Shame is an insidious feeling that can be all consuming and very damaging. It is very much a social feeling, whereby we comprehend ourselves through the eyes of others. Shame’s origins lie in the same place.
Like all emotions there is a scale upon which the experience of shame may be measured. It is very much an individual feeling as it is informed by our temperaments, our experience of the world and those in it. Our interactions with the world lay down patterns for us, letting us know what to expect and anticipate based on our past experiences. We learn of ourselves through this, a core belief about ourselves is formed.
Shame can be created internally through the person’s own interpretation of what they are experiencing. If one is sensitive to the world, has a temperament that is shy and reserved, it can arrive from a teacher’s comment, from a peer’s gibe…the more often it happens the more it confirms the core belief a person has of themselves, it may be interpreted that one is not acceptable as they are for the world.
Further along the scale, to the point where people are abused (and again there are many variants of abuse, the types, intensity and frequency all inform the experience) shame is very much present. It can become embedded in the person’s psyche that there is something wrong with them, something that they are doing wrong. This has a ripple effect out into every area of a person’s life.
This is why shame can be so debilitating. It invariably tells us that we do not belong. For those who have experiences abuse this is particularly deep rooted, because there are so may elements that deliver this information to our psyches. The domino effect can be great.
Shame affects how we see ourselves and can impact every aspect of our lives. Relationships will be particularly affected, the person may withdraw, may not be able to tolerate intimacy, even though they may truly yearn it. Their relationship with themselves is so compromised that they find it very challenging to be in a relationship with another. The person can have such a corrosive view of themselves that it greatly impedes their lives.
There is a way through the shame that we carry. Deep emotional work leads to healing and softening the judgements that seem so solid within. The road towards acceptance of self can be very challenging, but possible. Compassion and care are the keys.