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Reflecting

Iamtrash posted 2/7/2021 09:07 AM

Today, I am stuck reflecting on d-day and the immediate aftermath. I did everything wrong. I read but didnít follow the books. I lied and TT. I was so consumed by protecting my own rear end and deciding what was too painful for him to hear. He went through Hell to get the truth. And now that he has it, I have lied so much, it means nothing. The fact that he is still willing to give me the time of day is a miracle. I know he views himself as weak for not leaving immediately. I think heís strong. It takes way more strength to try to attempt R with someone that did the things I did and acted the way I did. It takes way more strength to attempt R, knowing you may never reach the point of feeling like youíve achieved R.

I donít know if I am just tormenting myself, but looking back at my lying, defensiveness, and straight up refusal to listen to anyone that was trying to help is a hard pill to swallow. My husband didnít sign up for this. He didnít deserve this. My children didnít deserve this. Thinking about my toxic ideas of what love was is disgusting and painful. I never was capable of love.

A bit off topic, but I see lots of posts about shame spirals. I feel like many say theyíre a dangerous path to take. But I guess I donít understand why. Isnít shame what allows you to make changes? The only reason I ask is because I do become afraid that my reflections could become a shame spiral and I donít really hear anything positive about shame spirals. I donít feel like I am engaged in self pity or trapped in shame at the moment. (I know for a fact I do get trapped in shame and sorrow sometimes.) In this moment, itís just owning what I did wrong in its entirety. Is it harmful to have these moments? I want to own what I feel but I also am so afraid to cause further damage.

farsidejunky posted 2/7/2021 09:15 AM

No stop sign.

Actions are what matters is so much of life. Shame is no different.

Do you choose destructive things when you are feeling shame? This is where the shame spiral begins. Lather, rinse, repeat...crash.

Whereas if you choose healthy actions when feeling shame, it will help prevent the endless feedback loop of shame/destructive act/more shame/another destructive act.

What do healthy actions look like? Something that builds self love is a good start. Exercise, self improvement, etc. Another way would be to do something nice for your BS. That will benefit both of you.

Iamtrash posted 2/7/2021 09:37 AM

That is a very good point. I wouldnít say I do extremely bad things when I am trapped in shame. I donít get drunk. I donít binge eat. There are far worse things I could do. But I do get trapped in unhealthy coping mechanisms. I shut down. I get very depressed. We get trapped in this cycle of triggering one another.

I feel like we are working very hard to not be that way. We have expressed very valid points and are trying very hard to be respectful of one another while feeling down or triggered. (Certainly havenít mastered it yet, but we are trying.)

Building and learning healthier ways to cope is a huge part of this. Youíre right.

gmc94 posted 2/7/2021 13:39 PM

Brene Brown's books may help with the shame.
From my own perspective as a BS, the issue with shame is that it becomes a barrier to EMPATHY. It is selfish. It can have the effect of the WS turning their BS' pain inward vs becoming empathetic to the BS, which is outward.

I find it odd that WS are usually masters of compartmentalization, but once pandora's box is open, they can't seem to compartmentalize the shame in order to be present with empathy for the BS.

And that's kind of how it works -or how it works WRT shame that I have with my actions toward others. In the moment of hearing another's pain from MY actions (eg, my kids) I have to learn to put my shame aside and just LISTEN and do the best I can to FEEL what they are going through, w/o even thinking about my role, my excuses, my shame, etc. To know how crummy they feel, and even if I honestly don't believe I did a damn thing wrong, to hold space for them to express their pain and their experience in relation to me. I've heard Brown use the term "be the container" and it's resonated for me in those moments.

I'm not perfect at it - sometimes I'd give myself an A+, but other times I'm rationalizating & hustling to give myself a D. But every time I encounter those uncomfortable moments, do my best to "be the container" and then sit with it w/o involving them, I'm learning and forming a new perspective (and hopefully some brain wiring).

JBWD posted 2/7/2021 17:50 PM

Isnít shame what allows you to make changes?

A good conventional parsing-
Guilt: ďI did something wrong.Ē
Shame: ďThereís something wrong with me.Ē

Shame is far more destructive because it stifles openness, forces us to keep secrets, to hide the belief that there is something fundamentally different and perverse about us. Whereas guilt motivates based on the knowledge of past wrongs and a desire to, at the very least, not repeat them; and ideally here to help our victims heal from our mistakes.

If we believe that we are existentially corrupt, itís fairly difficult to believe we can change. Iím going to tell you (and there may be other corners of this site that believe it open for debate, but I refuse to concede this) that you are a good person. You made bad decisions that hurt your family. But you show up here, and thatís what you can do.

So guilt motivates positive change, shame motivates despair and defeatism.

I want to own what I feel but I also am so afraid to cause further damage.

