Shame, like most emotions, is on a continuum. It can vary in level of intensity and how it is perceived. In this blog, I will highlight the different levels of shame and how they impact us as humans. A certain level of shame is good for us. It teaches us how to be good friends and maintain positive relationships. But, what happens when we feel too much shame or too little shame? How do these different levels of shame impact us and the world we live in?
When Shame is Good:
Shame, just like many other vulnerable emotions, is not all good or all bad. Just like many other emotions, the most important part of shame is what we do with it. It gives us an indication of how we are doing with others and is a vital part of our society. When shame is felt at a moderate level, it can be used to create self-awareness and create meaningful change in our relationships with others. Good shame can be a great guideline to understanding how to lead a meaningful and fulfilling life.
Excessive shame arises when from a young age we get messages that we are not good enough, we don't belong, or we are not worthy. Shame-based individuals believe that they are inherently worth less than other adults. They believe that they deserve it when bad things happen to them because they aren't worthy of anything better. They have a fear of abandonment that flairs up anytime something shameful happens. They are quick to take blame for negative behaviors/actions, and internalize them in their thoughts. They often times engage in shame spirals (more on this topic in the next blog) that makes it very difficult for them to feel hopeful or positive about their futures. Shame-based individuals tend to isolate from the world around them and avoid social interactions due to the excessive shame that they feel.
Shame deficiency is the opposite of excessive shame. It is when someone does not know how to or doesn't feel shame. It can cause a lot of friction in social interactions when someone is shame deficient because s/he can be very rigid in his/her thinking. For a shame deficient person the most important thing is his/her agenda. It doesn't matter what others want to do, it doesn't matter what others think, all that matters is me. Shame deficiency can also cause isolation due to shame deficient people not being very pleasant to be around. It's difficult to be friends with someone who doesn't really seem to care about how his/her actions are affecting you. Shame deficient people often times need to be the center of attention, are immodest, and emotionally immature.
Everything that you have read about in this blog was derived from the book Letting Go of Shame by Ronald Potter-Efron and Patricia Potter-Efron. I have no personal or professional stake in this book; it's just a good book. Since shame has been coming up more and more frequently in our work with clients we decided to spotlight this emotion (and book) this month in order to bring more awareness to the powers of shame. We continue to accept new clients from Illinois (Chicago), California (Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange County, Santa Barbara, San Francisco, Sacramento), and outside of the USA (Canada, Australia, New Zealand, England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Spain, Mexico).
Written by Linda Meier Abdelsayed, LMFT
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