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Shame Spiral

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LifeDestroyer posted 2/10/2020 06:56 AM

How do you avoid falling into one? What do you do or say to yourself when you feel a spiral coming at you?

I feel one coming on this morning and know it will last all day unless I do something. If it was a Saturday, when I'm all alone, then I would just sit in it, but it's the good old Monday and 100th day of school. I can't sit in my feelings all day today. It's going to be a crazy day full of 70 students in and out of my room hopefully having fun.

Normally, I would just put my "it's all good" face on and then go crazy in my head. I really don't want to do that anymore.

JBWD posted 2/10/2020 08:38 AM

Is it shame youíre feeling? Or is it grief and guilt? While we tend to throw around the word shame spiral here, I wonder what exactly it is that youíre feeling.

I think you mentioned that you were going to start examining CBT, has that begun or did I misremember? Because I truly find that most effective- Acknowledging the emotion but then following the trail back to the source of the emotion. What brought it on? Does it come consistently at certain times, certain events? When you start to recognize those, youíll be able to understand WHY you feel them and further address the sources of cognitive distortion. Itís actually not as slow a process as it sounds, and may likely help.

So while itís not helpful for right now, Iíd say that CBT (my go-to is ďFeeling GoodĒ by David Burns) might be a good way to start defusing these emotions. In the meantime, a potential source of joy are the students who should be enjoying themselves from what you describe.

Finally, remember that if there ever was a time for grief this is it. This is a period of transformation and itís not gonna be easy. Donít let yourself be pressured into thinking this SHOULD be mild or easy. Youíre doing hard work that takes endurance, and you are doing what many would throw their hands up and quit at the sight of.

maise posted 2/10/2020 08:53 AM

Good morning LD,

Shame seems to be a very challenging thing to overcome. My WS is still having issues with this also and weíre over a year and a half from Dday.

IMO, the thing you have to learn to do is overcome the denial, the justifications, or excuses for behavior...there has to be a courage established to be able to accept who youíve allowed yourself to become and accept that in this youíve allowed yourself to make a series of choices to hurt someone that loved you. Iím sure itís very hard to see ourselves in such a light. Itís hard to accept that we are capable of hurting someone to this magnitude and purposely made the choices to do so for selfish gain.

Acceptance out of denial is the only way to own it though. Owning it is the only way to be brave enough to fix it. You can change, anyone can change, itís just a matter of how much courage you can finally muster up to own who you are. To face it head on, accept it and work through it.

Taking accountability for ourselves is always going to have to be a thing. Our choices, our emotions, our mistakes...our reactions to others.

I became physically abusive after DDay...I could have made the excuse that my WS deserved it, but then Iíd justify my own behavior and risk staying an abuser. I donít want to be an abuser, I have standards of myself and thatís not a way I want to see myself. So instead, I see what I am doing, make no excuses for it, allow for myself to feel remorse for what Iíve done, apologize and own up to it, realize where itís coming from (deep hurt) process my feelings of hurt and pain (through journaling or whatever else) and shift gears toward my own healing of those feelings - while actively making sure I do not put my hands on my WS.

Only I could do that. No one else. I have to want to do it, and then to take action. No bullshitting, no minimizing, no justifying.

Even in situations where my WS made me her victim of betrayal, i still have to own up to my choices...my ignorance in being in a relationship that I knew wasnít healthy. I didnít know there was cheating but I stayed in an unhealthy relationship and I chose to compromise myself. No one made me do that, I did it. So in a way I still have to own my choices...I can be hurt at the betrayal, yes of course...but I also have to own why I remained and own my own brokenness thatís led me here.

You can do it.

hikingout posted 2/10/2020 10:39 AM

What is causing it today? What does it look like?

I actually think it doesn't help to sit with it, if it's shame. Shame is not productive. You might ask your IC if she has some exercises to counter that.

If you are processing grief, sadness, other stuff...then that is something different.

Sometimes it's hard to know because we have so much going on at once in our head. I found when I got to feeling down going on a run or practicing self care sent a message of "I know you are struggling, here let me be kind". Working through a lot of what we do in Therapy is very hard work, self care has to become a touchstone in the midst of it.

