When we hear the word shame, we usually first think of moments, where we have been put down, ridiculed, or where we have failed with something in front of others. Maybe we still connect it with moments of nervousness or tension when we appear in public, or have to give a speech, or need to talk in front of people, especially if we assume they might be critical towards us.
And, all these are moments where shame gets activated, but the real question is, where does this reaction come from? What is actually happening inside of us? What makes us have feelings of shame?
The roots of shame go far back, back to very early childhood. And they are connected with the huge need of the small child or baby for positive mirroring (aslo see article Mirroring). Mirroring of the need for merging, mirroring of the strength that manifests in us. We need mirroring for literally everything. Especially for our connection with existence, for the presence of essence in our lives (also see Essence). Without this mirroring, we lose the contact with the essential qualities, and holes remain inside of us, instead of presence. And we feel rightly that something is missing, that we are not complete anymore. We feel it, and we become even more dependent and vulnerable to our environment. At the very core of shame lies the lack of adequate mirroring in very early childhood. Insensitive, impatient or even aggressive behavior of the environment, especially the parents, deepen this wound even more. And at some point we ourselves belief that something is wrong with us, deep down we have lost the sense of being beautiful, valuable, precious.
And, of course, we are happy to ignore this wound inside of us. We protect ourselves from it, as much as we can. In certain situations however, standing in front of bigger audiences, or moments where you have made a mistake, or where you were not successful with your task or project, the defense collapses, and the feelings of shame flood you. Sometimes it is enough that you have a wish or a need, and the very situation of showing that you have a need or a wish brings up shame.
Others might not do or say anything, we put our projections on them. Our projection that there is something wrong with us, that we are not ok. If the others really put us down, it intensifies the process even more. But the core is, we ourselves believe that we are wrong.
And this creates a whole chain of negative expectations towards people and the world, and a whole chain of reactions inside of us. Rebellion, withdrawal, revengefulness, demanding, manipulation, helplessness. If you don´t trust, that you deserve something, but you need or want it, you will try to get it, but not openly, directly in a way, where you say what you want, and you still give the other the space to feel whether they want or can give this to you at that moment. That would be too scary.
Once, one of my most respected trainers said, when the talk was about shame, about worthlessness, that shame, the negative messages about ourselves, are like engraved into our bones. And that it takes a long time of washing and sanding to erase these messages inside of us.
What definitely does not help is not wanting to have shame. This wish actually is an expression of shame. Wanting to be perfect, successful, attractive etc. But we can´t run away from ourselves. It takes courage, but it is the only way. We need to accept that the shame is there, that we carry this wound inside, and that this wound gets activated in certain moments. Luckily, when we face this wound and look at ourselves with compassion, this mechanism of shame starts to lose it´s power. Many people simply need some support, in order to realize and feel that their heart can transform pain, that there is a place of love inside of them. A place also of love for themselves. When we experience this place of love inside, and start to treat ourselves and others with compassion, we start to feel a new quality. We begin to feel dignity, or grace. There is an experience that there is something beautiful, alive, warm. And surprisingly the pressure of perfection, of performance loses its grip on us.
Still it will happen that moments come, where this shame wound is activated, but with understanding and compassion inside of us, we more and more stop to believe the shame. We simply see it for what it is, a belief about ourselves, which got created, because at a time when we needed it most, we didn´t get the message that we are beautiful, that the world is beautiful, that the body is beautiful, that life is beautiful. Seeing the beauty in the world, in others, in ourselves and being in contact with the heart does heal the wound of shame.
And then it will be ok to have wishes, to have needs and to ask for what you want. And it will also be ok to let others have the space to feel and say yes or no. And this makes relationships so much more friendly.