Tag Archives: shame

Shaming Others: “What is wrong with you? You are good for nothing!”

"Blue Tune" by Mimi Stuart ©
Live the Life you Desire

People who live with a sense of deep shame can become consumed by despair as a result of the feeling that they are flawed and unworthy. Excessive shame is difficult to bear, and often leads to self-destructive behavior, addiction, depression, and in some cases, suicide.

Even when people who feel deep shame are doing well, they may continue to expect others to be disappointed in them. Their shame sometimes leads to self-sabotaging behavior, which results in their getting the negative response they feel they deserve. Thus, it is difficult to deal with people whose reckless behavior is partly due to their belief that they do not deserve any better.

We want to motivate them to change by pointing out how mistaken their actions are. We want to set boundaries and protect ourselves from their reckless behavior. Yet we have to be careful that our intentions do not get expressed with contempt. Harmful behavior should be met with repercussions. We should set boundaries, enforce consequences, and communicate our disappointment, but it is not effective, helpful, or kind to shame and humiliate another person.

Expressing your own feelings about someone’s behavior while setting boundaries is fundamentally different from judging that person as a worthless individual: “What is wrong with you—you good for nothing!” Similarly, showing compassion while setting boundaries is very different from trying to artificially boost someone’s self-esteem with permissive indulgence.

Expressing disappointment in a situation should be factual rather than judgmental. Communicating your own feelings and intentions to set boundaries is more effective and humane than making negative or humiliating judgments:

“When you did such and such, I was disappointed and angry. I’m asking you to….”

“I can’t trust to you follow through at this point. So I will no longer….”

“I don’t think that my ‘help’ is really helping you. In fact it seems to be doing the opposite. So I can’t continue, but I truly wish the best for you.”

People who feel deep shame need to be loved, valued, and spoken to honestly rather than judged or coddled. They should be held accountable for their actions without being humiliated. Often a therapist can help them stop their negative self-criticism and restore in them a feeling of self-worth.

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Feeling Shame:
“I’m not worthy to be loved.”

"Rocky Mountain Nobility" by Mimi Stuart ©

“Rocky Mountain Nobility” by Mimi Stuart ©

Deeply-held feelings of inadequacy can cause a person to live with a feeling of shame. Ideally in childhood, we have a parent who expresses both love and reasonable, constructive criticism. However, many people experience excessive neglect, contempt, or harsh criticism from their closest adult relation. The message they may take from such negativity is that they are deeply flawed and unworthy of love.

People who live with a feeling of shame experience great suffering and self-consciousness. They want nothing more than to excise the feeling of inadequacy from their psyche.

While it is important that they moderate their harsh self-criticism with objectivity so they can feel better about themselves, they should also appreciate a couple of skills they have acquired through their challenging upbringing. There are two diamonds in the rough underlying shame that they should hold on to, while eliminating self-condemnation: 1. their ability to self-assess, and 2. their desire to improve themselves.

1. The ability to self-assess

People can experience shame only if they are able to observe themselves and sense their impact on the world around them. They are generally excessively self-critical of themselves, because they have been made acutely aware of how they are viewed by others.

But imagine someone who lacks the ability to observe his or her own conduct and its effects on others. Such a person would be selfish, inconsiderate, and uncaring.

Thus, while excessive self-awareness hinders spontaneity and enjoyment, some conscious awareness of one’s impact on others is a good thing. Ideally, self-assessment can be moderated to become compassionate, helpful and constructive.

2. The desire to improve

The experience of shame implies an underlying desire to become better, more worthy, and deserving. People who experience shame have a strong sense of right and wrong, better and worse, skilled and unskilled. They want to be better than they believe they are.

While excessive shame can lead to depression and self-sabotaging behavior, the underlying desire to become better can act as a strong motivating force to improve oneself.

Solution:

1. Appreciate your ability to self-assess and your desire to be a better person—at work, as a parent, as a friend, etc.

2. Correct your internal thinking. When you hear yourself say something harsh to yourself, such as, “How stupid that was,” change it right away to something reasonable, kind, and objective, such as “Everyone makes mistakes. Next time I’ll try to remember to….”

3. Remember that life is fleeting. Enjoy and focus on what’s good about yourself, instead of focusing on your mistakes or how you compare to others.

4. Become less of a perfectionist. Appreciate small improvements. Learn to laugh at yourself!

Remember that your effectiveness at work and within your relationships improves as you replace shame with compassion, a sense of humor, constructive criticism, and acceptance of what is. Not only will you suffer less, people around you will enjoy you more.

by Dr. Alison Poulsen

Guest Author Sam Vaknin: Shame Makes the Whole World Go Around – or Only Codependents and Narcissists?

