it was more neutral, or even somewhat positive. For example, I use to go to swing dancing classes just to be around people. I actually do not know if I liked swing dancing or not (and at the time I had absolutely no idea if I liked the dancing, I just knew I liked the social event).

    In regards to that time in my life (that I made that post 2019), I remember thinking a lot “why should I put in all this effort to go to college and be successful in life if at the end of the day I have nobody to there for me that would care?” I felt life is worthless/empty without connection. And that is where my fantasy mother came in. A fantasy of a positive connection that would motivate me to make positive change in my life.  Additionally, it seems easier to value yourself/see your worth when you have someone who holds that view of you.

    • This reply was modified 5 months, 1 week ago by ninibee.
    #377616
    anita
    Participant

    Dear ninibee:

    I started preparing a post for you hours ago, based on some research, took a break and yet to return to it, so it will be a couple of hours before I am back to you, including my reply to your recent post (and anything you may add to it).

    anita

    #377622
    TeaK
    Participant

    Dear ninibee,

    I can remember at the time thinking if I had someone to share my goals/projects/achievements with that I would be more motivated in life. For much of my life, I have been solely motivated by getting attention (or connection)

    You know how children always shout “Mom, watch me!”, or “Dad, watch me!” when they’re proud of some achievement of theirs, be it a jump in the water, or walking on the rope, or whatever they may be proud of themselves. The child is always keen on getting the parents’ affirmation of their skills and abilities. The child loves to be good at things and also to get the parents’ praise.

    But if you felt from a very early age that your mother isn’t even interested in you, that she finds you “icky” or repulsive, it wouldn’t be surprising that you later didn’t care about her seeing your success and giving you praise either. You wouldn’t be motivated to want anything from her, when she rejected you from the start. As a consequence, you wouldn’t be motivated to achieve anything in your life either, because what’s the point – there’s no one who cares to see it. Do you think this could have been the case?

    #377629
    anita
    Participant

    Dear ninibee:

    The following is a beginning of my research. I plan to continue Wednesday morning when I am rested. I understand that you may not be in the mood to read this post (or the next), maybe you are not focused enough, maybe you just don’t feel  like it, and that’s okay. You don’t have to read it and you don’t have to respond to its content. It is not like a college class where you have to pay attention, do homework and pass a test. Read it if and when you feel like it, and respond to the content of what is to follow, or not.

    Because you observed your mother being uncomfortable touching babies, it could be that she didn’t touch you often when you were a baby, and it could be that her touch was not gentle or prolonged, that she touched you as if you were an object: quickly and in a matter of fact kind of way, wanting the contact with you to be done and over with as quickly as possible. Also, being uncomfortable when she touched you and when interacting you otherwise, probably showed in her face and in her voice. You were able to observe her discomfort when you were a baby and a young child, just as you were able, as an adult, to observe her discomfort with other people’s babies.

    I don’t know if and how your father, and/ or a nanny or a household worker that touched you when you were a baby, and what were their facial expressions and tone of voice when they interacted with you.

    What follows are quotes from two sources that are very relevant to the topic. I will add and elaborate on what follows tomorrow.

    hello motherhood. com: “Healthy, effective contact with your baby includes cuddling, gentle massage, stroking and holding your newborn”, “Lack of physical contact can prevent normal development and can even lead to higher rates of illness or death in infants”, “The first contact a newborn has with you, his mother, sets off cascades of hormones in his body that benefit his health.. Your touch can lower the levels of the stress hormone cortisol in his body, leading to better sleep patterns in infancy and a tendency to be less fearful or inhibited later in life”, “contact.. promotes bonding and makes the baby feel more secure and relaxed. Touch.. facilitates the bonding process from the first  moments after birth. Healthy bonding.. helps your infant develop better psychologically and socially later in life”.

    Scientific American. com, how important is physical contact with your infant?: “Touch and emotional engagement boost early childhood development, but can children recover from neglectful environments? Many children who have not had ample physical and emotional attention are at higher risk for behavioral, emotional and social problems as they grow up…

    “some children from deprived surroundings such as orphanages, have vastly different hormone levels than their parent-raised peers even beyond the baby years… children who experienced early deprivation also had different levels of oxytocin and vasopressin (hormones that have been linked to emotion and social bonding)…

    One of the things infants learn early in life is that their actions affect others’ responses—they sense that they’re active agents in their environment.. They learn that probably most readily through other people because people are responsive to babies. Babies catch on very quickly that their actions get a predictable response—you know, ‘I smile, Mom smiles back’—not all the time but most of the time. They develop a sense that ‘I’m a causal agent.’