[This message edited by hikingout at 10:39 AM, February 10th (Monday)]

LifeDestroyer posted 2/10/2020 10:53 AM

Shame, grief, guilt, remorse, everything bad. Feeling like a huge piece of shit who doesn't deserve anything. Wondering like usual how the hell I could have done this to him and our family. Thinking that he absolutely deserves to be with someone else and hoping that he finds her.

Things that N and I were talking about Saturday night. Then reading RIO's comment analogy of a car crash on that friends thread really set it in this morning.

We haven't done anymore CBT in our sessions unfortunately.

gmc94 posted 2/10/2020 11:02 AM

dunno if this helps, but my IC talks regularly about "holding the space" for things.

For instance, trying to "hold the space" for anger at my WH, while simultaneously "holding the space" for compassion.

I also work on holding space within myself - I screw up at work? Hold the space for acknowledging and accepting that I screwed up AND hold space for the fact that I am good at my job.

It seems to me this is an important piece for a WS' work.

LifeDestroyer posted 2/10/2020 11:07 AM

If a mod is reading, can you fix my title to say the correct word "Shame" please??

JBWD posted 2/10/2020 11:14 AM

If CBT DID seem effective, the book I referenced is fairly DIY. I honestly got more out of that and a couple others than a lot of IC sessions.

Justsomelady posted 2/10/2020 12:09 PM

Iíve been feeling some shame too...I am reminding myself to have self compassion for my human frailties and weaknesses..:and similar to GMCís holding space - I am also trying to feel gratitude for my shame and the fact I allow myself to be accountable. Being that way means we are open to change and to being better people. There are many who would close off and seek affirmation that what we did was right...thinking of people like Elizabeth Gilbert and such who cycle through people and use and act like it makes them wise. We still sucked. We were bad partners. We made bad choices. But it doesnít mean you donít have a good core.

What about that car analogy affected you so?

[This message edited by Justsomelady at 12:11 PM, February 10th (Monday)]

sisoon posted 2/10/2020 12:10 PM

Mods have been alerted to your change request.

Shame, grief, guilt, remorse, everything bad.
If you're in a safe place, I recommend feeling the feelings.

Real feelings come and go pretty quickly. If you find yourself in an internal loop, you might be in a Drama Triangle (check out the free stuff on Steve Karpman's website).

And the way out of a DT is to figure out what you're feeling, and let the feeling flow.

I know ... easier said than done, but the above IS doable.

[This message edited by sisoon at 12:11 PM, February 10th (Monday)]

leavingorbit posted 2/10/2020 12:44 PM

I agree with JBWD. Finding the root is most helpful for me. Itís almost always the same trigger or fear in my case: being inherently ďbad.Ē Learning to counteract that and nurture myself has helped immensely. Feeling the feelings, comforting myself in healthy and productive ways. Changing self talk, working towards positivity. Nurture yourself: sometimes I think of myself like a growing plant that Iím holding in my hands. Iím doing EMDR in IC to help unravel the filters and triggers too. Is that something youíve tried? Iím sorry if itís been mentioned before/elsewhere.

The shame spiraling is so hard. I struggle with emotional identification and really just emotions, too. I hope youíre exercising kindness to yourself today, because youíre worth it, LD.

hikingout posted 2/10/2020 13:43 PM

Shame, grief, guilt, remorse, everything bad.
Feeling like a huge piece of shit who doesn't deserve anything.

This is the part I was referring to that is unproductive. You are not a huge piece of shit. You did some shitty things. You are working very hard to learn why you did these things. When you think like this, you do have to divert it. I will say "would you talk to your best friend like this?" I will take a deep breath and say "okay then what would you tell her?" We tend to catastrophize (a popular form of distorted thinking - look it up) and then berate ourselves. When that happens it's because of our poor coping mechanisms. Instead, you need to talk to your therapist about diverting those thoughts to be more positive.

