How did I get into the business of unconscious shame?

Unconsciously, of course—very unconsciously. I wasn’t even born at the time.

In 1932, my grandmother had an affair. My grandfather not only divorced her, but went to court for custody of my mother. In the 1930s this was pretty exceptional. As a retired Royal Air Force Wing Commander, twice decorated for bravery in the Great War, he was an upstanding member of society while my grandmother was a harlot. He won.

This might seem like a victory for social justice, but it emotionally destroyed my mother. The sense of shame that her own mother had abandoned her for a sexually illicit relationship crippled her for the rest of her life. There was a similar tale of abandonment and sexual wrongdoings on my father’s side.

As a sensitive child, thanks to the mechanics of generational shame I copped a double dose of my parents’ unresolved traumatic feelings of abandonment and sexual shame. This led to an emotional collapse during my teens that seems to have been some version of what is now known as depersonalisation disorder. Life seemed to recede from me. I felt like I was watching it through the wrong end of a telescope, unable to create the basic building blocks—education, career, friendships, relationships—others seemed to manage with ease.

After a brief career in banking, when at 19 I became the youngest loans officer in New Zealand for the ANZ Bank, I moved into the IT world in the 1980s. I worked as a process analyst and software developer for major industrial and governmental clients in New Zealand, Asia, North America, and Britain.

While my business career flourished, my personal life didn’t. As a result I began—unconsciously at first—to apply my analytical skills to my own emotional processes. This led to the realisation that I was profoundly ashamed of myself—an unconscious shame that kept me mired in disempowering beliefs and dysfunctional behaviours.

It took me a while to realise that this unconscious shame is endemic in society. It surfaces in people’s dislike of public speaking or of having their photograph taken. In fears of authority, responsibility and commitment. In embarrassment with body functions and sexuality. It underlies anxiety, panic attacks, eating disorders, addictions and self-harm. It underlies the dysfunctional sexual behaviour revealed in the wake of the allegations against Harvey Weinstein and other prominent figures.

This led me into the world of education, where I became the Chair of Governors of my son’s primary school. In 2010 I was commissioned by the Thames Valley Police to create a primary school musical on the emotional roots of extreme behaviour. When Chemistry goes Bang! has been staged at several schools in Milton Keynes. For two years I was part of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children’s ChildLine Schools Service, educating primary school children to recognise all forms of abuse. I also have an NCFE-certified Advanced (Level 4) Diploma in Life Coaching from Stonebridge College.

In 2016 I partnered with the Milton Keynes Council to create Stepping Stones: building school capacity to resist radicalisation. This workshop has been delivered to local primary schools with support from the Thames Valley Police and Safer MK.

I am a Toastmaster and enjoy the freedom from shame of life modelling.

My blog posts focus on the emotional history of patriarchy and the damaging effects of shame, particularly on men’s sexual health. I also post about the accelerated personal growth process known as Ascension that highly sensitive people are increasingly experiencing. My aim is to reduce complex emotional reactions to clearly understandable mechanical processes. I post about once a week.


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