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stuck on the dark side of guilt and shame

Discussion in 'Support Subforum' started by 3rdCoast, Jan 30, 2015.

  1. 3rdCoast

    3rdCoast Peer Supporter

    I’ve been on the TMS journey for years now. Whatever is at the opposite end from the ever-envied book cure, that is where I am. I read myself on every page of Dr. Sarno’s writings. And I really connected with The Great Pain Deception which I’m re-reading. There’s so much to open up to in GPD, I’m enjoying the 2nd time around and it comes at a time when I needed a boost. Thank you for writing it Steve.

    Like so many here, you learn about TMS, you say to yourself “oh man, that’s ME! I’ve been like that all my life!” Then you hit the books, determined, SEP, journaling, therapy, evidence list, more reading, challenging your limitations, mindfulness, being more present, don’t forget to ignore the pain, forgiving, etc. I believe in it fully but sometimes feel “aaaaaad naseam” (to homage the infamous phrase—I smile every time I hear the audio book). Alas, I cannot call myself healed. The low back pain that is my #1 issue is, well, stubborn.

    I’m wondering if anyone resonates with something I catch myself doing. But first, some history:

    In journaling and therapy, I found I needed to look at my childhood. My family dynamics were unique in that I had a severely handicapped brother born 2 years after me. He had cerebral palsy and was blind. Couldn’t walk, speak or take care of himself at all. Endured many surgeries. He lived with us and we took care of him. My mother mainly. I’ve learned that my family with 7 kids (4 left, brother’s twin died at birth) and the related challenges formed some big conflicts within me. I wanted to help, aid and fix (which of course I did), but deep down I resented this helpless person for making my life harder, more vulnerable, a target for teasing. I dreamed of being free from it—and suffer guilt and shame for those feelings. I didn’t feel my parents were there for my own growing up issues. They never heard me—because I never asked for help. I suffered alone.

    My brother died in his sleep when he was 21. I regretted not checking in on him that night, perhaps I could’ve saved him. Instead I woke up to screams, emergency, and seeing my father weep openly for the first and last time. I felt I’d let them down even though it was not in my control. The battle between instinctive duty and the urge to be selfish plays out in my life daily. I resent duty while guilt and shame ruin any selfish efforts I attempt. I have more work to do but that gives a basic summary. There are other significant life events but the above seems to be the beginning for me. Ending up in relationships where I feel the need to take care of someone, then resent it, is pattern I keep replaying. As is the fantasy of leaving it all behind.

    Back to the question I have, when I reflect or talk about my brother, I immediately negate it. Saying to myself, it wasn’t that hard for you. It should’t have an effect on you today. There is no way it’s the reason for your back pain. You’re just playing the handicapped brother card. How dare you blame him for your problems. Get the picture? Or I question weather I’m looking for a good “excuse” to fit the TMS mold. Or fall back into thinking structural anomalies are the cause of pain.

    I just can’t seem to get over the hump on this, and other issues go the same route. I can’t admit to myself on a baseline honest level that I dealt with things that were hard and deserving of my sympathy now. It would feel like an injustice to my brother who of course meant no harm to me. We did connect and bond and there was love but there was also anger at his condition, under wraps.

    I also grew up in the Catholic church so there’s the “God can do anything” element. When you pray every night for God to heal your brother, you start doubting the teaching or blame yourself for not praying hard enough. And of course the “Why did God make my brother this way?” question. As a kid, when everyone around seems fine with your brother’s condition, and you have a real problem with it, all that is left to do is bury those feelings so no one finds out. Ever.

    If anyone has overcome a really permanent-looking road block like this, I’d like to know how you did it. I can say I forgive myself for having those feelings all day, but it doesn’t count. My hope rests in “I’ll get there when I get there.” When my mind is ready to forgive and stop punishing for those “bad” feelings, it just will. I can’t will it to happen. My fear is that it might never come, and TMS will never leave.

    To the people who run and populate this site so well, it’s not only the best place to work on TMS, it looks good doing it. Thank you for all that you do.
    Ellen and Tennis Tom like this.
  2. Tennis Tom

    Tennis Tom Beloved Grand Eagle

    WOW! Great post if you're not a professional writer you could be. Some quick thoughts before I have to hit the road:

    A shrink told me once, "It sounds like you don't think you deserve to be happy?", that's a good question to ponder.

    I have nothing against the Catholic church, my gf is a practicing one and she's a great human, but one of it's tenants (along with other religions) is GUILT. I guess it serves to keep the folks in line when God isn't around.

