The Seeds of Shame…

Today I officially begin—again—working toward my original goal for this website (see my introduction above). It has been nearly two years since I’ve posted anything here. Frankly, it has taken me that long just to wrap my brain around one of the basic but critical premises upon which my goal is based, which is this: how we view the world around us is shockingly dependent on how we view ourselves. I have heard it often said that, if you want to know the state of your mental health, just take a look around you. What is the general character of what you see? Is it pleasant or not-so-pleasant? Those familiar with basic Freudian psychology will probably recognize the term projection. Simply put, we mentally project onto other people our repressed “unacceptable” emotions and beliefs about ourselves which our psyches are convinced would be too horrific to consciously acknowledge. Rage, fear, and shame are but a few of these unacceptable emotions we’ve ostensibly “bottled up.” But emotions, like recalcitrant demons, struggle mightily to be let out of their bottle. Projection is, therefore, a defense mechanism the psyche has worked out to protect itself from the potential pain of such expression—by ascribing them to other people.

Shame is one of the more potent repressed emotions. A person who has been shamed (as would, say, a man who was sexually abused as a boy) often has great difficulty dealing with the unique and often debilitating pain of self-loathing that is a hallmark of shame. To openly acknowledge this self-loathing, to actually feel it, might be more than he can realistically stand. Hence, he will likely project it onto others. Now, his pain and inability to succeed can be blamed on others, whom he now believes are judging him. Best of all, he can depart their company and dissociate from their (imagined) hatred/judgment, which he now sees as their problem, not his. Unfortunately, he will simply transfer his projection to the next person he comes in contact with, and the next, and the next, until it seems to him that the entire world plainly sees his fatal flaw and judges him for it.

I will deal later with some of the more common causes of shame and the various ways it can manifest. But for the time being, I’d like to share with you a story from my own personal experience that relates to shame. Read it here. And please feel free afterward to leave a comment on the story, particularly if you’ve had an experience that is in any way similar. Thanks for reading, and I’ll have more very soon.