Monday Madness (March 10, 2007)

¡Hola! Everybody,
I’m at work, but I would’ve loved to have had another day in bed. I’m still not anywhere near 100% and I might go home early. I’ve got a couple of items on a deadline that I need to clear up…

* * *


I kid around that I like catholic girls because their ingrained shame and guilt equates to deviant, hot sex. LOL But in reality, the Catholics don’t have a monopoly on shame and guilt. I believe we live in a shame-based culture. Our major religions rule by it and our political structures are grounded in it. In addition, shame is a major component of addictive/ dysfunctional behavior.

Most of us have some experience of shame in our past and most of us don’t like to talk about it. That’s what shame is all about. Essentially, shame is a response to violating someone else’s standards. When we feel shame, we are usually afraid of rejection or abandonment due to trespassing of real or imagined boundaries. For some people something seemingly trivial like farting in public (or even writing about it) might cause shame. Some mental health specialists consider shame to be the root of many personal difficulties, especially the codependent behavior observed in the families of addicts.

Ideally, shame should serve as an alarm system letting us know when we have offended other people, and that if we want to continue being friends with them, we may need to change our behavior. So maybe fluffing the sheets after farting is not a good way to keep a lover. Worse, broadcasting intimacies on 360 or the internet might not be a good way to garner friends and influence people. Some of us have no shame, which is not a good thing. However, many people are haunted by feelings of shame, which make them feel unworthy.

Almost all experiences of shame seeing ourselves as “small” and others as “big.” This is typical of people when they feel ashamed. If you temporarily try this out, you can probably experience shame too.

Shame has been described as “the secret emotion” or “the hidden emotion.” For most of us, it’s a minor inconvenience, but for others it is devastating. When people feel shame, they also feel ashamed about feeling shame, so they’re not inclined to talk about it. This is why I give people who try to do something about it major props.

Shame is the result of someone repeatedly giving us the message, “You’re bad,” often without telling us exactly what they didn’t like, and usually without giving us a clear idea of what we could do instead, or how to do it. Parents, teachers, and other authorities do this, often because they don’t know any better.

In a way, someone who feels shame does so because he was a capable and quick learner in an environment where shame was being taught. The good news is that that same ability can be used in learning to have a different sense of self.

In severe shame, it’s as if the person has only one standard for themselves. “I should please others,” is the ruling thought pattern. Putting too much emphasis on pleasing others can result in submitting to abuses without complaint. I see this behavior on 360 (and the internet in general) in abundance!

In transforming shame, it is important to recognize the difference between someone else’s standards and our own, and to be careful to our thinking caps when deciding which standards to use for ourselves. As we do this, we are also building a healthy sense of self, or what is often called self-esteem or integrity. This is who I am; this is what is important to me. In reality, we only begin to exist as individuals when we can stand on our own in this way. Until then, we’re just mirror images of someone else — any one else — and dependent on them for a sense of identity.

I know two people very close to me who have not been alone — ever. A friend goes from woman to woman, looking for validation. I have yet to see him be single in all the years I know him. Of course, each woman becomes his focus until they fall from grace. Another person close to me has never been outside a relationship since her teens. A part of that, I believe, is this inner shame and the need to live up to external standards. Somehow, we have to find better strategies for living more effectively.




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