Shame Doesn’t Define Us

Experiencing shame is an emotional trek. There are instances where shame becomes personal or observant. Either way, we tend to judge shame on various emotional levels. The question is, “why?” What triggers shame into something so emotionally driven that is sometimes consumed how we perceive self versus others view us? The fact remains that shame begins with emotion but manifests into something more significant because assumptions are somehow believable facts when actually they still stay as emotion.

I chose to share a mug shot of myself taken years ago. It is not one of my proudest moments nor represents how I look. But it does share a brief moment of how I felt. The expression is angered, disappointment, emotion, and of course, shame. But the sentiment extends to areas I cannot control. Those areas are how others interpret the mugshot. The question I must keep asking myself is, “does that mugshot define me?” and “does it matter anymore?” The quick answer is, “no.” My mugshot is something that stirs shame and embarrassment at first. However, I began to look at it and wonder why it triggered shame. That is the moment I decided to take that mugshot and make it no longer shameful.

The first step in dealing with shame is to confront it face to face. That implies that I must take steps to de-escalate the emotion replacing it with a bit of laughter, mild anecdote, and restraint. Our lives are made up of decades of decisive moments yet sometimes a shameful moment of a few hours erases all the celebrated importances that do define us. My first step was to buy a really nice frame and print out my mugshot to hang somewhere prominent in my home. While this sounds ridiculous to some, it was a change to desensitize an emotional moment and perhaps introduce a talking point should someone ask, “is that a mugshot of you?” It is at that moment I am able to practice how to overcome fear, shame, and embarrassment by providing a short story of a chapter in my life that demonstrates perseverance over a brief moment to keep moving forward. It is someone similar to how the author Stephen Covey mentions the “inside-out” approach in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. The suggestion is to develop a reasonable, workable, and controlled mitigation plan so that you are in control of information that may be continually available to the public. Without these tools, at our side, there will always be shame thus placing an emotional gravemarker in the way we live and move forward.

Yes, there will always be discourse, criticism, vulnerability, and of course argument about public records, mugshots, and sensitive information in our daily lives. The sex offender registry presents a valid argument in how public shaming has become a targeting mechanism for the welfare of safety and perception by others. But it is that emotional and mental grave-marking that allows many to further disconnect from society because of shame and minimized voices with nearly one million registrants silently and quietly attempting to move forward leaving the first voice to allies. I would suggest to anyone on the sex registry to discover how to find your story, strength, and willpower not to hide with shame, but to confront it along with materials accompanying it.

Shame and public shaming is an emotion. Mugshots are a fact of public record that cannot be controlled but may be mitigated. A definite part of mugshots is that it provides an expression the emphasizes pain, hurt, and emotion. When others attempt to amplify that the accused wasn’t remorseful, expressed guilt or shame. I would argue to look at any registrant mugshot; you won’t find anyone smiling.

Unique Double Entendre

Sometimes in life, we may experience an event or circumstance where we are accused of something that didn’t happen, or we were not responsible for but cannot seem to shrug the allegation. All too many times we hastily read a splash headline where someone is charged with something and naturally our perception and sensation rush to judge just because there is something reportable. Either way we are either consumed by noise or the noise consumes us.

What we fail to realize is that partaking the sensationalistic and judgemental journey is no different than a sidelined lynch mob forming judge, jury, and executioner well before any established facts are assimilated. Regardless of narrative we either enjoy watching power being used in hopes for good or are overpowered in an attempt to recover the good from within ourselves. Often when we discover that truths are twisted or false allegations are discovered an immediate reaction is to become angry for a swift moment at the accusor but briefly feel remorse for the accused adding “I bet he/she learned a lesson.” But we as the observers learned absollytely nothing only to put unnecceary energy into the next upcoming news allegation.

