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The Impact of Shame

By Tricia Andor, Licensed Professional Counselor

“The hall of shame,” “the walk of shame”, and the movie donning the title Shame. It’s rather an in vogue word for an emotion so avoided — But do we really know what shame is? In these two five minute videos, Dr. Brene´ Brown, researcher and social worker, brings out into the open this emotion which is characterized by the very tendency to keep it buried.

If you find that you are dealing with self-esteem issues, anxiety, perfectionism, addiction, anger, trauma experiences, or depression these videos may have particular relevance for you.

Shame is defined here as “intensely feeling or believing that we are flawed and somehow inadequate and unworthy of connection.” Note that shame is the thing that, instead of saying “I did bad” says “I am bad,” as though at the core you are defective.

Dr. Brown calls shame the master emotion because it is “the fear of disconnection.” Psychologists, therapists, counselors, and social workers have long recognized the centrality of human connection in healthy human development, which makes children particularly vulnerable to shame messages, even when unintended. When those shame beliefs aren’t corrected and healed (which they frequently aren’t, since the nature of shame is to desire to hide it), what happens is those same children grow up to become adults functioning within those same shame beliefs and feelings.

Three interesting points Dr. Brown makes about shame is that

1) We all have it,
2) We’re terrified to talk about it,
3) The less we talk about it the more we have it.

From a sociological perspective she also notes that, as a nation, we don’t talk honestly about shame, but have strange outlets like reality tv where we watch people being shamed or experiencing shame.

As a therapist, the thing that stands out to me is how shame is a relationship killer – whether you’re the person being shamed, carrying shame, or doing the shaming. Throughout my years helping adults heal from injurious, stigmatizing, and damaging messages (such messages are often implied rather than stated outright, messages like “You’re no good,” You’re incompetent,” “Your needs don’t count,” “You don’t deserve love”), I’ve seen counseling help so many people become free of the shackling effects of shame.

If shame is interfering with your life, and you

  • desire to cease trying to be perfect,
  • are tired of hiding and want to be your true self around others, or
  • don’t want to pass along messages of shame to your children,

consider making a call today to discuss the possibility of therapy to help you make the changes you want.