Lecture 117 – Shame: A Legacy of Childhood Experiences, Even Favourable Ones | Abbreviated Version

P2             Are you aware of what you are ashamed? Simply admit those aspects that cause you shame. Write down in exact and precise terms what it is and why you feel you need to be ashamed. The usual answer is that you are afraid of appearing less in the eyes of others, less lovable and respectable, inviting belittlement and humiliation.

P3             It is so important to remember not to whip yourself with self-condemnation if you do not succeed, but to quietly observe where you stand. Hurts and frustrations in childhood have been recognized as the cause for deeply embedded problems in the personality.

Now I would like to shed light on the exact opposite. Apparently favorable and positive factors in childhood can be equally responsible for inner distortions. You may note that I said apparently favorable conditions. Your evaluation of what is good or bad, constructive or destructive, right or wrong, is often tied in with what is momentarily pleasurable or unpleasurable, or with what conforms or is contrary to temporary, superimposed values.

P4             Due to people’s inclination to laziness, they blindly follow what is established, and retain values long past their temporary usefulness. People’s self-alienation and lack of independent thinking make them cling to what is handed to them. Love, truth, wisdom, courage—what is good and constructive in the long run, and therefore for all concerned—are the sole criteria of eternal values.

Until a relatively short time ago, restriction and severity were generally accepted as the right way. The parents’ unresolved problems found an outlet in such rules and they acted out their pent-up hostility by following the existing value system. In recent times, the norm has been permissiveness, lack of discipline, indulgence.

P5             To atone for having common human failings, such as impatience or irritation, parents may overindulge and pamper their child. The child may experience this as favorable and pleasurable at the moment, but there may be a negative effect. The psyche gets accustomed to it, and when life later prohibits similar gratification, the personality is driven to seek to duplicate the pleasurable state it once enjoyed. He or she seeks what was experienced as love during childhood, over and over again, but cannot find it because other people, not bound by guilt, will have no need to atone for it and therefore will not provide such pampering.

The inability to repeat what one once had causes hurt, anger and hostility. The insistence on having the protection, and the real as well as pseudo-love enjoyed in childhood, is connected with the hurts and frustrations suffered. If the child is hurt, it may suffer from it, rebel against it, but a child cannot evaluate its life circumstances in objective terms. The same holds true with the pleasurable aspects. Both are part of the general climate the child does not question. In other words, you not only attempt to correct what you lacked in your childhood, but you also try to re-create what you did have then.

P6             But those who know themselves and understand their inner problems will also know what choices to make, even long before their inner problems are completely resolved. One is then in a position to act and to be in accord with eternal values. To the degree you felt unloved, the conflicted feelings of love and guilt will have damaged you. Both play a role only because psychic unrealities were already in you before you were born into this life.

You will see that a great deal of anger and resentment exist not only in connection to what you did not have, but also in respect to what you did have and wish to continue having. (examples) If a girl loves her father very much she may ask for the same love in a man, later. The child may experience the love for the father, almost in a sexual way, and later she wants the same love from the man, but can’t get it, then she may have a shame in this respect.

If parents are neglectful in some ways and, through their guilt, are particularly indulgent toward a child when it is sick, the child will want the sickness in order to get the love. Later in life, when the person is sick, he will be disappointed and hurt when the love is not forthcoming. At the same time, he will be ashamed for using sickness to get love.

P7             If a human being wants to reproduce pleasurable childhood conditions in later life, it indicates a desire to remain a child. It indicates greed and lack of self-responsibility. Most people wish to be regarded as mature, while at the same time desiring the advantages of childhood. The desire to be a child, as well as anger for the frustration, must create shame. As you know, the idealized self-image denies all limitations. It pretends possessing all that the personality feels is lacking.

The pretense of the idealized self is the crux of the matter. The pretense not only hides what the child felt to be missing in its life, but also what it did have and what it wants to continue having. Perhaps you were praised for some real qualities you suspected you did not possess to the same degree your parents claimed. Or maybe you still think these qualities are absent, because they are diluted with your various self-doubts and distortions. Find what is specifically significant for you.

P8             If a child was a favorite and in a privileged position, is it that later he may unconsciously claim a similar privileged position? That he wants special consideration? ANSWER: Yes, indeed. This may be absolutely unconscious, for it may be diametrically opposed to one’s idealized self. If the child held this special position because it was a good child, being good then becomes an integral part of the idealized self. Goodness means also self-sacrifice and unselfishness. Yet this contradicts the claim for special treatment.

—The Pathwork® Guide