Thursday, October 25, 2007
Shame is associated with the expression of certain emotions. In many families, as well as in many cultures, expression of such feelings as anger, fear, sadness or vulnerability, may be met with shaming reproaches, such as "Pull yourself together," "Don't be a baby," "Stop crying or I'll give you something to cry about," or "YOU don't have anything to be afraid of." Pride is also a feeling that is often met with shameful condemnations, such as "Who do YOU think you are, Mr. Bigshot?," or "You're getting too big for your britches." Often these shaming admonitions are internalized, so that when we get in touch with any of these "shameful feelings" we will automatically feel shame, and try to control or hide the feelings, or, at the very least, to apologize profusely for them.
Clearly these shaming inner voices can do considerable damage to our self esteem. These self criticisms, that we are stupid, selfish, a show-off, etc., become, in varying degrees, how we see ourselves. For some of us, the inner critical judge is continuously providing a negative evaluation of what we are doing, moment-by-moment. As mentioned before, the inner critic may make it impossible for one to do anything right, telling you that you are too aggressive, or not aggressive enough, that you're too selfish, or that you let people walk all over YOU.
shame manifests itself physically in a wide variety of forms. The person may hide their eyes; lower their gaze; blush; bite their lips or tongue; present a forced smile; or fidget. Other responses may include annoyance, defensiveness, exaggeration or denial. Because the affect of shame often interferes with our ability to think, the individual may experience confusion, being at a loss for words, or a completely blank mind.
Helen B. Lewis, a pioneer in recognizing the importance of shame to psychotherapy, argued that shame really represents an entire family of emotions. This family includes: humiliation, embarrassment, feelings of low self-esteem, belittlement, and stigmatization. Shame is often a central ingredient in experiences of being:
1.Shame is an ornament of the young; a disgrace of the old.
2.A nightingale dies for shame if another bird sings better.
3.If yet not lost to all the sense of shame.
4.O shame, where is thy blush?
5.If we are not ashamed to think it, we should not be ashamed to say it.