Inhibitory Shame

Dear Ms. Jacobs Bendel, 

Thank you for "It's Not Always Depression" on the New York Times website.

As someone who grew up with two Aspergers parents, the obligation for inhibition of emotion and the resulting shame that came from not being able to cleanse my emotions has really marked my life, and also the life of my sister.

I lived in the world of no, being told from an early age that it was shameful to hurt my mother even if what I was doing was just being a child, exuberant and focused on exploration.  Everything was about her pain, about a world that should be ashamed of how they didn't make her happy, and we were the closest at hand to be shamed and inhibited first hand.

I lived in a "no" world, where inhibition was the key, learning to only feel safe in that space where, as your client notes, "it is dark and I am alone."

I learned to understand and experience my emotions through sheer brainpower. a kind of hermetic quest for discipline and denial.   I eventually mastered what I call "concierge mode," which allowed me to take care of my parents in their last difficult decade.

The skills you taught your patient were vital, yes, but I hope you don't underestimate the other component you offered.   You encouraged and affirmed emotional engagement, someone who saw emotions, engaged and embraced them.

I learned how to get the tools, analyzing and understanding.  I never, however, found others who could be there and understand the lasting impact of that early shaming of self, internalized deeply and always held.  It leaves one profoundly alone.

I learned to trust myself, but learning to trust others with my feelings, bringing them out of that place where it is "dark and I am alone" has challenged me.   You went to that place and smiled for years, and that was part of the help that was needed.

Thank you for your article.   It is always wonderful to find new words and insights to understand a lifetime challenge.