Feeling ashamed

Who I am
Robert Maurer


Feeling ashamed

Last update: 24 March, 2022

On more than one occasion it happens to feel ashamed, emotion that invades us and takes over. We feel the heat rising and moving through the skin to the face.

We become a walking tomato, and the first thing we think is "How embarrassing, I fell on the street!", "I'm ashamed to speak in front of many people!", "I can't imagine the embarrassment I would feel if my skirt was lifted by the wind! ”. These are just some reflections related to the feeling of shame.

It often happens that you feel ashamed due to insecurity, lack of self-esteem or underestimation of your own worth.

Feeling ashamed, the reasons often lie in childhood

To cause shame is a known and present event, but perhaps it would be good to go back to a phase that we do not remember to understand why we are ashamed.

During our first year of life, the relationships we establish with the adult world are positive, everything we do is applauded by parents, relatives or friends and this gives us the certainty that things are going great.

However, as we begin to be more independent and to be alone, we want to explore the universe around us. During the first and second year of life, the word most repeated by parents or relatives is "NO".

They want to protect us and that is why shame arises, because it manifests itself as a visceral reaction caused by the rejection of society (at that time parents are the society we know). This is quite painful and can activate the same areas of the brain that are "awakened" by a physical shock.

In small doses, shame is useful, because it allows you to develop a sense of responsibility towards himself and society. It could be said that it is a feeling that is always present in every moment of our life.

Sometimes you feel guilty for something you do or say and, ultimately, for your way of being. Feeling ashamed, therefore, can be positive in order to strengthen the sense of responsibility or, on the contrary, make us feel guilty.

The power of shame is due to the precise moment it begins to take shape, that is, when we are still small, dependent on the care of others. If we lose the connection with the attachment figures, we will be left without food, without shelter, etc.

This means that being ashamed is important because it allows us to stay alive (however extreme or radical this may seem). Based on the fact that the brain's job is to allow survival, shame is understood as feeling guilty for not obeying orders from superiors.

Shake our shame

When we come out of the state of shame, that is, the temperature returns to normal, we no longer experience tachycardia or sweat profusely, we find balance both in the mind and in the autonomic nervous system.

For psychology, shame is a transition between positive and negative affects, occurs when instead of approval we find a reprimand. This is recorded in the emotional memory and reappears whenever a similar situation arises.

If we feel too much ashamed, it will be highly toxic to our mind and heart. The consequences, in fact, can manifest themselves throughout life.

A prolonged state of shame depends on one's personality or on the events experienced. That is it can cause an imbalance in the nervous system, which results in a feeling of greater vulnerability towards others or insecurity when it comes to taking action.

"The shame of confessing the first mistake makes you commit many others"

-Jean de la Fontaine-

Although we can no longer go back to when we were children and remove the shame from the education received, we are able to analyze when we feel that everyone disapproves of us or they are not satisfied with our actions.

Perhaps it is something that is only found in our mind and needs to be eliminated. Learn to remove the shame little by little by doing things you never dared before and starting to laugh about it!

Feeling shame, culture and rejection

While being ashamed is common to all, this feeling is highly culturally dependent. What in one country may be the object of shame in another is not.

Behind the shame, actually lies the fear of rejection, which is the idea that our value as people is quite low. As Fernández-Guerro (2016) states, shame has a component of internal attributions of responsibility : “I made a mistake”, “I made a mistake”. There is therefore a feeling of isolation and concealment.

"The antidote to shame is acceptance".

-Andrew Morrison-

Boris Cyrulnik, author of the book Shame, states that this depends above all on the reaction of others. In other words, when the environment tries to understand and not to judge, the shame would be reduced or nullified.

It concerns, therefore, an interaction between the cultural environment and personal education. When we feel judged by the environment, we are much harder on ourselves: “I was wrong, I'm a disaster, it can't happen again“.

Despite this, it is important to try not to be influenced so much by the opinion of others and to understand that we can all be wrong.

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