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Why Shame is the Unspoken Epidemic in our Culture

I’m a big fan of Brené Brown, and would like to talk about one of her biggest teachings — how shame is an epidemic in our culture. In her findings, shame is a big culprit that causes depression, anxiety, eating disorders, addiction, violence and many other negative things.  

“Shame is an epidemic in our culture,” she says. And she’s right. 

As put so eloquently, guilt is what we feel when we do something wrong, and shame is what we feel when we believe we are something wrong. Or there’s something wrong with us.

For example, a busy mom may feel shame when she’s stressed from all she does for the kids and feels like she can’t handle it all. A man may feel shame if he becomes overwhelmed with his emotions, yet was taught as a child to “toughen up” and to do it all. Both parties may feel un-welcomed to become vulnerable and open up to how they are feeling. 

A young boy who loves to wear dresses and is finding more physical attraction toward men may feel shame if he was taught that boys must like girls. 

In her book, “I Thought it was Just Me (But it isn’t): Making the Journey from “What will People Think?” to “I am Enough,” Brené Brown came up with a Shame Resilience Theory.

As the name suggests, Shame Resilience Theory (SRT) is concerned with how people react to shame. She went in-depth to discover how people normally respond and react to shame. People tend to avoid shame, go toward it (hating themselves in the process) or numbing out. People tend to feel trapped, powerless or isolated when it comes to shame. A goal of shame resilience is to help people feel powerful, connected, empathetic and free. 

She came up with four elements of Shame Resilience to help navigate this:

  1. Recognizing the personal vulnerability that led to the feelings of shame
  2. Recognizing the external factors that led to the feelings of shame
  3. Connecting with others to receive and offer empathy
  4. Discussing and deconstructing the feelings of shame themselves

We all feel shame, but oftentimes we don’t talk about it, or if we do talk about it, we don’t do anything about it. Brené says that the antidote to shame is empathy. We listen to ourselves or others when they’re being vulnerable rather than judging or jumping to conclusions. This is the key to overcoming our fears, frustration and isolation. 

How to Deal With Shame in the Moment

For me personally, dealing with shame and developing shame resilience has been a spiritual practice, and somewhat of a spiritual awakening. When we really look at the negative beliefs about ourselves, it can be extremely sad and bring on more shame that we feel that way. That’s why practicing love and compassion towards myself and realizing that In am whole and perfect just as I am (part of waking up to my soul) has been crucial in this practice.

I am very familiar with understanding and recognizing my shame triggers and when I’m heading towards a shame spiral. I feel tightness in my chest, I feel hot, and butterflies in my stomach, almost feeling jittery. This is when I know I will most likely wipe my shame onto someone else and say something I’ll regret, so it’s best for me to walk away to calm down and shake off my emotions. Usually shame for me can be accompanied with anger or frustration, hurt or pain, guilt and/or sadness. It’s an extremely healthy and important part of self-care to get these emotions out of our body in some way. I have learned that it’s actually CRUCIAL for my health and relationships. Ways that I practice getting my feelings out in the moment are:

•Turn on some loud, primal music and shake or dance around for 5 minutes

•Scream into a pillow

•Punch a pillow or punching bag

•Use a dammit doll and hit it against the floor, wall or pillow

After I get all of that out, it’s so much easier for me to relax, look at things rationally, problem solve, practice high levels of critical awareness, reach out to others, speak shame, be loving towards myself and do all the the things I’m supposed to do in alignment with my highest self. I also include regular self-care activities as preventative care such as kickboxing, yoga, meditation, and all of the above to avoid emotional buildup.

Now I’d love to hear from you.

When was the last time you experienced shame? How did you deal with it? How do you define shame? How would you like to break out of old patterns around shame? The first step toward healing the shame epidemic is to start a conversation — and I’d like to start that here. 

Let me know in the comments below and I look forward to connecting and going deeper with you. Thanks as always for following along and joining in on the conversation. Sending much love, self-care, and gratitude. 

Namaste. 


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