The purpose of this article is to discuss the subject of shame, its impact on one’s life and what steps can be taken to release the feeling of shame and the effects these feelings create.
First, let’s look at some definitions:
SHAME: A strong negative emotion that combines feelings of dishonor, unworthiness, and embarrassment.
GUILT: An awareness of having done wrong accompanied by feelings of shame and regret.
REGRET: To feel sorry and sad about something previously done or said that now appears wrong, mistaken, or hurtful to others.
While shame may appear to be an undesirable emotion, it is vital to the effective functioning of society and is necessary for our individual survival. The purpose of shame is to stop us from engaging in harmful or destructive behavior and to encourage positive behavior. So when a person has harmful behavior and yet feels no shame, they are very dangerous because there is nothing within them to stop their harmful behavior. These people have no remorse.
In all human societies, shame is used by others to control personal behavior. For example, when a person is caught stealing or telling a lie, they feel ashamed – which acts as a deterrent to prevent the person from stealing or lying again. When the reward of the stolen item or lie is greater than the potential shame of being caught, many people will continue their harmful behavior. This conscious wrongdoing has a very destructive effect on one’s life by adding shame on top of shame. This is because shame is invoked by wrongdoing in addition to the shame that is invoked by being caught.
The True Cost is Cumulative
Therefore, the true cost of wrongdoing is the cumulative and compounded feelings of personal shame! The fear of being caught and publicly shamed has one committing more cover ups, lies, etc., and creates cautiousness, conservatism, low confront, slowness and immobility. This traps a person in the Orangezone (fear) and the Redzone (grief and shame) and prevents them from asking for what they want, acting with confidence and creating the realities that they want.
Body shame may have one either physically obsessed or physically lazy, while at the same time, they may have no shame around money; and therefore, may be able to make lots of money. (However, if they have shame around giving themselves what they want, they may have trouble spending it.)
Shame in too many areas will have a person unable to be successful in any area. Shame in a few areas will cause problems in just a few areas, with a small overflow to the other areas.
Live Your Life Without Shame
Living one’s life in a way that creates no new shame, and cleaning up all past shame allows a person to create the realities that one wants, to be in the right place at the right time, and to be at total cause over one’s life.
So what about the people who feel ashamed, and yet do not have a conscious memory of wrongdoing? Often this is caused by years of social and cultural conditioning where we are told what is good and bad, right and wrong, appropriate and inappropriate, and what we should and shouldn’t do. These are given to us by our parents, family, teachers, media, religion, etc. For example, if we have been trained that pre-marital sex is wrong and we engage in pre-marital sex, even though we may consciously think it is OK, we will feel some level of shame. If we withdraw from all things we feel shame around, we would end up living a very limited, at effect life. Therefore, the key to healthy and successful living is to consciously choose and make up our own minds as to what is right from wrong, good from bad, to choose right action instead of wrongdoing, and to educate ourselves in a way that allows us to make educated choices.
Our True Feelings Are Often Hidden in Our Unconscious
The challenge with most feelings of shame is that they are buried deep in our subconscious, and we often have not conscious awareness until the shame is triggered or our results are not what we intended. Many of our behaviors are created by feelings of shame that have us driven in one area and withdrawn from another. For example, if we were a fat child and suffered a lot of ridicule, we may, as an adult, be obsessed with fitness or be totally lazy. If our family struggled for money and was out of control, as an adult we may work obsessively and make money in order to avoid the shame of feeling out of control. (One of the benefits of obsessive work and busyness is the avoidance of feeling.) It is important to note that even though as an adult we may have corrected the physical cause of the childhood shame (ie., going from fat to fit, and poor to rich), we may still have the emotional shame buried in our psyche.
If you have any area of life that is not flowing, and after taking the correct actions, no improvement is sustainable, you may find that shame is inhibiting the area.
Here are the steps to healing shame and alleviating its effects:
- Commit to right action as a way of life.
- Take massive action to correct any past wrongdoing.
- Review any areas of your life that are not flowing; identify any hidden shame.
- Clean slate any areas of shame.
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