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Painshopping vs. Shame spiral

Lostgirl410 posted 11/20/2019 22:12 PM

When a BS looks for their own trigger we call it pain shopping. When a WS triggers themselves by wallowing in their own limerance we sometimes attribute it to feeding their own shame spiral.

I feel it's safe to say both activities stem from coping mechanisms not in our best interests...if we are trying to heal. So, where do we find the middle ground?

I struggle with this quite often, and it's one of the main reasons I waited a year before creating an account. How can we know for sure that we are actively trying to heal? How do we ensure we aren't just finding our comfort zone under the generic blanket of "misery loves company?"

still-living posted 11/21/2019 01:25 AM

Not pain shopping or shame spiraling IMO. It's bulldozing to make way for new construction. The more extreme your personality is as compared to your BS, the more work you both need to do. Your work is not done if you are still wallowing. A 5 year investment is not uncommon. You get what you pay for.

landclark posted 11/21/2019 06:24 AM

This is a good question. I do find myself “pain shopping”, though not as often now as immediately after dday. It’s usually after something has triggered me and I’m trying to find a reason to stay angry, to fuel my fire so to speak. I would say it’s probably not entirely healthy, even though I feel like right now the anger is also necessary to keep me grounded in reality. To keep me from rugsweeping and going the opposite way of misery loves company, to pretending things are all puppies and rainbows.

I do think this is different than wallowing in limerance. I would think as a W, you’d be wallowing in the pain you caused your BP, not wallowing in your feelings for your AP. If you are doing the latter and not the first at a year out, you definitely have a long ways to go.

Lostgirl410 posted 11/21/2019 07:10 AM


I really like your analogy.


If you are doing the latter and not the first at a year out, you definitely have a long ways to go.

I totally agree, and to clarify, I'm not. I should have elaborated/worded that differently. That second glass of wine probably didn't help get my message out clearly. I feel like a WS pining is a subconscious form of self-punishment, a misguided one, but hence the term wayward.

Often following the pining, we see self-disgust. This is where I see the active seeking of punishment and shame spiral. I guess I'm more asking the healthiest way to find a balance between owning it, and wallowing in it.

hikingout posted 11/21/2019 09:18 AM

Good post with good thoughts. I will try and address the crux of what you are saying:

How can we know for sure that we are actively trying to heal? How do we ensure we aren't just finding our comfort zone under the generic blanket of "misery loves company?"

There are a lot of waywards in this forum in different stages. There are many of us who have been through the early parts of recovery and have gotten far enough to have an objective perspective on it.

When I relate the ways I behaved and the things I thought during earlier times, it's to form a bridge of the other person understanding that I truly have been there and done that and I get what it is they are struggling with. But, then I add the layer of what I learned from that struggle to serve as an example of ways they can redirect the way they are thinking.

And, I look to waywards who are further out to do the same thing for me. You will find any of us who have been in this forum for a longer period of time will call people out on thinking that is keeping others stuck. We are returning the favor that has been given to us. There are enough of us, and some really good appointed guides to help you in the stage that you are in. I don't feel that we sit and just commiserate with each other. I feel those of us who have reached stages of self compassion can have compassion for others who are in stages behind us. But compassion is not just saying what they want to here, compassion is meeting them where they are in their journey and showing them what the next parts should look like at least according to our own experiences.

We give 2X4's when needed when other approaches don't seem to work. But, I try and start with "okay, here is what that looked like for me, and this is where I went with it and that helped". The ones who come and are pining, let's face it many of us came here at that same stage. We know that a lot of times it's obsessive compulsive, it's an addiction the person has to kick. We also know that often the person doesn't want it to continue. I would have let someone cut off one of my appendages to make it stop at that time.

But, at the end of the day we are an anonymous support group on the internet. We can't replace a person's need for counseling/IC. The person's need to learn and read and reflect and grow. So, noone can be completely dependent on this forum, it's a tool in your toolbox.

I don't often feel shame spirals as a result of this forum. BUT, I have had them. They are a part of recovery and healing though. Being able to cope with them, being able to answer to them non-defensively, being able to improve how quickly I recover from them. Shame is something inherent to a WS because often that shame is one of the components that led us to cheat. It is then compounded by the actual cheating.

Right now, my H and are in a bit of a heated debate because of some things that happened here. He feels that I am demonstrating conflict avoidance, and I feel that I am demonstrating humility. There is a lot of interesting components to that discussion that has been enlightening though, so I think you just have to go with the idea that all things good and bad, especially bad can encourage growth, discussion and reflection. To me, it's all good.

JBWD posted 11/21/2019 12:05 PM

All depends on how you use it.

I always find it interesting that the male perspective comes out fairly accepting of these feelings and acknowledging that they’re not only REASONABLE, but NECESSARY to your growth as a person. Zugswang and I both tend to chime in on using the guilt and shame as visceral reminders of just how shitty we WERE as people. But you need to move past letting it control you.

I found the recommendations to read Pema Chodron’s book “How to Meditate” perhaps most useful in this question. She devotes a good chunk of that book to exploring the understanding that feelings will visit us in process of meditation- BUT, the more frequently and more openly we explore that process, the more we can learn to OBSERVE the feelings as opposed to simply feeling them. The difference being we can acknowledge they occur, and assess what they do to us (How does it physically feel? Where in my body does it manifest? Can I trace back to a trigger in my routine day?) and thus incorporate them at a level that breaks their ability to control.

