Guest Author - Paula Petrie
I Thought It Was Just Me, Women Reclaiming Power and Courage in a Culture of Shame.
It’s true, we are living in a culture of shame. Shame is woven into so many aspects of our society that shaming, and shame avoidance, are part of our lifestyle. We have come to make life choices because of, or to avoid shaming encounters. For example, how current our wardrobes need to be, whether we wear make-up, or the type and age of cars we drive. How we act and what we dare say or share is weighed against what we perceive others will think of us.
There are sudden shames that we drop like a brick, straight through embarrassment and humiliation into, like an overflowing tampon. Then, there are the shames which have become the framework of our society, like the shame felt through disconnecting when we attempt to protect ourselves from the opinions of others, or guard against perceived condescension from those of a more comfortable status, or when we choose not to reach out to those who are suffering, because we want to create distance between us and their scandalous situations.
Brene Brown states, “Like the growing epidemic of violence, for many, shame has strangely become both a form of self-protection and a popular source of entertainment. Name calling and character assassinations have replaced national discussions about religion, politics and culture. As in the case of many epidemics, it seems that we are so mired in our own struggle...we don’t make the connections...to address it as a large scale problem.”
I believe this is a very important and timely book. And, as a society we are past due in taking a hard look into the face of shame and breaking it’s hold. We are all required to reclaim our power and our courage over shame and acknowledge the part it plays in the devastation of our marriages, how it affects our friendships, and personal potential.
Sometimes, we struggle in our personal journeys, with feelings of not being good enough or having a true sense of belonging. We sometimes dodge honesty for safety. Brown points out that we need to develop and strengthen our “ordinary courage," our compassion, and our connection abilities to effectively tackle these personal issues and build a shame resilience.
Shame is it’s own secret society. It holds a power over us through our silence and acceptance of it‘s nature. It makes us feel alone, and through this isolation causes real damage.
We must develop a resilience to shame, and teach our children how to do the same, if for no other reason, than to lift our wonderful human potential above the burden of anguish, that shame exacts. To move forward and to help our planet, we need to work at healing human disconnection.
Guilt examines our actions, shame affects who we are. Using shame to change another’s behavior has an immediate effect that can cause lasting damage. This doesn’t change behaviors in the long run. Shaming scars families.
Brene Brown, “Of all the insights that emerged from this study, none was more powerful to me than the influence parents have on their children...It is difficult to capture in writing the emotion conveyed by participants when they explained what it meant to hear their parents say, “I’m sorry,” or “I understand how that made you feel.”
This book offers wonderful insights into shame and the elements that we must practice when we choose to develop our resilience over shame and to help others by “creating a culture of connection.”
When I finished, “I Thought It Was Just Me,” I realized that I had dog-eared two thirds of it’s pages for important points. So I guess I will be reading it again. Although our culture is out of control with shame obsession, I wonder if the basis of shame isn't a necessary evil. Otherwise, we could all be walking around in PJ's with bad hygine.