Some important insights on shame

I am fascinated by the writing of Augusten Burroughs lately. Luckily my library had a copy of his book This Is How on the shelves, and I am getting so much out of it..

Like so many recovering alcoholics, Augusten has deep insights into his own human nature and complexities.. Wisdom just shines out of each small chapter in this book, wisdom that is funny, no nonsense and very grounded, down to earth, emotionally honest and authentic.. So I wanted to share with you today some portions from the chapter How To Shatter Shame.

some people find it difficult – or impossible – to focus on what they’re doing, instead of the people watching. Some people struggle and cannot seem to let go of other people’s opinions of them, whether real or imagined. That means they’re not able to be themselves. Which means other people wont see them as confident.

This is a self-esteem issue.

The phrase ‘self-esteem issue’ is a cardboard stage prop of a phrase. What does it even mean?

I guess I have a hard time believing that anything hyphenated could possible be the deepest truth of the matter.

A lack of ‘self-esteem’ really suggests a feeling of shame over being one’s self.

Shame is a landfill emotion. It’s not organic, like joy. It was dumped there by someone else.

A manipulation

Shame is very heavy, dense disappointment; somebody else’s, in you.

Inside of disappointment is a deeper judgement : Less than. Inferior. Defective.

See what I was saying before? Shame can lead to a shitload of problems.

Initially, shame is the method adults use to edit children. Shame is a foot that grinds glee into the dirt. It’s very effective to say to a child who has just scribbled with crayons all over the wallpaper, “Boys your age don’t do thing like that, how terrible.”

Shame is more coyly deployed by adults in the attempt to modify the thinking or behavior of other adults.

The word “whatever,” when accompanied by an eye roll is what shame looks like when you take away its unstylish acid wash jeans.

Whatever maybe just one word but it shoulders two different meanings that work together to shame someone.

It is a dismissal.

And the eye roll, whether literal or just implied, is a statement of superiority.

But it’s cleave, effective statement of superiority because it doesn’t come right out and state the position. Rather, the person on the other end of whatever concludes it:

If you consider this carefully and honestly, you will notice that if somebody says this word to you, in this way, it make you feel like a nag, long winded, tiresome, old, clueless, part of the out group.

Shame is the very height of fashion.

We shame each other at every turn

And we don’t even need a single word to do it.

Shame exists because remote controls for people don’t. Shame pushes the button and makes the other person change their channel.

Shame is also a covert and effective bullying method. All those bullies from seventh grade didn’t simply evaporate. They grew up, too, and it’s pretty safe to assume that the majority didn’t seek therapy on their eighteenth birthday to explore their disturbing childhood need for cruelty.

You can’t, of course, as an adult make fun of somebody every day at work and expect to keep your job.

So bullies use shame because shame comes in so many different varieties.

How satisfying it must be for the modern bully to locate his target at the office and make remarks like, “Jason, dude, how’s it going? Hey Man. I’m heading over to the gym at lunch. You know, any time you want I would be totally happy to have you come along and I can show you some things you can to do, you know, stomach things – make that big boy sit back down flat. Or, a lot of guys, you know, big guys, they get kind of busty. And there’s some simple stuff you can do. I would sincerely be very happy to help you out, if you want. I’m just saying.”

The shame is disguised here as helpful. But both people in this conversation know it was bullying.

You can train your eye to identify shame by looking for statement or actions that imply a caste system – “It figures you would like that movie,” or disgust – “Okay, I think I’ve heard enough about your weekend for one morning.”

As hard as it is sometimes to recognize shaming language and actions when its all around you, it’s just as hard to know when shame has landed on you.

And that shit builds up.

Because we’ve been conditioned to accept it since we were kids.

And it happens automatically and fast.

Shame also live inside your head. Its the unnamed voice that says to you:

“God, you are such a slob.”

“Look at that fat ass.”

“That girl is totally out of my league.”

Yeah, right. I’m the next Picasso.”

“Maybe I’m supposed to be alone.”

Shame says things like that. When you feel spontaneously excited by something – a new career you never thought about, a haircut you see in a magazine and want – shame is the voice that brings you “back down to earth.”

“I can’t have that haircut, I have too round a face. “

“Except I think you have to be really smart to have that job.”

Shame often goes into drag as common sense. The belittling put down that shame speaks in you ear often makes sense because, you’ve likely heard it since you were a child.

“If you keep eating, you’re going to be fat.”

Dealing with shame is like dealing with a cancer that’s spread. There’s no single tumor you can remove. No single insight that will cleanse you of the feeling.

What you can do, though, is observe what that inner voice is saying. Its it kind of a nag? Kind of a bitch? Kind of a bully?

If so, it’s not you.

It it’s not you, its extra crap. And you shouldn’t step on to the plane with stuff in your baggage that you didn’t personally pack.

With practice – and it requires practice, like playing an instrument – you can learn to hear the off key melody of a tape playing inside your head that somebody else put there.

A lot of people think they beleive things about themselves – not talented, too talkative, too reserved, pudgy, scrawny, average looking, not good at public speaking – because they hear a voice inside their own heads that reminds them of this ‘fact.’

If you can pay attention every single time you are it or stung with feeling, when you feel that weight suddenly fall inside your chest – “Oh, I forgot I can’t sing. I’m not good at it” – stop and examine it.

Did you put it there?

Who did?

Shame is a barnacle that you have to find, then scrape away.. Shame is the reason you feel less than, not enough, too much ………

People shame other people because they are jealous, reminded of themselves, recognize in somebody else something they themselves have been taught to hate.

Parents sometimes us shame to expedite obedience. Shame makes you feel bad.. It makes you stop what you are doing.

6 thoughts on “Some important insights on shame

  1. Thank you for this post! Shame caused by the words of another can be very hard to overcome but once you do, you will never go back. Once I realized a couple of years ago that the situation I was caught up in was not caused by me, but I was made to feel it was by other people, not just the Bullies either, I let it go. It took time, but I took every single one of their accusations and examined them, looking for the root of it, and once I did, I came to see it was done to me, I didn’t do it to myself like I was led to think. Toxic shame can be released and you will feel lighter and more empowered.

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