Bottom line, it’s appropriate as long as you can harness it appropriately in recovering. That takes time and requires synchronization with both your grieving and your BP’s- So there may be times where you MUST succumb. But in succumbing the most important piece is ensuring it doesn’t occur at the expense of your BP. If your guilt and shame becomes, in your assessment, greater than your BP’s, then you KNOW you’re wallowing.

hikingout posted 11/21/2019 12:19 PM

Another good book that taught me to be an objective observer of my own thoughts - The Power of Now by Eckhardt Toille.

DoinBettr posted 11/21/2019 12:22 PM

I can speak about my "pain shopping."
I am one of those people who gets a sprang ankle, so I stand on it and roll it through the painful spots. To see where the pain begins and where it ends. I usually do this with the pain. You find yourself in a safe environment, then you find the pain and trigger yourself, then you try to recover. It makes recovering from triggers easier. I still get them, but I know how to manage them when they occur.
Sadly, I don't know what this would look like to a WS.
The important part is you climb out after you jump in the pain hole. You don't stay there or dig deeper.

Lostgirl410 posted 11/21/2019 21:56 PM


Right now, my H and are in a bit of a heated debate because of some things that happened here. He feels that I am demonstrating conflict avoidance, and I feel that I am demonstrating humility. There is a lot of interesting components to that discussion that has been enlightening though, so I think you just have to go with the idea that all things good and bad, especially bad can encourage growth, discussion and reflection. To me, it's all good.

This resonated with me. I would have sent you a pm, but I can't do that yet. Lol. From what I've read, I think there is something behind your husband's message that you should really be paying attention to. As an outsider (who could be way off base) I don't necessarily see conflict avoidance vs. humility. I see something a bit deeper. Would you be willing to send me a PM?


I definitely see a difference in the male perspective in both wayward, and betrayed. Obviously an overall instead of all males, but it is noticeable. I've always appreciated it because my BH fits the generalization in a lot of ways, especially in regards to the male protector type. He's taught himself to focus his anger/pain to the benefit of our family in ways for which I will forever be in awe.


Wow. I felt that. To the bone.

For real though, I've sprained my ankles more times than I can count, and I really did do the exact same thing every damn time. Relating it to emotional pain processing makes so much sense I could actually feel the processing.

My personal shame spiral had more to do with OBS, and her family than anything else. Maybe some would say it was a good shame spiral for a WS to have, but it really was unhealthy. I focused for too long so acutely on the fact that I had helped ruin another women's family, broken the girl code, and caused an innocent woman pain. I understand all of those are things I needed to recognize, but I focused on them at the expense of admitting the damage I had done to my OWN family.

I was shaming myself for things I really should have been, but I was prioritizing all wrong. I should have put all of my focus on my own family. I should have been putting our healing above throwing a pity party over how terrible I was to someone else's.

Should I feel awful for the other family's pain? A resounding yes. I always will. Prioritizing them over my own however, was a cop-out, and a pretty flipping horrible thing to do to my own already traumatized BH. I thought he would leave me. I didn't think he would care enough to be hurt. Hello cowardly exit A.

Admittedly, I still sometimes struggle with this. I find myself glued to the posts about speaking to the OW, forgiving the AP, ways to punish the former AP, revenge on an AP, and so on. I find myself looking to be punished in all the areas I was shown grace instead of the punishment I feel I deserved.

I do still sometimes pray for ex AP's wife, his family, and their healing. I do hope he has become a safe partner for her, but I don't care how he is personally. I will never try to find out the answer, but I will always hold my affair repercussions as a reminder that the collateral damage within our own selfish actions reaches far above what we, at our most selfish point, could ever fathom.

DoinBettr posted 11/22/2019 10:16 AM

Interesting. The way I see it, pain like fear points you in one of two ways. Either you run or you stay and take action. Fight or flight.
Pity, especially self pity is flight. Refusal to do action.
Working to improve yourself and give yourself fully. Be honest, work harder, support through everything, reassure all actions, that is fight.
That is why I stand on my sprang ankle. I fight always. I kind of come from that background. I see shame as I see my anger or feelings of injustice as a BS. It is probably close to the same as a WS.
It is a chance to get back up and swing again. It is something that pushes you. You need to feel the obligation of the shame. The responsibility. You don't let it weigh you down like a stone you hate. You see it as the stone that makes you stronger as you carry it. Soon it won't even be noticed and you will be strong enough to carry someone else's stone. The person you tripped to get where you are.
I like analogies. I think they help people express complex thoughts and emotions through common experiences. I wish more psychiatrists/counselors knew to use them.
Anyways, how are you using that shame? Is it the fire behind you telling you to run faster or did you stop and let it swallow you? You lit the fire so stopping is justice, but then you can't help the other people who will be engulfed in it if you stop. Innocent people who you love. So don't stop. Push forward.
Dang, feeling all Tony Robbins today. Good luck. Maybe roll your ankle through the shame. Let it wash over you on your free time in a dark room. Sit in it. Wallow in it. Then realize, the only thing holding you down is the shame. Then rise above it.
This might work for a WS. Let me know please.

Zugzwang posted 11/23/2019 16:09 PM

You don't run from the shame. You accept it. Shame born of a guilty action is truth. You should feel shame for doing something wrong. Try to make amends and move on to be better. If you choose to feel sorry for yourself. Which I think is what some people see as a shame spiral, it just means you are choosing to stay stuck and not work to move forward and choose harder better things. Maybe it is from a refusal to see who you became. Maybe it is from lying about something still. Whatever the case may be. It needs to faced and cleaned.

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