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When Shame Hits

Shame corrodes the part of us that believes we can do and be better.”
Daring Greatly, by Brené Brown

From my experience shame can come out of nowhere. It hit me hard yesterday, and it can be a real gut wrencher.

I met up for breakfast with some friends from my men’s group. I value having these men in my life and we were having a great conversation. Another man happened to walk into the store where we were eating and joined us. I hadn’t seen him in a long while. I appreciate these moments in my life.

Then one man said something to another. Innocently, nothing wrong with what he said, but it hit me in the gut. The pain from that blow slowly expanded over through the rest of the day, putting me in a space such that I found it hard to be productive for a few hours.

Shadow

Shadow - The part of ourselves that we don’t talk about. It is the part of our personality that we deny to the world, and often to ourselves. That which we repress, hide and deny.

That is what had been hit in me yesterday, shadow. I have a context for this now. My men’s work has shown me shadow and given me a safe place to bring shadow into light. Something that had innocently been said had touched a shadow within me. As the day went on, those very men who I had had breakfast with also became my support.

Shame Resilience

The work of author, speaker and researcher, Brené Brown, through her own research on shame has developed a four step process for dealing with shame. Brown calls this process Shame Resilience. Here are those four steps:

  1. Recognising shame and understanding our triggers - Shame is biology and biography. What are your physical responses. What does shame taste like, smell like, feel like?
  2. Practice Critical Awareness - Can you reality-check the messages and expectations that are driving your shame?  Are they realistic?  Attainable?  Are they what you want to be or what you think others need/want from you?
  3. Reaching Out - Are you owning and sharing your story?  We can’t experience empathy if we’re not connecting.
  4. Speaking Shame - Are you talking about how you feel and asking for what you need when you feel shame?

This was also a big help. When I bring light to that which I did not know was there, or had hidden due to shame or fear of being judged, it starts to loose its power. When I bring that shadow to light within the context of a person or community who does not judge me, who sees me beyond my struggles, the power of that seeing becomes all the more stronger.

Shadow and shame does not disappear over night, but a willingness to expose, challenge and look at them will wear down the foundations upon which they stand.

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