February, 2001

Edited selections from the ASCA newsletter.

The original newsletter (pdf)


  1. A Reflective Moment for February: Recovery’s Soothing Salve
  2. Rotation C Topic: Possible Meeting Topic for February: Shame: The Clinging Residue of Abuse
  3. ASCA Meeting Ongoing Education Moment: Preparing for an ASCA Meeting
  4. Poetry: “Remedy for Depression”, by James Daniel

1. A Reflective Moment for February:
Recovery’s Soothing Salve

by George Bilotta

(The following brief article is a continuation of our monthly series focused on pondering some of life’s basic questions.)

Eroding a person’s sense of respect for self, others, and things in the world remains one of the insidious and complicating aspects of child abuse. With every incident of abuse, our concept of respect was distorted, and our feelings of respect were emptied. Our abuser(s) did not respect us. We felt conflicted about respecting them since most of the time we were familiar with our abuser(s). They were our fathers, mothers, guardians, siblings, relatives, friends, teachers, religious pastors, etc. On one hand, we were told and we felt in some ways that we needed to respect these people, yet on the other hand, we did not feel respected by them.

Respect is a feeling or a state of appreciation, deferential regard, and esteem. In a sense, respect is a fundamental way through which we look at the world—at ourselves, others, things, and the events of our daily lives. Do we regard others and ourselves with gratitude, with courtesy and goodwill, and with valued and prized esteem?When we have diminished respect, it is like interacting and viewing the world through eyeglasses fitted with the wrong prescription lenses. Everything is distorted. Reality becomes blurred. Our interpretation of what is happening around us and within us lacks clarity and truth.

Increasing our capacity to be respectful toward the world and ourselves is a lifelong, daily process. My experiences suggest that building a respectful approach to life has more to do with cultivating a heart full of appreciation, courteous and goodwill regard, and with valued and prized esteem. Respect is a representation of the way we try to live our daily lives. If we strive to foster appreciation, goodwill, and esteem for the inherent value of ourselves, others, and things in the world, our lenses through which we view the world will sharpen.We will experience true focus. This attempt is what being respectful, having respect, and demonstrating respect is all about.

In a lighthearted way, the comedian Rodney Dangerfield often states that “I get no respect.” We might say that we do not give, receive, or earn respect. Rather, respect comes about by trying to live appreciatively, trying to extend goodwill, and trying to prize the inherent value found within all of life. When we try to live our daily lives in this manner, respect is present and thrives in our lives. This respect reduces the insidious and complicated effects of our childhood abuse. Trying to live a respectful life today has little to do with our past childhood abuse. It has everything to do with the way we specifically, intentionally, and purposefully try to live life today. Respect is one of the cornerstones on which a healthy, fulfilling, and meaningful life is built. Trying to live respectfully is recovery’s soothing salve.

2. Rotation C Topic:
Possible Meeting Topic for February:
Shame: The Clinging Residue of Abuse

Shame adheres to most of us. No matter how much resolution we seem to achieve in our recovery from childhood abuse, shame seems to cling to us, just like gluey sap from a pine tree. Pine sap, like our shame, sticks to our fingers, to our spirits, even after repeated washing, even after intensive recovery work. There is less sap, but we can still feel its leftover stickiness on our fingertips. There is less shame, but we sense that it lurks right around the corner, ready to gum up and disrupt our lives.

Healthy shame occurs when we do something wrong, like betraying a friend, behaving cowardly, promoting harm, etc. Remorse accompanies healthy shame. We acknowledge that we have done wrong. We feel guilty and try to make amends in order to right the wrong and reconnect with the offended person(s). On the other hand, unhealthy shame occurs when we have not done anything wrong yet we blame ourselves. We are totally innocent, yet we perceive in a distorted and false manner that we are co-conspirators. We accept some of the responsibility for the wrongdoing. Unhealthy shame tampers with the truth and blurs reality.

When we experience shame from our past child abuse experiences, it seems to arise in part from a sense of guilt, humiliation, and/or embarrassment.

First, shame, as a painful emotion, intensifies when we feel guilty that we in some way caused the abuse to happen. We feel guilty when we accept responsibility for the abuse, even if it is only a small part of the responsibility, rather than holding our abusers accountable. The guilt intensifies our shame. Part of shame’s remedy calls us to hold our abusers firmly responsible for their vile behaviors. In addition, we need to renounce repeatedly that we were responsible in any way whatsoever for the abuse. When we hold our abuser(s) totally and wholeheartedly responsible, it is like using paint thinner to cut through the sap of shame.

