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Shame Didn’t Make Him Do It

by | Abuse Literacy

Attachment isn't the problem and it won't solve it

Secret porn use, sexual coercion, manipulation, gaslighting…

He’d have you believe his shame made him do it. So would sex addiction experts and social media influencers who have found a scapegoat in “shame” and are holding onto this concept with an iron fist.

But the truth? His shame didn’t make him do it. He chooses to be abusive and unfaithful. Every single time.

It’s a choice.

Kate’s back on the BTR podcast with Anne to dissect the truth behind shame. Read the full transcript below and listen to the BTR podcast for more.

He Said “Shame Made Him Look At Porn”

Clients in the BTR Group Sessions regularly share horror stories of their husbands and ex-husbands admitting to secret porn use, blaming their “shame”, saying that feelings of shame compelled them to use pornography.

Anne explains why this is how abusive men avoid accountability:

Everybody feels shame. Some people feel shame and so they eat ice cream. Some people feel shame and they go for a run. Some people feel shame and they start crying. Shame is not the cause of someone looking at porn.

Anne Blythe, founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery

A common scenario that plays out in abusive homes: the abuser betrays his partner, then claims to feel so shameful that he cannot help but further betray her by using pornography.

Then when victims react in shock, anger, or sadness, the abuser and his enablers (therapists, clergy, family, and friends) further traumatize the victim for not “supporting” the abuser. There is nothing okay about this.

“Our Therapist Told Me To Stop Shaming Him”

Couples counseling is not advisable in an abuse scenario – often, therapists and counselors will side with the abuser and blame the victim.

Sometimes, therapists will counsel the victim to stop “shaming” the abuser for his abusive behaviors. They may counsel victims to try to connect with the abuser more in an attempt to help “heal” his “addiction” or soothe his shame. Anne says:

The problem with abusers is they are not safe to connect with. And the more you try to connect with them, the more abused you get.

Anne Blythe, founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery

This therapy model ultimately blames victims and is dangerous. When abusers do shameful things, they should feel shame and they should deal with that shame in healthy ways.

Healthy People Deal With Shame in Healthy Ways

Most human beings feel shame. It’s a normal part of the human experience.

You may feel shame when you tell a white lie or leave your shopping cart in the wrong part of a parking lot. By the “sex addiction” logic, every time you felt shameful for poor behavior, you would harm the people you love. Does that add up to you?

A healthy person deals with their shame in healthy ways and an unhealthy person deals with their shame in unhealthy ways, but is not the cause of anybody’s behavior.

Anne Blythe, founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery

BTR Is Here For You

If you’ve been counseled to soothe your abuser’s shame or your abuser’s behavior has been excused because of his shame, you’re not alone. We’ve been there and it’s infuriating and confusing.

Join our BTR Group Sessions to process this trauma. We love you.

Anne (00:00):
Welcome to BTR. This is Anne.

Anne (03:38):
So let’s talk about why those two concepts in the context of abuse are super, super dangerous. I think it’s all they’ve got. They can’t think of anything else to say. Otherwise they’d be telling her, get to safety and set boundaries, but they have to sort of pretend like it’s not that big of a deal. So that she’ll stay because they’re kind of worried about her leaving that that’s their main concern because their main concern is him. Their main concern is not her. So at BTR, our main concern is her. Our main concern is, is she safe? Is she okay? Does she have her needs met in the pornography addiction, recovery world? The main concern of these professionals is him. And so they don’t want his support system leaving him because then that could be bad for his addiction or something. Right. It could be bad for him, but they never stop to think. Is it good for her? We’re speaking in generalities here. Like, are there some great, helpful addiction professionals? And the answer to that is yes –

Kate (04:33):
But I will say, if there are good CSAT or good sex addiction therapists out there, if they’re actually really, really good and they do understand abuse, it has nothing to do with their sex addiction training –

“Shame Does Not Cause People To Look At Porn”

