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  • Writer's pictureAmy Clark

On Shame

Updated: Jan 10, 2020

Feelings of shame are at epidemic proportions in this country, according to author and researcher Brene Brown. During her TED Talk “Listening to Shame", Brown defines shame as the feeling “I am a mistake.” Shame involves feelings of humiliation and badness about the self---“the swampland of the soul”.

The stories we tell ourselves like "we’re never good enough, pretty enough, successful enough" can lead to self destructive behaviors such as addictions, bullying and eating disorders to name a few. According to Brown, while shame may feel the same to both men and women, it’s actually organized by gender. Shame for a woman is about having to do it all perfectly, never letting anyone see you sweat – “unattainable expectations”- while for a man it’s about not appearing to be weak. Interestingly, women suffer from shame more intensely at the hands of other women!

Author and spiritual guide Caroline Myss writes: Humiliation robs us of our primal power of self-protection. It is a violation of the survival instinct, in that we feel we have failed to protect ourselves…”, “and the consequences of feeling vulnerable to personal humiliation are devastating.”

In this month’s Wisdom Circle, we explored how shame looks and feels to each of us and just how much it affects our daily lives. We examined how closely shame and fear are linked and focused on “empathy” as the panacea. The big take away from the Circle was in order to come out on the other side of shame, we must first "be in the feelings"- feel what gets stirred up and look the feelings in the eye- while being supported by a caring community!

It takes an enormous amount of courage and a strong will to face one's soul wrenching humiliations and vulnerabilities. However we all agreed that doing the painful work is a definite catalyst for positive change! Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brene Brown.

The ladies in our Circles had these recommendations for dealing with and releasing feelings of shame:

  • When looking in on the feelings, do so in an easy way and ask yourselves if the story of shame rings true in the present moment

  • Change the story—a belief is simply a thought you think over and over—re-pattern your thoughts!

  • Surrender to the feelings as surrender will create inner strength

  • Have a weekly pity party—set aside time each week to feel the feelings and when the time is up, move on and away from them

  • Breathing exercises—breathe in the negative feelings and push them out on the exhale to release them—(read The Places That Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times by Pema Chodrun).

  • Learn to forgive yourself and any perpetrators involved in the feelings

  • Try to be in the present moment as much as possible. (read The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment by Eckhart Tolle)

  • Remember we each have a choice about how we want to feel—embrace your choices!

  • When self-remembering try to stay out of the intellect and the ego. Go back to the beginning of childhood and feel the simplicity, youth and freedom we had to create ourselves-physically and emotionally. Try to conjure up the memories of that joy!

  • Use the power of love always! Speak to your younger and present self with abundant love!

  • Use visualization and be your own spiritual Godparent!

  • Holding a higher vision of love will serve to raise the collective consciousness and heal!

Can you let go of your feelings of shame and humiliation? What works for you?

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