    “There’s research that shows babies like to be imitated. We interact with babies much differently than we interact with peers. We tend to imitate behavior back to them in an exaggerated way, which is exactly what babies need, and it helps them learn about their own emotional experience. Seeing it reflected back helps them understand themselves at a very basic perceptual understanding…. If the mother was depressed and therefore not emotionally engaging with the baby, those babies are at risk because those babies are not learning about themselves…. The more experience babies have with someone who is going to be emotionally engaged with them, the better off they’re going to be…

    Read more from this special report: The Mother-Baby Bond

    “It’s not that anything is cut in stone. I don’t want to give the impression that if babies don’t get this they’re marked for life. This early understanding of self and early understanding of other is developed through interaction. It teaches babies basic lessons that they have some agency in the world, so that allows them to explore the world and feel like they can affect their environment as opposed to just being helpless to whatever happens to them. We’re basically a social species, and we learn those things through interacting with others.”

    anita

    • This reply was modified 5 months, 1 week ago by tinybuddha.
    • This reply was modified 5 months, 1 week ago by anita.
    • This reply was modified 5 months, 1 week ago by tinybuddha.
    #377631
    anita
    Participant

    Dear ninibee:

    The following is a beginning of my research. I plan to continue Wednesday morning when I am rested. I understand that you may not be in the mood to read this post (or the next), maybe you are not focused enough, maybe you just don’t feel  like it, and that’s okay. You don’t have to read it and you don’t have to respond to its content. It is not like a college class where you have to pay attention, do homework and pass a test. Read it if and when you feel like it, and respond to the content of what is to follow, or not.

    Because you observed your mother being uncomfortable touching babies, it could be that she didn’t touch you often when you were a baby, and it could be that her touch was not gentle or prolonged, that she touched you as if you were an object: quickly and in a matter of fact kind of way, wanting the contact with you to be done and over with as quickly as possible. Also, being uncomfortable when she touched you and when interacting you otherwise, probably showed in her face and in her voice. You were able to observe her discomfort when you were a baby and a young child, just as you were able, as an adult, to observe her discomfort with other people’s babies.

    I don’t know if and how your father, and/ or a nanny or a household worker that touched you when you were a baby, and what were their facial expressions and tone of voice when they interacted with you.

    What follows are quotes from two sources that are very relevant to the topic. I will add and elaborate on what follows tomorrow.

    hello motherhood. com: “Healthy, effective contact with your baby includes cuddling, gentle massage, stroking and holding your newborn”, “Lack of physical contact can prevent normal development and can even lead to higher rates of illness or death in infants”, “The first contact a newborn has with you, his mother, sets off cascades of hormones in his body that benefit his health.. Your touch can lower the levels of the stress hormone cortisol in his body, leading to better sleep patterns in infancy and a tendency to be less fearful or inhibited later in life”, “contact.. promotes bonding and makes the baby feel more secure and relaxed. Touch.. facilitates the bonding process from the first  moments after birth. Healthy bonding.. helps your infant develop better psychologically and socially later in life”.

    Scientific American. com, how important is physical contact with your infant?: “Touch and emotional engagement boost early childhood development, but can children recover from neglectful environments? Many children who have not had ample physical and emotional attention are at higher risk for behavioral, emotional and social problems as they grow up…

    “some children from deprived surroundings such as orphanages, have vastly different hormone levels than their parent-raised peers even beyond the baby years… children who experienced early deprivation also had different levels of oxytocin and vasopressin (hormones that have been linked to emotion and social bonding)…

    “One of the things infants learn early in life is that their actions affect others’ responses—they sense that they’re active agents in their environment.. They learn that probably most readily through other people because people are responsive to babies. Babies catch on very quickly that their actions get a predictable response—you know, ‘I smile, Mom smiles back’—not all the time but most of the time. They develop a sense that ‘I’m a causal agent.’

