WHAT is SHAME? (Part 1)


I was born bad & I’ll always be bad

PREVIOUS: What is Guilt?


While guilt is about actions  – the emotion caused by disobedience to rules we deeply believe in (even when they’re self-destructive!) – SHAME is about our IDENTITY – about who we are, fundamentally.

It says that our very essence is bad, unlovable, unacceptable – to be eliminated. It makes us:
• want to hide, isolate, not talk, try to be invisible
• want to be dead! The pain of shame is so great & the conviction that we’re un-redeemable is so deep (not worth saving), that it eliminates Hope. Why bother even trying!
• OR overcompensate – by out-doing, controlling, shaming others, acting superior, knowing ‘everything’, never showing ‘weakness’… ie. grandiosity

SHAME is connected to our NEEDs, rather than our actions.
Specifically – each need we had as a child which was neglected, punished & made fun of. If you think about how many needs children have – and how many of them were not met at all or met with abuse – then you can imagine how huge our shame quotient is !!
BTW, most people focus on the need for love as basic, & while this is crucial, even more basic if the need for safety! A person can’t begin to take in love, even if it’s available, if they’re terrified.

a. Ashamed – Children admire, even idealize their parents when they’re quite small. They need to do this in order to feel safe – to know they can rely on these people to be competent & available for them. It helps to compensate for the child’s extreme dependence & vulnerability.ashamed
✶ In reasonably healthy families, they gradually come to understand that their parents are human, fallible, imperfect – BUT still basically safe, trustworthy & decent role models.
● In dysfunctional families, one or more the adults act out their damage:
depression, verbal attacks, physical &/or sexual abuse, neglect, cruelty, addictions, withdrawal, mental illness, bitterness, constant criticism, putting each other & the kids in danger, not providing necessities, leaving & then never staying in touch, not staying groomed, not earning a living….

All of these, & more, will cause children to feel ashamed of their family (the chaos, the craziness, the cruelty) – & by extension, themselves, as members of that group.  The children’s sense of safety & pride in themselves & their parents is eroded & shattered. This is devastating.
That feeling is then carried, like a canker sore in our spirit, into adulthood.

b. Shamed –Screen Shot 2016-06-05 at 5.56.29 PM
Positive: To have self-esteem, children need to be:
• patiently taught how to do things
• admired & applauded for the things they do well
• respectfully corrected for errors or lapses
• treated with patience for the things they cannot do, especially if it’s  because they’re too young, yet, but will be able to eventually –  or because they have a disability.

Negative: Children in damaged families are:
● teased & made fun of for many thing  (anger disguised with toxic humor)Screen Shot 2016-06-05 at 5.54.45 PM
● yelled at, punished, harangued – sometimes for nothing specific or obvious
● expected to know or do the impossible
● insulted about ones gender, looks, tastes, interests..
● pushed to do things when too young & then punished for failing
● treated unfairly, abused & then punished for crying, being upset or getting angry at the mistreatment
● being hit, punished, yelled at, humiliated – in public …..

These & many other forms of shaming have been called SOUL MURDER & represent parents’ lack of love & respect for themselves & so for their children, who stand in for their own Inner Child. These mistreatments abuse the needs that all children have – the need to be heard, to be treated with respect, to feel safe, to be loved, to be paid attention to, to grow & learn at their own pace, to find out who they are as individuals, to know they can depend on their caretakers, to look up to their parents,  to LIVE, to prosper, to succeed, etc.

EACH of these NEEDS thus become SHAMEFUL !
We conclude that if our family hated these needs, then the needs are bad  (& us for still having them).   So they must be suppressed, better yet – eliminated, no matter how deep & persistent they may be.
EXPL: One person, after hearing the 4th Step in Al-Anon (“Made a searching & fearless moral inventory of ourselves’) suddenly realized 2 core issues:Screen Shot 2016-06-11 at 6.28.55 PM
■ his #1 toxic rule was: “I should be dead !”, &
■ his most shamed need: “ I thought my greatest character defect was my need for love!  After all – I never felt loved, I got the message that I wasn’t lovable  – so I must be a fool to keep wanting it !”  In Recovery he learned that this & all his needs were legitimate, universal & his RIGHT, & so he was able to reject the need to die, & start loving himself.
(The 12-Steps – comments & videos)

NEXT: Shame (Part 2)


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