    Like Grace Slick of the Jefferson Airplane sang, "You Need Somebody to Love".

    G'luck, you didn't do anything wrong.
    Ryan and 3rdCoast like this.
  3. Anne Walker

    Anne Walker Beloved Grand Eagle

    Dear Matt, Wow, what a well articulated and written question. Very interesting. Its of course not the same situation, but a little similar, to how parents react in allowing themselves to fully feel some of the challenges and resentments arround having children. It just doesn't seem right to openly acknowledge that we might be angry at a helpless baby. I love my children more than anything but when my ex-husband left me with two small toddlers to support, I was in real conflict. Everywhere I went I saw "whole" families and I just felt cheated somehow. It seems like you are very much aware of all the potential conflict and sources of anger, and what is missing is acceptance and forgiveness to allow yourself to feel those things. I have the same tendency to negate the importance or talk myself out of physically connecting with these kinds of emotions. I have a lot of trouble getting angry at anyone other than myself. Experience has shown me that relationships fall apart when I do, and so I am especially insecure and fearful of it. I think a lot of my pain has been generated from this. I work in the Senior Care industry and I have observed many couples in which one spouse is taking care of the other. Perhaps one has Parkinson's or Alzheimers and then I have noticed that the caregiving partner is often in a lot of physical pain, back pain most commonly. I don't know if I would have made the connection before studying TMS, but I am sure it is very difficult for the partner left with the caregiving role to express any anger or resentment over the situation. How can they? Their life partner did not choose to get a disease and become helpless. Life hands us these things and it does not make us bad people to have some feelings about it. They are there whether we like it or not. It does not mean that you did not dearly love your brother, or I my children, or the aging person their spouse. And it is especially not fair that on top of everything else we are left in pain feeling guilty and trying to avoid these feelings.
    Last edited: Jan 31, 2015
    Dahlia, 3rdCoast and Ellen like this.
  4. David88

    David88 Well known member

    Hi Matt,

    Your story is much like mine. I too had a brother with special needs who soaked up all the attention in the family. I also had parents who were not emotionally available. It's a dastardly combination. You are left with lots of pain and anger, and no way to let it out. And like you, I'm struggling to recognize and admit that yes, it really was that bad.

    I don't have an easy answer. I'm in the thick of working on all this with a TMS therapist. It's scary, it's confusing, and it's painful. I could never deal with this on my own. I'm working on getting in touch with the visceral feelings left over from childhood that I have never let myself experience. The feelings are in the heart, not in the head. Touching the feelings is how I know that yes, it really was that bad.

    I can't tell you what path to take toward healing, but I hope hearing of my experience helps. Reading your story was helpful to me, just to see that someone else had a similar experience, and reacted in a similar way. So I thank you for posting. One of these days I'll get up the courage to post my own story.

  5. Walt Oleksy

    Walt Oleksy Beloved Grand Eagle

    I really like these exchanges of posts.
    They remind me of my older brother John who died four years ago.
    He bullied me when were were kids but we enjoyed brotherly friendship later when we played golf together.
    But we were total opposites in every way.

    He practically killed me several times when we were boys (I was 3 years younger).
    In journaling, I remembered our mother telling me that when he was a boy and a teenager
    he resented having to look after my sister and me. He wanted to be put playing with pals his own age.
    That helped me to understand him better and to forgive him for being so mean to me.

    You did all anyone could to look after your brother. God wanted him, that's all. You shouldn't feel guilt or shame
    because of his death. You'll meet again one day in Heaven and will hug each other and be great friends.
    You will have fun together because neither of you will be in any pain.

    God bless.
    Anne Walker, Ryan and 3rdCoast like this.
  6. Ellen

    Ellen Beloved Grand Eagle

    "Back to the question I have, when I reflect or talk about my brother, I immediately negate it. Saying to myself, it wasn’t that hard for you. It should’t have an effect on you today. There is no way it’s the reason for your back pain. You’re just playing the handicapped brother card. How dare you blame him for your problems. Get the picture? Or I question weather I’m looking for a good “excuse” to fit the TMS mold. Or fall back into thinking structural anomalies are the cause of pain."

    Thanks for sharing your story with us, Matt S. You articulate very well issues that I can relate to, and am sure many other TMSers can relate to as well.

    I am approaching my 2-year anniversary in a couple of months of learning about TMS and working on my recovery. I made a lot of progress my first year, but have felt "stuck" during my second year. I can relate to your question posed above, though my specific circumstances are different. If I interpret your question correctly, I think it addresses the role our defense mechanisms play in maintaining TMS.