Second, shame also infects us since the physical, sexual, and/or emotional abuse we experienced as children humiliated us. Through repeated abusive behaviors, we were reduced from the status of a unique human being to a common ordinary thing. This ongoing experience of humiliation oozed with shame and dripped with dishonor, disgrace, and degradation. A child or teenager is not capable of coping with such humiliation and humiliation’s discrediting ways. To cope, many abuse victims assumed the rank of the insignificant, unworthy, inadequate, and unimportant. The restorative for humiliation seems to rest in trying to live a respectful life. When we appreciate, extend goodwill, and value others and ourselves, then we reverse the downward spiral of humiliation. We restore our sense of respect, value, and esteem.

A third aspect of shame that can be even more difficult and insidious is the shame brought on by embarrassment. Many of us feel embarrassed that we come from dysfunctional and/or abusive families. We feel embarrassed that our fathers, mothers, siblings, relatives, and close family associates used our innocence, trust, and goodwill for their twisted pleasure, for the target of their displaced rage, for their emotional underdevelopment. We feel embarrassed that we have been or continue to be in some way associated with these people. Through no fault of our own, we may have ended up with abusive parent(s), hurtful siblings, evil relatives, or despicable people, who referred to themselves as friends of the family. We feel embarrassed by this association, which increases our shame.

We are probably embarrassed because we care about—we are invested—in some manner, and we are concerned about what other people think about us and about the family from which we come. We want too much for people to think well of us. We are often afraid and concerned that if they knew our background, they would think ill of us, and that they would not like us nor want to socialize with us. Because I might care more about what others think than what I think, I unfortunately distort my pride. When we build our lives on the foundation of false pride, we will often contort our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors to fit the mold that someone else designed. In many ways, the relief and solution to this type of embarrassment-based shame is detachment from pride. (The concept of pride and detachment will be a future discussion.)

  1. How would you describe your experience of shame? How do you experience unhealthy shame?
  2. Do you experience unhealthy shame by taking responsibility for the abuse you experienced as a child or teen?
  3. What is your experience of shame through humiliation?
  4. What is your experience of shame through embarrassment?

3. ASCA Meeting Ongoing Education Moment:
Preparing for an ASCA Meeting

There are many different thoughts concerning whether to or how to prepare to participate in an ASCA meeting. One thought goes that one should just be spontaneous in the meeting. Sometimes, another person’s share will spark something within us. Often, we find it helpful for our recovery to share this spark during the meeting. Another thought notes that it can be overwhelming at times to dwell on the past, especially during the initial phase of recovery from childhood abuse. This stance points to the wisdom that a safe and supportive time and place to let memories and feelings surface would be during an ASCA meeting. Just being present and listening to others share can be an emotionally healing massage.

For participants who feel comfortable and have the time and energy, thinking about what one wants to share might assist in reaping more from the meeting. There are many benefits to reflecting on material that one might want to share in a meeting. One benefit is that it can keep us in touch with our feelings. Another benefit is that it permits us to review and recall the past in a safe and focused manner. When we dwell on what we want to talk about at the next ASCA meeting, all kinds of thoughts, memories, and feelings seem to connect with each other. We seem to gain some insight and a little emotional resolution by ruminating over material for a possible share.

When the next ASCA meeting is Rotation B—step, or Rotation C—topic, the step or topic can assist in focusing our reflections. Some members find it helpful to read over the step or topic every day or every other day just to keep it fresh and focused in their minds. This repeated refocusing often unearths a recovery treasure of thoughts and feelings, adding one more piece toward resolution and healing.

There might be some benefits to members exchanging different ways that they use to prepare for an ASCA meeting. The meeting might spend a little time discussing various strategies for preparing for an ASCA meeting. Often, our strategies depend on our time and energy levels. There is no single answer to preparing. Preparation, in part, depends upon where we are in our recovery.

4. Poetry

Remedy for Depression

by James Daniel, Copyright 1999

I have no childhood
For which I need to sacrifice.
I have no emotion left
That hasn’t broken through the ice
No more empty screams inside

No more want to run and hide
Now no longer in the vice
No more cutting up my heart and asking who would like a slice
No more past tagging along,
No more wondering where I belong.

Can this be I’m finally free?
Can this here be the “finally me”?
Where’s the anger, where’s the fear?
Where’s the dread no longer near?
All I suffered, all that pained

Long lost innocence now regained?
How’d this happen, how’d this change?
How’d I get to rearrange?
When’d the war end, battle won?
When’d I start to have some fun?

One roll of the dice may not suffice
Pick ’em up and roll ’em twice
If that won’t work, then roll ’em thrice
Remember all the hurt you feel
May fade fast in the final reel.

Don’t give up, don’t just quit
Throw a tantrum, have a fit
No more Miss or Mr. Nice.
Ask for help to pay the price
You can buy back self-esteem.

Sell off all the blame and shame
Persevere until the end
That’s the way you win the game!
Love yourself, live your life
And by the way will fall the strife.