Feeling sad is normal, you want your family together and at times your situation feels hopeless. But, I would say to you that you do need to figure out things you can have that are future milestones that keep you hopeful. Making some goals for yourself is a good way to do that. You can sit in your sadness, but try and not let it consume entire days at a time. I sometimes would meditate when I would feel sad in order to just sit and be conscious of my thoughts while still trying to be loving and compassionate with myself. I know you don't have many people in your life to tell you this...but you are going to end up being okay. You do have control over your own future and this time you are going through may feel like forever but it's just temporary.

Remorse is sooo overwhelming at times, I get triggered by certain posts too. Try and remember that it is the feeling that will reform you. It is the feeling that will allow you to be a better help for your husband. It will push you to be better in general. I still get overwhelmed with the feelings of remorse, and it can be hard to sit with, but I try and find positives about it when it has me in a state. I reflect that I am Thankful that I am a loving and empathetic person who can take accountability for the harm I have done and who knows she will be better moving forward.

Wondering like usual how the hell I could have done this to him and our family. Thinking that he absolutely deserves to be with someone else and hoping that he finds her.

I can get lost in those thoughts as well. Maya Angelou said "when you know better you do better" and I try and work that into those thoughts. I am not saying I didn't know what I was doing was wrong, but I know myself better now. I know how to manage my life better now. It may take a while into your recovery when you can feel that way about yourself. I was really close to the end of year two before I started exercising more compassion for myself, but I wish I would have done it sooner. I wish I understood about it sooner. I don't know if that's always possible, but I am just sharing what I do. A lot of these feelings come from feeling powerless, and I think exercising the ideas that you have power over how you conduct yourself moving forward is import in order to not stay stuck. I stayed stuck too long in some things.

Write about your feelings in a journal, that helped me a lot because when we are all up in our feelings they get tangled up into a big knot in our heads and we keep replaying them in a loop and don't know how to get out.

[This message edited by hikingout at 1:46 PM, February 10th (Monday)]

DaddyDom posted 2/10/2020 13:54 PM

There is a recent topic over in General called "Conundrum: good person/bad acts or bad person?" which I think might be helpful to read as well in relation to this. In that thread, I posted the following (I hope this is okay to post, I'm not always sure what the cross-posting rules are)...

If I may add one other thing because I think it is important, that label of being a "good/bad" person really did seem to trip me up for the longest time. Labeling myself as a "bad person" in some ways only inspired me to "live up to" that definition, and felt like a cage that I was trapped in. I was so busy trying to decide if I was good or bad or whatever that it completely obscured the fact that my wife was continuing to suffer. Labeling myself as a "bad person" only made me more desperate and needy, and dependent on others to validate me, and I was so busy hustling for my own worth and trying to make my wife happy (in order to make myself feel better) that I could not see or hear her pain whatsoever over the noise of my own desperation in my head. That is the "shame spiral" that we talk about so much, and in many ways I feel it worse than the state of mind I was in during the affair. The only way out of that spiral (that I know of) is to accept who we are, what we did and why we did it, on its face value, and in order to do that, we first have to be "safe" for ourselves, which means not needing others to validate us. For me, I had to accept that who I am is defined by my actions and motives, and that I could regret the things I did and yet still find self-worth and hope within myself. The moment that switch flipped within my head, the "noise" stopped, the need to hustle for my own worth stopped, and my ability to empathize with my wife came back. The shame went away and with it went the defensiveness and need for self-protection. My remorse no longer manifests as shame, rather, it propels me to better understand my wife's feelings and experiences and fears. Is that good or bad? I still can't answer that. But it is rooted in reality, and in empathy, and in a desire to be a better person today than I was yesterday.

I'd also like to share this quote on shame from Brene Brown:

I define shame as the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging Ė something weíve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection.

I donít believe shame is helpful or productive. In fact, I think shame is much more likely to be the source of destructive, hurtful behavior than the solution or cure. I think the fear of disconnection can make us dangerous.

Understanding the source of your shame is paramount. For me, what I needed to ultimately understand was that my feelings of shame went much deeper and farther back than the affair itself, and that my shame from the affair was simply added on to that, like putting a layer of shame-icing on a giant shame-cake. Scraping the icing off doesn't remove the shame, it only exposes the larger and deeper cake hidden underneath. I think that's why so many WS's get so stuck on this process. We keep trying to deal with the shame on a topical level, when in fact it runs much deeper.

