Shame is a painful emotion rooted in the belief that one needs to cover oneself up because they believe themselves to be fundamentally flawed. Unlike guilt which is feeling bad about something that one has done shame is about feeling bad about who one is. Shame is believing that one is ultimately inadequate, unworthy and unlovable.
The challenge with an emotion such as a shame is that it is often very difficult to detect that one is experiencing it. Shame creates an almost polluted internal environment for the individual and creates a distorted paradigm within which sub-optimal choices then become made from. A metaphor to help explain the power of shame would be one in which a fish were born in polluted waters. A fish born in polluted waters would never be able to know that the water in which it lives is polluted because it is the only water it knows. That fish could be experiencing much pain as a result of living in dirty water but could never ever know that the water is the cause of its problems. With time the fish would believe that it is the problem because it could not find any other reason.
Shame operates much the same way in individuals. Individuals could live an entire life not realizing that they are doing so from a paradigm of shame. This paradigm of shame colors and drives most of their resulting behaviours. If a man believes himself to be fundamentally inadequate, unworthy and unlovable then his resulting actions will be driven as a result of those beliefs.
The first step is working through shame is coming to the awareness that shame is present. However, being intellectually aware of shame is not enough to move past shame.
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“Individuals could live an entire life not realizing that they are doing so from a paradigm of shame.”