Friday, June 8, 2012

The Most Hidden Aspect of Shame

Someone recently pointed out Brene Brown's current TED talk about shame.  You can view it here.

I like Brene Brown; I think she does super important work.

She differentiates shame from guilt.  Guilt, as I have written about too, can be good. It can alert us to our values being out of line with our actions; it can let us know there is unfinished business.

Shame is destructive.  It keeps us hiding.  Small.  Invisible.  When we are meant to shine.

Shame, as Brown puts it so succinctly, is "you're not good enough!"

She adds: If you get past that, shame says, "who do you think you are!?"


This is the stuff of depression, addiction, eating disorders -- again, destruction.

It only took me a few moments to identify my own shame, and it very much resides in  and around my body.

I have received too many requests to count to start making videos, but I don't. Why?

I have a million excuses.  They seem logical.

But watching this talk about shame, I realized there is only ONE excuse: I do not make videos for shame of this body. I think it will be harshly judged. I keep thinking it could be just a bit. more. "ready."


Then, yes, if I get past that "little" bit, I hear the voices start up, "Who the hell do you think you are to call yourself dancer? To present your dancing to the world? Do you think you are special?"

And on and on.

Today, though, in the car coming home from teaching my Elder Dancers, something about this whole shame conversation struck me as ... shallow.

Shallow in that it only touches the surface.

To dive deeply into this shame, we would have to talk about where the hell these voices come from to begin with.

You are not born with these ugly ass voices in your head.

You do not sit around, being a sweet innocent child, and suddenly freaking concoct these voices.

They do not come from nowhere.

This seems obvious, right?  But it's the dirty secret that therapists never get to.

Or rarely get to.

And our culture! HA! We can't speak of this.  This is the dirtiest secret of all.


You were TAUGHT to think this way about yourself.

You were CONDITIONALLY loved.

You were raised by people or around people who thought this little of themselves -- thanks to how THEY were raised -- and so they spit up their poison and put it inside you.  Just to be free of it for a moment themselves.  Who cares that they were meant to care for you, nurture you, grow you better than they were grown.

Shame comes from our caretakers.

Shame comes from an attitude toward parenting in this day and age that still sees children not as separate, beautiful, to-be-protected-at-all-costs precious beings, but as attachments, reflections, possessions.

Until we are willing to place blame where blame belongs, shame will not go away.

We will even add another layer to the shame: shame for feeling shame to begin with.

Until we are willing to face the very heart of this particular darkness, there is no amount of woo woo talk that can banish it for real.

Violence against other and self will continue to predominate.

Until we face this, we will continue to pop large numbers of anti-depressants, eat too much or too little, over-exercise, stay beyond-busy, drink lots of alcohol, and on and on... all in an attempt to numb voices that are not even ours to begin with.