As often happens, something occurred in my life that got me thinking about something and my brain wouldn’t let it go. This time, it’s shame and blaming.
My son and I were hanging out with a girlfriend and her 2 daughters (7 & 9 yrs. old) at a local swimming pool. While we were there, girlfriend and I opted to not swim, but to sit poolside and watch the kids.
We sat by a table, and shared it with another mother who was watching her 2 kids and a friend. At one point, I realized that a young diver I had been watching, and who impressed me, was her son, so I complimented him to her. We began to chat.
The other mother mentioned that they had all been there for about 4 hours, and hadn’t even had dinner yet (as it was nearing 9pm). Then she commented that they would probably go to McDonalds’ drive-through, not that her overweight daughter needed to eat McDonald’s. I responded with something to the tone of “does anyone really need to eat McDonald’s?” Then she talked about the fact that her kids often had friends at the house, and that she liked it because her daughter was more physically active when friends were over; and because she’s heavy, being more active was a good thing. I agreed and said that my son was also more active with a friend over, and it was good for him, too. She also mentioned that her son never stops moving. He was about 9 and was all skin, bones, and muscles: pure action.
Then, in commiseration about being concerned with our children’s weight, I launched into a story about a nurse practitioner at my son’s pediatric doctor’s office telling me, during a well child visit, that my son’s BMI was too high, and did I want a referral to a nutritionist. That nurse practitioner, although well-intentioned, has no idea why my son needs to keep a little layer of chub; and I wasn’t about to try to explain it. (It’s his way of protecting himself from all of the energy that he is bombarded with all of the time, as he’s extremely sensitive to energy). The next year, I scheduled his well child visit with his pediatrician, whose main concern is, is the child healthy.
After a while, the conversation wound down and that other mother gathered up her kids and friend, and left. That’s when my girlfriend turned to me and thanked me for carrying the conversation, because she was about to go off on the woman. The first thing that popped into my head was WTF??
Then girlfriend went on to rant and rail against the woman referring to her daughter as fat. Girlfriend said that the mother probably called the girl fat to her face. I definitely got the sense that this mother might have recognized that her daughter is overweight, but would not call her such names to her face. Just my thought there. However, some bell in my girlfriend definitely got rung, because she went off on a 10 minute rage, with her eyes bulging out and the veins in her neck sticking out.
She told a story of witnessing a mother who had been given some bad news, go off on her 12-year-old daughter in a very inappropriate manner, blaming the daughter for something that she had absolutely nothing to do with. Then girlfriend apparently went off on that mother, telling her “shame on you for talking to your daughter in that way.” And when girlfriend was told to mind her own business, girlfriend said that when the girl was treated this way in front of her, it was her business. Girlfriend was ballistic!
Girlfriend painted a picture of herself as the savior to kids who are treated badly (whether they actually are, or if she just thinks they are). I found this to be interesting, and her reactions to be unusually strong, especially considering how she herself chooses to discipline her daughters (threats, blame, shame). I distinctly remember one time when her younger girl was four and was having a bad day (she was probably over tired, because she was often put to bed too late and didn’t get the naps that she needed) and in complete frustration because her daughter wouldn’t mind her, girlfriend put her 4-year-old daughter into a cold shower to get her to listen to her mother. The day she did that I was a gnat’s ass away from reporting her to child protective services.
The level of reaction to something is how I’ve learned to see when there is a wounded lion inside wanting out. With my girlfriend, she made assumptions about a woman she didn’t know, and spent only 15 minutes gabbing with. Based on not much evidential information and a whole lot of internal wounds shouting “hear me!” my girlfriend was ready to string this gal up in front of a public mob.
I know a bit about my girlfriend’s upbringing, but I’ve only known her about 12 years. What I do know is that when she was around 4, her older brother (8) fell off their father’s fishing boat (while Dad was below decks getting high with his buddies) and drowned. After that, her family never recovered. Her father tried to kill himself, using drugs and alcohol, and to date (over 30 years later) has not succeeded. Her mother sought refuge in her religion. I can only imagine the horrific wound that happened to her and to the entire family. From what I see of girlfriend, her 2 sisters (one is an alcoholic) and her now divorced parents, none of them have done the work to heal from the death of her brother.
What came to my attention, other than wondering exactly what beliefs in my girlfriend were reacting so very strongly whenever she saw another child being treated in a way that she saw as neglectful or abusive, was witnessing the energetic pattern that we call shame, get passed on. And I see that it will continue to be passed on until someone becomes educated, has their consciousness raised in some way to stop the continual transmittal of shame and blame.
A parent controls their kid’s behavior by telling them that if they don’t clean up their room, do their homework, do their chores, then the can’t go do something fun, have ice cream for dessert, have some of their Christmas candy, watch TV, play their Xbox, etc. If the child resists, the parent ups the anti. If the child still resists, the parent uses tactics like shame to try to coerce the child. If the child still resists, they are punished or thrown in a cold shower. All of this cements into a child’s mind that they are bad, not worthy, not ok.
It always comes down to a power struggle; and when you try to overpower another person on a regular basis, eventually, they rebel. This, along with not dealing with our internal wounds, sets up the perfect environment to perpetuate shame and blame.
So how do we make a change? If you are a parent and use the punishment, blame and shame game, switch up your parenting tools by learning new ones such as the ones taught by Jane Nelsen at Positive Discipline. A little hint: the focus is on teaching, not punishment. And some of the tools work great for adults as well (think employer/ employee relationship).
If you notice that you tend to go off from time to time, and blame it on stress, it’s not stress, it’s something deep down inside you that needs to be examined. A professional counselor might be able to help. I personally prefer a respected and reputable psychic. One of their gifts is the ability to see the truth of a situation. Or if you are a person that meditates or are in touch with yourself, just get quiet and ask what’s going on. Work on your inner lions until they just sit inside and purr.
I personally would love to see a shift in our society away from blaming and shaming. All it does is perpetuate fear and bad behavior all the way around.