PREVIOUS: What is Guilt?
While guilt is mainly about negative actions,
SHAME is about our IDENTITY – about who we are, fundamentally.
🔹 It tells us 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!
• we overcompensate – by acting superior, controlling, out-doing, knowing ‘everything’, never showing ‘weakness’ (grandiosity), shaming others…..
➼ SHAME is connected to our NEEDs, rather than actions – specifically – each need we had as a child which was neglected, punished & made fun of.
Consider how many needs children have, & how many of them were met with abuse or not at all – you can imagine how huge our shame quotient is !!
a. Being Ashamed – Children admire, even idealize their parents when they’re quite small. They need to do this to feel safe – to know they can rely on those people to be competent & available to them. It helps to compensate for the child’s extreme dependence & vulnerability.
✶ In reasonably healthy families, children gradually come to understand that their parents are human, fallible, imperfect – BUT still basically trustworthy & decent role models.
● But in dysfunctional families, one or more adults act out their damage ⬅️
All of these & more, make children feel ashamed of their family (the chaos, the craziness, the cruelty) – & by extension themselves, as members of that group.
A sense of 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. Being Shamed – Children in damaged families are:
▪︎ expected to know or do the impossible
▪︎ insulted about ones gender, looks, tastes, interests….
▪︎ punished, yelled at, hit, humiliated – in public
▪︎ pushed to do things when too young & then punished for ‘failing’
▪︎ teased & made fun of for many things (anger disguised with toxic humor)
▪︎ treated unfairly, abused & then punished for crying, being upset or getting angry at the mistreatment
▪︎ yelled at, attacked, harangued – often for nothing specific or obvious
These & many other ways of shaming have been called soul murder. It represents parents’ lack of love & respect for themselves & so for their children, who stand in for their own Inner Child. Their dysfunctions negate / abuse the needs that all children have.
EXP of NEEDS : be paid attention to & heard, feel safe & loved, find out who they are as individuals, grow & learn at their own pace, know they can depend on their caretakers, look up to their parents, treated with respect, to LIVE, prosper & succeed….
➼ Many or all of these NEEDS became SHAMEFUL !
We conclude that if the adults hated these needs, then they’re bad (& us for still having them). So they must be suppressed, better yet – eliminated, no matter how deep & persistent they may be.
EXP: After hearing the 4th Step in Al-Anon (“Made a searching & fearless moral inventory of ourselves’), one member suddenly realized:
☁︎ his #1 toxic rule was: “I should be dead !”
☁︎ most shamed need was for love. “ I thought that was my greatest character defect!
After all, the constant message was that he wasn’t lovable – so he must be a fool to keep wanting it – which he does, desperately!”
NEXT: Shame (Part 2)