I grew up in an enviornment where shame was the main form of manipulation. It was used to try and control our behaviour and undermine our unique creative expression. There were no threats of a good spanking, a clip round the ear or banishment from the dinner table, no, my family were heavily invested in a good old shame storm.
The thing about shame is that it is literally an emotionally virus. Shame and vulnerability researcher, Brene Brown has found from her vast reams of research that shame grows exponentially in our dark and painful emotional wounds. Even worse, we dare not breathe a word of what has happened for the fear that we will be shackled and stripped bare of our humanity and paraded down the High St of Hell being laughed and jeered at by the masses. It is a cruel form of abuse because those wounds are forever hidden behind our facade of ‘everything is fine’.
But I now know that I am most certainly not alone in my experience. Many brave souls have shared their own similar stories of being shamed growing up, and because shame is an emotional virus once you have been exposed to it, it is an absolute bugger to get rid of.
This shame epidemic continues to be used in our education insititutions (how can I forget the “she could do better if she tried” comments on my school report) as a way to try and improve attendance, participation and ultimately performance. It is used in marriages to try and manipulate our needs being met, in parenting to get our children to do what we want them to do, in our medical professions “it’s all in your head”, and countless other areas of our life. The truth is it is everywhere.
Brene Brown believes the antidote to shame is empathy, and yes that is true, but I would go further and say that at its absolute core the way you eradicate shame is through radical self-love, self-compassion and by building deep self-trust. The other way to relieve yourself of this nasty virus is through awareness. We need to recognise when we are using it to shame ourselves and others (“what on earth are you wearing,” “what an idiot,” “I do worry about you”) I got the biggest fright of my life last year when I took it upon myself to shame someone who was shaming someone else which ended up in an epic shame storm when they then re-shamed me!
So I would invite you to begin to notice when you are using shame to either manipulate or belittle yourself. When that happens take a breath and respond by focusing your mind on something else entirely. A cup, your hand, tap your foot...just don’t follow the shame narrative down the rabbit hole. The more you follow this simple practice the less you will see shame show up because, quite simply, you are no longer feeding it with your attention.
If you would like to know more about eradicating shame from your life then please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can schedule a one on one coaching session.