shame

Eve - Rodin (wikimedia commons)

Eve – Rodin (wikimedia commons)

Shame is something very complex
It is about integrity
It is about your self image
it is about your image to the world
It is about secrets
It is about the fear of those secrets being revealed
It is about the fear of being seen
being seen doing what you were not supposed to do
what you were not supposed to do according to your own conventions
It is about blackmail
It is about abuse, any kind of abuse
It is about you don’t wanting the world to know you are/were a victim
It is about guilt
It is about you don’t seeing the line any more between abuser and victim
It is about the abuser telling you that you started it.
It is about being exposed, feeling naked
feeling naked physically
feeling naked emotionally
feeling naked mentally
even feeling naked on a spiritual level
It is about mockery
Unknown and known people making up an image of you
laughing at you
taunting you
despising you

We say “I feel ashamed”
That emotional/physical part of it is something like blushing, and blushing is short lived.
The shame gets a mental shape, the mind chewing it and turning it round, and round.
On a subconscious level there is a permanent stress factor a low level paralysing fear, a suffocating sadness, a permanent feeling of things not being right.

But shame is for the largest part a mental process.
It is about the self image, and the fear of this being destroyed.
Or it is about an already destroyed self image.

Shame can lead to problems of mental health,
when the mind keeps itself busy with it, night and day.
Shame is one of the most destructive mental preoccupations.
It is on par with jealousy, being a fear of losing something you love or like.
But here, the object of love is the self, the self image.
The flower you once were is withering away

Shame is worse than jealousy,
shame can turn to self hate.

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36 thoughts on “shame

  1. Thank you, again, for sharing the link to this post, Bert!

    For me, your post is pointing out well the complexity of shame.

    In my experience shame is so tricky because of it’s many masks and disguises. It is not always obvious what we are dealing with – especially when we are conditioned to push it away. It can twist the mind and entangle with happy experiences. And yes, I have seen it turn into self-hate, too.

    That’s why I find it so important to meet the shame and face it. This way it may be a door to healing wounded aspects and finding more inner strength. 🙂

    • It has happened often to me that i did not recognize the shame, only a feeling of not doing what I’m supposed to do, and fear of failure at the same time. Very stressful if one doesn’t know what is happening.
      So for me the first and most important step was recognizing the shame in the first place, next finding its source.
      Sounds trivial, but it usually isn’t.
      Having grown up in a family where blame was always used, the blame and the shame must have gone subconscious, as a protection to my self worth. Getting them to surface was a revelation to me. I had no idea, all those years, what was bothering now and then.

      • I hear you, Bert! Same here… I’ve been growing up encountering a lot of abuse on different levels. So shame became “normal” to me, even familiar. And to me, recognizing shame as what it is in first place, does not sound trivial at all. 🙂

        The shame often comes to me with a feeling of generally being wrong. There is a song by Depeche Mode, called “Wrong” which describes it pretty well… ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QrtydD2u1N0 – in case you don’t know the sond and are interested.)

        How good that there are tools and supportive people to help us identifying and facing such emotions so that we can transform our belief to a more self-loving approach on life.

    • Great point. I did not think about that, and I have to ponder about this for some time to actualize it. At first sight it looks valid.
      If we accept all our vulnerabilities there is indeed no pride and no shame, but does this implication go the other way too? Food for thought. Thank you.

  2. Nice post. I had forgotten about all the work I had to do to overcome shame. It still creeps up at times, but I have learned how to deal with it more effectively. I will look at it, and try to see what it connects to. Usually something from childhood or adolescence. I just take it as a signal to set the ‘incident’ free. Revoke the backstage pass. As an adult I should feel guilt when I do something wrong so I can correct it, not shame because someone chooses to blame me for whatever. Good reminder. Thanks.

    • We feel shame when we didn’t do anything wrong, but there is someone who saw us in our most vulnerable state, and that person might or might not abuse our vulnerability …
      So shame and guilt are interconnected, but in the latter case, we really did something ethically incorrect, while in the first case we did not.

