Monday, November 14, 2016

Monday Madness [Shame]

Hola everybody,
I realize that I’ve been writing blog-worthy content as Facebook status updates. I have to stop that! LOL 

Here’s one (a response to all the demands of kumbaya-ing with racist Trump supporters):

“We can disagree and still love each other unless your disagreement is rooted in my oppression and denial of my humanity and right to exist.” -- James Baldwin  #BlackBrownIndigenousLivesMatter

There’s a blog post in that quote somewhere. #CaptainObvious


I kid around that I am attracted catholic women because their ingrained shame and guilt equates to deviant, hot sex. I am only half joking, but the reality is that Catholics do not have a monopoly on shame and guilt. Our major religions rule by it and our political and social institutions are grounded in it. In addition, shame is a major component of addictive/ dysfunctional behavior. I believe we live in a shame-based culture. For example, there is evidence that shame is the cause of much of the violence in our society.

Most of us have some experience of shame in our past and most of us don’t like to talk about it. That is what shame is all about. Essentially, shame is a conditioned response to violating someone else’s standards. When we feel shame, we are usually afraid of rejection or abandonment due to trespassing of real or imagined boundaries. For some people something seemingly mundane like farting in public (or even writing about it) might cause shame. Some mental health specialists consider shame to be the root of many personal difficulties, especially the codependent behavior observed in the families of addicts.

Ideally, shame should serve as an alarm system letting us know when we have offended other people, and that if we want to continue being friends with them, we may need to change our behavior. So maybe fluffing the sheets after farting is not a good way to keep a lover. Worse, broadcasting intimacies on social media might not be a good way to garner friends and influence people. Some of us have no shame, which is not a good thing. However, many people are haunted by feelings of shame, which make them feel unworthy.

Almost all experiences of shame entail seeing ourselves as “small” and others as “big.” This is typical of people when they feel ashamed. If you temporarily try this out, you can probably experience shame too.

Shame has been described as “the secret emotion” or “the hidden emotion.” For most of us, it is a minor inconvenience, but for others it is devastating. When people feel shame, they also feel ashamed about feeling shame, so they are not inclined to talk about it. This is why I give people who try to do something about it major props.

Shame is the result of someone repeatedly giving us the message, “You’re bad,” often without telling us exactly what they found displeasing, and usually without giving us a clear idea of what we could do instead, or how to do it. Parents, teachers, and other authorities do this, sometimes because they do not know any better.

In a way, someone who feels shame does so because he was a capable and quick learner in an environment where shame was being taught. The good news is that that same ability can be used in learning to have a different sense of self.

In cases of severe shame, it is as if the person has only one standard for themselves. “I should please others,” is the ruling thought pattern. Putting too much emphasis on pleasing others can result in submitting to abuses without complaint. I see this behavior on social media, and the internet in general, in abundance.

In transforming shame, it is important to recognize the difference between someone else’s standards and our own, and to be careful to put on our thinking caps when deciding which standards to use for ourselves. As we do this, we are also building a healthy sense of self, or what is often called self-esteem or integrity. This is who I am; this is what is important to me. In reality, we only begin to exist as individuals when we can stand on our own in this way. Until then, we’re just mirror images of someone else -- anyone else -- and dependent on them for a sense of identity.

I know two people very close to me who have not been alone -- ever. A friend goes from woman to woman, looking for validation. I have yet to see him be single in all the years I know him. Of course, each woman becomes his focus until they fall from grace. Another person close to me has never been outside a relationship since her teens. A part of that, I believe, is the consequence of this inner shame and the need to live up to external standards. Somehow, we have to find better strategies for living more effectively.

My name is Eddie and I’m in recovery from civilization…

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