The recent highlighting of sexual assault or sexual allegations has become so weaponized that despite all the warnings from high profiled cases as the Duke Lacrosse scandal didn’t teach or instill any valuable lessons learned that people, in fact, lie or misrepresent circumstances. Today, truth, reality, evidence, and motive have been significantly replaced by dishonesty, fabrication, concealment, and agenda. Why would people lie is perhaps that first plausible argument? A supporting fact is selling and technique. A salesperson may bend, adulterate, or skew the truth about something to convince and persuade others to rid of a problem or product. After all, corporatism is an integral part of our American DNA. While ethos, value or other attributes may be instilled upon all of us, we do have a nasty habit of cutting ethical corners where lies, deception, and opportunity become opportune weapons tucked away in our arsenal despite how insignificant it may appear to self or others. A common mantra for some is “just don’t get caught!” That alone can be a double edged sword or a unique double entendre.

A majority of individuals on sex offender registries or incarcerated are there because of plea deals created and expedited by a legal system with its own politicized agenda. This is not to imply that every person on the registry or incarcerated is innocent. What it does suggest is based on two stages. The first is the state possibly reduced a criminal charge for convenience to a judicial system without actually reflecting the merits of the crime. If it is convenience to the legal system then why not allow prayer for judgements as an alternative? Perhaps a reason is the legal system doesn’t make money from dismissals or set aside cases. Second, most sexually based offender crimes are either technologically related or he said-she said disagreement with a developmental phase towards the creation of violative standards. What that means, is interpretation instead of facts are introduced with the baggage of emotion, tissues of lies, and a hunch of what occurred. Examples could be where people arrested for possession of child pornography are deemed equal or similar to those that create and promote it. It brings to mind drug dealers versus drug users. Both are treated in the eyes of justice as criminals yet we rarely witness the prosecution or pursuit of drug lords or manufacturers. Why? Because of our clinging to the corporatism model that we disrupt one business opportunity to shift towards a newer and vastly improved business model much harder to pursue and capture. Therefore, law enforcement will continue to seek the little man because it creates an opportunity to rush judgment to hopefully develop a credible case and argument. 

Addiction Recovery

At the end of my military service, I was briefly involved in drugs. I took them to relieve the emotional pain and trauma of sexual assault and shame that I personally endured and was fearful of sharing with others. However, I did seek help to stop using drugs by attending Narcotics Anonymous which helped me with a step program to manage my life a little bit better than the day before.

When I witness or hear about other struggling with drug addiction, I have to first ask myself, “if the other individual has an underlying problem?” Additionally “do they wish to do something about it to stop using drugs?” Stopping the use of drugs whether they are recreational or prescription abuses begins with throwing in the towel asking others or someone for help. The journey to quit any addiction isnt a matter of going cold turkey, but a willingness to ask for help which seems to be a common stuck point for many trying to harness addiction and its behaviors associated with it.

In addiction counseling, I would often hear about substituting one drug for another. What that means is quitting drugs but doing something else as if it is a drug like drinking, smoking marijuana instead of doing cocaine or other similar addictive situations. But those in addiction recovery often find themselves battling manipulative behaviors to keep from returning back to one drug while sometimes substituting a minor drug deeming it as less harmful. The end result is that the cognitive abilities are wired to keep repeating the same processes over and over presenting no improved reasoning powers to overcome addiction. Somewhat similar to stopping smoking but using e-cigarettes as s justification to quitting. It is a good attempt and perhaps the first step but not stopping the habit of repetitive actions. That too is substituting one addiction for another.

Most people seeking recovery or families trying to find resources are often met with outrageous financial assessments for treatment centers or long-term commitment facilities. While some of these may be wonderful solutions, it isn’t practical to the typical person seeking recovery. A first recommended step is to attend an addiction meeting. Granted, to the person seeking recovery the meeting will initially feel like a bunch of people talking about their desires to use again, but the remarkable part is they are not using for that one moment. It is a support group; not a repair shop with a guaranteed service. The people in the group all share a common problem seeking others that can see beyond the bullshit talk and actions to keep a person in recovery and on a path. The suggested steps are not a speed trial. They are steps that will eventually take years or decades to complete. If a person fails, they start over from step one without penalty or scorn. Again, it is a support mechanism towards recovery.

It is the people not seeking recovery are the ones we should all worry or be concerned about. If a person can understand they need help but do nothing about it to take the essential first steps, then sometimes letting people hit rock bottom may sound bad, but is a common indication that they need to hit that point. Doing so allows that person to realize their path and justification isn’t doing them any good and won’t improve until they take action to do something about it. Sure, we worry about suicide or other contributors by doing or saying nothing because we don’t wish to make a metter worse. In fact, we are contributing to the addiction by trying to be untrained social workers allowing the manipulation and addiction to fester. Let me be clear that I am referring to substance abuse as the topic matter.