Anne (04:43):
Right? Yes. I agree. It has to do with your abuse training, Kate and I, again, I’ll put words in your mouth here, but we don’t actually think that shame is even like a thing. Everybody feels shame. Some people feel shame and so they eat ice cream. Some people feel shame and they go for a run. Some people feel shame and they start crying. Shame is not the cause of someone looking at porn. And also you cannot, no matter how much you like try to help someone and try to like, oh, this is gonna be triggery for him. So I’m going to throw his mail away or oh, whatever else people do, cause they’re worried that it might trigger him and they don’t wanna activate his shame. So they’re not gonna tell him, I hate the color blue. You wanna paint the room blue? I don’t like it blue. If I say I don’t like blue, is it gonna shame you? So I don’t want him to look at porn. Shame does not cause people to look at porn.

Kate (05:39):
It does not at all. It could be a fueler, but it does not. Because you also have men who feel no shame at all for watching porn – they did not grow up in religious culture. They did not grow up with any outside source saying, ooh, porn is bad and yet they’re still having issues with it.

“A Healthy Person Deals With Their Shame in Healthy Ways”

Anne (05:58):
Right? There are also men who, when they feel shame, they go talk to their wife and they say, man, this thing happened at work. And I feel really stupid about it. They don’t look at porn when they feel shame. Shame is a normal human emotion that should not be avoided at all costs or that we should be striving to like, oh my word, how can we reduce shame or whatever? It’s something that happens that we need to be healthy about. And a healthy person deals with their shame in healthy ways and an unhealthy person deals with their shame in unhealthy ways, but is not the cause of anybody’s behavior.

Kate (06:32):
Yes, yes. And I understand where people have become a lot more obsessed about the whole shame thing. Like if you talk about the actual dictionary, definition of shame, shame is not always bad. And however, if you’re going off of Brene Brown’s definition, which I still, I love her definition of it, then yes, shame is not good. But we kind of have to like find a balance between the two, because shame isn’t actually always bad because if you go by the dictionary definition, it can be healthy. It’s not always that I am a bad person.

Anne (07:08):
Right. And even the bad person thing, right? Like let’s to put this in perspective, like Brene Brown is great and she’s trying to help people deal with their own shame. She’s not trying to help people deal with other people’s shame. But some people actually are bad people.

Kate (07:23):
Yes.

“You Are What You Choose To Do”

Anne (07:24):
We just need to acknowledge that. Right? So like if someone continually hurt someone, they continually use porn, they continually cheat. Then what are they? So to put that in perspective, if somebody skis every Saturday, they’re a skier. If someone plays tennis twice a week, they are a tennis player. They play tennis, right? If someone runs track and they do baseball and all kinds of things, they’re an athlete, right? You are what you choose to do. So if someone is continually lying, they’re a liar. If someone is continually using porn, they’re a porn user and the scriptures have a word for this, the Bible, uh, whatever scriptures you use it is called wicked. Okay. And there is nowhere in the scriptures that I have ever seen that it says, and he was wicked because he felt shame. And so the people were super nice to him. And then this wicked person stopped being wicked because he, they said, no, you’re not wicked. We love you. You’re not a bad person. You’re not a wicked person. Just these things you’re doing are wicked. No, in the scriptures, it actually says they are a wicked person. They are wicked because they choose evil things over and over again. Part of the accountability and honesty and authenticity is for these men to actually recognize, I technically really am a bad person.

Just Call Things What They Are (For Crying Out Loud)

Kate (08:46):
Yeah. That doesn’t mean you will be forever if you don’t want to be. But yeah, you are being a bad person. Like, like I don’t see why it has to be stigmatized. Why is this word bad? I have to be such like a, no, you can’t say someone’s a bad person. They’re not, that’s not who they are. And I’m like, what, what? So you’re saying Hitler’s not a bad person. I’m pretty sure we can call him a bad person. Or like Alfred Kinsey. I can call him a bad, disgusting person. Cause he is like, he was, there’s nothing wrong with that.

