Cheeks burn, words get confused, heart beats faster, palms sweat. I would like to quickly hide in a secluded place and never leave there again! Scientists warn that shame negatively affects self-esteem and can lead to depression. It is unpleasant and even painful to be ashamed. Unsurprisingly, most articles on this topic refer to shame as a toxic emotion.
But no matter how we try to get rid of shame at the personal level, in society it is still the norm. Fortunately, more and more people are now realizing that it is wrong to shame people for bodies or sexuality that do not fit into the social framework.
Shaming is beginning to be perceived as a negative practice that must be eliminated. However, the shame still hasn't gone away. Now we shame each other for racist, homophobic or sexist statements. So shame is still sometimes useful, or is it time to prohibit teaching people no matter what they are “guilty of”? Will it help you get rid of your own shame? Or maybe this feeling is so rooted in our psyche that, even if we stop shaming others, we ourselves will still continue to be ashamed?
What is shame?
Although shame is intuitively familiar to us all and, moreover, is found in all cultures, it is difficult to give an unambiguous definition of this feeling. They explain this in different ways. We do not share well between close emotions, especially if they appear to appear in the body. For example, shame is often confused with embarrassment. They differ in terms of the level of experience: shame is much more painful, more intense and longer.
Shame arises when important values and moral principles are affected. The person thinks, "I am bad and wrong."
Embarrassment goes away more quickly and is usually associated with a violation of less important social norms. In addition, in Russian, you can talk about embarrassment even in a positive situation: for example, we can get embarrassed when we hear a compliment and praise. It is always unpleasant to be ashamed. Emotions are named and separated in different ways in different languages. In some language, one feeling can be given several names, and in another, on the contrary, several emotions can be combined in one word.
In the scientific literature, shame is often described in conjunction with guilt. The point is that the contrast between shame and guilt helps to sort out these emotions. We blame ourselves for a specific offense, for example, when we broke our beloved grandmother's cup. To be ashamed means to be disappointed in my personality and qualities: for example, I am ashamed because I am a deadliner (a loser, ugly, I cannot speak beautifully - emphasize the necessary).
Of course, my personal qualities can be associated with certain actions (for which I can blame myself!), But you can feel shame even without doing anything. Therefore, he is more insidious than guilt. When we feel guilty, we ask forgiveness and try to rectify the situation as soon as possible, but when we are ashamed, we just want to sink into the ground so that no one else will ever know how bad and wrong we are. Guilt always touches the action, and shame always touches the personality.
Understanding these differences helps you understand what exactly you are experiencing: shame, guilt, or both.
It is helpful to name your emotions and be aware of their characteristics, as it helps to better understand yourself and your needs.
Why is there a feeling of unworthiness?
Ashamed makes us feel wrong, worse than other people and unworthy of their society. Why is that? It turns out that shame is a social emotion.
Social emotions are closely related to the feelings and actions of other people - their approval or condemnation. Besides shame, these include guilt, jealousy, envy, pride, sympathy.
With basic emotions like joy or anger, only self-awareness matters. Social emotions are associated with the fact that we strive to be aware of ourselves as part of a group or a whole society and understand that there are other “I” who can have different feelings for us. Therefore, many researchers emphasize that the gaze of the Other plays an important role in shame formation - the ability to look at yourself from the outside, to find out what other people think of you.
It's important to think and talk about shame. It is necessary not only to notice it, but also to check why we are shaming ourselves and others. And then, perhaps, shame will become our friend: it will help us to cooperate better, respect our own and others' boundaries - or tell us how to change social norms.