    “There’s research that shows babies like to be imitated. We interact with babies much differently than we interact with peers. We tend to imitate behavior back to them in an exaggerated way, which is exactly what babies need, and it helps them learn about their own emotional experience. Seeing it reflected back helps them understand themselves at a very basic perceptual understanding…. If the mother was depressed and therefore not emotionally engaging with the baby, those babies are at risk because those babies are not learning about themselves…. The more experience babies have with someone who is going to be emotionally engaged with them, the better off they’re going to be…

    “It’s not that anything is cut in stone. I don’t want to give the impression that if babies don’t get this they’re marked for life. This early understanding of self and early understanding of other is developed through interaction. It teaches babies basic lessons that they have some agency in the world, so that allows them to explore the world and feel like they can affect their environment as opposed to just being helpless to whatever happens to them. We’re basically a social species, and we learn those things through interacting with others.”

    anita

    #377706
    anita
    Participant

    Dear ninibee:

    I’ll keep this post as simple as I can make it. Here is a sentence from Scientific American, above: “One of the things infants learn early in life is that their actions affect others’ responses- they sense that they’re active agents in their environment”-

    – an active agent, aka having an internal locus of control, means that you believe that you can improve your life by taking action, that you have control over the outcome of events in your life, that your life is controlled by you, to a significant extent.

    On the other hand, a passive agent, aka having an external locus of control, means that you believe that you cannot improve your life no matter what actions you take, that you have no control over the outcomes of events in your life, that your life is controlled by outside factors (which you have no control over).

    Learned helplessness is a mental state where (1) a person is in an undesirable life situation, (2) it is possible for the person to do something to improve the undesirable life situation, but (3) she doesn’t even try because, so the thinking goes: what would be the point, it won’t make a difference no matter what I do or how hard I try.

    Learned helplessness is “a state of deep passivity with lack of motivation, cognitive deficit and depression” (the free dictionary. com)-

    Being a passive agent and suffering from learned helplessness fits very well in what you described November 1, 2019: “Overall, I do nothing.. I have a lot of resistance toward doing my schoolwork… Most days, I don’t do any class work at all…  I just lie around in bed… My apartment is trash. I have empty boxes, trash, dishes, clothes all pile up… I have been this way as long as I can remember… I know other people my age.. work, do school full time, and still get out and have a social life. I just don’t want to do any of it, it seems too hard”-

    – I don’t have a vision into your past, but I imagine this: as a baby, you cried, smiled, held your hands up for your mother to pick you up, expressed your baby emotions and needs, but she did not adequately respond to you, instead,  she fed you and changed you, as quickly as possible, with minimum contact.

    She didn’t return your smile, she didn’t talk to you in that baby talk kind of way, didn’t sing lullabies to you, didn’t hold you just so to enjoy having you in her arms- she was a neutral mother at best (not responsive), annoyed and uncomfortable at worst (responded negatively).

    When she was neutral, you learned that you are a passive agent, meaning that your mother’s behavior had nothing to do with your emotions and needs, that what you felt and needed made no difference in what happened to you. This may have been the origin of your learned helplessness.

    Fast forward to Nov 1, 2019: what’s the point in doing school work, what’s the point in clearing your apartment from empty boxes and trash…  in working or doing school full time or going out and have a social life.. none of it will make a difference, nothing matters!

    That belief that nothing matters/ nothing will make a difference, includes lack of motivation and great distress over (1) being stuck in an undesirable situation, (2) knowing what action will get you out of the undesirable situation, witnessing others taking such actions, and yet feeling unable to take those actions yourself, (3) feeling that there is something terribly wrong with you for not taking the actions needed to be taken: “I really feel so stuck. I am scared, heartbroken, unsure. What’s wrong with me? Why am I this way?”

    – Are the answers to what’s-wrong-with-me in this post?

    anita

    #377733
    ninibee
    Participant

    anita,

    I want to start by saying I appreciate the research you have done, and now shared with me to help me better understand myself and my experiences. Here are some things I found interesting/relevant as I was reading:

    1. “Your touch can lower the levels of the stress hormone cortisol in his body, leading to better sleep patterns in infancy and a tendency to be less fearful or inhibited later in life”

    This fits that that perhaps I was not given this type of bonding touch. My mom herself companied to me that as a baby, I was a terrible sleeper, did not like to nap, and would wake them up throughout the night. I became extremely inhibited and fearful by the age of 5, and have been throughout my life.

    2. “Many children who have not had ample physical and emotional attention are at higher risk for behavioral, emotional and social problems as they grow up…”

    This reminds me of the reason I originally began this thread. I was feeling shame about my life long history of behavioral and social issues. This is relatively unspecific and simply put, but relevant.

    3. Everything you have shared about being a “active” or “passive agent”, and the pattern of “learned helplessness”

    These ideas are new to me. I can see in what you put together that I have displayed a pattern of learned helplessness. In some ways, I do feel it is true for me. Specifically around when you said “feeling that there is something terribly wrong with you for not taking the actions needed to be taken” … I did feel this way, I blamed myself and held myself as the one responsible for my misery I was in. I am not sure if that fits in. I will have to look more into learned helplessness. Perhaps I was in a state of thinking “I have caused this for myself and I want to change it, but I don’t know what I need or how I can get out of it”… That seems to fit. I may have some ideas, but many times I am still so unsure and lack the confidence to make any change with my ideas.