Anne (09:14):
Right? Your behavior defines who you are.

Kate (09:18):
And it doesn’t mean that they were always bad. And that doesn’t mean that they can’t change. But right now, yeah, what they did, they are a bad person. Like it’s okay. And putting more stigma around it and be like, oh, we can’t call them bad. That actually makes it worse. And then fuels the problem.

For Community Members Who Have A Faith Background

Anne (09:37):
Right? There’s a scripture that is in our faith. That is from Alma 5. And those of you who are from our faith will know the scripture. It’s Alma 5:25. And in our faith, people always say, well, he’s a child of God, right? They say, this person is a child of God. So we need to love them. And they’re not a like, instead of saying he’s wicked. They say, well, he’s a child of God. And I think, mm, okay, well listen to the scripture. This is Alma 5:25. I say unto you nay, except you make our creator a liar from the beginning or suppose that he is a liar from the beginning, you cannot suppose that such can have a place in the kingdom of heaven, but they shall be cast out for, they are children of the kingdom of the devil. And there are other scriptures that say he is a child of hell.

Anne (10:23):
So I don’t think a church, it would be wise to walk around saying, oh no, he’s not a child of God. He’s a child of hell. You know, that probably wouldn’t be the wisest thing to say. But technically speaking, this is a wicked person who has chosen to do this. And until they recognize that their choices have created a wicked character and they literally are a wicked person. And if they don’t change, they are going to continue to make wicked choices. Then I don’t really think they have the humility in order to be able to make those changes and us telling them, no, you’re, you’re good. You’re not bad. You’re fine. Minimizing their shame for them. Not that you’d be like, you’re a child of hell right to their face or whatever. But in your mind you can think, no, this is someone who’s wicked. It never says anywhere in the scriptures and they were wicked. And so we did not shame them. And we told them, no, you’re not wicked. You’re good. You’re good. And, and then they stopped being wicked in the scriptures over and over and over again it says, and they were wicked. And then the advice our loving heavenly father is cast them out, meaning create boundaries. And that is over and over. If you are looking for that in the scripture, you will find it. It is all over the place.

“We Are Talking About Grown Men – Grown People Who Do Know Better’

Kate (11:39):
Yeah. I will add just in case, cause I’m guessing what some people might listen to this and be like, wait a minute. But I grew up thinking I was a bad kid and it didn’t help me. I’m like, I, we are not talking about kids or anything like that. We are talking about grown men, grown people who do know better. We are not talking about children or anything like that.

Anne (11:58):
We’re also talking about people who genuinely are making very sad decisions and hurting people. Children are just trying to figure stuff out. Children aren’t wicked.

Kate (12:08):
Yeah. They’re not, they’re not bad. Whereas an adult with a developed brain who does know better and you can always tell when they know better because do they do this in front of their boss? Do they do this in front of friends? Do they? And are they going to mistreat you like this in front of somebody else? And if the answer is no, he knows what he’s doing. Unless he has some anger issue where he’s angry literally to everyone, then I can be like, okay, maybe he really does legit have like some disorder or some anger problem. Otherwise, he’s choosing to. And yes it’s okay to say inside of yourself toward him, you are being a bad person right now. Abusive. You’re abusive.

Character Disturbance by Dr. George Simon

Anne (12:47):
There’s a really good book on our books page called Character Disturbance by Dr. George Simon. Our clinical director, Coach Joi really recommends that to really understand that this is not just some set of behaviors that are kind of troubling. This is like a whole system of this person’s character where they’re choosing to do these things. That that’s what makes it so dangerous and so difficult.

Kate (13:28):
And I would also say, it’s not cause of his childhood either. I used to even believe this, but the research actually does not show that the research shows that when someone’s abusive, it is because of entitlements, misogyny, their choices. And it is not because of their childhood,

Anne (13:45):
Right? Because we all know people who have had a really hard childhood who turn out to be really healthy adults. The response to that is, huh. Well, I know someone who went through a very similar experience to yours and they’re not abusive to their wife.

