One of the things making life difficult in relationships when there has been sexual abuse is the unbridled experience of shame. Sometimes I find this so exhausting to track in any given interaction that I donít even try.

Attempting to imagine whatís going on is helped a bit by the concept of a compass of shame. I thought I might share it here and see if it resonates. In the compass of shame there are four poles that we go to in our need to get away from it. The list will probably come as no surprise. They are: Avoidance, Withdrawal, Attack Self, and Attack Others. By having support and remaining humble and accepting of the experience one can begin to hopefully decrease its ability to control the better aspects of life.

I have found however that in getting closer to the actual experience of shame there is also the danger of entering what is described as a loop. The loop tends to occur in different ways with different people. Speaking generally, it seems that women tend to get stuck in a shame-shame loop, as in being ashamed about feeling it. Men, on the other hand, exhibit a shame-anger loop. We can become angry about feeling ashamed and then feel more shame about the anger.

As I said, navigating this mess can seem impossible. It would be great to hear how anyone has experienced progress in this, either by themselves or in a relationship.

Thanks very much,

FB

Links to articles on the subject:

http://www.soulselfhelp.on.ca/quintessentialemotion.html

http://www.sociology.org/content/vol003.001/sheff.html

http://southdown.on.ca/publications/articles/Compass-of-Shame.pdf
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