Apr 18, 2011

I rally against shame because I am keenly aware of the affect it has on our ability to move forward.
It appears to be a commonly held belief that if you can make someone feel uncomfortable or embarassed by their behavior, that they will make moves to change that behavior.
In certain circumstances I think this may be true. If you embarass a child for being mean to another child they may stop expecting kudos for being a jerk, and thus cease the behavior. If you remind someone that every time they don't recycle, a tree dies, they may endeavor to reuse their cup.

But these levels of discomfort, and the behaviors attached, often correlate to an easy to change behavior, or a level of embarassment that has not yet burrowed it's way down to soul shattering shame.

Shame is different. Burrowed in a deep dark place it tells us we don't just make mistakes, but are somehow specifically flawed.

And it has been my experience that shame does create a change in behavior, but not the change you'd hope. Most shame creates secrecy. It creates myth and confusion. Miscommunication. It propels a person to treat an issue like a black hole that they take increasingly longer routes to circumvent, eventually scared to even look at the whorl, for fear of being sucked straight inside.

Because at the base of shame, it seems to me, is an idea: manifesting unlikable or problematic behaviors is not indicitave of work to be done, but work that will never be done. It communicates: you didn't just fuck up, you ARE a fuck up.

Because of shame abused housewives are scared to leave their home and wear a short sleeved shirt. Because of shame people over eat in private and hide the wrappers. Because of shame we circle quietly around the hell of our shortcomings unable to truly ever move away from them, but unable to truly address them nonetheless.

Shame makes a mistake the monster in the dark. Shame turns confusion into terror and self hatred. Shame makes us all lonely, convinced that is where we deserve to be.

The greatest thing you can ever do for someone you love is remind them that you love them for all of it, even their worse moments. To assure them that for every burden they share with you, your belief in their perserverance doubles. To show them, in your actions, and your words, that mistakes are just that, misteps on a generally honorable path, learning experience that just serve to gorgeously differentiate and inspire growth.

And to remind them that it is never, ever, shameful to be the beautiful and flawed person that they are.

No comments: