ShameShifting

We’ve talked about blame shifting before and how hurtful it is to a betrayed spouse. Unfortunately, blame shifting has a close cousin: shame shifting.

Shame shifting occurs, at my house, when I feel ashamed of my self for something that I’ve done wrong, or didn’t do right, and my wife calls attention to it. Not because she is trying to poke at my shame, but because my choices have affected her. Instead of owning it and being humble, I’ll instead shame her about something, usually related but tangential, in an effort to avoid dealing with my own insecurities.

I had a knack for doing this in the beginning of our journey. When something would happen and Shelley was triggered, she would share it with me. Sometimes calmly, sometimes not so much. Either way I was reminded that my poor choices and infidelity deeply hurt her. Enter shame. And guilt, which was healthy, but not the shame. Rather than practicing empathy, apologizing (again) and trying to be present in her pain I would pop-off calling out something I perceived her doing wrong. Statements like these, that I made,  are indicative of shame shifting:

“You’ve moved past sharing your pain; now you’re just being mean”

“My sin against you doesn’t give you the right to sin back”

“If you wouldn’t yell at me I wouldn’t get angry”

“Are we STILL not past this? We won’t get past it til you let it go”

For a few minutes it felt really good to put her in her place. Then, like a boomerang, the shame would come right back. Only now it was amplified, because not only had I hurt her by my past actions but now I’ve hurt her again by my response in the current conversation. That’s the problem with shame shifting: it always comes back worse than before.

A couple of suggestions should you find yourself shame shifting.

1 – Stop It!

2 – If only it were that easy. Try to recognize the thought patterns of shame shifting. If, when reminded of your sin, your thoughts quickly move to criticism of the person calling attention to it, you’re probably beginning to shift it.

3 – Own it. If you can’t seem to pull the ripcord and stop the words from coming out of your mouth, then when you do realize you said what you said, own it. “I just shamed you instead of owning my own junk. I’m sorry”.

4 – Many people can be the recipient of our shame shifting. For me, it was Shelley, my bosses, people in traffic, baristas, you name it. No matter who it is, we harm ourselves by shifting it. When we allow ourselves to bear the full burden of our sin, we give ourselves a chance to grasp the gravity of its impact on us and those around us. That will get us a step closer to hating our sin.

 

 

 

You, Me and Shame

There are moments when recovery from sexual addiction is a war against shame. That can be especially true in sexual intimacy.For a man in recovery, sexual intimacy with his wife can be a battle against old thoughts and shameful feelings. It can have an impact on his ability to stay engaged mentally, emotionally and even physically. In fact I’ve talked to 3 men in the last week who’ve lost an erection in the middle of sexual intimacy because their shame was so present. The guilt and shame associated with having previously committed adultery, for blowing up the family, for hurting his kids, for viewing outrageous pornography can be overwhelming.

For each of those men there is a wife who, sometimes equally, struggles with shame. The shame of insignificance and questioning if he’s thinking of the other woman. The shame of incompetency and wondering if she is being compared to women from the porn pictures. For some wives all the old messages come flashing back and the allegations are levied against herself: I’m not enough, I’m too old, I’m too young, I’m too prudish, If my body were different, if I didn’t have a checkered past, etc.

Here are a few tips to deal with shame as it pertains to sexual intimacy:

1) Pause – Stop the process and take a timeout. Many men, and women, will try to continue and just get the thoughts out of their head. They’ll try to ignore it, refocus, turn the lights on or off, change positions, say different things and so on. Don’t try to get around it; instead work through it.

2) Talk about it – Yes, it may ruin the mood. But the mood isn’t the most important thing! Your personal and marital healing are the most important thing. If you’re the husband, remind your wife that you love her enough to not have sex with her while another woman or pornographic thoughts are in your head. Talk about the pain it brings up, engage empathy and let your heart break for the situation. That conversation may not be pleasant. Here are 2 ways it could go:

“Honey, I’m stopping because I’ve got old memories in my head and I can’t get rid of them. I don’t want them, I wish I didn’t have them, I wish I had never done the horrible things I did. I am so sorry that even this sacred place in our relationship is ruined. I’m sorry.”

vs.

“Let’s stop. I’m thinking of how some of the women in porn seem to enjoy sex so much and you just don’t seem to enjoy it at all.”

Hopefully you see a difference. That second one is a direct quote from my someone in my office. As you might imagine, that conversation did not go well.

If you’re a wife, honor yourself enough to use your voice and share your pain and disappointment with your husband. You don’t have to shame in that moment, but you can express your hurt. And you can ask for reassurance. Give him a chance to assertively say that he is in fact NOT calling up old memories and is fully present with you.

NOTE: Guys, whatever you do, DON’T use pornographic thoughts or memories of a mistress to stay engaged in sex with your wife. This will only cause you more damage in that you are still not connecting in intimacy with your spouse, instead you are connecting with intensity via euphoric recall.

3) Don’t make sex the focus – Instead, make the focus intimacy. Make the point of your being together connection, vulnerability, security and reassurance. Sometimes we can experience that using our bodies, other times (especially in early recovery) we need to experience that with our words. If you’re having difficulty shifting the focus invite help from support folks or a counselor. 

Remember that recovery is about intimacy, not intensity.

 

 

Self Temptation

James 1:14-15

..but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

Sometimes we’re too quick to blame our temptation on the Devil and the culture. Is it true that temptation arises from these sources? Yes, it is. However, often times our temptation originates from within. It begins when we are dragged away and enticed. What does that mean? It means our focus shifts away from what matters most and we become distracted with what fulfills the least. Many of us have reels of old footage from past porn binges, affairs, strip clubs and chat lines that we can recollect and thereby be enticed. When we engage that footage and allow ourselves to fantasize about it we are being dragged away; or to put it in context of the verse, we are dragging ourselves away. Where is that going to lead us?
We also experience temptation as a form of dealing with our emotions. Some of us have learned that emotions such as anger, insignificance, loneliness, rejection, fear, failure and disappointment can be numbed and soothed by engaging sexual thoughts. Unfortunately, it is easier to engage those thoughts and medicate rather than to deal with the emotions appropriately. It was very difficult for me to accept this truth and to learn to deal with my emotions in healthy ways. It was especially difficult to learn how to process my emotions with other people. I wanted to keep it all bottled up and to myself. I didn’t want to weigh anyone down with my junk. I wanted people to think I had it altogether; that I wasn’t needy. The truth is: we’re all needy and sometimes we have to get needy out loud.
Whether to numb feelings or to excite ourselves, we are giving birth to sin and ultimately that will give way to death. We have to take ownership for our self-temptation and be willing to engage our neediness, and surrender ourselves to God.

A couple of questions to consider:

1 – In what ways do you tempt yourself, effectively dragging yourself away to be enticed?

2 – Have you turned these things over to God and others? If not, how about telling God and others about it today.