Kate (14:00):
Exactly. And thankfully the anti-abuse industry is starting to recognize this and they’re starting to teach this. It’s not because he is an addict. It’s not because he drank too much. It’s not because he had childhood trauma. That’s not why he’s abusive. It is because of entitlements and misogyny.

Connection is NOT the Solution

Anne (14:15):
Yeah. Let’s talk about connection as one of the things that the pornography addiction recovery world sees as the solution. And then next week, we’re actually gonna talk about victim blaming modalities and misogyny, what Kate was just talking about. So make sure you stay tuned for that next week. Let’s finish up this episode with “connection is the solution.” So, so many people are like, oh, there’s this crisis in your marriage. Right? And the way to solve it is by connecting. Why is that super, super, super dangerous advice to give to a victim of abuse?

Kate (14:50):
“The opposite of addiction is connection.” That it’s all crap.

Anne (14:54):
Yeah, yeah, yeah, exactly. That was a big Ted Talk.

Kate (14:57):
And I mean, okay, I’m not gonna say it’s like a hundred percent crap. Like yes, abusers, addicts, they do need connection, but connection is not going to heal them. Like that’s not going to like fix them. It’s not gonna like, oh, if I connect with him more, he’s not gonna be abusive. That does not happen. Um, and I know they gave the example of the rats who were addicted to the, I think it was cocaine or something. And then they put him in the other rat park and then the suddenly the rat didn’t want the cocaine anymore. Wow. He wanted to be another rat. And it’s like, you’re talking about a rat who didn’t have childhood trauma who didn’t have whatever like that doesn’t happen in reality. if it did, most of her husbands would not be abusive because we’ve given them all the connection and attachment and love in the world and it doesn’t work.

“You Cannot ‘Connect’ A Person Out Of Being An Addict”

Anne (15:42):
Right? No, the opposite of addiction is not connection. You cannot connect a person out of being an addict. And I think that for the addict, if they actually could stop using that drug, stop using porn completely. And if they felt negative emotions of any type or whatever, they, they actually would connect with someone and be vulnerable and be real. They wouldn’t be an addict. I mean, that’s the healthy thing to do. So for them to connect would be the opposite of using the drug. But the way that victims interpret that is, oh, I need to connect with him for, and they cannot do that. So they have to set boundaries, which then the addict might say, well, she set these boundaries so I can connect with her and they don’t even know how to connect.

Kate (16:37):
Yeah. It’s not even what wives have even interpreted. It’s literally what the guy in the Ted Talk said, oh, you know, he like gave some example of like helping an addict and wiping the sweat off of his brow and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And I’m like, oh yeah, he made it seem like, oh, you just gotta be there for them and, and help them through this. And it’s like, and you know, hey, who knows? Maybe that does work for maybe a heroin addict. I don’t think so. But let’s just say maybe it does, but that does not work with sex addiction. It doesn’t cause sex addiction is a whole other beast. It is like 10 times worse than any other addiction.

“Addicts Need To Learn How To Connect”

Anne (17:14):
Right. But I mean, I’ve never had a heroin addict in my life, so correct me if I’m wrong here, moms of heroin addicts. But I can imagine that they’ve tried the same thing. Right? I, I imagine that a mom might be like, I love you. I care about you. I’m here for you, you know? And you can live in my home and you can eat my food and, and the kid just keeps doing heroin. So I’m thinking like if the Ted talk guy, if he would’ve said addicts need to learn how to connect. And until they completely stop using their drug, people who try to connect with them, won’t be able to, that would’ve been more accurate.

Kate (17:51):
Yes. And that would’ve been much better instead. That’s not what he sadly.

Anne (17:58):
No. And it’s not the way it wasn’t. And he literally said it, but also it wasn’t the way it was interpreted at all.

Kate (18:04):
Oh yeah. Everyone’s like, oh, I gotta connect more with my husband. No, no.