     

    • This reply was modified 5 months, 1 week ago by ninibee.
    #377736
    ninibee
    Participant

    TeaK,

    I had written out a paragraph in response to and then it got deleted somehow. It won’t be as good as what I originally wrote, but here is basically what I said:

    I thought about what you said today while eating a salad for lunch. My mom came into the kitchen and asked what I was eating, and I felt uncomfortable and I didn’t want to tell her (I had to tell her, but I said it as boring as possible)… But I thought this was a strange reaction to have. I think in a normal situation, I would have said “I made this really delicious salad. I actually made it up on the spot and it turned out surprisingly well. Do you want to try some?” This is when I thought about what you said about kids wanting to share their achievements with their parents. Its a rather silly example and I am not sure if it even makes sense… but in this case, if my salad was an achievement, I not only did not want to share the news of my great achievement with her, I wanted to avoid the possibility of her seeing it or commenting on it. For a moment, I wished I had not made a salad at all.

    I don’t understand this well, but it is like I am afraid to share my achievements (or even make an achievement). I don’t know if this answers your question in any way, but I think it goes beyond a lack of motivation.

    • This reply was modified 5 months, 1 week ago by ninibee.
    #377738
    anita
    Participant

    Dear ninibee:

    You are welcome. I am glad that you found parts of the two posts relevant to you. It so happens that I too experienced learned helplessness for most of my life. It was only 2 or 3 of years ago, summer time, I was indoors and it felt too hot. At one point I noticed that I can open the windows, it just didn’t occur to me for hours and days to do that. The undesirable situation in this example was: the temperature was too high, the action to improve the situation was to open windows. It just did not cross my mind to do so. When I did- the temperature went down and I was comfortable.

    There are many other examples over the years, some way more serious than the one I just described, some involved lots of shame.  I mentioned self-forgiveness earlier. Understanding learned helplessness helped me forgive myself for many of those shameful situations because I realized that I was unable to change or exit those situations.

    People who do not understand learned helplessness would say: but you could have just left! Not so. Here is the proof that this condition is not a human excuse- animals too suffer from learned helplessness and scientists studied the phenomenon. For example, a baby elephant who is tied with a strong rope to a fixed structure, tries and tries but cannot break free from the rope because he is too small to break the rope. When the elephant is tied with the same kind of rope, as an adult, the elephant is more than big and strong enough to break the rope if he tries, but he doesn’t try because he gave up long ago on breaking three from the rope and it does not occur to him to try.

    Anytime you want to discuss further these topics, anything you want to talk about, let me know.

    anita

    #377758
    TeaK
    Participant

    Dear ninibee,

    if my salad was an achievement, I not only did not want to share the news of my great achievement with her, I wanted to avoid the possibility of her seeing it or commenting on it. For a moment, I wished I had not made a salad at all.

    As we talked about earlier, it might be that you felt so thoroughly rejected by her in your early childhood (which you don’t consciously remember), that you later decided to reject her thoroughly too – you felt repulsed by her (this is what you know and feel consciously). All this time you’re probably angry at her for not giving you what you needed, and on an even deeper level you’re hurt and in pain because she never gave you what you needed.

    However you don’t want to show it. You show neither anger or pain, but what you do show is that you don’t care. You don’t need her attention, and if she gives you any attention, e.g. asks you about your lunch, you’re doing your best to show how completely indifferent you are, how you couldn’t care less (“I said it as boring as possible”), perhaps you even show a slight hostility and impatience that she even asked you. It’s a defense mechanism – your indifference actually hides your deeper anger at her, and beneath the anger is pain…

    I believe your anger at her manifests indirectly, by you sabotaging your own life. But it’s not expressed at her directly. During healing, we first need to get in touch with our anger (in a safe, therapeutic setting), and then with our pain.

    #377771
    anita
    Participant

    Dear ninibee:

    “if my salad was an achievement, I not only did not want to share the news of my great achievement with her, I wanted to avoid the possibility of her seeing it or commenting on it”-

    – likely because at a very early age you proudly showed her an achievement, and her reaction was negative, and it may have happened repeatedly.