I strongly recommend exploring the source of your shame with your IC if it all possible. It was a "light bulb" moment for me.

In order to give you an idea of what I mean, my IC and I did an EMDR session where she kept encouraging me to go back and think of my earliest memories of feeling shame. For me, that was a time when I was very young, in pre-school, and had accidentally peed in my pants during class. The teacher had to call my mother to bring in a dry set of clothes. When my mother arrived, instead of telling me that it was okay, and that things like this happen to everyone, she instead made a joke of it with the teacher, and the two of them laughed about it in front of me and all of the other kids, and that mortified me. Instead of helping me to build up my self-confidence, it instead tore it down entirely, and I learned that doing anything incorrectly was a reason to feel devalued and ashamed. I never learned how to overcome the shame or deal with feelings of guilt. What I learned instead was that my value was based on how others perceived me. When my mother and teacher, the people who were supposed love, protect and guide me, showed me that I was a joke to them for not doing things correctly, that concept stuck with me throughout life. I never learned to value myself for myself, I only learned to gain my value through others. There is more to it of course, but that one little act opened the door to years of abuse from bullies and others. Each time I was teased or bullied by others, my own self-worth went away, and my ability to feel good about myself, for myself, disappeared.

Fast forward 50 years, our marriage (like all marriages at some point) hit a rough patch, and suddenly, my sole source of attention and value, my wife, was not available to make me feel special and valued. It was what ultimately led to the affair. (I'm not saying it was my wife's fault, I'm just describing the conditions which triggered me to revert so deeply into shame and desperation). Like that little boy with piss in his pants, I just wanted someone to comfort me and tell me that I was worthy of love and attention at the level that I needed it. When the AP approached me and began to flirt with me, it was like finding an oasis in the desert. I jumped in head-first, all the while blaming my wife for pulling away from me, when in truth, it was me that pulled away from her. I just couldn't accept that, and had no emotional tools to deal with it.

Anyway, my point is, the way out of the shame spiral, in my experience (YMMV), was to go back to that point in time, to that little boy with the wet pants, and to understand what happened there, and to do what my mother did not. I needed to teach myself, to implant a new message, that my worth was not tied to my failures and mistakes and poor choices, rather, my worth was inherent, and determined by me and by who I choose to be every single day. I needed to understand that I could do something that I was not at all proud of, and yet not be forced to define myself by that parameter alone. Once I was able to change that one thought process in my head, all the other pieces started to fall into place like dominoes. The shame bubble popped, and with it, so too did the fog.

Imagine that your house is on fire, but you are asleep. What can you do about the fire? Nothing, not as long as you are asleep, you and everyone around you just burn up. That is what the shame spiral is like. Now imagine waking up and seeing that the house is on fire. Now what can you do about it? Suddenly, the possibilities are endless, and you can call 911, get people out, save your precious items, grab a hose, and so on. You can help to deal with the fire. That's what it feels like emotionally. It feels like waking up and suddenly understanding, organically, what is needed and what is important to deal with. That is when you can begin to help give your spouse what they need in order to help them heal, and to enable any chance of R.

hikingout posted 2/10/2020 14:22 PM

Understanding the source of your shame is paramount. For me, what I needed to ultimately understand was that my feelings of shame went much deeper and farther back than the affair itself, and that my shame from the affair was simply added on to that, like putting a layer of shame-icing on a giant shame-cake. Scraping the icing off doesn't remove the shame, it only exposes the larger and deeper cake hidden underneath. I think that's why so many WS's get so stuck on this process. We keep trying to deal with the shame on a topical level, when in fact it runs much deeper.

This ^^^

I think some of my shame was actually part of my whys for the affair in the first place. When you walk around thinking of yourself with low respect, then your boundaries, integrity, etc will match that. Some of my shame was from emotional abuse from my mother, and some of it was sexual abuse, and some of it was the ways I was a weird kid at school never feeling like I fit in (which was probably more of a product of the dysfunctional family/abuse. I wasn't like my peers, I had experienced way more trauma and situations kids should not be exposed to)

What it takes to heal as a WS is exactly the opposite of what it seems like it would take. The goal is to love and respect yourself to have higher standards for yourself. When you feel like you are the lowly bad person, you will have much lower standards for yourself, the way you conduct yourself, and what you allow into your life.

