Psychological Self-Help

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Being an overly nice people-pleaser or rescuer or self-sacrificing
martyr. If you feel unworthy, your hope might be to
compensate for it by being "real good." Being super nice often
means pretending or lying about our feelings and true opinions,
presumably because we are ashamed of our real selves. 
The self can withdraw so deeply or shut off the outside world so
completely (denial) that shameful actions or events just don't
upset our self, in this way the self can't be hurt. 
Obviously, a person feeling shame but using these defenses would
inflict shame on others; that is, wounds of shame are passed from
parent to child. This is done by parents in a variety of ways: (a)
verbal, sexual and physical abuse, (b) physical and emotional
abandonment (the child may even be expected to take care of the
parent's emotional needs), (c) thinking of children as insignificant
inferiors to be dominated and blamed or as persons to be controlled by
threats of rage, disapproval, and withdrawal of love or as persons to
be taken care of excessively, and not told the truth because they are
needy, fragile, and "can't understand" or as persons to stay
emotionally enmeshed with because they are perfect, wonderful, can
meet your needs, and may be the only ones that care for us. So,
shame begets shame. 
What are the consequences of a shame-oriented family? Self-
blame and criticism (like Sooty Sarah). Constantly comparing yourself
with others and coming up short. Depression--we may dislike and
disown parts of our self and even feel disdain for our self as a whole.
The shamed person may engage in compulsive disorders--physical and
sexual abuse, drug and alcohol addiction, anorexia-bulimia and
obesity, workaholism, sex addictions, addictions to certain feelings
(rage, being shamed and rejected), intellectualization, anti-social
acting out, and other personality problems, including multiple
personality. The list is long. Some of these "sick" behaviors, like
addictions, help us hide our shame; some, like workaholism, try to
make up for our weaknesses; some, like abuse, adopt the harmful
behavior that was imposed on us; some, like criminal acts, reflect fear
and hatred of the shaming techniques used against us. Shame
operates inside all of is a voice inside our head. The voice
usually sounds like our parent. Sometimes the voice of shame is
healthy and helpful; sometimes it is unhealthy and self-defeating.
Nathanson (1995) should help you understand this complex emotion. 
Shame-based families often have unspoken but well understood
"rules," such as: Don't have feelings or, at least, don't talk about
them. Don't try to make things better--leave the family problems
alone. Don't be who you really are; don't be frank and explicit; always
manipulate others and pretend to be something different, such as
something good, unselfish, and in control. Always take care of others,
don't be selfish and upset others, and don't have fun. Don't get close
to people, they won't like you if they know the truth. Rules such as
this keep you weak, hopeless, immature, hurting, and unhealthy--
depressed and maybe addicted as well. 
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