    An example: a child returns from kindergarten school with a drawing she made, lots of lines and circles of different crayon colors. The child is excited about her ability to produce something so colorful and beautiful. She proudly hands it to her mother, expecting her mother to be as excited, but the mother looks at the drawing for just a moment and and puts it down on the table. Later on, the child sees her drawing crumpled in the garbage. The child is devastated and she is not likely to present her mother with a drawing again.  She may not feel like drawing again.

    anita

    #377831
    ninibee
    Participant

    hi again anita and Teak (and anyone else who may read this)

    I want to say that I deeply appreciate your sharing, thoughtfulness, and time spent with me on this thread. It helps me feel less lonely in the moment, but as things settle in I start to feel great amounts of anxiety and shame around what I post. I feel like I never should have never should’ve opened my mouth. Coincidentally, I started this thread in a similar place but hoping to find some way to feel better about it. At the moment I feel like its too hard to pull myself out of. I feel confused right now. I don’t know what to say. I worry I waste people’s time on here… that I am always spinning around in circles and being difficult and weird and  unreachable. I don’t know if I have anything else to say.

    #377832
    TeaK
    Participant

    Dear ninibee,

    you’re absolutely not wasting my time, and I don’t feel you’re spinning around in circles, and I am so glad you’re posting. I believe we all were able to understand a little better the reasons for your unrelenting shame – which most probably stem from your very early childhood, and are related to your mother not meeting your needs. They have nothing to do you with being unlikeable or repulsive or shameful. Try to understand at least that. It wasn’t your fault that your legitimate needs weren’t properly met.

    I know it’s hard for you at the moment, and you’re identifying with your older self, who might have done some shameful things, but remember that it was all a reaction, a consequence of your childhood wounding. You, as a young, confused adult, were in pain, and you behaved accordingly. What Anita said a few days ago was so true, and it resonated with you: “I was mentally unwell, confused, desperate, in pain, and therefore likely to act in shameful ways. And I did.”

    So try to see your shameful acts not as a reflection of your true self, but as a consequence of being in pain. And then try to see beyond them, and see in front of yourself that little adorable baby who needed to be lovingly touched and cuddled and cooed to and smiled at, and enjoyed that she exists… but she wasn’t. She was rejected. And she started to believe there’s something wrong with her, she started to feel shame, she might have even felt she was a creep, a monster… (I felt that about myself). And when we’re in so much pain, we need ways to soothe or numb ourselves, and we act out.

    Please try to see it as it was, and have compassion for yourself, because none of it was your fault. And please keep posting here, you have nothing to be ashamed of, and you’ve helped me too with your sharing <3

    • This reply was modified 5 months, 1 week ago by TeaK.
    #377855
    anita
    Participant

    Dear ninibee:

    You started this thread on April 9, 2021, with: “Throughout my entire life, I have left behind a trail of people who don’t like me. I leave a bad taste in people’s mouths”-

    – The bad taste is in your mouth: it is the taste of shame, isn’t it?

    Most recently you wrote: “I feel great amounts of anxiety and shame around what I post. I feel like I never should have.. opened my mouth”-

    – Is it that when you open your mouth, the taste of shame intensifies?

    “I worry I waste people’s time on here.. being difficult and weird and unreachable”-

    – Part of you wants to be rejected, so that you get the okay to stop posting/ stop opening your mouth, and as a result, there will be less of that taste?

    Your battle with shame, this exhausting battle makes you want to give up and give in. What if you give up on the battle itself: what if you endure that bad taste, accept it best you can, no longer trying to get rid of the taste?

    What I am saying is that there is no way of getting rid of shame quickly- so accept it, don’t fight it, and keep talking, keep communicating. Over time, if you persist, the taste will lessen and lessen and finally, there will be that taste of sweetness in your mouth, and you will say to yourself: aha, that’s what sweet is, how different life is, how different it feels.. I didn’t know!

    anita

     

    #377863
    TeaK
    Participant

    Dear ninibee,

    now that Anita mentioned your first post on this thread, another thing caught my attention there. You said you’d been afraid to log in for a long while out of shame of what you’d posted earlier:

    I have posted on these forums before, but spend large chunks of time avoiding logging back on out of shame for what I have posted. Maybe a few of you have experienced from those occasions, (I think) I am a quite disagreeable and dislikable person.

    You believed that people on this forum might remember you as “quite disagreeable and dislikable person”, even though they later confirmed none of the kind. Both Anita and Brandy expressed that they had a positive experience interacting with you on previous threads. This means that you believe you leave a bad taste in people’s mouths, and that you say shameful things, when in fact it’s not true. It is your perception.

    Has somebody actually told you you leave a bad taste in their mouth?

     

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