According to researcher and author, Brene Brown “Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing we are flawed and therefore unworthy of acceptance and belonging.”
This leads to feelings of fear, isolation, and secrecy.
It’s the vulnerability of being seen fully, if people know your flaws then you’ll somehow be less worthy or unworthy of love and connection. It’s something all people experience and something you can develop tools to help prevent negative or harmful behaviors.
As written by Karen Pace “Shame is often at the heart of many human struggles such as drug and alcohol abuse, eating disorders, bullying, and suicide.”
If you’re struggling with an intimacy disorder, often feelings of shame and questions about your worthiness are at the very heart of the experience.
Coping with Shame – Our Natural Defenses
As humans, we developed the feeling of shame long ago, it has been rarely researched or discussed up until recently.
When we experience shame and refuse to recognize it, we put up what Brown calls shame screens.
A shame screen is a primal defense mechanism that we use to shield and protect ourselves as we experience an event that triggers the fight, flight, and freeze response. When we put up these screens, we can make one of three choices:
- Moving towards shame by seeking a sense of belonging
- Moving against shame by trying to exert power over a situation or others by being aggressive
- Moving away from shame by hiding our experience, keeping secrets, and struggling in silence.
Which of these sounds like you? If you’re suffering from an intimacy disorder, most commonly it’s one of the latter.
Learning to move towards shame – and understand where that feeling is coming from – is a critical part of the healing process.
Shame, according to Brown, is “the swampland of the soul.” The point of experiencing shame isn’t to build a home there and stay in that place. Rather, it’s to walk through and explore the feeling of shame and learn your way around. Like many things in our human experience, in order to overcome it, we need to understand it first.
You can’t create change without vulnerability.
Shame Resilience Theory
Brown coined the term Shame Resilience Theory (SRT) back in 2006. This theory is key for those suffering from addictive tendencies to understand and heal from.
Who is Brené Brown?
You cannot talk about shame and shame resilience without talking about the now infamous researcher and storyteller Brené Brown.
As a pioneer in the field of shame, Brown has spent over two decades studying vulnerability, shame, courage, and empathy.
Brown has given multiple TED talks with millions of views. She’s published many books on shame, empathy, and courage that have landed on the #1 New York Times Bestseller lists. She is also the first researcher to have a lecture featured on Netflix.
The Theory of Shame Resilience
Shame is an epidemic that needs to be addressed. It is a fundamental experience of those suffering from addictions, violent tendencies, and even depression. It is “the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing we are flawed and therefore unworthy of connection and belonging.”
While we cannot truly eliminate shame, we can develop resilience to it.
As Brown stated, Shame Resilience is “that ability to recognize shame when we experience it, and move through it in a constructive way that allows us to maintain our authenticity and grow from our experiences.”
SRT attempts to define not only shame but it’s consequences and how we respond to it. Feeling “trapped, powerless and isolated,” triggers feelings of shame in everyone. By studying these feelings and how they connect to our emotions, we can learn strategies that can help you overcome and feel “empathy, connection, power, and freedom.”
12 Categories of Shame
According to Brené Brown, there are twelve main areas of life and concern that can trigger a sense of shame:
- Surviving trauma
- Body image and appearance
- Money and work
- Mental and physical health
- Surviving trauma
- Being stereotyped or labeled
Being mindful of these triggering areas can help you identify when you’re feeling shame and give you the opportunity to explore and experience it.
Recognizing Triggers & Shame
Armed with the knowledge of the 12 categories of shame, you’ll need to learn how to recognize the feeling of shame in your body and name what has triggered that emotion. Answering questions like:
- I physically feel shame in/on my …
- It feels like…
- I know I’m in shame when I feel …
- If I could taste shame, it would taste like….
Answering these questions for yourself is the first step on your shame resilience journey.
By developing our understanding and our experience of feeling shame, we can learn to have control of those feelings and behaviors that are associated with it.
Developing and Practicing Critical Awareness
In a moment where we are experiencing shame, it often feels like you are the only one in the world who is struggling. It feels like true isolation.
In reality, that just isn’t the case.
Learning how to not only recognize shame but learning why you’re experiencing it and asking critical questions about it is a key tool for developing shame resilience. Try asking questions like:
- Why do these expectations exist?
- How do these expectations work?
- How is our society influenced by these expectations?
- How realistic are my expectations?
- Can I be all these things all the time?
You ask these to learn more about what you’re experiencing and why you’re experiencing it.
Examples of Situations That May Cause Feelings of Shame
Everyone you’ve ever met has experienced shame.
It’s the feeling you get when you first realize you have an addiction, and you decide to keep it a secret.
Admitting that you’re exhibiting addictive patterns shows that you’re weak, that you’re vulnerable. These patterns and choices you’re making don’t align with your ideal version of yourself.
Saying that you’re having difficulties controlling your choices and acknowledging the problem just doesn’t feel like an option. So instead, you hide your behaviors, clear your browser history and pretend like it never happened.
Your image of you as a knight on a white horse has been shattered. Most male-bodied people who have grown up in a traditional society would rather die on that white horse than have people see them fall off.
It’s that moment when you ask, “what is wrong with me?”
It’s that thought of “I am a mistake.”
It’s a terrifying thought and it can feel like you have a dumbbell living in your heart. It prevents you from being authentic and experiencing life to its fullest.
Developing Shame Resilience
4 Elements to Shame Resilience
Having the goal of experiencing empathy, connection, power, and freedom, there are four essential steps you will learn for developing shame resilience.
- Recognizing and identifying the personal vulnerability that led to you experiencing feelings of shame
- Recognizing the triggers and external factors that led to you experiencing feelings of shame
- Cultivating authentic connection with others and receiving empathy for your experience
- Discussing, exploring, and deconstructing the feelings of shame
Essentially, recognizing, acknowledging, and understanding your own personal triggers that led to you feeling shameful is how you can overcome shame and begin to live a more authentic life.
How You Can Learn Shame Resilience
During our Men’s 14-Day Intensive at the Begin Again Institute, you will be given the opportunity to explore your shame, your triggers and cultivate empathetic relationships with others who are suffering from intimacy disorders as well.
Connection is something we are programmed to seek out, and feeling an empathetic connection with the others in your intensive, as well as your therapeutic guides, will provide you with the structure you need to heal.
Dr. Brené Brown has found in her research that empathy is the antidote to shame, shame needs “secrecy, silence and judgment” to survive and thrive. Providing it with a dose of empathy can kill shame.
If we’re going to find our way back to each other vulnerability is going to be that path. By joining a group of others who have similar shared experiences, you’ll find that connection and empathetic understanding that you need to heal.
Success comes from failure, learning, and picking yourself up again. Life is about daring greatly and overcoming the voice in your head that tells you that you aren’t good enough, not capable enough, not worthy enough.
You are not alone.
You are good enough.
You are capable.
You are worthy of healing. Contact our team today to sign up for our next intensive and start your journey with Begin Again Institute.