I’m reading a book, well, I’m reading several, as always. But one is the Lessons from Madame Chic, which is where the French Dressing clothing purge originated. She talks about French women dressing in basically 10 pieces of clothing, and that’s it (not including foundations or outerwear (coats, etc.) The challenge of that and the notion of deleting enough clothes that I could actually put everything away has got me going that way. I’m a sucker for measurable and I think possible challenges (like the stuff out tally I guess?).
The 2nd is John Bradshaw’s book dealing with shame. In it, and elsewhere, since I’ve started reading about shame, are a long list of influences in our culture (and in my childhood home) which breed shame in youngsters. I found an article about self-esteem on the Psychology Today site that included the quote below, which I found mind boggling.
“This is uniquely evidenced by the well known anecdote regarding a conference on Psychology and Buddhism some years ago where it was necessary to spend an entire day explaining the concept of self-esteem to a group of quite learned Eastern teachers and contemplatives, including the Dalai Lama. It’s not that they didn’t understand the construct of self-esteem, but, more, it’s that they didn’t understand why such a construct was even necessary.” You can find the entire article here:
The notion that a quantity of my shame may have been layered on me by my family and the culture I live in just makes me MAD. The stuff as camouflage isn’t news to me, but that the reason for much of it may have been imposed on me by impersonal notions, like the culture in which I was raised, was something that I hadn’t really considered.
This is rather like discovering I’m a DES daughter. The knowledge hasn’t changed anything, except that I’ll make sure my docs check for the type of cancer I’m more prone to as a result. What it did change was remove a huge quantity of shame I carried regarding how I was affected, including not being able to be a mother. My mother taking DES during pregnancy was another way I was victimized and it bred more shame.
Discovering that the cultural norms related to the Judeo-Christian ethic as a breeding ground for guilt/shame isn’t news either — it’s a good part of the reason I couldn’t stay Christian. I didn’t need another impossible to reach standard, namely being perfect for God, I already did that. My reaction to years of emotional abuse was, as I’ve said repeatedly, “being perfect was to be merely adequate.”
That level of shame isn’t congruent with a system of beliefs that someone “died for my sins” as they’d already done that, and it didn’t help, did it? And of course the abuser used this too. “Proof” I was unacceptable, even to God as well as my family was the fact that I continued to hurt and no one seemed to care.
When I read Kushner’s book, When Bad Things Happen to Good People, it seemed his perspective was that God doesn’t have direct control of people’s lives, He starts your life but doesn’t use good/bad things to evaluate you nor can He do anything specifically to help you. That’s nice, but it means to me if that’s true that God is an alien and we’re a thought experiment. Why “believe” in something like that? That wasn’t any help, even assuming I had faith to believe. In what? An alien? That would make me a Scientologist. Not my cuppa.
Then I’m stuck with the same old thing — just me. If I discount the abuser’s “God hates you, see? You’re hurting and no one cares!” AND the portion of that created by being a normal child reacting to the crazy things around me by assuming they originated with me, instead outside of me, there’s not much left for me to be ashamed of.
My mother died. I was neglected. My primary caretaker was an abusive alcoholic. No matter what, I didn’t “deserve” that, it simply occurred.
The hoarding behavior is my way of acting out my shame. Of “showing” that I’m unworthy, and trying to hide. [One of the few techniques that worked with the abuser was pro-active guilt. Admit/take on guilt before she had a chance to give it to you.]
The Madame Chic book talks about living life using your best, not hiding it away. About honoring yourself with choosing the things in your life with care, to take care as you interact with others, how you present yourself, etc. Direct opposition to the hoarding and shame-filled approach. It’s honoring yourself and who you are.
Between the two books, I may just forge a new path, to my authentic self, where the need to hide is unnecessary.
Internal revolutions are interesting!