Saturday, June 10, 2017

Shamed People Shame People

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Reflection in the river in my backyard

The best book I have ever read on combatting shame is Shame and Grace: Healing the Shame We Don't Deserve, by Lewis Smedes.

I'm now reading The Soul of Shame, by psychiatrist Curt Thompson.

I read books like this for two reasons: 1) my own growth and healing; and 2) to help others.

Shame is universal. It was in my family of upbringing. My grandmother lived with us six months out of the year when I was a boy. I can hear her voice now, when she was displeased with me, saying "Shame on you, Johnny."

Shame on you. Let's pile some shame on you, by the bucket load. I doubt my grandmother knew what she was doing. I'm certain my father lived with it being heaped on him.

Shame is an emotion. Shame expresses itself in thoughts like I am not enough; There is something wrong with me; or I don't matter.

Shame "is born out of a sense of “there being something wrong” with me or of “not being enough,” and therefore exudes the aroma of being unable or powerless to change one’s condition or circumstances." (Thompson, Kindle Locations 277-279)

Shame often has to do with a "lessening" of our worth and capacity. This lessening is deeper than a conclusion one logically arrives at. It is an emotion, a feeling, that one cannot be reasoned out of. Chapman says shame's essence precedes language; it seems to be woven into a person's DNA.

"One of the hallmarks of shame is judgment." (Kindle Location 331) Judgment refers to "the spirit of condemnation or condescension with which we analyze or critique something, whether ourselves or someone or something else. I may say to myself, I should have done better at that assignment. What is crucial is the emotional tone that undergirds those words." (Kindle Locations 335-337)

The act of being judgmental towards other people is rooted in self-judgment. Chapman writes:

"As I often tell patients, “Shamed people shame people.” Long before we are criticizing others, the source of that criticism has been planted, fertilized and grown in our own lives, directed at ourselves, and often in ways we are mostly unaware of. Suffice to say that our self-judgment, that tendency to tell ourselves that we are not enough—not thin enough, not smart enough, not funny enough, not . . . enough—is the nidus out of which grows our judgment of others, not least being our judgment of God. The problem is that we have constructed a sophisticated lattice of blindness around this behavior, which disallows our awareness of it." (Kindle Locations 348-352)