Shame has been a popular psychotherapy topic in social media lately and due to its fame it is frequently on my mind. Today I’ve been thinking specifically about shame-based families and how this toxic feeling is often handed down through generations.
Shame can be passed through a family in myriad ways. A common path is for it to travel through family rules. With some prompting, maybe you can recall some of your family’s rules. What rules did your family have about touching and sexuality? What were the rules regarding marriage, money, vacations, religion, socializing…?
In John Bradshaw’s Healing the Shame That Binds You he outlines 7 rules that are maintained by shame-based families.
1. Control – One must be in control of all interactions, feelings and personal behavior at all times. (Control is the major defense strategy for shame)
2. Perfectionism – Always be right in everything you do. (Family members live according to an externalized image. No one ever measures up.)
3. Blame – Whenever things don’t turn out as planned, blame yourself or others. (Blame is another cover-up for shame.)
4. Denial of the Five Freedoms – This denies that you should perceive, think, feel, desire or imagine the way you do. (You should do these the way the perfectionist ideal demands.)
5. The No-Talk Rule – This prohibits the full expression of any feeling, need or want.
6. Don’t Make Mistakes – Mistakes reveal the flawed vulnerable self. To acknowledge a mistake is to open oneself to scrutiny. (Cover up your mistakes and if someone else makes a mistake, shame them.)
7. Unreliability – Don’t trust anyone and you will never be disappointed. (The parents didn’t get their developmental dependency needs met and will not be there for their children to depend on.)
The use of shame can critically injure familial and romantic relationships. Due to these relational injuries, many have joined the campaign to end shaming talk and behavior. I’ll start by breaking rule #5 and talk more about it! #endshame #educate