SHAME BASED LIVING
The Dangers of Growing Up With Shame
Shame on you! How many of your reading this have heard this message played over and over while growing up? In my practice as a psychologist in the Jackson, Mississippi area, I often conduct therapy with those who grew up in a home where they were made to feel ashamed of their behavior. Or, even worse, to feel that they could do nothing right. Parents who provide a shame based upbringing for their children don't realize the harm they are doing to their child on into adulthood as they try to have a normal relationship with others, or even when they work to develop a stable career.
Children, by nature, look up to their parents. They often idolize them, and try to behave like them. When a parent tells them what to do, or not do, they strive to please. Unfortunately, some parents often temper their talk with negative talk that stays with that child long into their own adult life.
Telling a child "you should be ashamed of yourself" or "shame on you" leaves the child thinking that they are bad. The focus moves away from the behavior that is to be corrected and onto the idea that the child is wrong or bad.
Growing up in this type environment often causes that adult child to have a poor self-image, become a people pleaser, or a co-dependent. Those negative messages of shame are always there in the back of their mind so that their actions are to avoid anything that will cause them to feel that shame again.
In the recovery process, it is important for that wounded adult to look at the behaviors and negative messages they received while growing up. They often have to come to terms the understanding that the behaviors of their parents was wrong. In some cases, the parent/parents are just reflecting what they heard themself as a child. In other instances, substance abuse or mental illness in a parent can cause this behavior. It helps when there is understanding of the why, as well as acceptance that it was wrong to be treated as they were.
Freedom from shame comes when one who grew up in a shame based home learns that they were not bad and have no reason to be ashamed of themself. Sure, they needed correction for negative behaviors while growing up, but it is important to learn that the behavior is what was wrong. All children make mistakes, but it is nothing to be ashamed of. There is a right and wrong way to change a child's behavior. Correcting with kindness helps develop a positive self-image, rather than self doubt and a poor one.
If you, or someone you love, grew up in a shame based home, maybe it is time to seek professional help to learn to turn loose of those negative message and see that you have no reason to feel shame. It is time to learn to "hold your head high" and be proud of who you are.
Dr. Nona Owens
580 Springridge Rd., 4-A
Clinton, Mississippi, 39056