    You mentioned that you have been in therapy, but didn't state whether or not it was with a TMS therapist. You may find working with a TMS therapist helpful, especially one trained in ISTDP. If I understand ISTDP, one of the things it is designed to do is break through a client's defense mechanisms. I'm exploring starting this type of therapy myself.

    I also think your story and question would be a great one to submit to Ask-A-Therapist on this site.

    Welcome to the Forum!
    3rdCoast likes this.
  7. 3rdCoast

    3rdCoast Peer Supporter

    Thank you for the responses (and the penmanship compliments!) I've been reading and absorbing on this forum for a couple years at least. I have not shared any of my story until this post. The resulting connections with others feel really good.

    Tennis Tom First Tom poster, long time listener. The “it sounds like you don't think you deserve to be happy” phrase has been pointed out to me as well. Hearing it reiterated (and by a guru no less) hammers home the point even more. I know I don’t think I deserve happiness because I watched my brother suffer so much and couldn’t fix him. How can I be happy when he, and her, and they, and them, are not? After that seed, there are many branches. More work to do but every chink in the armor helps. Thank you for helping strike a blow.

    Strange that you quoted the lyric "You Need Somebody to Love." My dad, in his guttural emotional outpouring the morning my brother died, holding his limp body, cried "you don’t understand, I need him because I need someone to love." Me, head down, at the edges of the room.

    Anne Walker You always seem to hit the nail on the head and I've enjoyed reading so many of your posts. Your eloquent writing has a calm and comforting way about it. You are correct, the missing part for me is the acceptance and forgiveness of “bad” feelings from past, and present. I appreciate you sharing insights from your own life and work. Conceptually, being angry at a sibling, child, partner, etc. for causing you a burden is so easy to get your head around. But getting the unconscious to follow—that’s the other story. Being in pain for wanting to be good is such a cruel combination.

    David88 Really glad you chimed in on my post. I'm sort of stunned because I never thought there was another person on the planet who went through a similar situation resulting in similar emotions. Where were you 40 or so years ago!? Kidding of course. It IS painful to work through. It's punishing. It can feel worse. I feel guilty and a traitor just talking about it. Every time. But I keep going in and I hope you do as well. It's somewhat bittersweet knowing there’s at least one person out there who can completely relate. Hearing your experience helps. My therapist isn’t TMS per se (believes in mind body fully so I think I'm good) so if you come across any good tricks-of-the-trade, please feel free to pass them along to me. Thanks for pressing the post-reply button.

    Walt Oleksy You write like you seem to live, with ease. Interesting to read your story from the perspective as the younger one—the “burden” so-to-speak. I wish I could've known my brother on an adult level. It no doubt would've been a healing experience for me. But that would’ve never happened because of his physical limitations and early death. Still, it's nice to imagine him understanding my repressed feelings of resentment—and forgiving me. Sounds like you got to experience this with your brother. I'm glad you did. Peace my friend.

    Ellen Appreciate your reply. My therapist is not TMS specifically but fully supports the theory and thinking. I think I'm on the right track there. I'm not familiar with ISTPD and will look it up. It would be good to know what you think of the ISTPD approach if you pursue it. Your take on the “defense mechanism” brings up a new way of looking at it for me. What the heck is being defended? More questions to seek an answer to. Onward and inward.
    Dahlia likes this.
  8. Tennis Tom

    Tennis Tom Beloved Grand Eagle

  9. mdh157

    mdh157 Well known member

    thanks for sharing that Matt......i'm sure it wasn't an easy thing to do. The best thing is to get it into the open and deal directly with your feelings or you'll never be free of them. If you haven't done so already you need to find a good therapist and work it out. I have been fighting stuff myself for a while but from making my list today i've realized there is a lot more to deal with than I thought!
    Last edited: Jan 31, 2015
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  10. Andy Bayliss

    Andy Bayliss TMS Coach & Beloved Grand Eagle

    Hi Matt,
    Thanks for sharing yourself with such precision and openness.

    What I hear you saying is that your guilt and shame about your anger and resentment (about your brother's burden on you, the way you were expected to behave, and about how God treated you and your family) have not gone away as you hoped they would, and that you think these lingering feelings is the source of your continuing TMS symptoms.

