Castlebar Trialogue Meeting June 2015

Theme: Shame

Hard to get an exact definition, something to do with your behaviour not being acceptable.Bren Browne a shame researcher talks about vulnerability. The core of shame is a fear of disconnection, of not fitting in or thinking you wouldn’t be accepted. If I put myself out there I might be rejected.A sense of being flawed in some way or that our actions are flawed, or that we sense disapproval.

A painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consequence of perceived wrong or foolish behaviour, e.g. being told “you should be outside on a sunny day like this”; you may not feel you can say “no, I want to stay in”.Imposing someone else’s sense of right and wrong can impose shame.We sometimes see other people do things we wouldn’t dare do and think have they no shame?Is shame of less significance in our society now?Shame can be very pervasive.As we grow in self-confidence and awareness we are not so easily shamed.

We learn to think for ourselves.In the services we talk about building resilience.Ireland had a culture of religion and oppression, even from the famine, which was said to have been a lesson from God. Cultural shame about sex.Can we shut ourselves off from all the atrocities in the world? One American poet wrote something like “do we really think our need for Prozac has nothing to do with Baghdad?”

There was a cultural sense of inferiority as if Irish culture wasn’t as good as that of the ruling culture during oppression.No-one can insult me unless I choose to be insulted. The same for shame. If we feel shame perhaps we should think what triggered it and where did it come from. Half the battle is recognising shame for what it is. Once we recognise it, it may not have the same power.We can gain insight – a wider perspective can help.Paulo Freire wrote “The Pedagogy of the Oppressed”. We can educate ourselves out of being shamed.Compassion helps.

Shame can’t survive being acknowledged. After that it’s not shame anymore, it’s an identified feeling (Browne again).