Shame is such a potent, powerful force….
Shame can stop us dead in our tracks. It can create divide.
When we feel we have failed, it can be so excruciating to even ‘think it.’ And so, we try not to. Unfortunately, this doesn’t make it go away.
Shame causes us to feel so bad, so alienated, so undeserving of kindness and forgiveness. What gets lost in the enormity of shame, is that ‘all’ people feel shame – and this is what gives shame its power.
It’s no small wonder why – for a child – it is difficult to say “I’m sorry.” Instead, we can hear, “it’s not my fault.” Or what follows is desperate plea for understanding, something to the effect of, ‘this is why I ‘had’ to do what I did, and I had no choice in the matter.’
In some instances, shame is so potent, that a child uses anger and aggression to ‘fight off’ such an awful feeling. In other instances, the experience of shame is experienced internally, and a child shuts down, and feels shame so powerfully that they struggle to re-engage in positive experiences around them.
Shame is a human experience we carry with us our entire lives. At its best, it is a helpful guide when navigating relationships and goals – informing us of when things are going awry, so that we can make needed adjustments and corrections to the path we are taking. At its worst, it can generate so much pain that we back away from connections and potential successes.
In ourselves and as parents, we have the ability to transform shame. When we can tolerate it, repair and learning are possible:
As adults and parents, we can support each other, such that we can share our shortcomings, without judgement, and attain needed reassurance in our goodness and ability to make better.
We can be open to forgive others and ourselves.
We can help children to develop ways to ‘make better’ and repair hurt and wrongdoing they have caused.