    I feel you must be under attack by the Inner Critic, and this is what causes the awareness of guilt and shame, about the anger and resentment. Anger activates the Inner Critic. Anger against God activates the Inner Critic. I highly recommend Bryon Brown's A Soul Without Shame, because he is giving you direct action to take to disengage from the Inner Critic.

    I am not in your situation, but I understand guilt and shame about my brothers, both of whom have passed and were younger than me. Self-compassion practices may help. Including that the suffering you are experiencing with the shame and guilt really are suffering. You are going through a lot. You feel powerless to stop the shame and guilt. This is another level of suffering on top of the shame and guilt. You feel you should be able to conquer this, and you aren't'. Talk about pressure!

    For me, there is often a softening, when I embrace my suffering...and relax about stopping it so much. I can just see all the trouble I seem to be in. Even the trouble I seem to be causing myself. All the inner troubles that I can't seem to stop. The trips I lay on myself... Compassion comes. And when it does, it is a gentle rain of caring.

    Finally, I wonder if you have to eradicate the guilt and shame in order to have the TMS symptoms stop? In my experience, when I've done a lot of deep work to understand my inner landscape and the pressures, I can use that understanding to understand where the symptoms are coming from, rather than the physical, and this undid my symptoms.

    Where is your inner child, the one Dr. Sarno says gets so activated with RAGE or HURT?

    Hope any of this might resonate with you.

    Andy B.
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2015
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  11. lexylucy

    lexylucy Well known member

    I have been doing Internal Family Systems Therapy. I find that parts work really helps with pulling those helpless child parts out of the past.

    I listen to my pain now and hear what it is saying to me..."you shouldn't feel this way or that.."

    I understand what you were saying about not having your needs met as a child. Take good care :)
    Bodhigirl and 3rdCoast like this.
  12. Maribel

    Maribel New Member

    Thanks for sharing, it helps me understand my father whose sibling died at a young age.
    If you have children, remember that whoever you treat yourself that is what you teach them. My dad didn't love himself....

    I am befriending my anger and I tell my son, anger is a good emotion its telling us something, what is bad is staying angry.
    3rdCoast likes this.
  13. brendan537

    brendan537 Peer Supporter

    Matt S how are you doing now?
    3rdCoast likes this.
  14. 3rdCoast

    3rdCoast Peer Supporter

    @Maribel I'm glad it was a good thing for you to read. @brendan537 I wish I could share a full on success story, but I'm still struggling. I continue to work through it and don't watch the timeline much anymore. Hope you're both finding your way through OK.
  15. David88

    David88 Well known member

    Matt -- I'm still struggling, too. I think it never goes away, it just becomes something you can be more and more aware of, and get better at handling.

    I see myself still making the same mistakes -- putting other people first, trying to take the world on my shoulders, blaming myself for things that are not my fault and beyond my power to fix. It's habit that's hard to break.

    But I have broken it a few times, with good results. On a few occasions, a frank, even heated, discussion with a friend cleared away bad feelings and opened new possibilities. A few times, I've done what I wanted without worrying what people thought, where I wouldn't have dared before.

    So compared to last year, my life is a little wider, richer in friends, and more soothed by self-compassion. It's also a bit less impeded by pain and anxiety. But I'm still the same old person, struggling with the same old things, and I have days when it seems impossible to take another step forward. That's when I'm glad this forum is here.

    3rdCoast likes this.
  16. Maribel

    Maribel New Member

    TMS should be called Parental Attention Deficit Disorder!

    Every baby / child needs emotional nurturance and if we don't get us we feel profound fear of survival and from it flows anger at expressing our needs and them not being met.

    Read up on the orphanage syndrome - what not getting emotional nurture does to a childs development.

    Befriend your anger, its trying to keep you alive - express it/ shout it out, behind it is grief of the unheard child.

    Fear, shame, guilt, goodism, perfectionism are just unhealthy learned behaviors - its time you change your emotional programming.

    It took me 50 years to step out of the triangulation games of my parents and telling them that they are both adults and should solve their own problems.

    It took me 50 years to realize that my 5 years older sister who bullied me and tried destroyed my sense of self worth was the queen of TMS and was suffering like I was from the lack of true emotional support from our parents. They also had TMS - stuck anger and fear given to them from their parents. Its intragenerational!

    I am now solving my abusive marital relationship - a choose a man that is not emotional present just like my parents!!!

    I am starting to learn to put myself first - like they say in the airplanes -first put the oxygen mask on yourself then on your kid!!!
    Tennis Tom likes this.
  17. Tennis Tom

    Tennis Tom Beloved Grand Eagle


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