Shame: how to transform this emotion that invalidates

When our behavior does not match what was expected by the other individuals of our species, we feel shame. If this emotion lasts over time it has physical and emotional consequences such as chronic stress.An exquisite Irene Némrovsky portrays in the France of the 30s the harmful link of a young teenager with her mother and the continuous exposure to which she subjected her daily when she mistreated her in front of people.

«Do you want me to hit you? Yes? », And the burning of a slap. In the street. He was eleven years old and tall for his age. The pedestrians, the elderly, that meant nothing. But at that moment some boys were leaving school and had laughed at her when they saw her. “And now what, girl” Oh! Those mocking laughter that had chased her while she walked, head down, down the dark autumn street.

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What is shame

Did you ever feel that feeling in your life? If you feel violated, criticized … that the eyes of others evaluate, sometimes severely. We call that shame.

Could the shame be desirable or useful at some point? I ask Ms. María Costa, from the compassionate Motivation team, who works with these kinds of disabling emotions. “Of course,” he replies, “is that many thousands of years ago our ancestors lived in difficult environments.” Food was scarce, the elements and the weather were hard and there were animals that could hurt or kill them. In that context, our ancestors survived because they were part of a group. Group members protected each other from various dangers. However, can you imagine what would happen if one member of the group did something that was harmful to another member?Surely a punishment would apply, especially if the behavior was inappropriate to the rules. To get out of the established meant having to deal with the difficulties and dangers of life for yourself and would most likely end in death. ”

This is how this emotion appeared in the history of the species, as a way to help us delimit adequate and unsuitable experiences for us and our species. Its function according to Natali Gumiy, psychologist of the same team, “is to track how we exist and perceive ourselves in the minds of others to avoid rejection, segregation and, ultimately, death. This approach based on evolutionary theories teaches us that shame is a powerful echo of our past. ”

In the evolution of the individual, shame begins to appear when we begin to become aware of others and of our interactive role with them . Therefore, the psychologist Erik Erikson pointed out that after two years we can experience it when we do something that exposes us to the evaluation of others. Moreover, the same author points out that if this experience is repeated because the context is very severe or disabling, it can have very harmful effects on the child’s development.Much of what we are has been completely beyond our control and this is not our fault but it is our responsibility what we do with it, Paul Gilbert

Earth swallow me

To experience shame, two things have to happen: on the one hand, that our behavior does not match what is expected by the other individuals of our species and on the other that I feel the same, that is, what I do is inappropriate. It is not enough only with the severe gaze of others. Thus, Saint Francis of Assisi undressed in front of the bishop and his entourage in medieval Italy to claim for a poorer and less ostentatious church. In that act he felt liberation and rebellion, not shame.

“Like any other emotion – Dr. Lorena Llobenes, third member of the team – tells us how we think, what we pay attention to and how we behave. It has physical and emotional consequences such as chronic stress if it lasts over time. ”

Thus, it is registered in homes where parents or caregivers are too demanding or do not understand the evolutionary needs of the little ones. But it also manifests itself in spaces where those who have more power subdue those who are most vulnerable.Bullying would be an experience that embarrasses, humiliates, anguish and shame.

Lenses that focus poorly

Natali tells us that Paul Gilbert, creator of Compassion Therapy, “considers shame as framed within the emotions of the threat system. This is a primitive system in our brain, which has the function of protecting us from real threats. Which means that other emotions can accompany it like anxiety, anger and repulsion. Many people describe it as one of the most unpleasant emotions that can be experienced by their physical and emotional expression. ”

What happens then is that these people see the world with dark lenses that emphasize the negative of each situation, the possibility of being wrong, of failing, of feeling judged . Shy, anxious social and avoidant people can experience it very regularly. Even just thinking about the threatening context!

“The focus is exclusively on perceived threats – says Maria in that sense – and it is thanks to the new brain competencies that our brain uses the imagination generating thought loops that create unreal scenarios and exacerbate this fear of rejection.

As a consequence, the impulse to withdraw emerges and we end up disconnected from others, which causes long-term social isolation. That is what happens: the shameful person is a person in solitude, isolated from society.

The appropriate antidote

Surely creating more flexible and tolerant spaces for people is an important step in helping to transcend shame. But at the individual level, the antidote seems to be compassion and self-pity. These innate experiences of our mind allow us to cultivate the purpose and wisdom of a compassionate mind.

“Compassion-centered therapy (CFT),” says Lorena, “develops compassion to cultivate courage and get involved with difficult experiences, that is, with the darkest aspects of our mind. For this approach, compassion enhances the sensitivity to the presence of suffering in oneself and others with the commitment to try to alleviate and prevent that suffering. ”

It is through a transformation of shame that the patient begins to feel liberated, is allowed to err and not respond exactly to the expectations of others.

This therapy is protective, protective, promotes autonomy and self-confidence and especially a more caring attitude of the patient with himself.

We need radical acceptance of ourselves. In the experience of being authentic and loving ourselves as we are, there is the path to well-being.

 

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