Often hidden in the shadows of our unconscious awareness lives an uncomfortable feeling. So painful that the way we cope with it is to pretend it’s not there. By not talking about it, its power and potency continue to grow. As a result of secrecy and silence, we can even feel ashamed of our shame!
Shame is the emotion at the root of belongingness. Shame researcher, Brené Brown, defines shame as “the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging —something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection.”
Shame is an important emotion to understand and acknowledge, as it can often undermine even the healthiest relationships. Shame is often used interchangeably with guilt, while guilt says, “I have done something bad. “Shame says, “I am bad.” The expression of guilt is considered psychologically healthy and allows one to acknowledge and validate their wrongdoing. While shame is a hyper-focus on the wrongdoing, the feeling of not being able to fix it compounds, it can erode our sense of self, and we are then convinced we ARE wrong.
When shame becomes an integral part of people’s image of themselves, this is how problems can occur. This persistent feeling of shame can make its way into every aspect of your life and your interpersonal relationships. Although shame can manifest in a person or relationship in various ways, here are some signs you can look out for:
Signs of Shame
- Feelings of Inadequacy
- Lack of Authenticity
- Loss of Sense of Self
- Lack of Trust for Self
- Distrust towards your partner
- Fear of how your partner will perceive you
- Fear of Judgement
- Lack of Intimacy (Emotional and Physical)
- Poor Communication
Overcoming shame is an important part of healing and living a fulfilling life. In the second blog in our series on shame, we will provide you with tools for overcoming it.
Laura Moore, MPsy., is a psychodynamic therapist at the Centre For Interpersonal Relationships (CFIR) in Toronto under the supervision of Dr. Lila Z. Hakim, C. Psych. Laura provides psychological services to adults and couples experiencing a wide range of concerns. Laura has a particular interest and expertise in relationship distress, with an emphasis on interpersonal and couple relationship functioning. Laura has helped countless individuals navigate issues related to intimacy, fertility, sex, infidelity, separation and divorce. Additionally, her past research focuses on cultivating spousal attunement following traumatic experiences.