Chuck and I talked today almost entirely about family stuff, following my lead on the John Bradshaw book. I feel remarkably naive, not really having recognized how deep my pain is and how ingrained these family issues are in my psyche. It’s actually embarrassing to me and painful to think about these things, and I think I recognize that feeling from my upbringing — to avoid any family criticism or discussion in order to protect the facade.

I remember someone, some woman when I was in college I think, who was going on about how she liked to tell stories, embarrassing ones, about herself, then laugh about it. I recall feeling horror and repulsion at this. How could she retain dignity and talk like this? I’d never be caught dead laughing at myself or even making mistakes, thought I.

It’s not perfectionism, at least not the kind that produces paralysis, but I wonder where it came from? What would have happened if I had failed at something? Shame, ostracism? When my marriage fell apart, that was easily the first and most colossal failure in my life. I recall being embarrassed and not wanting to tell my family or friends because… why? because they’d think I was a loser. They’d know something about my life, and I wanted to be in control of what people knew. They’d be disappointed in me.

Removed from that experience by 20 years, it’s easy to say “so what? What if they knew?” But I can still recall the extreme shame, along with my preference for remaining isolated and lonely and trying to fix my own problems, never asking for help. It’s funny now in a pathetic sort of way, but it was no laughing matter at the time.