For the last few days I’ve found myself thinking about the concepts of tribal shaming and the mother wound. Both are instances where our familial or peer group try to shame or control us because we are not following accepted norms. Both are insidious and subversive ways of keeping us in line. Sometimes they are well-meant, subtle and unconscious; sometimes they are manipulative and intentional. In my experience many times these instances of shaming are thoughtless, an instinctive reaction to our own feelings of low self-worth or jealousy.
I never realized that there was a name for what I experienced with my mother and sister. I know both of them love me but I’ve also had occasions where I felt resentment from them and a sense of schadenfreude when I was having hard times. In their defense, I can often be irritatingly pompous and arrogant which I am sure is not a joy to deal with on a regular basis. So what came first – the shaming or the arrogance? I’m not sure. If truth be told I can’t remember a time when I didn’t suffer from “know-it-all-itis”. So did I (unintentionally, I assure you) shame my mother and sister? Quite possibly.
What is the point of this little post? Quite simple actually – although I do believe there are genuine instances of tribal and familial shaming, I also believe that payback is a bitch. So there may have been occasions when I experienced tribal or familial shaming they may also have been instances of people getting even with me for times when my know-it-all-itis irritated the crap out of them. I get it. I’m not innocent in the shaming or putting down of others. It may not be intentional but I’m sure that doesn’t make it any less hurtful.
So the next time you believe you’ve been the victim of tribal or familial shaming stop a moment before reacting. Think about it – is it possible you may have done something in the past to trigger some of these responses? I’m not claiming it’s all your fault or that there aren’t instances of truly hurtful and underserved shaming, simply that I think we can all unconsciously shame, embarrass or put down each other. Instead of pointing fingers let’s pause and take responsibility for our own behaviors. Maybe if we’re just a bit nicer to others they’ll respond in kind. And if not, you can always take a more assertive, no tolerance stance. Or maybe this is simply my experience and doesn’t apply to anyone else – your mileage may vary.