If you meditate this is a great place to start effecting the balance youíre looking for here. Pema ChŲdrŲn is a fantastic coach in helping you understand that you can absolutely ALLOW your emotions to come and visit, but you also owe it to yourself to show them the door when theyíve outlived their usefulness. When meditating, emotions come and go, but the lack of distraction allows us to recognize that theyíre simply emotions: They canít make us do things, they canít hurt us. Acknowledge them, understand where they come from, and then release them. Impermanence is key to keeping from becoming ďstuckĒ clinging to things that cause us pain. You donít deserve pain. Your feelings of pain are enough, and your pain at having harmed others is a consequence.

So when during reflection, meditation, prayer, you feel a strong emotion- Acknowledge it, turn it over in your mind and feel it, and then give yourself the grace to acknowledge that youíre thinking by simply stating to yourself, ďThinking...Ē

WalkinOnEggshelz posted 2/8/2021 05:42 AM

Healing The Shame That Binds You by John Bradshaw was recommended to me by my therapist. It breaks shame down into categories. There is healthy shame (the shame that keeps you from doing wrong) and unhealthy shame (the shame that paralyzes you). It also goes into different types of shame based on our FOO and how that impacts our behavior. I didnít care much for some of the exercises in the book, but it opened my eyes about how shame in General played a part in my behavior.

I think reflection can be quite healthy if you are using it as a learning tool. Like others have said, itís the actions that matter most.

EllieKMAS posted 2/8/2021 09:22 AM

Iamcompost, the very fact that you are still here and clearly still trying to unlearn all those unhealthy mechanisms tells me that you are in earnest about choosing different and healthier paths going forward.

Sure, the tt and all after dday is tremendously damaging. I'm a BS and I ain't gonna sugar-coat that one for you. But I know I have done unhealthy stuff in the past - because it was what I knew to do at that time. As I learn and grow and work on that, I make different choices - because I know better now. In your case, it is important that you acknowledge the damage that you did in the past, but use it to learn from and make better choices in the future.

Whether your marriage survives this or not; working on YOU, changing those unhealthy parts, owning your actions, living authentically - allll of that work is good for YOU. It makes you a healthier and ultimately happier person.

FWIW, had my xwh actually chosen to do any work on himself after dday I was fully prepared that some of that may have 'hurt' me, but that was hurt I would have gladly borne because it would represent healthy growth. Sometimes digging in to ourselves DOES hurt, both ourselves and our immediate loved ones. But doing that and being open and honest about it hurts way less than a ws who does no self-reflection (at least imho).

And lastly, be patient with yourself. Change is hard, good change is REALLY hard. Confronting ourselves, especially the ugly parts, is not a task for the faint of heart. Do what you can today to live in your truth and be the person you are working to be. You might not get it perfect, but even small steps add up to miles.

hikingout posted 2/8/2021 09:56 AM

I think what you are describing is normal.

What I learned about shame is that it was there all along. It was created in my childhood and then I imagine it like a snowball going downhill that it collected more and more around it until it was a big ball of shame that was hard to unravel.

I think what GMC wrote is so very true. That when we are busy being stuck in how we feel about what we did then it is harder to show up for the BS. Shame creates defensiveness because it doesn't want to be acknowledged. It likes laying beneath the surface and poisoning us quietly.

Though at the same time, you aren't just describing shame, you are describing a higher level of self awareness. Before you didn't even see the shame. It created a lack of happiness, lack of self love, it created the need that became so big that you were willing to ruin your life over it. Now you see it. THAT in itself is a huge improvement, a huge step forward.

A great book I read is "The power of now" because it helps us to be more of a concious observer of our thoughts. It also explains about the stories we tell ourselves, how we hold ourselves back, and the effects of overthinking and overcomplicating.

Eventually, I think the goal is to be able to see ourselves objectively, while at the same time continuing to strive to be our best selves. Those two things grow and collide and become self compassion. When we have self compassion it allows us to accept ourselves, our past actions, and be encouraging with ourselves moving forward. This creates a space that allows us to have room for our spouses and their feelings. Because in essence what happens is we don't have such big emotional reactions because we have made our own peace. It takes away the feelings of wanting to be defensive, or want to run away.

Keep in mind I am still early in my own journey so I could be wrong. I just know that's what I have experienced. It's not perfect or there all the time, but as I have the next experience and the next one with my eyes open and being self aware it gets more and more consistent.

It's a process, and one you can't just say "okay I did it, I am done". It's more, the more things you process and put away, the more things you will be able to deal with, and the more things you will continue to grow and be able to deal with.

Remember when you are overwhelmed to practice self care. I find when I get overwhelmed or feel defeated, I start again with the basics of self care and then start climbing from there again. Your muscles to be able to do that will grow.

You deserve compassion, and you must learn to give it to yourself first. It would be an easier thing to get to if we hadn't destroyed someone else in our path of self destruction. It's not the easiest thing to get to compassion while you still sit next to that person and are trying to show up for their pain. It's a balance of remembering your goal is just to do better, and we can not erase what's been done.

