ARE YOU A TELL ALL? Topic #262: Is there anything you wouldn’t tell your best friend?
I TELL A LOT. WHY? Partly because I know stupid shame sews your mouth shut. Shame serves only one reasonable purpose–to keep you from doing the unthinkable. My guru Jerome Kagan points out that shame develops right when older siblings become capable of killing younger siblings. Clearly most of us might want to kill our siblings or our spouses or our best friend or our nasty neighbors and might even enjoy thinking how we would carry out such a dastardly deed; but such killings are rare enough to prove that thoughts are just thoughts. Some religions make such thoughts mortal sins. One of the things I mean by stupid shame.
Some cultures and families have personal lists of shameful sins. When I was eight or nine, I came home and asked my mother what the F-word meant. Someone had scrawled it hither and yon in the girls bathroom. My question was innocent, my mothers reaction was not. She dragged me to the kitchen and poured Old Dutch Cleanser in my mouth. When I remember that incident, I can still see that Old Dutch Lady running after her geese with a stick.
Thereafter, the mere thought of the F word made me blush and it took almost a year of analysis to actually say the word. I was in the kind of treatment where the rule was say everything you think. Important lesson: thoughts and words are just that. Speaking about defeats stupid shame. I love the F-word for its power to shock and have used it effectively to make a mockery of stupid shame. Words are just words–how we interpret them or the meanings we put on the are the problem. Not the word. So I speak out, and that particular stupid shame has lost its power over me.
Confession, sometimes my war on secret shame makes other people uncomfortable. My sons both wish I would just shut up some of the time. I do try to censor myself for their benefit and I am very thankful they do not read my blog.
One of today’s bloggers, said she tries never to say anything harmful to anyone. I liked that so here is her blog http://hugmamma.wordpress.com/2011/09/28/daily-post-challenge-262-what-wouldnt-i-tell-my-best-friend/
She talks about the pain of being teased and that brought to my mind a second stupid shame that was part of my childhood. My brother Tommy loved to tickle me. He wouldn’t stop until I wet my pants and then he would laugh at me for being such a baby. Didn’t help that my mother would be annoyed with both of us. My grown up self knows that my shame was stupid–if any the shame should have been my brothers for torturing me and my mother for allowing it.
The most prevalent stupid shame in the US culture attaches to sex and mostly to masturbation. When I talked about masturbation in workshops and classes, more tension entered the room than talking about war or murder. When pointing out that that mutual masturbation with clothes on was permitted by our forefathers and was called bundling and that a great many of my generation did the same and called it heavy petting–students complained to the dean. When I suggested in one or two paragraphs in my book When Good Kids Do Bad Things that masturbation might delay entry into intercourse it was banned from some religious book stores. Rants and parental horror at their child’s self touching attached stupid shame to sex and sex is one of creations greatest pleasures or could be if stupid shame didn’t attach to it.
The stupid shame about sex attaches to other areas and has lead to witch-hunts about consenting adults private behaviors. Several careers. Think of the political careers destroyed by the stupid shame witch hunts. I don’t want to know about anyone’s private sex lives unless it involves rape, sex with children or animals. But then some consider me a WOO with the W meaning Wicked.
STAYING STRONG TIP Privacy is fine, stupid shame is not. Do a reality check for all you don’t talk about? Are you a child molester then shame isn’t doing it’s job. Got that point. Shame either keeps you from cruel, hurtful behavior or it is stupid shame.
Stupid shame dies when shared, so if you are a victim of stupid shame, find someone safe to tell. The right therapist, priest or a rabbi might help, but beware of those who add to shame. Often a good friend is just as helpful. Either way take steps to get stupid shame out of your life.
Share, care, and grow strong.