      • Shame has to do with blame. Someone is pointing a finger, and there is fear that the (imagined) wrongdoing will make us look bad. With more disapproval as punishment. Either someone else points a finger, or we do it ourselves. When we do it ourselves it is usually still connected to someone else… in the past. Internalized shaming. Even if there has been wrongdoing, the reaction is not appropriate (not emotionally mature).
        Someone who is an adult emotionally, will not feel shame when there has been (no) wrongdoing. The emotional trigger is not (or no longer) there. This person has worked through the ‘incidents’ that are linked to the ‘shame button’, and it no longer works when someone (or society) tries to press it.
        If there has been wrongdoing there should be a feeling of guilt, prompting to make amends and not repeat the ‘mistake’. If there has been no wrongdoing on the part of the accused, then this person may feel compassion for the external delusional fingerpointer, who obviously is still stuck in his or her own past, or dancing to the tune of a society with a ‘blame someone (or anyone) else’ culture.
        As this response is wa-hay too long, I may feel some guilt. I know that I am preaching, not teaching. But, still there is nothing to be ashamed of. I like preaching. I have TWO blogs filled with sermons! (And you have the freedom to remove this sermon.) 🙂 Namaste.

        • You said: “Someone who is an adult emotionally, will not feel shame when there has been (no) wrongdoing.” That is very theoretical. Let me give you a well known example:

          In 2009 the then mayor of the city of Alost had sex on a far forgotten tower, high up in Turkey. There was nothing wrong with that. Except that someone from Sweden made a short film from it from another tower, kilometers further, with a tele-lens, and posted it on youtube. On that film, there was nothing to be seen, no body parts, except a rhythmic movement and her barely recognizable face, showing the physical excitement. Some more months later, someone from Alost in Belgium discovered this youtube movie, and told the entire city, next the entire country about it.
          I tell you, there was no guilt. But the poor woman was red with shame. There were no political consequences. Belgium is a liberal country in such matters, but 3 months later, a carnival parade, that she had to give the official start off in her own city, did a remake of the scene. She got a beautiful new nickname, and got re-elected, 2 years later.
          So yes, someone pointed a finger. But I don’t think there was blame involved. I don’t think there was guilt and neither was there much disapproval. Only sensation, and a poor woman’s vulnerability. She must have been quite emotionally mature in view of the publicity this ‘incident’ acquired, and the way she handled it.

          • Interesting story! I did not pick up on it when I was in Belgium. I agree, it might be weird behavior, but nothing to be guilty of. Yet, as it was meant to be private, I can see why shame came into it when it went public. Now the rest of the world got to point fingers too! I do not know what she did to overcome the shame, but it seems like she handled it well. She has to, because people still remember the story. And some might still TRY to shame her, but it will not work. She removed that shame ‘button’. What about the guy who shamelessly recorded her, and put the recording on internet? No shame or guilt there?

            • When everyone knows, there is no secret any more, and no fear for the secret to be known. What remains is embarrassment, but embarrassment does not last long.
              About all those people filming things and putting it on the internet shamelessly … good that you think about them. The are semi-anonymous, and untraceable except when a federal crime unit starts to investigate. It also counts for the shameless comments on news sites. I think that being shameless has to do with less ethics and pre-conventional thinking. So shame also has to do with conventions, your own, and the ones of society.
              We can outgrow our own conventions and live in the Present, and then shame will disappear, together with pride, as Ian already said. But you first have to go up the hill and build your own ethics, before you can slowly remove them layer by layer.

            • Agreed. To stop pointing fingers (or cameras) at others and ourselves, instead take up the spoon to start digging in the mud called traditions, society, and other false beliefs. And to keep digging and digging. Shame (or shaming) can no longer distract or blind when reality is seen for what it is.

  3. Great post about something I deal with daily or seemingly so. Mental illness brings shame and, yes, the abused can feel shame for somehow bringing on the abuse. But some can sometimes rise above this.

    And inspired by Summer’s words, I thank you for the compassion you have shown me on numerous occasions when you didn’t need to at all. You are not only instructive and thus, a teacher, but a supportive and understanding blogging friend as well, across the ocean.

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