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Is related to be an inner sense of being completely diminished or insufficient
as a person.
It is the self judging the self.
A moment of shame may be humiliation so painful or an
indignity so profound that one feels one has been robbed of her or his dignity or exposed as basically inadequate, bad,
or worthy of rejection.
A pervasive sense of shame is the ongoing premise that one is fundamentally bad, inadequate,
defective, unworthy, or not fully valid as a human being (Tangney, 1992).
a feeling of regret one has about behavior that has violated a personal value.
Guilt does not reflect directly
upon one’s identity nor diminish one’s sense of personal worth.
It is the reflection of a developing
self which promotes the possibility of repair, learning, and growth (Fossum & Mason, 1986).
While GUILT is a painful
feeling of regret and responsibility for one’s actions, SHAME is a painful feeling about oneself as a person (Bradshaw,
The possibility for repair seems foreclosed to the shameful person because shame is a matter of identity,
not a behavioral infraction (Tangney, 1995).
There is nothing to be learned from shame and no growth is opened
by the experience because it only confirms one’s negative feelings about oneself (Gilbert, 1994).
is a painful feeling that can be felt throughout your body. It has many variations and never looks exactly alike in any
The SHAME experience does have common features:
- Definite and strong physical responses
- Troublesome behaviors
- Spiritual agony
The Physical Component of Shame
feeling strong shame is an overpowering experience.
Most would love to respond to shameful situations with dignity,
grace, and poise. If only our bodies would cooperate.
feel our faces getting warmer
- We cannot force our eyes to look
- Our heads bend toward the ground
- Maybe our chest becomes heavy
heart might pound (we sense we are not in control of our bodies)
may feel an empty sensation in our gut
- Time crawls as we are
gripped in acute self- consciousness
- We can barely talk
- We are ashamed and can become ashamed of our shame
Is almost always a physical event which includes 2 other physical
- We start to feel smaller and smaller
- The persons around us seem to get bigger, louder, and more dangerous
Shamed people feel open, vulnerable, and exposed to others despite the effort
to shrink down (Potter-Efron, 1989).
Thoughts about shame
Shame is very much a mental process.
We do think about
shame, and sometimes we cannot stop thinking about our embarrassments, defeats, and humiliations. Ending by calling ourselves
Here are thoughts that shamed people tell themselves:
- I am defective (damaged, broken, a mistake, flawed)
am dirty (ugly, unclean, disgusting, impure)
- I am incompetent
(not good enough, inept, useless)
- I am unwanted (unloved, unappreciated,
- I deserve to be abandoned (forgotten, unloved, left
- I am weak (small, puny, feeble)
- I am bad (awful, dreadful, evil, despicable)
- I am pitiful (contemptible, miserable, insignificant)
am nothing (worthless, invisible, unnoticed, empty)
- I deserve
criticism (condemnation, disapproval, destruction)
- I feel ashamed
(embarrassed, humiliated, dishonored)
Responses to shame might include:
inability to do anything or respond to the accuser
- May want to
speak but no words come to mind
- May want to run, but cannot
mobilize the energy
- The individual is stuck
- The paralysis intensifies the shame (the person is not strong enough to stand up for himself)
- The shamed person usually wants badly to escape
- Shamed persons will attempt to withdraw from others.
- This is more subtle than simply running away.
develop elaborate masks to cover their real selves.
- They smile
- Always try to please others
- Appear self-confident and comfortable
- They are convinced that others might see what the shamed individual
already knows, that they aren’t enough.
- People who are
shamed try to keep their shame a secret.
- They withdraw emotionally.
- The shamed person may reason that she will have nothing to feel ashamed
about if she never makes a mistake.
- These people get caught in
the trap of being "human".
- Human beings make mistakes.
- Perfectionists cannot afford to be human.
- Shamed people often become highly critical of everyone else.
- They may need to feel superior to avoid being submerged in inferiority feelings.
- They can become furious with another, sometimes over the slightest affront to their dignity.
- Those who combine shame with rage may become verbally or physically
- By attacking the personalities of others, they defend
their own fragile identities.
Shame: A Spiritual Crisis
a failure of the total being.
The person who is shamed believes that she should not exist.
The shamed person encounters
a spiritual crisis at their very core.
Shame temporarily deprives us of our humanness.
- They feel worthless.
- During moments of strong shame,
they can think of nothing about themselves that is worthwhile.
A feeling of emptiness accompanies worthlessness.
- The shamed
person often feels "hollowed out".
- They report having
- They wear a mask to hide the emptiness.
- They lose their soul to their shame.
Shamed persons sometimes appear to be quite arrogant.
- These persons are still empty inside.
- They attempt to
conceal the sense of nothingness that comes with deep shame, but it remains until it can be addressed honestly.
Serious Problems Frequently Associated with Excessive Shame
Shame and the Fear of Abandonment
- Abandonment seems quite possible to someone who believes that
she is basically worthless and unlovable.
I Will Be Whatever
You Want Me to Be
- People spend most of their time reacting to others.
- Their self-worth depends on the praise and criticism received
from outside themselves.
Self-Neglect, Self-Abuse, and
- Occurs when a person ignores own needs.
- e.g. Health, Eating, Appearance
- Shame connected addictions are a slow form
- e.g. the anoretic who starves
- The alcoholic who drinks despite liver damage
- Undermining chances for success
Desire to Humiliate Others
- To survive, a person who is shamed transfers
his hatred on to others.
- Treating them with disdain and contempt
The answer must lie outside the self in the magic of:
- Eating disorders
- Work, etc...
shamed people may become sexually compulsive in an attempt to reduce their bad feelings about themselves
Guidelines for Healing the Wounds of Shame
- Be patient--shame heals slowly.
- Become fully aware of
- Notice your defenses against shame.
- Investigate the five sources
of your shame.
- Our genetic and biological composition
- Our families of origin
expectations and demands
- Current relationships
- Accept your shame as part of the human condition.
- Get some help--you
don’t have to do this alone.
- Challenge the shame.
- Set positive goals based on humanity, humility, autonomy and competence.
- Take mental and physical action to move toward those goals.
- Review your progress regularly.
Letting Go of Shame: Understanding How Shame Affects Your Life, Potter-Efron
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