[This message edited by hikingout at 2:24 PM, February 10th (Monday)]

LifeDestroyer posted 2/11/2020 07:05 AM

What it takes to heal as a WS is exactly the opposite of what it seems like it would take. The goal is to love and respect yourself to have higher standards for yourself.

Absolutely! I know self-love, self-respect, and truthfully stating your feelings shouldn't feel selfish, but they do for me.

Yesterday, N asked me if there was anything he could to do help me after reading this post. First off, even after everything I have done, he still offers to help me feel better. I read his text and immediately felt like it would be selfish of me to tell him what I wanted. I wanted him to text me throughout the day, just to talk about whatever. It was a crazy day, and I wanted to just text him all about it, but I felt selfish. He was working, which ended up being a really busy day, he then has to take time to text me back? I also didn't want him to feel obligated to text back.

Next, my yoga/barre classes. I feel amazing during and after my classes. I can see and feel the physical changes, and I'm loving them. I push myself during each class, trying to do the challenges that the instructors throw out. At the end of each class, I feel so good about myself because of what I just accomplished, but then the guilt seeps in. My brain instantly starts thinking "Stop it, you shouldn't be feeling good about yourself after what you did. You're still so selfish!"

I am feeling a lot better about myself in some ways, but it's a constant mental struggle.

hikingout posted 2/11/2020 08:52 AM

It takes a while to internalize the concepts, but the fact you intellectually are looking at them is positive. If you keep doing that each day and being analytical about it, the changes will slowly happen.

I still have trouble feeling like sometimes I should tell my husband what it is I want or need. Heck, I made myself do it this morning about something before I went to work. But, part of that is about TRUSTING HIM. I trust that if he has issues with what I am asking, he will state them. And, then we will have an opportunity to negotiate what would work. Otherwise, I am taking away that opportunity from both of us. I have always known that being married means compromise - but I didn't usually make him be the one to do the compromising. That totally didn't work. We both have to compromise, it's about figuring out that balance.

I also had a very hard time (and sometimes still do) feeling worthy of what he was offering me after what I had done to him. But, I have to trust he knows what he wants. I can't second guess that, or that's not fair to him.

See, it's really about reframing these things. You are afraid to be vulnerable and ask for things. You do not feel worthy (which is understandable, and I struggled terribly with this and sometimes still find myself struggling with it but far more occasionally). But, you are. You are redeemable. And you have to trust N when he is making that bridge. You are saying you are tying to protect him, but really you are being self protective. That's not me saying that you are bad for that, it's understandable in the precarious state of your relationship. But, I urge you to start building your side of that bridge. It's a leap of faith, but it's your chance. I want you to see that and take it.

[This message edited by hikingout at 8:54 AM, February 11th (Tuesday)]

TellTailHeart posted 2/14/2020 22:35 PM

I found it helpful when our couples therapist helped me understand Shame vs. Guilt. Shame is selfish. It helped to to understand that Shame is defined as an intense feeling about the self that comes from failing to live up to your own or others' standards. Sounds similar, right? Well, the main difference is that shame makes you see yourself as a bad person while guilt implies, you are a good person who did something bad. Shame is unhealthy, especially if it's not resolved, because it leads to loss of self-esteem over time. It is better to let the feeling of guilt be in you since you can make different decisions/choices to be a better person.

WalkinOnEggshelz posted 2/15/2020 08:00 AM

Youíve been given a lot of great advice so far particularly from JBWD, hikingout, and Daddydom.

I will offer another reading source (I know a lot have been thrown at you already) which is Healjng the Shame that Binds You by John Bradshaw. It helps you understand different types of shame and their origin. I had a few aha moments reading it and Iím the type of person that once I understand where something comes from, I can better learn how to cope. I didnít care for some of the exercises he offers but the book overall was interesting.

