If you grew up in an abusive family and are trying to recover as an adult, the odds are pretty good that you know what emotional pain feels like. You have to grieve and keep moving forward, sometimes even when it feels impossible.
One of the challenges in healing from abuse is to give up old patterns of shaming behavior you learned from your family. These rules of family shame helped block your development into a healthy and happy human being. The enforcement of these rules occurred automatically, as everyone in the family tried to get their needs met in a dysfunctional system. If you want to keep healing, here are 3 rules of family shame to help you make a break with the past.
Rule #1: Perfectionism – Whether it was your father pushing you to make every basket from the foul line or a smothering mother pushing you to get straight A’s in everything so you could become a valedictorian, you had to be P-E-R-F-E-C-T. No misspellings. No room for mistakes. That’s a lot to live up to considering nobody is perfect. Having these kinds of unrealistic expectations placed upon you damaged your sense of self-worth and gave you a sense of unworthiness. So now that you’re growing up, learn to screw up. Leave a few “I’s” undotted and a few “T’s” uncrossed. The world won’t end because you let your hair down, and you’ll feel better for it.
Rule #2: Don’t Feel – Your family may have operated as if only certain feelings were ok. For instance, it was never ok to feel sad or angry. You may have heard things like “boys don’t cry,” even if your parents were going through a nasty divorce and it’s perfectly normal to grieve over this loss. Perhaps you were told that “little girls should always have a smile on their face”, and you were expected to always be cheerful even when normally sad events (such as a death in the family) occurred. If you’re going to live a happy and healthy life, you have to feel the full range of your emotions. If you’ve been through an abusive situation and are recovering, you have to give yourself permission to feel pain and loss. Being a cheerful Pollyanna to cover up your pain will only stunt the healing process.
Rule #3: Blame – Did you ever feel like you were walking on eggshells in your family? Perhaps you recall your mom being extra irritable on days when the child support payments were due but wouldn’t come because your dad never sent them. No matter how good you tried to be, she still told you things like “it’s all your fault, if you hadn’t been born your father would never have left.” All you were trying to do was grow up and you were blamed for circumstances beyond your control. Blame is another rule of family shame that can keep you from healing fully. Do you find yourself doing this to yourself or others? Do you still let your family blame you? If so, now is a good time to stop the blame game.
Commit to your own self improvement and healing by breaking the rules of family shame. You’ll be glad you did.