I have pretty thick skin. If you want to use a pejorative of your choice in addressing me, be my guest. It will roll off me and will only show your own ignorance. There are, however, a select few words in the English language that rub me the wrong way. “Always” and “never” come to mind, especially in the context of human relationships. “You ALWAYS blah, blah, blah” or “You NEVER….”. Simple hyperbole is nothing but an easy security blanket. (Just because I don’t ALWAYS do something, doesn’t mean I NEVER do it. Heh.) “Right” and “wrong” can likewise set my blood to boiling. They’re too absolute…too judgmental…too “black and white” in our ever-increasing gray world.
There is one word, however, that over the course of the past 4 years since my arrest and subsequent conviction, sends shivers down my spine whenever I hear or see it, “Shame”. It is such a mean word and powerful word. And the only reason it holds any power is because we allow it to do so.
Make no mistake about it, guilt and shame are NOT the same. “Guilt” is a feeling that emanates from within, based upon our individual moral compass. It’s a good word. A normal emotion we should feel, as long as we do not let it control us. “Shame” on the other hand is placed upon us by external forces. It is something others want us to feel and if we accept it, we are powerless. In the end, we live our lives under their control.
One of the conditions of my 2 year probation was to complete court-ordered therapy. The first practice I was sent to used “shame” as a major theme of their therapeutic philosophy. I refer to it as “mental castration”. After 9 months, I was more angry and demoralized than when I began. I do not mean to bash therapy. On the contrary, when, after I was forced to switch therapists after 9 months due to financial reasons beyond my control, I found myself in a practice that was extremely helpful and non-judgmental. Thanks to their help, I am in the healthiest emotional state of my life.
So go ahead, feel your guilt. It’s normal and means that, more than likely, you’re not a sociopath. But please, do not let others force shame upon you. Do not give them that power over you. In our battle to get rid of “Registered Sex Offender” and “Predator” from the legal lexicon, we have to be strong and courageous. Remember, a chain is only as strong as its’ weakest link.
Do not be that weakest link.