Emotions, Hall of Mirrors, Personal Growth

Co-Dependence and Shame

There’s a few themes I’m internally working on.

One of them is the gender divide and how to heal it. It’s damaging to all involved and must be addressed with firm compassion.

Related to this is my work with co-dependence, its cultural pervasiveness, and how to identify it in action.

The other theme which is rising to the fore is working on the concept of shame in our culture and just how damaging and pervasive that is. Interestingly, I’m discovering that it’s actually tied with the first, and also the second.

Related to this is my work on owning and accepting the entirety of myself, for which my Hall of Mirrors is a key step. Culturally, what gets rejected are aspects we are ashamed of. Ex: women can’t own their anger or assertiveness, men can’t own their submissive or loving aspects.

Why are those things (whatever they may be) being rejected? If discovered, they are used as weapons to shame … to control. By whom? Others in society – the trolls, the family members, friends, that lady at the grocery store whose lip curled in disgust but otherwise said nothing.

Shame is an emotional weapon used to control. Want someone to stop doing something? Publically shame them and get others to join in. It’s as old as humanity itself. It’s not new. Social media certainly didn’t invent it! Women have been shamed for being female. Men are shamed for having any emotion deemed “feminine” which is anything other than anger. I’ve heard Indian women say that husbands who actually care for and treat their wives well are looked down on as being weak. So yeah, simple human decency is something for a man to be ashamed of in some cultures.

And you know what? It works. Shaming people to control their actions WORKS. But only, and I repeat, ONLY if the individual being shamed actually feels any degree of shame for their actions, choices, or being. Try shaming someone who’s actually proud of or just doesn’t give a fig about the very thing you’re trying to shame them for. The response I hear when someone attempts to shame me for something I’m not ashamed of: “Have you no shame?!” It’s usually hissed or said with incredulity.

But I digress. So these are the themes that I’m working on and I’m starting to see just how tied together these all are. Disown what is culturally unaccepted, prove to culture that we toe the line by shaming others to feel better about ourselves or secure our place of safety, but when huge swathes of our own self is carved out and cast away, SOMEONE has to carry it. In the case of gender, masculine carved out of itself everything it deemed unworthy and dumped it on feminine with orders to ‘carry that shit, it’s yours now’ Guess what? Then feminine replied ‘ok, but now you have to carry this crap for me’. So if one is carrying half the other’s junk while we carry theirs …. now in order to be whole we HAVE to have some relationship with the rejected other half in order to feel complete, whole, safe. Hello co-dependence! Hello recipe for resentment and bitterness!

And this is NOT restricted to gender. I’m looking at the various strata of society and seeing the same thing. All those at the top saying “eeew, I’m not like thooooose people” just push their shit down the social ladder until folks at the bottom are the ones forced to carry all kinds of shit. Why do you think it’s so hard to engage with the homeless or whatever other “untouchable” level your society has? They are covered in shit not their own, including MINE, but now I have the luxury of turning away to energetically say “no, I’m fine with you being the dirty one. Thanks for your service, but if I acknowledge you than I might get dirty myself. Can’t have that, so I have to ignore you.”

I’m starting to realize that even though I’ve called myself a whole and complete person for many years now, I didn’t recognize just how much of myself I was still rejecting and expecting the masculine or others to carry for me. (“could you flag down our waitress? I don’t want to make a scene.”) Well I didn’t realize it until I walked into my Hall of Mirrors and eventually started to find my way out. Now I see that in order to recall home all these parts of me I have to de-shame them first. I have to take shit-covered aspects of humanity and embrace them without making a face. It’s hard to own something I don’t even want to look at, let alone acknowledge. But every aspect that tries to come home also runs the Judgmental Gauntlet, provoking others to react, and thereby forcing me to act. What will I choose? Rejection of myself in order to gain social acceptance, or acceptance of myself and gain social rejection?

We are human, and we are social. Our ability to survive is dependent upon the social connections we have. To be rejected socially is literally interpreted by our emotional system as a threat to our very survival. That’s why shaming someone in an attempt to control them is so  effective – it’s hitting that primal part of ourself which says “MUST be part of a social unit for safety and survival MUST”.

So in trying to own myself, I’m actually risking social rejection. To my emotional mind, I’m risking my very survival. That’s not small, and it definitely is NOT for the feint for heart. It’s hard work and demands emotional fortitude and a willingness to stand alone.



About the image:  I snagged this off of a youtube video. I loathe how everything is getting a syndrome or a disorder now. I’m all for finding support and a way out, but labels don’t usually offer ways out. Labels NEED for adherents to continue subscribing to them, not moving on from them. But I liked the picture.


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