To be human means that we are emotional beings and there are many emotions that we can have. Shame is one of them and this can stop one from acting in ways that are inappropriate for example. And yet this emotion can also end up taking over one’s life. It is then no longer something that is aiding ones life; it is something that is controlling their entire existence.
This is why shame is often divided into two categories and these are described as: healthy and unhealthy. So when it comes to healthy shame, one may end up feeling shame if they were to go shopping without wearing any clothes.
And when it comes to unhealthy shame, this person would go out shopping with clothes on and still feel shame. For this person it doesn’t matter what they wear or what they do, the feeling is still there.
The feeling could be something that is always there or it could come and go at certain times and all depend on what one is doing. Healthy shame on the other hand, is there to stop one from acting in ways that are not in ones best interests.
Personal And Impersonal
Healthy shame is not something that is personal; it is impersonal and based on what one does. So although one might feel bad after doing something, it won’t be taken to heart and internalised, it will be a feeling that soon passes.
However, unhealthy shame will be taken as personal and not as something one does, but who they are. It is something that has become ones identity and doesn’t disappear after a certain period of time. And no matter how much times passes, the feeling is still there.
Here, one can come to the conclusion that there is something inherently wrong with them and they are completely flawed. There is then very little, if anything, that one thinks they can do to change.
To have this deep sense that one is flawed and different to others has the potential to create all kinds of unpleasant consequences. But just because one feels this way, it doesn’t mean that it will always be noticeable.
It is possible for someone to come across in a way that gives off the impression that they lack believe in themselves and yet it is also possible that someone will behave in a way that causes one to see them as being full of belief and confidence.
Here, one is either getting caught in their feelings of shame or they are avoiding them by creating adaptive behaviours and ways of handling life that are the complete opposite.
When one feels a sense of shame they can also end up passing it onto other people. This is typically something that will go on unconsciously and won’t be something that one is aware of doing. Ultimately, they will do this to regulate how they feel and to give them a short term release from the pain that they are experiencing.
This shame can then be passed onto whoever ones spends their time with. So if one has children, it could end up being passed onto them. If one is a teacher, it could end up being passed onto their pupils. Ones friends or colleagues could also pick it up through being around them in ways that are obvious and subtle.
There will be some people who hold their shame in and don’t pass it onto others. However, one might hold it in during certain moments and express it in others. So one person won’t necessarily be one way or the other; they could be both.
And along with these feelings of shame is going to be certain thoughts and beliefs that one has. These thoughts could be: that one is useless; that they are worthless; that they don’t deserve to exist; that others look down on them; that they are inferior; that they are invisible; that there is something inherently wrong with them and many other thoughts.
It is common for these thoughts to be labelled as the reason why one feels as they do. And that one’s thoughts create their feelings and emotions. So as a result of this outlook, one would change their thoughts and beliefs into something more empowering.
And for some people this will work, but for others it won’t be enough. The reason for this is that these thoughts are often nothing more than a reflection of what is going on in one’s body. It is then no so much that one’s thoughts are creating their feelings, as it is that their feelings are creating their thoughts.
What is going on in the body is often ignored and the mind ends up getting all of the attention. And yet this can be a real mistake and cause one to look for answers in the wrong place. One can then not only end up feeling frustrated and powerless due to nothing changing, but they can also waste a lot of time.
These feelings of shame that reside in the body could have been there due to what happened in their adult years and also be the result of what took place when they were children. As one didn’t get the chance to release them, they will have stayed trapped in one’s body and primarily above their stomach.
There is also likely to be others feelings along with shame that have remained trapped in the body. And the reason they have stayed in the body could be due to a number of reasons.
Perhaps one was brought up by a caregiver who was verbally abusive and so they ended up feeling shame and had no other choice but to hold it in. Or ones caregivers may have become unaware it themselves and end up passing it on through what they didn’t do as much as what they did do.
So while one could deal with their thoughts, the feelings would still be in their body. It might be better to release their trapped feelings and emotions and then their thoughts will naturally change.
This can be done with the assistance of a therapist or a healer who will allow one to face them and then gradually release them.
Oliver JR Cooper
Author of 25 books, Transformational Writer, Teacher & Consultant.
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That which is contained within these articles is based on my own empirical understanding and is true for me at the time they were written. However, as I continue to grow, what I perceive as the truth will inevitably change and as a result of this - parts of these articles may not reflect my current outlook.