Marie: Relief, Terror, and Shame

Posted By: on March 10, 2015
Stressed or Calm?

Editor’s Note: This is part 15 in Marie’s story. What follows is a note to Carl from after our previous session.

Hi, Carl –

Most of my focus has been on sorting through the mix of emotions I felt while you were expressing anger toward my mom on my behalf. Here are the emotions/thoughts I have identified:

1) Relief that someone was finally coming to my rescue – even though I’m no longer in that situation, in that moment, I felt like I was back in the situation and you were stepping in to rescue me.

2) Terror at being in the same room as a direct, purposeful expression of anger. I wanted desperately to be invisible because I was sure I was going to suffer some sort of lightening strike. The only escape is to disappear.

3) Shame that I had been careless enough to allow our secret (the severity of the discipline) to be discovered by someone outside the family. My dad told us over and over we shouldn’t talk about being spanked because other people wouldn’t understand it, but that it was the best way and it was because he loved us – and that someday we would be glad he had been so hard on us.

4) Shame that, not only had I allowed the secret to escape, but I furthermore I took proactive steps to expose the secret. I made a very deliberate choice to bring you into the situation – I asked you to say those awful things to my mother – I failed to protect her from your anger (it was/is my job to protect her). This makes me an ungrateful and disloyal daughter.

5) Shame that, as a child, I desperately wanted to escape (or be rescued) from a home/family situation that was so ideal – I had it so good, how dare I be so selfish as to wish for something better?


I think the shame uncovered through the “anger at mom” exercise plays a huge role in many facets of my life. Because I have dared to follow a different path as an adult (not going to church, not being a Christian, sleeping with men outside of marriage, drinking alcohol, being divorced, being fat and depressed and unkempt, etc.), I feel I have committed treason against my family and the church – and even God.

I think that sense of having betrayed something my family believed in is a key factor in much of what is currently going on with me: feeling unlovable and unwanted, feeling separate and unable to reach God, unable to show who I really am to the general public, identifying as the black sheep of the family, driven to be perfect, feeling I don’t have the right to speak my truth, etc.

In processing all of this, I keep getting hit with a sudden sense of horror about what I’ve done (brought you into the situation). Whenever that hits, I keep telling myself I am now released from the duty of keeping the secrets. That response seems to be softening the horror.

The tough side of me wants to stand up and take the next logical step . . . why waste anymore time being stuck in this place of frozen-ness? My adult brain says I should stand up and boldly express my anger toward my mom. My child brain says I will die if I do. My adult brain says my child brain should just get over it.

I have finally realized and accepted that standing up and expressing my anger feels impossible to me right now. Expressing and owning my own anger feels still like an unforgivable act of familial treason.

So, I thought I could take an intermediate step – maybe repeat your words in my voice – maybe write a letter . . .

But, with frustration, I’m realizing my child brain is not yet ready for even that. This is where it would be helpful to practice compassion for myself. I need to give young Marie time and space for more healing before asking her to take such bold steps.

I need your help with this part. (Thank you, in advance, for providing that help!)

– Marie


Other posts in Marie’s series:

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