The following was a letter sent as a response to the article, “Children of Shame” (02-04-2011). The article addressed the fact that children learn at a very young age to disconnect their feelings as a mechanism to end their feelings of shame. As these children become adults, they find it difficult to reconnect those out of fear that once again they will feel the pain of shame.
Dear Dr. Herskowitz,
When I read your column I almost fell out of my chair. I was reading the story of my life! I grew up in that kind of home, where my mother made me feel ashamed of every thought, feeling and impulse. Needless to say, when I hit puberty it was exponentially worse. I have been married twice and have never found the love, closeness, partnership, and companionship that I have sought. I know that the problem is within me; I feel that I am just not there and that I am unavailable for such closeness or intimacy, although experiencing them is my dearest and deepest wish.
At this point I don’t imagine even hope that I will find myself in a place where I can trust and grow; I seem to choose men to date (and marry) who are also incapable of forming close attachments. I have endured many years of therapy, which has not helped me to deal with the core of my issues, although it has helped me navigate when I start to feel overwhelmed.
Thank you for publishing the article, as it made me feel that there is reason and validity to why I feel the way I do.
Hopeless in Seattle
Your unconscious mind chooses a mate who will recreate the shame and pain you suffered in childhood. As you return to the scene of the crime, your partner will push the buttons that will cause you to react defensively. In order to start the process of healing you must stop reacting defensively and begin to understand the core issues which led you into this relationship. The unconscious mind has a radar system which causes us to be attracted to and attracts us, to the very same people who will hurt us in our relationship. This way one can finish the unfinished shame of the past in their new relationship, for the purpose of healing and growth. That’s why couples often tell me that when they met they felt as if they had known each other their entire lives – for the most part they did. When their unconscious minds meet a light goes off – ” Hey. Have we met before? You look so familiar!”
We need to keep in mind that Hashem designed the world in a state of co-dependency. Husband and wife are supposed to become dependant on each other and in this way heal their most intimate needs. This process is by no means easy; they now have to start working as a team. It also means that they must stop blaming each other, and learn to relive years of painful experiences behind closed doors and defensive walls. This is why many couples believe that marriage counseling made their problems worse. While it may seem that way at first, if the couple continues working at it, therapy will offer the best opportunity to bring the core issues to the surface, and restore their shalom bayit.