Burden Of Shame


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Shame-bound persons, believing themselves to be seriously flawed, without worth, and hardly belonging in the world inevitably have the consequences of their shame-consciousness show up very negatively in many areas of their life:

At the core of the shame-bound person is a failure of self-esteem. As one feels dishonored and without belonging, then feeling good about oneself, feeling confident in one’s abilities is inevitably lost. With one’s boundaries mushy and one’s sense of oneself as “flawed,” one hardly has a self at all, let alone one to feel high regard for. “Shaming” a person makes him as low as he can go. For a person who has been shamed has no way out, his is the feeling of there being nothing he can do to set things right. Something vague, but decisive, has shrunk his soul.

The shame-bound person may become either an offender or a victim, or, as is most likely, one who vacillates from one mode to the other. If his experiences cause him to access his shame, he may take out his hurt and rage on others weaker than himself in his present community of family and friends. For another person whose defense is less aggressive, if she is re-shamed, she may fall into her accustomed role of victim, as she is naturally adept in this guise, having been an actual victim in her original family. Having learned to make a “virtue” of necessity, she has mastered playing the victim for what consolation rewards there are–some sympathy, some self-righteousness. For the offender there is some momentary sense of revenge and power, for the victim, a brief touch with martyrdom–and beyond these meager compensations, the despair of impotence and participation in the continuing of the cycle of shame. The shame of the parents becomes the shame of the children, and so on…

The shame-bound person has difficulty with intimate relationships.

Feeling so bad about herself, she does not wish another to know her, expecting for sure that he will see what a shameful creature she is. So she puts up a false front, she pretends and postures and does all the things she believes others will be impressed by, but she can never do that which is the essence of intimacy, reveal herself to another in open risk taking.

Depression often possesses the shame-bound person. Depression is the stuck place between anger and grief. The person who feels no sense of self-worth will not know how to get angry, for that would be too much aggression for him who was brought up with such a fragmented sense of being entitled to respect. On the other hand, the shame-possessed person cannot grieve, for it was much too disappointing and painful to dare to believe that he could be genuinely important to another, or vice versa. Depression is marked by alienation and no real opportunity to bring things back together. At the center of depression is the sense of loss, and the shame-bound person carries the greatest loss of all, the loss of a valued self. The loss is made more difficult to emerge from as one recognizes that he is only partially aware of the dimension of his loss, having been deprived of the experience of and the model for respectful caring and nurturing.

The shame-bound person is controlling, rigid, and perfectionistic.

She has had to compensate for having not felt a sense of love. Her experience of “love” is the opposite of the highly touted, idealized concept of “unconditional love”. Shame comes from all “love” being conditional. Which, of course means that the love is never complete, never a comment on the person as she is, but as she pleases her parents by satisfying their expectations and demands. So she attempts to put life in “perfect” order to compensate for the chaos in the relationships of her heart. Not feeling the warmth of love, she needs desperately to control the world and is not able to tolerate deviation. In a loveless world, “doing things right” brings the only rewards she can attain. She lives very carefully, for a slip can cause her to lose her fragile hold on things.

The shame-bound person clings to his image, after all it is the most positive thing he has going for him. He believes that within he has no real self, that he is not loved, or respected, or needed, so he must make himself loveable, appear respectable, and create the illusion of being indispensable to others. He works hard at it. He lives by his false-self, often bouncing between an over- and under-inflated presentation of himself. He does not strive for self-fulfillment, only for self-image fulfillment.

The shame bound person is numb and/or spaced-out. Life is so painful as-it-is that she takes the way of self hypnosis, or enters a self-induced trance-state in order to make her experience bearable. She lives anesthetized, and feeling as little pain as possible. Of course, neither can she feel passion or pleasure.

Training is available to heal toxic shame, kindly contact our Islamabad office.

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