Take a look below at some examples of life scripts that angry people play out in their lives. You may recognize yourself in these or you might see others you know in them. Even if they don’t seem to fit, think about the script and the roles that you may be playing out and try to identify, very specifically, how they have affected your life.
- The GOOD LITTLE GIRLS/BOYS who reacted to the shaming by seeking to please and placate others. They get resentful when no one seems to appreciate and value everything they are trying so hard to do.
- The arrogant and “powerful” REBELS who reacted to the shaming by flaunting authority and seething about the way things are. They spew venom on others and act out in self-destructive and hurtful ways whenever they perceive that someone is trying to control them or tell them what to do.
- The hard-working and successful SUPERACHIEVERS who reacted to the shaming by being “busy,” “productive,” and seeking to accomplish as much as is humanly possible to try to feel better about themselves and to get others to respect and love them. They become tense, stressed, and angry when their multitude of achievements and successes never seem to be enough to really allow them to feel truly okay about themselves, when there is never any time for themselves and those they say they love, and when the accolades they receive never seem to be enough.
- The self-sacrificing and long-suffering MARTYRS who reacted to the shaming by devoting their lives to looking after and taking care of others. They become annoyed when they don’t get the credit and thanks they think they deserve and when there is no one there to help take care of them.
- The SAVIORS who reacted to the shaming by taking on the job of rescuing those around them who seem to be continually floundering in their lives. They become irritated when those they are “saving” never seem to be willing and able to take care of themselves so that the saviors can actually find time to focus on their own lives.
- The perpetual VICTIMS who react to the shaming by feeling constantly persecuted by others. Their anger is manifested by their ongoing cynical and fearful view of life and the self-fulfilling belief that others will eventually disrespect and hurt them.
- The underachieving LOSERS who reacted to the shaming by never seeming to be able to “get it all together.” They feel furious or depressed that their lives are not turning out the way everyone else seems to be living.
- The CLOWNS who reacted to the shaming with laughter that hides the emotional pain of living day-to-day. Their anger develops when their humor starts to drift into sarcasm and hostility, distances even those who want to be close to them, and no longer effectively shields them from their underlying emotional pain.
It is critical to realize that the original shaming you experienced was not your fault and that you did not deserve to be shamed. You were not responsible as a child for the shaming script that others wrote for you. As all children do, you believed what you were told by parents, teachers, peers, and the other directors in your life. This is especially true when the shamers were the people you were supposed to be able to count on. Your vulnerability and fear kept you captive in the shame based drama.
But, in the present, you are the one who is responsible to change your life script. No one else will or can do it for you. Your shame is your responsibility as an adult. And the disrespectful anger, toward yourself or others, and the other unhealthy attitudes and behaviors that flow out of the shame are your responsibility as well.
Begin to imagine and write a new story, through your current thoughts, words, attitudes, and actions, about who you really are inside and who you truly want to be. Your disrespectful anger in the present only creates more shame for you and others. Make a commitment to yourself and to those who love you that you will take the necessary steps to change how you experience and express your anger.
If disrespectful, punishing, and explosive anger is a part of your own shame-based drama, it needs to change if you are ever going to be able to address and change the shame and feelings of inadequacy that fuel it. If you make the choice to do this, it can create an enormous difference in your own life and in the lives of those around you.
Dave Decker, MA, is a licensed psychologist in private practice in St.Paul, MN.