"Raven" by Mimi Stuart©

“Raven” by Mimi Stuart©

GUEST AUTHOR SAM VAKNIN writes:

Lidija Rangelovska advanced the idea that some children subjected to abuse in dysfunctional families objectified, dehumanized, their boundaries breached, and their growth stunted develop intense feelings of shame. They turn out to be codependents or narcissists owing to their genetic makeup and innate character. According to her, children who turned out to be codependents as adults are resilient, while the more fragile narcissists seek to evade shame by concocting and then deploying the False Self.

As Lidija Rangelovska observes, shame motivates “normal” people and those suffering from Cluster B personality disorders differently. It constitutes a threat to the former’s True Self and to the latter’s False Self. Owing to the disparate functionality and psychodynamics of the True and False selves, the ways shame affects behavior and manifests in both populations differ. Additionally, pervasive, constant shame fosters anxiety and even fears or phobias. These can have either an inhibitory effect or, on the contrary, disinhibitory functions (motivate to action.)

The True Self involves an accurate reality test with minimal and marginal cognitive deficits as well as the capacity to empathize on all levels, including and especially the emotional level. People whose True Self is intact, mature, and operational are capable of relating to others deeply (for example, by loving them). Their sense of self-worth is stable and grounded in a true and tested assessment of who they are. Maintaining a distinction between what we really are and what we dream of becoming, knowing our limits, our advantages and faults and having a sense of realistic accomplishments in our life are of paramount importance in the establishment and maintenance of our self-esteem, sense of self-worth and self-confidence.

Shame threatens the True Self by challenging the affected person’s ego-syntony: by forcing her to “feel bad” about something she has said or done. The solution is usually facile and at hand: reverse the situation by apologizing or by making amends.

In contrast, the False Self leads to false assumptions and to a contorted personal narrative, to a fantastic worldview, and to a grandiose, inflated sense of being. The latter is rarely grounded in real achievements or merit. The narcissist’s feeling of entitlement is all-pervasive, demanding and aggressive. It easily deteriorates into the open verbal, psychological and physical abuse of others.

When the patient with the False Self feels shame it is because his grandiosity, the fantastic narrative that underpins his False Self, is challenged, usually – but not necessarily – publicly. There is no easy solution to such a predicament. The situation cannot be reversed and the psychological damage is done. The patient urgently needs to reassert his grandiosity by devaluing or even destroying the frustrating, threatening object, the source of his misery. Another option is to reframe the situation by delusionally ignoring it or recasting it in new terms.

So, while shame motivates normal people to conduct themselves pro-socially and realistically, it pushes the disordered patient in the exact opposite direction: to antisocial or delusional reactions.

Shame is founded on empathy. The normal person empathizes with others. The disordered patient empathizes with himself. But, empathy and shame have little to do with the person with whom we empathize (the empathee). They may simply be the result of conditioning and socialization. In other words, when we hurt someone, we don’t experience his or her pain. We experience our pain. Hurting somebody – hurts US. The reaction of pain is provoked in us by our own actions. We have been taught a learned response: to feel pain when we hurt someone.

We attribute feelings, sensations and experiences to the object of our actions. It is the psychological defence mechanism of projection. Unable to conceive of inflicting pain upon ourselves – we displace the source. It is the other’s pain that we are feeling, we keep telling ourselves, not our own.

Additionally, we have been taught to feel responsible for our fellow beings and to develop guilt and shame when we fail to do so. So, we also experience pain whenever another person claims to be anguished. We feel guilty owing to his or her condition, we feel somehow accountable even if we had nothing to do with the whole affair. We feel ashamed that we haven’t been able to end the other’s agony.

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by Guest Author Sam Vaknin, the author of Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited and After the Rain – How the West Lost the East, as well as many other books and ebooks about topics in psychology, relationships, philosophy, economics, international affairs, and award-winning short fiction.

He is the Editor-in-Chief of Global Politician and served as a columnist for Central Europe Review, PopMatters, eBookWeb, and Bellaonline, and as a United Press International (UPI) Senior Business Correspondent. He was the editor of mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory and Suite101.

Visit Sam’s Web site.

Read Sam Vaknin’s “Codependence: Issues and Goals in the Treatment of Dependent Personality Disorder.”

Read “Feeling Shame: ‘I’m not worthy to be loved.’”