Shame is both a feeling and a belief. The feeling is very unpleasant. People usually talk about noticing their face getting red, wanting to run away but finding themselves virtually paralyzed, being unable to maintain eye contact with anyone, losing all their strength and becoming incredibly weak and powerless, feeling totally exposed to people’s scrutiny and criticism, and collapsing inside into nothingness. This feeling can be almost intolerable. That’s why people find ways to make it go away, including converting shame into rage.
The belief that goes with shame is that somehow you are defective. Broken. Useless. Flawed. Damaged goods. Ugly. Worthless. The deeper the shame, the more this damage seems impossible to mend. Eventually, powerfully shamed people come to belive these messages:
- “I am no good.”
- “I am not good enough.”
- “I am unlovable.”
- “I don’t belong.”
- “I should not exist.”
These are terribly damaging messages. People who think this way about themselves suffer. They see themselves as total losers.
Shame affects people’s behaviors as well. Strongly shamed people tend to avoid others. That’s because they are sure everyone else will see all their flaws. They might not want to talk about themselves either, for the same reason.
Shame has a spiritual component as well. Deeply shamed people often feel cut off from spiritual support. Judging themselves as unworthy of love or respect, they think of themselves as God’s mistake. Consequently , they often feel empty inside. While we acknowledge that we all have a sin condition, we must remember that we are made in the image of God as well. We are the Imago Dei.
How Vulnerable Are You To Shame-Based Thinking?
Shame-based thinking is terrifying and dangerous. If you have shame, you need to recognize how it infiltrates your thinking. Otherwise, you won’t be able to stop them. So ask yourself these questions:
- Do people say that you are way too sensitive?
- Do people often tell you that they don’t understand why something they said bothered you so much?
- Do you become furious when people seem to disrespect you?
- Is your reputation – your good name – something you strongly defend?
- Do you frequently worry that people think you are stupid, worthless, ugly, or incompetent?
- Do you get really mad after a moment of embarrassment, for instance, if someone points out something you did wrong?
- Do you dwell upon put-downs that you believe people have made about you?
- Do you become irate when people seem to be ignoring you?
- Is anger, even really strong anger, easier for you to handle than feeling shame?
- Do you sense that you convert feelings of shame to anger or rage?
Challenge The Validity Of The 5 Core Shame Messages
- What thoughts do you already have that help you believe in your own essential goodness?
- What new thoughts could you think that would also help in this way?
- What do you do that helps you feel you are making a contribution to the world?
- Who in your life regularly respects you, praises you, and/or appreciates you?
- How are you kind to and accepting and forgiving of yourself?
- How else could you become kinder to and more accepting and forgiving of yourself?
*Taken from “Rage – A Step-By-Step Guide To Overcoming Explosive Anger” by Ronald T. Potter-Efron, MSW, PH.D