Addiction is strong and difficult to break. As observers, we must allow people to work out their differences and pathways. However, those that think they can manage on their own are only fooling themselves and manipulating others that recovery is a successful option if they are substituting one drug for another. It is just a matter of time before that single support mechanism breaks revisiting the whole cycle all over again. This is why recovery must have other people in recovery to make that connection with active sponsorship and accessibility to meetings whenever possible.

If you need help or want to help others, give them the address or number of an anonymous group in your area. If they use it, good. If they don’t, good. At least you have done your part. They have to want it.

New Year Resolution

To begin a prosperous New Year’s, it is essential to reflect on past events.

A few months ago I was assisting an ‘adoptive relative’ with his educational pursuits. Each semester he would receive a refund from his community college Pell grant into his own personal bank account. He accepted a student loan to purchase a laptop to continue the remainder of his junior/senior at a 4-year institution. What he didn’t know, at least what he said to me, was his “adoptive mother” had been siphoning his bank account unknowingly to pay for utility bills. A little over $7K was supposedly saved to continue college, not including the $2,250 student loan for a future laptop, and supposed inheritance money left by the person he knew as his grandfather. When he attended his recent student orientation, the money he had saved or thought was saved was gone entirely; except 90 cents.

When I confronted missing money issue I was repeatedly told by the adoptive mother “there was no refund” and continually barraged with no knowledge of a distributed college loan. Again, when confronted about the money I was told, “I only get a petty social security check each month” as to assert she was privileged enough to take from others with no restitution plan but also admitting to taking money from his account. His college plans and savings he thought was being saved over time been in exploited for other uses. She owns her own home, has no house payment, received child support payments, receives SNAP, worked part-time, and gets a social security check, and taking handouts from other family members. It wasn’t enough for her.

The money was in the bank the whole time and spent by her as she had custody and control of his bank cards the entire time.

When the onion is peeled back more, I learned that she had illegally opened a credit card account in her own daughters’ name twenty years ago before this incident. The daughter would eventually end up telling her “brother” everything that happened. The information was enough to break the camels back. He decided he had enough and needed a restart and safe, trusting place to influence his life.

He decided to move out and into his biological mothers home in Virginia. However, the drama escalated as he mentions the gifts and presents he acquired over the years were no longer legally his. He said, “they don’t want me to have anything or be successful moving forward. They want to sweep everything under the rug and blame me!” The texts he showed me was heartwrenching and hurtful, especially during Christmas. It wasn’t the “adoptive mother” that was texting or calling making him feel like a second-class family member. It was nearly the whole side of his adoptive family. Why? Because they only were privy to a one-sided story without listening to his accounts severe misdeeds and abuses.

Instead of making an issue right and being supportive of a young man and his decision making. The tables were turned to demoralize him with screaming filled emotions, anger, deceptions, and blame assessments. However, a positive light to all of this drama is that he made a choice to be safe from future abuses, mistrust, deception, and being labeled as second-class. He is now safely with a family starting over to learn about the true meaning of family and where one fits in the assimilation of generations.

New Years has a tradition each year where individuals make resolutions to better themselves. Sometimes a resolution is a decision that either is relevant or a timidity based on either emotion or fact. It is our personal stuck point in the decision making to choose either to be a better individual or want to sustain what we define ourselves by the level of our own transparency.

A lessons learned moment for me and resolution is to become a stronger advocate and remove myself from defamation of others so that I do not become a denigration and calumniation towards others. It is bad enough the world is already filled with more anger, hate, and blame assessment entrapping others to join in on the hate-filled drama train of emotional instabilities. If anything was learned from this observation was that a young man made a critical choice in his life and gave me the ability to pursue my future choices which I am grateful for and proud of his decision and wish him all the best in future outcomes.

To me, that is what resolutions should be in our transparent lives so that we are no longer second-class factual or feeling. Preferably we are bonded as unified individuals with a purpose to be better to ourselves and one another.

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