I’ve worked with shame all my life…..Shame is universal, one of the basic array of affects we are born with. Shame is our built-in biological regulator informing us that our moving toward something we find interesting or exciting has run into an obstacle. Shame, in its healthy forms, keeps us safe, informing us when we’ve overstepped boundaries and run the risk of hurting others. Shame is the breaking of the interpersonal bridge – and shame then warns us later that we may be approaching that crucial point of rupture again, and we need to take care. The power of shame is the way it makes us feel separate from others. After we’ve experienced it a few times the merest murmur – of the threat, the possibility of it – is enough to make us dance protectively away from the danger with every ounce of energy we have. Once this installation of protections has become habitual and encrusted, and the accumulated layers of the freezing and paralyzing effect of shame have vanished into unconscious darkness, a shame-bound character is the result Unbearable aloneness is the quintessential territory of shame. Shame is the deepest and most powerful regulator of our lives as social beings. The weapon shame ultimately wields is the risk of feeling separated from the rest of our kind, from the shared social aspect of us which ensures our survival. And, at the far end of the spectrum of possibility, this sharing of relating invites a blossoming of love that is profound and unconditional.
Nobody later in life willingly tells another person how deeply flawed they feel, how they struggle with a lack of self-esteem, with a shamed self-identity, how they feel convinced and shamefully certain in the core of themselves, that they are wrong, and bad; inferior, inadequate, worthless, and close to nothing. But these devastating experiences come to some of us because the unutterable openness we are born from, born as, and born into has to learn how to play the game of limitation, the tribal game. And this game, of particular identity begins in due course to hide from us what we really are, the openness. We become identified with a version of ourselves that Mom never intended, but which she fostered anyway.