Yesterday I wrote about trauma and shame, and today I realised something else. In the text by Meg-John Barker to which I refer and which I have already quoted quite a bit yesterday, I also found this:

"Like other authors, Pat explains that – as a child – when faced with a choice between:

  • Believing that we are bad but at least that the world makes sense and that we might have some control over it (e.g. by becoming good), and
  • Believing that we are not bad but that the world is chaotic, that our caregivers can’t contain us, and that we have no control

We will choose the former as the far safer option."

Or, in the words of Pat deYoung: “It’s so much easier to understand, “I’m bad and disgusting” than it is to understand, “Something happened outside of my control and I feel like I’m falling apart”.

This made me think.


I wrote in early June: “Emotional neglect was a reality of my life, of the first 20 years of my life. There was also some arbitrary violence, especially from my mother, and invasions into my intimate space (my mother opening the shower curtain and looking at me, but also both my mother and father entering my room without any warning). I don't know if there was sexual abuse beyond that, and I don't care anymore. I will never know, and really this emotional neglect is more than enough. It was highly traumatic. (…) Then the problem was me. 'When my sister was born, my problems started,' my father told me. I'm sorry, a child of 1½ years doesn't have problems - he has needs.

There was a time, perhaps when I was 12-13 years old, when I was trying to get my mother's affection or attention. Many times I would sit in the kitchen when I came back from school, and I don't know if I would tell her anything, or if we would talk about anything. But it was over when one day I refused to eat her kale stew, and this stew ended up over my head.


My father told me a few years ago that "I have always rejected my mother". Maybe for a long time I didn't know which option to choose: if I was bad or the world was chaotic. At one point during my adolescence I made the decision that it was the world that caused me problems, and that the problem was not me. I went from the first option to the second and I started to rebel, against my parents, against my teachers, against the world. I started to despise my mother in the presence of friends, to rebel, sometimes openly (not always in a constructive way), sometimes internally, apparently obeying. But I no longer saw myself as "the problem" or as evil, but rather my parents, the world.

However, I was already carrying the shame in my body, and going into rebellion, although it was good, has also hidden the shame even more. I find it very hard to think about things that cause me shame, beyond the damage I caused to my first partner, but this was much later.

I feel that the shame of my childhood stays in my body, and that's why I feel this tension in my stomach when I now think about shame. It's hard for me to access this shame, to think about what caused me this shame, where it comes from. But it's there, in my body. And now it seems to be activating, without me having any idea what this shame is about.