What is “shame’ and why is ‘being ashamed’ such a painful experience?
I realise that I have felt much of my life that I am ashamed of myself in one way or another, and that this is profoundly unhelpful to me moving forward. Angela and I have unpacked some of the baggage associated with some aspects of my shame, but it is not yet fully expunged.
Wikipedia defines Shame as “A painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behaviour”
I can relate to that. The burning humiliation that is worse than guilt or regret. The sheer awfulness of reflecting on something you have done and feeling deeply ashamed of yourself. For not foreseeing the consequences, for not acting differently for being foolish or stupid or childish or DRUNK….
Ugh, I recognise it now for what is is, and that is progress.
Sitting in my audible library (and on my Kindle) has been Brene Browns work on Shame. I have not really been able to engage with it until now. I’m not sure why. Maybe its just been TOO overwhelming, or opened up too many unbearable emotions as I look at things that I have done / have happened and allow my self to realise just how much impact they have had on me…
Over the weekend, as I cleaned first my bedroom and then the communal areas of the house, I listened to the book “I thought it was just me… but it isn’t” which is essentially a book by Brene about the work she has done on Shame in women. The book is full of stories and illustrations, but it also offers some tools to boost ‘Shame resilience’. Having worked out, through her research, that Shame serves no useful purpose at all, is almost universal and that women all over the (at least Western) world suffer Shame about the same things …. The work goes on to explore how we might reduce the amount of Shame we experience and develop empathy, compassion and connection as an antidote to the corrosive and secretive influence of Shame …Brown calls this ‘Shame resilience’.
The website is here
On the website there is quite a useful worksheet here, which encourages us to look at and name the things we are ashamed of. I realise I have made quite a lot of progress that I can
- recognise shame for what it is
- face it
- realise that quite a lot of my shame is unnecessary
- being to appreciate how isolating and absolutely closed off it, the deep shame, has made me …. wait I’m going too far, I do begin to get glimpses of this, but I have some way to go before I can embrace it. I feel less awful about myself than I did, but still not exactly good ….
- begin to recognise where my personal Shame comes from: from society: from media: from my birth family (parents): from cultural expectations ….
Eliminating alcohol from my life has meant that there are many less shaming experiences to add to the list in the last 2 years. MANY less, and I am no longer ashamed of my drinking. I do wonder how much of my shame about drinking was really because I was drinking too much i.e. a real and appropriate perception of ‘the consciousness of bad behaviour’ and how much was ingrained into me by my mother who expresses extreme disbelief and distaste, (almost disgust) at ANYONE having more than two glasses of wine on ANY occasion (especially women) …
I’m going to complete that worksheet, if I am able to (because its actually VERY hard for me to do this) … and see where I get to. Looking through the sheet you do really need to listen to the book as well for it to make sense….but I feel more proactive in trying to wrestle with these issues.
I reflected today on a post I made almost a year ago Unanswered questions,
The quote I had discovered is reproduced below
Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart. Try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books written in a foreign language. Do not look now for the answers. They cannot now be given to you because you could not live them. It is a question of experiencing everything. At present you need to live the question. Perhaps you will gradually, without even noticing it, find yourself experiencing the answer, some distant day,
I genuinely think this process is weirdly like an unfolding story. What I look back I can see the progress and the development of my understanding, resilience and courage. At the time it feels exhausting, baffling, tedious and painful. But looking back I can see that when I first discovered Brene Browns work I literally could not deal with it. It was too enormous a shift for me. Now I am able to start.
Angela is back tomorrow. I don’t think a short break from therapy has been a bad thing, its interesting how one reflects and its hugely reassuring to me that I don’t turn into a demanding, needy client stamping my foot (as some people do to me) when my therapist takes a well deserved holiday. But I’m pleased I will see her tomorrow.
Because on Thursday I am intending to go to that AA meeting I keep thinking about….