Happy Sunday All,
This week I seemed to discover a number of people both in my home and work lives who were, it’s become clear, walking in a cloud; They were, I discovered, walking under a cloud. A cloud which caused them to lower their heads, a cloud which makes them constantly compare themselves to others and come up wanting, a cloud which sapped them both of their energy and their power.
A cloud called ‘SHAME.’
The trouble with shame is, it’s great at disguising itself. It wears many different cloaks and so is often not recognised for what it is. This leads to it being ignored, mis-treated or dismissed. This week I have seen shame show up as grief, as self-loathing and as guilt and failure, yet at the root what each person was really desperately trying to deal with was SHAME.
What the experts say
Psychologists have identified that many of our negative behaviours come, not from guilt, but from shame. There are of course degrees of shame. Feeling embarrassment or shy, are perhaps the less damaging lighter end of the shame spectrum; indeed in some social circumstances, perhaps we need to feel these less deeply-rooted, less insidious versions of shame, but shame becomes a serious and incredibly dangerous emotion when it becomes tied to our self-image.
The root of the problem
As with anything, which can destroy us; shame invariably takes hold in infancy. Those children, who have been criticised incessantly, punished severely or cruelly; neglected, abused or suffer abandonment receive a message that they don’t fit in the world and that they are deficient in their ‘being’ not for what they’re ‘doing.’ They develop low self-esteem and those with low self-esteem are often oversensitive and afraid.
Their fears focus on ‘getting things wrong’ or not knowing the ‘rules of the game’ which manifest as embarrassment or humility on the one hand to social phobias and disorders, abuse, rage, bullying and a range of other personal and social issues on the other and all of them mask the deep-seated root of the problem.
So what’s the difference?
Guilt is different, a message that you ‘DID’ something wrong. This means that you’re able to make amends or correct the error, but with shame the thought is that YOU are wrong. The message is one that you do not ‘fit’ and are inferior or inadequate.
Guilt is how a psychologically healthy person responds when who realise they have done something wrong. To feel guilt helps us act more responsibly the next time around and positively make good on what it is we have done.
Feeling Guilty means – We can correct it…
But shame has a tendency to direct us towards destructive behaviours when we try to drown out, push down or obliterate our feelings of disgrace and shame, or to other destructive behaviours, such as intimidation, rage and abuse to transfer our feelings of shame to others.
When we’re convinced that we are wrong in our core because of the shame we are feeling, we destroy our healthy sense of self.
Stop blaming yourself
Each of the people I spoke to or heard about this week were experiencing a depression of sorts and as they spoke to me about their feelings It occurred to me that each of them had adopted the idea somewhere that they were intrinsically ‘NO GOOD’ that somehow they were not loveable, they were not acceptable, that something about them was abhorrent.
One had suffered abuse as a child, one had lost a parent at a young age and the other was experiencing a transition, a downturn in their business fortunes, yet despite glaringly different situations, as each of them spoke it became clear that they were connected by the feelings they had about themselves.
The more we talked the more it became clear they each were experiencing feelings of shame. Each had acquired a form of depression as a result…
Now, I was confused. Why?
You see it was obvious to me that whatever their situation was or had been they (especially the first two) were powerless to prevent them.
So, why were they blaming themselves?
Why were they convinced that the fault lay with them?
Why were they unable to see that it was their abusers and persecutors who’s own feelings of shame had led then to act out and transmute their feelings of self-loathing into harming them.
It’s the expectations
The other thing I noticed when talking to each of them that the source of their happiness (or rather lack of it) came not from the reality of what they were experiencing, but from an ideal they thought they SHOULD be living but weren’t.
The point of this post is really to get across to anyone reading this who is blaming themselves for things that have taken place and yet were beyond their control.
IT WASN’T YOUR FAULT!
I’m spelling out here what became so obvious to me during my conversations. You are not and I repeat not inherently abhorrent or shameful or disgraceful. None of us are.
How we feel about ourselves is directly linked to what we think we are, what we think we should do, where we think we should be and what we think we should have achieved. The feelings of dissatisfaction that come up when these expectations don’t match the reality we find ourselves living are what creates our pain, or dissatisfaction our guilt and our shame.
Let’s stop torturing ourselves eh? Let’s NOT focus on what we haven’t done or where we don’t find ourselves and switch our attention to what we HAVE achieved.
Shift your focus to the things you are grateful for in the now, and not on where you think you should be but aren’t. Reflect on your achievements in life so far and really appreciate who and what you are TODAY, now, in THIS very moment
Uniquely, beautifully and originally YOU
You see, of the billions of people on the planet, of all the people who have EVER been or ever WILL be there is and only ever will be one you.
YOU, yes you, are a beautiful, UNIQUE, a rare, gift, a one-off, a wonderful being.
You DO NOT deserve to feel ONE moment of shame…so please believe what I know is true, that you’re whole, that the only thing you are and should be unapologetically, is the wonderful essence that is YOU
For today and every day…
Blissings & Much Love