Creating A Resistance To Shame
“Shame on you!”… “You should be ashamed!”… “Have you no shame?”…
Unfortunately, these are statements that most of us have heard from time to time, and some of us have even grown up with. Even more problematic, for some, these shame-based statements have become part of how we think about ourselves, and/or how we should feel when we make a mistake or fail in some way. For those who are wanting to create a more meaningful experience of life, this needs to be changed.
One way to begin this process of change is to understand where shame comes from, and where it lives in our brain. In other words, it’s important to know that we weren’t born feeling ashamed. No baby is laying in their crib after having a bowel movement thinking that they should be ashamed. It is something that was taught to us by people who thought it would help us in some way (or by people who were just so out of control, they didn’t really know what they were saying).
Regardless, it isn’t a natural emotion that truly helps us create the life we want, and the reason is due to the fact that it comes from the lower 20% of the brain where it resides with its cousins: guilt, fear of failure, and anxiety. The qualities that do help us create the life that we want (clarity, confidence, and creativity), reside in the upper 80% of the brain, what I call the Top of the Mind. The part of the brain that determines whether we access the lower brain, or whether we access the Top of the Mind is the middle brain, or limbic system. Unfortunately, this middle brain isn’t very smart, and is running “old software.” In other words, while being stressed, worried, and even anxious early on in our evolution as a specie may have helped us survive then, now it only traps us in the fear-based (shame-based) part of the brain.
The solution, therefore, is to first raise our awareness of the degree to which shame is something that we find ourselves feeling, and, if so, begin to choose an alternative mindset. For example, if we have made some mistake that we regret, rather than needing to feel ashamed of what we did or said, we can take what we learned and apply it to the future. We can think, “Okay, knowing what I know now, how would I do this differently in the future?” which will have the upper 80% of the brain begin to create more purposeful and potentially successful scenarios about the solution versus fears of our failure.
Now, does this mean that we minimize our mistakes or fail to take responsibility for what we did or said? No, that would be the tendency of an insecure person who probably is trying to just avoid being ashamed. Instead we use awareness versus worry to learn from the past, and apologize when we feel regret. Regret isn’t shame, and the ability to apologize is the mark of someone who is confident in the qualities and characteristics they bring to life.
This ability to come from the Top of the Mind is what I have the pleasure of teaching to individuals and organizations around the world. If you would like to learn this system for accessing the clear, confident, creative part of the brain, I suggest you contact me, because, as long as we use shame as a driver for self-improvement, learning from the past, or creating the life that we want, we will forever be trying to do good by feeling bad… not something we would recommend to those that we love, I would imagine.
~ All the best, Dr. Bill