Shame shapes how we relate during holidays

For those of us who have experienced scams, and the shame that comes with this, holiday periods with family and friends can be very difficult.

For myself, at times like this when I am in a social situation, even with family, it is easy to just sit in the corner and not communicate and connect with others.  This is because underneath it all, I feel broken, unworthy, unlovable. I think I am not worthy of being a friend to anyone, so I am likely to be stand-offish and not initiate any conversations or connections. Others may find me as reserved, and interpret that as me thinking I am superior. Underneath it all, how can I trust others to like me or be real with me when inside I do not trust myself, or like myself for what I have done.

This is how shame operates, by isolating us and shutting us down.
We think we avoid pain, embarrassment, and blame by keeping what has happened to us a secret.  Unfortunately we cannot only keep this one thing secret.  It leaches into other parts of us, making it difficult to share other parts of ourselves as well.  The end result is to further isolate us into ourselves and prevent the development of supportive and intimate friendships/relationships.

The one thing that I found was an antidote to shame was when I began to speak out publicly about the scam I experienced.  When I decided to speak out I was able to say to myself “I have made a mistake, and to make mistakes is human.  We are allowed to make mistakes and to learn from them.”  It meant I was vulnerable, sharing my ‘mistake’ with the world letting everyone know I was not the perfect person I might wish others to see me as.  But it was only a mistake.  This gave me the strength to face up to what had happened.  Each time I spoke out I gained strength, I regained my self-respect, because I was being true to myself and what had happened. There is nothing wrong with making mistakes in life. 

Cassandra Cross

People cope differently from this experience: some are angry, some are depressed, some talk of suicide, while others spend every waking hour trying to figure out how they were scammed and try to prevent it happening to others.

Love Hurts: the costly reality of online romance fraud, 
The Conversation 11 December 2014

The mistake I own up to was that I did not see the lies being told by the scammer., I believed him.  Research shows that 60% of the time, people cannot detect lies, so really, I was with a lot of others in the human pool!  Soit raises the question, why do we feel so much shame from this one mistake, when it can happen to so many of us?

When we are scammed we think it is just us and the scammer, in our ‘special’ relationship and we believe them.  The truth is it is not a one-on-one situation.  Scammers often have a team of people beside them.  You might meet other team members as the scammer’s child, friend, lawyer or other official, or a nurse or doctor after a car crash.  You might not realise that the person you speak to on the phone or web is not the same person who is texting you or emailing you. 

one fish swimming in the opposite direction of a troupe of fishes

It is really a one against many situation, and yet we are so ashamed that we did not see it.  How could we? It should not be shameful to not realise we a dealing with a business behemoth, that the power differential is gigantic.  One caring, loving and naïve person against a team of skilled and deliberate fraudsters. We got caught by their lies and in their manipulations, and gave our money.  If we had been rational, we would not have done this.  Yet ‘society’, many people who do not know the truth of what happens, blame us, the victim, for not suspecting the lies, for not being able to stay rational in the face of skilled and deliberate emotional manipulation.

The victim blaming must stop. It does not respect the truth of what happens in scams and damages and traumatises people with shame. It is more an indication that people want to separate themselves from the possibility that they could also be caught in a scam and make out it could/would not happen to them. It is a defence mechanism by those yet to be caught in scams.

Trivialising scam victims by assuming they are just lonely old women or men is another way scams are misrepresented.  Anyone can get caught in them…

In our holiday social gatherings there should be space to be real with each other, admit our mistakes, and still be loved for the unique individuals that we are. But despite the supposed good wishes of the season we are not there yet for romance scam victims.

I encourage all victims feeling shame to find someone they can trust to tell of their mistake.  Tell them about what you have learn from this blog, that there is more to scams than they think. This can build understanding of how scams really work, and maybe by this time next year things will be improved.

Best wishes of the season, and wishing you strength, honesty and healing in the year ahead.

Published by

Jan Marshall

I was the victim of an online romance scam in 2012. I lost over $260k. I share my understanding about what happened, how I recovered and the latest trends

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