Shame, is a topic almost no one wants to speak about – they are simply too ashamed. First, we are ashamed of something. Then we feel shame for being ashamed. It is the exponential factor of this most wretched of emotions. It is an isolating and miserable experience.
The distinction between shame and guilt is this: We feel guilty for things we have done; We feel shame for what we are. Shame is pervasive and all encompassing. It demoralizes and humiliates us to a barely breathing raw pulp. Shame is merciless as it tears at the very fabric of our being. Shame is a place we dwell and pray that no one ever notices us again. Shame results in a desire to be and stay invisible, unnoticed and unworthy of being noticed.
Have you ever fallen down? Has it caused you so much shame that every decision you make subsequent to the fall is shame-based and thus contaminated? Have you felt the G forces that suck you into a vortex of debilitating, life-ruining, downward-spiraling shame? Each layer of the spiral seems to etch deeply into your soul creating what feels like permanent threads of hopelessness. Shame sucks.
We all experience shame, but most of the time we are too ashamed to admit that we are ashamed. Worse yet, the shame of being ashamed is a double whammy. Thus, we encounter the exponential potential of shame that makes it toxic to human beings.
Many people feel no shame; others feel shame for those people. It is an odd thing that when we feel ashamed we often turn to blaming someone or something else. It relieves us of the burden of shame by projecting it onto others. They are two sides of the same coin – shame and blame.
If we are blaming, we are trying to shift our shame. I call it “shame shifting.” We relieve ourselves of a highly negative emotion by denying and disassociating it from ourselves and by placing it on someone else. When we blame others, our finger of blame points outward; four fingers of shame point back at us.
Highly sensitive people are the most vulnerable to this shift. Someone does them wrong and then energetically shifts the shame on to them through blame. It is easy to do, HSPs are empaths and, by definition, are emotional sponges. They often carry the burden of others people’s shame and guilt along with their own. They are emotional pack mules.
I have gotten lost and I am ashamed of it. I tried to pivot my career and became lost in a whirlwind of fears that arise when you step out on your own. A tempest of survival fears – the very basic, hard-wired fears of the human organism. I stood on the diving board too long, made too many excuses, and chased too many shiny balls because I was afraid. I knew what I wanted, but wondered if I might be wrong. if I might not be good enough. Such is the power of shame; it cripples self-trust and induces self-doubt, which in turn reinforces shame. In short, things did not go as planned, but went, as I feared – funny how that works. At least I have learned a lot.
Shame researchers Jane Middleton-Moz and Brene Brown have both delved into the subject of shame deeply. If you would like to read more about shame, please check out there great work on the subject.
What is your experience with shame? Where does it cause you the most harm? There is an antidote.
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