What is Shame?
Shame is an emotion that comes up when we believe that there is something wrong with us. Brené Brown PhD, says “Shame is best defined as the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing we are flawed and therefore unworthy of acceptance and belonging.”
It could be an inner or outer experience.
A little shame is healthy, since it is a sign of danger, but too much of it and consistent, causes us to have negative thoughts about ourselves.
It is one of the deep seated, most complex, root emotions that is mainly either -
1. Inherited - generational trauma which is unresolved trauma and shame, inherited from our parents and grandparents before them, or
2. Projected by our culture, religion, parents, teachers during our childhood.
This emotion is slowly developed in our subconscious in a series of projections, creating intense feelings of self loathing, inadequacy, unworthiness, inferiority, hopelessness, self-critisism, negative self talk, low self-esteem, guilt or rage and it creates personality traits such as perfectionism, people-pleasing or putting everyone else's needs before self.
PHYSIOLOGICAL EFFECTS OF SHAME,according to Dr van der Kolk, work from top to bottom, meaning the reaction starts in the brain,the limbic system where our subconscious mind is,and works its way down to the body. The brain perceives the danger, it signals the adrenal glands to release high levels of cortisol to deal with the danger/perceived danger. When the cortisol levels are constantly high, there will be high levels of glucose in the muscles. Our system responds to this toxic shame with freeze state, where the individual cannot discharge the trauma held in the body by shaking it off as animals do after being chased, so it is held in the subconscious long term in freeze response.
According to TCM shame is mainly stored in the pancreas, stomach and spleen, so the systems most effected are the immune and digestive systems.
Typical posture could be -
🍃 Stooped upper body with eyes gazing downwards,shrinking self smaller
🍃 tight chest
🍃 Increased heart rate
Healthy release of shame is to be aware when it arises, learn from it and correct it but most of the time, its toxicity is hidden in our subconscious, it affects our lives, relationships and self esteem, it causes us to build a protective wall around us, it can also lead to addiction, codependency, eating disorders, bullying or depression.
Individuals become so overwhelmed with shame that they develope a subconscious belief system, believing it defines them, preventing themselves from reaching their full potential by self-sabotaging.
Subconscious beliefs such as:
🌱 I am not important
🌱 I don’t deserve to be happy
🌱 I am bad
🌱 It is my fault
🌱 There is something wrong with me
🌱 I am stupid
🌱 I am not enough
In childhood shame appears when we feel the loss of connection from our parents, our primary care givers. Under two years old the communication is done via face and body language since speech has not yet been developed. When there is no facial response in the parent possibly due to the parent feeling depressed, post natal depression or regularly responding in negative response, it brings feelings of shame to the child specially if already there is generational shame and trauma. The child will seek to be accepted by the primary care giver and as growing up, from every close relationships in their lives and even engage in codependent relationships, seeking acceptance until we realise that acceptance and love comes from within.
My earliest memory of shame is when I was between 14-20 months, not sure of the exact age but I was able to walk but still in nappies and that day I soiled my nappy. To this day, I remember the feeling of doing something wrong, cowering behind the washing machine, filled with fear and anxiety and wishing that I wouldn't be found out. This memory stayed with me and I always associated it with fear and wondered why it kept resurfacing, until recently, during meditation, I noticed something I did not before, I saw myself shrinking small behind the washing machine. That was my aha moment where I recognised the shame that was also associated with this memory. That is when I began to release and heal the memory from the root.
Shame can be hidden in our subconscious for years, even decades because other secondary emotions such as guilt, passive aggressive behaviour, rage, sarcasm or anger directed either towards self or others, mask it, until we are ready to see it and release it.
Shame and guilt might seem similar but there is a distinction. Shame is about who we are, our worth to others and ourselves. It is an emotion that we conceal, we release it byacceptingit. Whereas guilt is about what we have done, we release it byseekingforgiveness.
Currently, there is the collective shame that we are all working on together, so there will be triggers helping us to clear and heal collectively.
Awareness is the first step to releasing shame. Having self reflection, self compassion, forgiveness, building our inner and outer resources and wanting to change those lower frequency beliefs to empowering affirmations, will slowly help us towards the healing journey to self love.
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