While my mother was recuperating after having her lower leg amputated, her sister came to visit and went to sit at the end of the sofa where she was reclining. My mother panicked, believing my aunt was going to land on her very painful leg. As reality set in, that the limb was no longer there, my aunt declined to sit back down because as she pointed out: “I can’t tell how long your leg is in order to avoid sitting on it again!”
Shame is like that phantom leg. The lies it tells us seem convincing. We really believe that there is something intrinsically wrong, unworthy and unlovable about us. And because we are convinced, we engage others in our reality.
According to Webster’s dictionary a boundary is: “something that indicates or fixes a limit or extent.”
I recently heard the profound statement that shame causes us to give up control of the boundaries that serve to protect our dignity, value and worth. That makes sense doesn’t it? If our core belief is that we do not have dignity, value, or worth, why have or establish boundaries to protect them?
This perspective on boundaries brings new insight into some classic shame based patterns:
- Pulling people close (when we say yes)
- Pushing people away (where we say no)
- Seeking approval (what we do)
- Searing self doubt (why we yo-yo)
- Avoiding internal pain (how we escape)
Recovery is the willingness, not only to allow but to actually invite specific others into our lives who can and want to prove to us that we are welcome members of the human race, worthy and lovable in our own right. In recovery we learn the when, where, what, why and how of establishing healthier boundaries that allow us to retake authority over ourselves and our relationships.
How long is your shame “leg” today? Come to group sessions and let those of us sharing in the recovery process to sit by your side.
Thank you to Kathy for this beautiful and poignant account of shame and the impact it can have on one’s life. HUM always want to hear from YOU! If you are interested in submitting a poem, picture, personal account or article for the newsletter, please contact Paige at 403-536-2480 or [email protected]