Trauma Mama Husband Drama

Anne (18:09):
I’m gonna take a break here for just a second to talk about my book, Trauma Mama Husband Drama. You can find it on our books page which has a curated list of all of the books that we recommend. My book Trauma Mama Husband Drama is a picture book for adults. So it is the easiest way for you to explain what’s going on to someone who might not understand it. It’s also just a good reference for yourself because it shows what’s happening with very telling and emotional illustrations as well as infographics at the back. Back to our interview.

“The More You Try To Connect With Them, The More Abused You Get”

Anne (19:52):
The, the towels are over here. Like he had to pull himself outta the river. He had to hike back to your house. He had to get himself ready. He had to make his own meal. And at that point you might consider, Hmm. I wonder if he’s safe enough to share a meal with, because he’s exhibited all of the work that it would take in order to be safe enough to connect with. Because the problem with abusers is they are not safe to connect with. And the more you try to connect with them, the more abused you get.

Kate (20:20):
Cause they’re just usually manipulative.

Anne (20:22):
Exactly. One of the books on our books page is How to Kill a Narcissist. And in that book, it has a super interesting theory and it’s that they don’t actually feel shame at all, but they use shame as a way to activate your shame, to make you feel bad or guilty or in order to manipulate you. And so these victims who are like, oh, I don’t wanna shame him. Or they’re just using that as like, this is so fun. I can use this shame word, wrap her up in circles, but they actually don’t feel any shame at all. And the problem, isn’t their overwhelming shame. It’s their lack of shame completely. But of course, to other people, they have to act like they have shame. Otherwise they would just seem like monsters. That book was really interesting to like shift my focus from thinking, oh, they feel shame.

“I Cannot Connect With Someone Who Is Not Safe”

Anne (21:08):
Like some of these guys don’t feel any shame at all. So the connection issue for a victim is if anyone suggests or says that, Hey, they need to connect more. You always need to have in the front of your mind and in the back of your mind. And in every part of your mind, I cannot connect with someone who is not safe and he is not shown or exhibited safe behaviors. And so this connecting is impossible at this point. And you need to keep that in mind and you need to keep thinking that and hold those boundaries until you see all of those healthy behaviors. You sit on that couch, you watch Netflix until you see all of those things. And then it might be safe for you to stand up and have a meal with him. But only, only if he makes it.

Kate (21:52):
Yeah. And I think sometimes wives feel like, oh, but he was in this raging river and it must have been so hard and you gotta remind yourself. He jumped in that raging river for whatever reason he, his choices, let him there. And so if he does show up at the door, one way you might notice that he’s safe is if he comes in, he wants to tell you, oh, I’m so glad to see and is more vulnerable about his experience versus walks in the door. Can I need to tell, I need to tell and come rescue me. Oh, I need to be pampered.

Ugh, Abusive Entitlement

Anne (22:22):
Mm-hmm where’s dinner. Where’s dinner. Why isn’t dinner on the table? I can’t believe that I was out there struggling for my life. And you did not make dinner.

Kate (22:32):
Yeah. Instantly walk in there, like I’m entitled this stuff. Give me stuff.

Anne (22:37):
We’re gonna pause this conversation today and we’re gonna continue it next week. When we’re talking about victim blaming modalities and misogyny and how that all ties in Kate has done a ton of research and I’m really excited to talk to her about that. So stay tuned for next week. If this podcast is helpful to you, please support it. And until next week stay safe out there.

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1 Comment

  1. Mary Miller

    This is the best interview to address the entitlement the sex addiction recovery industrial complex gives abusers. For decades my husband was enabled and I was persecuted with this ‘Shame Shield’ from CSATs.

    In my husband’s disclosure, he acknowledged that he did not feel shame before during or after his abusive betrayal of wedding vows and integrity. He felt ENTITLED. When (every single!) therapist would dress me down and tell me not to ‘shame him’, I laughed and said, “how can I shame someone who feels no shame?” The conversation would devolve from there.

    Thank you so much for addressing this important topic.

    Reply

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