I am a believer that we get stuck in shame because shame can feel punitive. We donít feel we deserve any better. Continuing to feel shameful sends a message to those that we hurt saying ďhey, look how bad I feel about what Iíve doneĒ. If we are trying to show remorse, we can often get stuck in shame. Sometimes shame is ďcomfortableĒ. Who better at beating ourselves up than we are. We have been doing it internally most of our life and now we have the best reason to do it.

So I agree with the others when they tell you to find the source of your shame. What is your internal dialogue telling you? Is it something you can change? Then do it. Is something you canít like the past? Then change the things you have control over so that you donít repeat those actions.

It took me years to understand the difference between shame and remorse. They are different. Iím not saying that you donít feel remorse too, but shame often gets in the way of remorse.

gmc94 posted 2/15/2020 14:54 PM

As a BS, I'm not sure I can offer much more. But I did want to say that HO's point about th need for the WS to TRUST the BS really resonated with me, and I think it "fits" into the other topics mentioned in the thread. IOW, I need my WH not only to trust me being vulnerable about himself and his feelings, but I really really really also need him to trust me to choose for myself what I am and am not willing to do/give that he may need.

I suspect part of this stems from the BS having zero choice in the WS decision to cheat. So after dday, being provided information and the ability to choose for ourselves are super important (or at least they are to me). Even little things that he just does w/o thinking about me and w/o talking to me can piss me off - yet they would have been no big deal before dday. He still does not understand that his having an A means that pretty much everything is (or at least I think should be) on the table for change. And it really can be things that he may feel are silly, but I do not....

I'm having a synaptic lapse on a good example, but a recent one is he had some minor surgery last week and has weight lifting restrictions. Last night I 'caught' him pulling stuff out of the oven that was too heavy. Now, this is actually something that irritated me before dday (ie his unwillingness to ask for help and then often being ticked even when I am helping - it's only after dday that I'm coming to recognize that he's really ticked at himself bc asking for help triggers something in him). But after dday, I am more than irritated -he's not willing to communicate whatever he needs, which leads me to thinking he doesn't trust that I am available to decide for myself if I want to help and I then feel like an outsider in his world AND like I have no choice in things that impact (even if it's only the potential to impact - like if he busted his stitches and then couldn't drive next week), which is the exact same feeling I have about his secret sexual life.

Now, I know this isn't the greatest example. A WS is still not a mind reader, which is why communicating by the BS and the WS being mindful of the BS is so important - ie I can't expect him to know what will and will not trigger me unless I tell him. AND he still needs to think about whether even something silly - like not following the doctor's orders in order to avoid asking for help - is (a) rooted in a wayward mindest and (b) has the potential to trigger. And the super stupid thing is all it really takes is communicating - ie hey, gmc, I'm not sure I should take this stuff out of the oven til my stitches are healed - can you help?

LifeDestroyer posted 2/15/2020 15:54 PM

Remorse is sooo overwhelming at times, I get triggered by certain posts too. Try and remember that it is the feeling that will reform you. It is the feeling that will allow you to be a better help for your husband. It will push you to be better in general. I still get overwhelmed with the feelings of remorse, and it can be hard to sit with, but I try and find positives about it when it has me in a state.

Maybe this is what I feel. I wasn't feeling shitty about myself, don't misunderstand I definitely feel shitty for what I have done, but that spiral I was going down was for what N is going through. Reading that one seat belt analogy, I just pictured he and I in a car. He's strapped in like usual, and I decided to not wear mine. Crash happens and my body is tumbling all around the inside of the car crashing into his body over and over again. Internal and external injuries galore all because I didn't put my seat belt on. I made the choice to be a danger to my husband.

When I go into these spirals, I'm not feeling bad about myself, but for what my husband is going through because of me. I put him into this pitch black dark place, and I feel like I'm blocking him from getting out.

No matter what I watch on tv, I see specks of infidelity or what I took away from us all through out the episode/movie. The mom and dad going on a date night or driving together in the car with the kid in the back. The older couple reminiscing about their life together. The wife and husband greeting each other as they arrive home from work. Instead of changing the channel or fast forwarding through the scene, I watch it. I sit there, feel like crap, cry a little, and then remember how I want all of those things again with him.

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