What do guilt and shame have to do with each other and how might they be affecting your life?
According the shame researchers, guilt is what you feel when you do something bad and shame is what you feel when you are something bad.
Brene Brown, PhD, LMSW and author of I Thought It Was Me (But it Isn’t) speaks of shame as a silent epidemic. Shame is a deep topic with significant personal and social impacts. It is also largely a taboo topic. I will begin exploring shame in this pos, however, because shame is both a taboo topic and a silent epidemic, I will continue to develop the topic in sequential posts.
Three of the foremost experts on the subject of shame are Jane Middleton-Moz, John Bradshaw and more recently, Brené Brown. In her book, “Shame and Guilt – Masters of Disguise”, Jane Middleton-Moz explains the dynamics of shame for individuals and the far reaching implications of those dynamics. John Bradshaw author of two insightful books on shame – “Healing the Shame that Binds You” and “Homecoming” explores the dynamics facing adult children of alcoholics and shame-based families. Brown in her books on the subject signals a clarion call for recognizing the silent epidemic of shame in society and its pervasive destructiveness.
How does shame affect a life? Here is how one woman put it:
“For years I have called it fear, rage, anxiety, depression, struggling with myself, lack of focus, lack of direction. I called it everything but what it was, because I really did not know. In another sense, I did, but could not name it and I could not admit it. It masqueraded as ADD, impulsiveness, arrogance and anger. At times it appeared as passivity and shyness, other times it presented as a restless, relentless mind that zoomed around my internal universe like a mad comet hurtling through space.
It manifested as procrastination and being chronically late for things as well as never following through on anything I started or intended to do. It showed up as big talking and little doing, a persistent lack of commitment to anyone or anything – why risk failing when it seemed inevitable?
It appeared as high-sensitivity, which of course it was, an ever watchful nervous system patrolling. It was the promise of “someday” that never seemed to come and the fervent attempt to control an out of control world. I struggled with a desire for success and a relentless need to remain invisible and safe from the judgment of others who would surely judge me as I judged myself, fundamentally, hopelessly and fatally flawed – unlovable and worthless.
It was an internal struggle that was ripping me apart. For every successful step I took, I took two steps back to hide.”
This is the monster called shame and it is at the heart of nearly every self-destructive and addictive behavior there is.
Let me tell you why I believe you must understand what shame is and learn to speak it. You can only heal it by speaking of it and many therapists do not have a solid understanding of this subject. Some are actually blocked by their own shame and do not wish to bring up such a topic – I did say it was taboo. For you to heal from this, you will need to take charge like never before. This is easier once you understand what you are dealing with – this horrible, unspeakably dark feeling is shame.
I hope you find this helpful.