The Cycles (Part Three)
“Nine” Part Series
When your behavior is consistent with your shame, the cycle is nearly complete. You will typically do the exact thing that you hate to do. You do the very negative behavior that you believe lines up with the outside sources’ assessment of who you are. Unfortunately, you have fulfilled the expectations of your outsides sources, because you acted just like they thought you would.
The irony is that the cycle is not complete yet. It starts over. You will continue to stay in relationships that enable you to feel as bad as you need to feel about yourself. The shame is so deeply integrated in you that you actually become the perpetrator and inflict shame on others.
For example, Martha, who lives in a marriage where her husband beats her up from time to time, encounters friends and family members who confront her.
Her friends and family members (outside sources) tell her:
“Are you stupid? How can you stay with that man? Don’t you know that he is going to continue to do this to you? You need to leave him! Can’t you see that?”
While these friends and family members truly care about Martha’s physical and emotional wellbeing, these are shaming messages that are coming to her from outside sources that she considers reliable. She has been hearing these same messages about her husband for years, which stack on top of shaming messages she has heard about herself all of her life.
Here is the sad part of the Give-Up cycle. Martha finally decides to call the police. Her husband is hauled away, and when he calls her from the station he says, “You know, if you had not called the police, I would not be locked up.”
In other words, he is communicating to her that she is the problem and reason that he is in jail.
So she then steps back into the negative behavior and says, “I am so sorry. You’re right. I will drop the charges, and we can get back together.”
The reason she continues to step back into this abusive relationship with her husband is because her belief system (shame grid) has determined that someone as defective and shameful as her does not deserve to have a good relationship that is free from abuse. In other words, she deserves to be abused because she is flawed and a bad wife. She is simply acting out the behavior that agrees with her assessment of herself.
Note from the illustration that the outside sources are able to observe the negative behaviors, and this can produce more shaming messages.
The outside sources comment:
“I cannot believe you are back with him!”
“Have you lost your mind?”
“He is such a jerk, and you’re crazy to go back with him!”
Sadly, she agrees with each evaluation of her actions. This perpetuates even more sad and negative behaviors that simply agree with her assessment of herself.
Another vivid example is Beth. Beth has always had a problem with overeating. Beth grew up enjoying family BBQs. As was the custom, there was a long table covered with food including all the side dishes and dessert.
As Beth would move through the array of food, she would fill her plate. As Beth would begin to reach for the tasty deserts, Aunt Mary would say, “Beth, do you really think you need that dessert?”
Do you see the coded message? Aunt Mary was not saying what she really meant, so little Beth had to pull out her imaginary code book and decipher Aunt Mary’s comment. Beth’s deciphered that she was fat and she should know better than to eat a piece of dessert, especially since she was fat and defective.
So the negative behavior of the Give-Up cycle is initiated. Little Beth makes a willful decision to eat the dessert. Why? Doesn’t she know that if she eats the dessert she will put on more and more weight? Yes. She is aware that she will gain more weight, but the reason Beth eats the desert is because this negative behavior agrees with her own assessment of herself.
“I am defective; I am fat; no one could love me; and I am not worth anything.”
Her assessment of herself is completed when she makes a final statement about herself:
“I should feel bad for being such a weak person; I am such a pig.”
So she continues to live in the vicious cycle of overeating, and so goes the Give-Up cycle.
THE OUTSIDE SOURCES RE-ENTER
In the midst of this cycle re-enters the outside sources. The outside sources observe your behavior and shame you for it.
The outside sources comment,
“What’s wrong with you?”
“How can you act that way?”
“You should be ashamed.”
“Don’t you care about yourself?”
“I am disappointed in you.”
The outside sources compare you to others, or they quote Bible verses to you, almost demanding that you change. These additional shaming messages are lodged in the shame grid of your mind, further contributing to your negative belief system.
Look for The Cycles (Part Four) post tomorrow.