Shame. Fuck shame. Fuck it all to hell.
I didn’t really become aware of shame as a deeply developed concept until I became acquainted with the work of Brene Brown.
What is shame? Brene defines it as, “the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging – something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection.” This is not the same thing as guilt, which she defines as, ” holding something we’ve done or failed to do up against our values and feeling psychological discomfort.” I AM bad v. I did a BAD THING.
Shame is a shortcut that we use to control other people. It’s the easiest way to break them down and make them do what we want them to. Its an easy thing to get wrapped up in. From our youngest years, I believe that we are taught by society, our parents and other adults and our peers to shame each other to maintain the status quo. We do not question the status quo. Shame is power. Shame is used to keep new ideas out, the same people in, and THOSE PEOPLE out.
Stay in the closet. Believe what we tell you to. Lose weight. Go to this school. Take this job. Acquire these things. Be this person- or you are worthless.
Shame preys on our deepest needs for love and connection and acceptance. It is a weapon of mass destruction.
After a while, we don’t even need action from the outside for shaming to occur. Once we have internalized our own unworthiness, we begin to shame ourselves. We become the ragents of our own oppression. Its like slamming the jail cell door with the right hand and holding the keys in your left.
So what do we do about this? How do we combat shame? We cultivate resilience. Brene gives 4 elements of shame resilience (Daring Greatly, Page 75):
- Recognizing shame and Understanding Triggers
- Practicing Critical Awareness
- Reaching out
- Speaking Shame
I would add a few more:
- Cultivate a viewpoint of essential goodness (I’m doing this through meditation)
- Unhitch worthiness from productivity and arbitrary categories
- Fuck the word “should”
- Cultivate self-awareness, question assumptions
- Talk back to assholes externally and internally
- Ask for help. So much this.
I don’t think that this is a magic bullet that fixes all things, and I still struggle with shame. However, becoming aware of Brene’s work and research and becoming more aware of the bullshit patterns I have learned, etc. has changed my life, and I struggle less.