Monday, June 3, 2019

Let go of Shame-Full-Ness

Last time I discussed important issues related to abusing and misusing the feeling of “guilty.” When guilt is mentioned, another important emotional experience needs to be addressed as well: SHAME!

In some study, guilt was considered to be experienced more among Western societies, whereas shame was experienced more in Japan. This is said to be because of the absence of belief in one God, insularism, and an emphasis on the public eye in Japan. There may be some differences in degree, but I do often see both of these painful emotions in the US and Japan. You don’t believe that Westerners don’t feel shame much, would you? Right; I didn’t think so.

When it comes to shame, the feeling comes from imagining the judgement of others, of being under the eye of others. It is not about the laws or right and wrong as is the case with guilt, but rather with how others see you or what you did, that is the fundamental basis for the feeling of shame. We are shy, we are afraid of judgment, and we want to look good... Therefore, it is totally understandable that we worry about others’ watchful eye causing feelings of shame. However, many feelings of shame that people experience appear to be so unnecessary.

There are actually not so many things about which you can really can truly make yourself feel shame about. Well, if you killed puppies for fun or slept with your spouse’s best friend on your wedding day, you can definitely feel ashamed, and I would agree with it. It is a normal feeling of shame and nothing is wrong with it. But I don’t think most of you who are reading it really do such things in general, do you? Then why do you still end up feeling shame?

One possible and simple reason is that you still allow yourself to be surrounded by unreasonably critical, abusive, insecure, or judgmental people. These people cause feelings of shame in others, because that serves them well by hurting others. Or it’s a matter of them projecting their emotional issues onto others in a form of shaming. They need you to feel shame, and they make sure it happens to you intentionally or unintentionally (either way is irrelevant).

If you say you are NOT surrounded by these kinds of people, but you still experience a lot of shame, then it may be a less simple matter. Another possible reason is you have internalized those who shamed you in the past, which can be your parents, grandparents, teachers, preachers, ex-friends, etc. Something might have happened to you once or many times when you are younger, and you internalized this experience and overgeneralized it. We may not remember what happened, and it could be just because you dropped a glass of milk by an accident or some such small thing. Still, if it was internalized as a shameful event because somebody at that time made you feel so, and then this installed emotional experience is repeated again and again, and now you don’t even remember how it even started.

Then what can we do? In a way, it is simple, although probably a very scary challenge. You do not need to keep such shaming people in your life! If you have such people in your life currently, let them go or drastically minimize your contact with them. Nothing can justify your keeping these people in your life. It is okay not to have people with venom in your life.  If it is because of internalized experience, and you don’t have the people at the root of these feelings of shame in your life any longer, it is still important for you to let it go psychologically. A long time ago, someone at that time thought you were shameful or you did something shameful. So what? One, it was not true unless you killed puppies or something like that, and two, you are no longer such a powerless and scared child. You are now more mature and stronger. You can just let it go and live your life without shame. If you feel shameful a lot, your life is shame-full. Let go of these people. Being shameless means living without shaming people in your life!

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