Charlie Glickman, one of my favorite Bloggers, has written eloquently on Shame and the distinction between the emotion of shame you feel and the action of shaming others. The distinction is worth some work.
I come from a background of deep shaming. It was a tool continually used by my father for many strong and complex reasons not appropriate to delineate here. But the recovery from that destructive environment has been a life long struggle and one that I expect will not be completed.
The feeling that one is flawed, somehow irreconcilably wrong at our core can infect every aspect of our life and lead us to walk through this world as a shadow of our actual being, leading a “Lie Life”. It becomes a base interpretation through which everything else is filtered. How many of us have difficulty accepting complements or appreciation because those that give them “don’t really know the true me. If they did, they wouldn’t say such things.” Each mistake confirms this view, each unbidden thought hints at the “truth” we have been told and have absorbed.
Those of us in the BDSM Lifestyle have each had our battle with being shamed. It comes from a myriad of directions, parents, church, school, peers, jokes, lessons, literature, sermons, and all those looks that say, “Come on, you don’t really mean THAT.”
Last week I read this.
“Dear Dr. Ortmann,
It’s taken me three weeks to write this e-mail and another week to get up the guts to send it.
I guess I need your help.
I have thoughts and ideas I don’t understand. I can’t say they’ve come out of nowhere. I guess they’ve always been there—kind of lurking in the background, but I was always able to keep them there and just be a normal kind of guy. I’m straight, but I guess what’s happening is like what my gay buddies talk about—you know the desires are there, you know deep down who and what you are, but the shame is so great that you go about living a normal life, a Lie Life, and things seem just fine—most of the time. But you get these momentary flashes of deep desire, like nothing else—that make you feel the bottom has dropped out of your stomach. Then your heart is racing, your mouth is dry, and you feel like you did right before you had your first orgasm. The world feels scary, dark, exciting, and I feel like I’m a confused eleven-year-old all over again except more so because I’m thirty-two.
I’ve been normal, maybe have tried so hard to be normal, but I see things sometimes that reminds me of what I really want—what really turns me on—and that stomach-dropping thing happens again. Then I know it’s all as real as I am—because I’m so scared of it.
The sexual fantasies I have aren’t normal, but I can’t bring myself to write them down (I’ve been trying for those three weeks I mentioned above). I can only say that they disturb me so deeply, I can’t imagine what my girlfriends, family, or friends would say if they knew. It’s worse than being gay. Not that there’s anything wrong with being gay. That’s not what I mean. I guess what I mean is that it feels worse than any coming-out process my gay friends have ever talked about. At least they had other gay friends. I’m alone.
I feel completely outside. I feel it wherever I go and the loneliness and alienations infect my heart, my work, my body, and my relationships. It’s overwhelming and if I can’t talk about it soon I feel like my own shame and isolation will kill me. I think I’m sick and need to be—in some way—cured so I can live a more normal life, whatever that means.
I need to change, to be more normal, whatever that is, thought I admit to you that I have little or no confidence that I can do this. I’ve been like this since I was just a little boy. I’ve never been abused—physically or sexually. I got good grades, I played baseball and ran track. I even sang in my church choir. Outwardly, my life was happy but even at that age I suffered from secrets that I couldn’t share and that stayed inside of me for years. Now they won’t leave me in peace. If I talk about them maybe they’ll go away. If I don’t talk about them, I’m afraid I will go away. I’m not afraid to die anymore.
I’m a pervert and my thoughts are bad. I was raised Catholic and even though I don’t practice anymore I am convinced I am going to hell. Maybe I’m already in it. Sure feels like it….”
This is the forward to my newest read, Sexual Outsiders* by David M. Ortmann and Richard A. Sprott.
In reading this, through my own tears, I wanted to take this man in my arms and hold him. His pain was very real to me.
Fear and shame will hide the expression of your truer self. It is difficult enough to deal with the comments, rejection and condemnation of people around you when you have come to accept and acknowledge your truer self, but when your life and upbringing has led you to internalize that rejection and condemnation within, it can lead to devastation and self damnation, the toxic Lie Life.
We are living in a time when sexual practices and expressions of BDSM seem to be more accepted and common. We see images in advertisements and media. There are on line social communities aimed at the identified sexually perverse. BDSM role-playing seems to be a common social expression. But there is a difference, isn’t there, from the role playing, the bedroom play, the sexy costumes, and the beautiful people you see in the media and porn all in their expensive leathers and toys, and the acceptance of the fact that you do not wish to “Play it” you want to “Be it”. It is part of who you are. It is something that you need to be truly fulfilled.
To take that step. To move through the shame into a place where you can accept that you are not damaged, you are not flawed and wrong, and most importantly, you are not damaged nor are you here to damage others. To be who you are, in a place of loving acceptance, is also work that is never completed. But it is worth the work.
*I link to Amazon because it is easy for me, not because I necessarily recommend using that service, though I use it. “Sexual Outsiders” is available through many different book sellers.