Saturday, November 3, 2012
Dissertation on shame. Chapter 20.2 Revenge
Trude seems to blame herself for being abused by her father and Weinberg (1994) argues that self-blame negatively affects feelings of self-worth and consequently hinders recovery. Blaming others does not directly decrease feelings of self-esteem, but, to the extent that it leads to thoughts about seeking revenge, it potentially lessens their feelings of regard for themselves and thereby also limits their recovery. Three of the participants spoke of revenge in the interviews and they mentioned for a total of seven times, suggesting in my opinion that this is not among the most urgent subjects in this study. The desire for revenge, argues Parkes and Weiss (1983), can keep people focused on their loss and hinder them in the healing process. Satisfying ones thirst for revenge is not an easy matter either. It might involve acts that are socially disapproved or outright illegal. The pledge never to forget until justice is done can in my opinion, become a pledge which makes recovery very difficult if not impossible.
Olga, Trude and Sally speak of the silent thirst for revenge they had in relation to desiring the death of mother, father and stepfather. Olga had wished that her mother would die because she never was there when she needed her. Her mother was often ill, and when her mother did die, she felt that it was her fault because she had wished that she would die. She doesn’t use the words guilt or shame, but she expresses a bad feeling in connection to her mother’s death. Olga and Trude speak of the good feelings they had when their father and stepfather died. They had abused them sexually as children, and they describe that feeling as fantastic; it filled them with joy and tranquillity, even though Trude also says that she was ashamed of feeling so glad about the death of the man who had abused her.
Olga: I had real problems when she died…I was real mad at her because she never was there for me ((Shakes both hands against each other)) I just wished she would die. ((Lifts both shoulders and lifts both arms out from her body)). She was mad so often because she was sick. And then ((Her hands fall down like an axe)) when she did die right afterwards I felt that ((Points both hands at her chest)) I wished I’d never said it and that it was my fault that she died. My wish came true.
Trude: I remember feeling ashamed the day he died because I was so glad. It lasted only a moment, but it was shame I felt, standing there seeing that he was dead…I can still feel that glad and happy feeling when I think of him dead, just laying there, in complete silence. I feel tranquillity.
Sally: You get a kick when your abuser dies. You do. I think that’s fantastic…I just felt joy when mine died…I didn’t weep, I rejoiced. It was evil but I celebrated.
Blaming oneself for the death of a parent as Olga has done, is irrational, but none the less disturbing. It was a wish she had as a child that her mother should die, and when she because of an illness, Olga blamed herself. Her wish had come true. Blaming oneself is related to a feeling of guilt, and in this example an irrational guilt. Weinberg (1995) has carried out a study on the relationship between self-blame for the death of a loved one and the subsequent psychological recovery from the loss in a sample of 244 persons who had suffered the death of a loved one. His data indicates that the use of self-blame is associated with poorer long-term adjustment. It was also found that self-blame often led people to make amends or reparations. When self-blame was linked to making amends, it became correlated with favorable adjustment outcomes. In Olga’s story which is characterized by a feeling of guilt, it might help Olga to forgive herself for thoughts she has had about her mothers’ death, but one should in my opinion also reflect upon the irrationality which lies behind her guilt and distinguish between rational and irrational guilt. Trude on the other hand feels shame for a moment after the death of her abuser. This feeling of shame seems also to be irrational, and it lasted also only for a moment before it was replaced by a more rational feeling of relief. This is also a feeling which Sally agrees with Trude in. There’s no rational basis for feeling guilt or shame over the death of ones abuser, and speaking together about this, they seem to give each other support that it is permitted to let go of irrational feelings of guilt and shame.
Kaare T. Pettersen
Pettersen,Kaare Torgny, 2009: An Exploration into the Concept and Phenomenon of Shamewithin the Context of Child Sexual Abuse. An Existential-Dialogical Perspectiveof Social Work within the Settings of a Norwegian Incest Centre. PhD 2009 Department of Social Work and HealthScience Faculty of Social Sciences and Technology Management. NorwegianUniversity of Science and Technology, NTNU, Trondheim, Norway. Doctoral theses 2009: 184