It's really, really hard, IAT. I can see the growth and self reflection is there with you. The more open you stay to that the more you will grow into the person you want to be. At some point you will realize the hand-wringing and navel gazing was important in showing how sorry you are, but the biggest and best apology is doing better and being better, changing your behaviors. I try and focus on who I am trying to become rather than who I was in the period before, during, and immediately after my affair. Our BS needs to know we are sorry, but they also need to see they are not married to the same person they were at the time of the affair. And we need to be reliable. If we are not emotionally healed, we will seem less reliable until we are. It all just takes time, it's a process, and it's clear to me you are working on it.

Luckycline posted 2/9/2021 14:54 PM

Honestly. As a BS. Any remorse, admittance, apology, or shred of guilt shown would mean a lot. The WSs here are awful hard on themselves, which is understandable given what they've done, but most cheaters seem to just run and not care about how much pain they've caused.

So focus on being just a little better than you were yesterday, and know your shame and attempt to make right your wrongs is what makes your infidelity a bad thing that a good person did, rather than a bad thing a bad person did.

Trapped74 posted 2/9/2021 15:05 PM

Personally, I'm a big fan of shame as a motivator for change. And I don't subscribe to there being a difference in "I did something wrong" vs. "There's something wrong with me." We are the culmination of our actions. Thoughts, intentions, and words don't mean shit. Don't we say that here on SI all the time - watch his/her ACTIONS, don't listen to the words? So if a person continually cheats or exhibits wayward behaviors, don't we all agree that person IS wayward? IS a cheater? IS a liar?

Lao Tzu: ďWatch your thoughts, they become your words; watch your words, they become your actions; watch your actions, they become your habits; watch your habits, they become your character; watch your character, it becomes your destiny.Ē

Just my 0.02.

hikingout posted 2/9/2021 15:21 PM

Personally, I'm a big fan of shame as a motivator for change. And I don't subscribe to there being a difference in "I did something wrong" vs. "There's something wrong with me." We are the culmination of our actions. Thoughts, intentions, and words don't mean shit. Don't we say that here on SI all the time - watch his/her ACTIONS, don't listen to the words? So if a person continually cheats or exhibits wayward behaviors, don't we all agree that person IS wayward? IS a cheater? IS a liar?

I can see where you are coming from on this.

As Walkingoneggshelz wrote above, there are different types of shame - the type that keep us doing things that are wrong (healthy) the type that keeps you paralyzed (unhealthy).

The reason this is a near and dear subject to many of the reformed WS on this site is because often shame keeps us from acting moving forward. Many WS (including myself at one time) will do a lot of handwringing and navel gazing, but that's it. We get too consumed with how we feel about what we did to really be there for our BS or to make any real personal progress. We are staying in our wayward thinking by not acting in a way that moves us away from that type of shame. We feel like we don't have the power to change how wretched we are.

I agree with you on principle. People do not change until they are in so much pain they have no choice. Sometimes that comes with the big emotions of shame over what we have done. We should feel terrible and bad about what we did. We don't really change for other people, we change for our own selfish reasons usually. That means we have to be sick of our own bullshit.

But, that only takes us so far.

I also think it comes down to what you believe about the origins of the affair. (Not the actual decision to have an affair, people should be accountable for that) For me, and a whole lot of other WS, I think the origins come from a lack of self-love and self-respect. You don't tend to love or respect others well if you can't do it for yourself. We are a breed that tends to look for our happiness to be met by other people instead of creating it ourselves.

So when you look at that commonality, affairs often come from people carrying a lot of shame. They feel they are "bad" and that's just who they are so it doesn't matter what they do. They often don't even feel worthy of the spouse they have, and are tired of being reminded by their good example how lacking they are as a person. It's easier to blame someone else for our unhappiness and latch onto another source for happiness than to really do the introspection. I believe shame and fear is a big part of that.

That's why when we talk about it over here in wayward we can talk about it both ways - that it's good, that it's bad. For IAT, she is a couple years past her dday, so it stands to reason that she is carrying unhealthy shame that is holding her back from being the best she can be. (I think at some point she should change her name, actually). If it was a new WS, then we would be more saying "You don't want to be this person any more, that's good, what are you going to do about it?" So the conversation changes with context.

KingRat posted 2/9/2021 16:36 PM

A bit off topic, but I see lots of posts about shame spirals. I feel like many say theyíre a dangerous path to take. But I guess I donít understand why. Isnít shame what allows you to make changes?

Perhaps it may be the impetus for change, but a shame spiral is dwelling in shame. The difference between shame and guilt is important.

Shame implies a 3rd party perspective. It is a negative feeling resulting from how someone else or how we perceive ourselves from the perspective of others or society. Guilt implies that a negative emotion is perceived from a failure of a responsibility owed to oneself or others. It implies a first-person perspective.

So as a BS, if the only thing that is stopping my WS from cheating is the shame of being a cheater, it doesn't make me feel better. I want my WS to not cheat because s/he genuinely loves and respects me not because s/he is embarrassed of how they would be perceived by others or themselves.

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