There are probably many who will demand, because shame is so corrosive a feeling that it could be removed operatively, there would be a queue at the clinic.
The surgery is found, and even without scalpel and narcosis. Even something you can do when you want, along with someone you trust. On the other hand, it takes longer than one hug.
Shame freezes us and limits us both at work and elsewhere. Solving shame is to open to live life every day. I know (hitherto) nobody that's not relevant to.
Shame? May I be free…
If you never feel ashamed, you've probably created some effective protection against the feeling and it's also a great idea, it's not just because that kind of protection also enjoys joy, enthusiasm, tenderness, creativity and the feeling of being present.
Shame is a natural feeling, just as we freeze when the body temperature drops and as hunger when we need food. Shame is a signal that our place in the community is threatened.
Shame is often triggered by unrealistic standards about how we should look, what we should own or what status we should have. In its crushing, corrosive basic form, shame is our fear of being isolated. When we start to believe the messages of shame – that we are wrong, too much, too fat, ambitious, insensitive or otherwise, it infiltrates us as toxic shame. It tells us that we do not belong, that we are not worthy of love.
Too painful to feel ashamed
To be consulted is biologically based. Without our flock we will die, our evolutionary nervous system tells us. Being ashamed can be so painful that we have subconsciously decided to never expose ourselves to something that can trigger it.
That's why we hold back from standing up, taking chances or telling what we feel. We may develop perfectionism or numb ourselves with chronic busyness, food, fitness, TV, criticism of others, shopping, self-harming behavior – the list goes on.
Shame is both biology and culture
Shame is neuropsychologically similar to trauma and is a kind of recurring 'freeze' reaction that lives in our brains as small, isolated islands.
These islands can be activated when we are afraid of exclusion and trigger a physical reaction that includes tunnel vision, palpitation, shortness of breath and muscle weakness. We have been afraid of fear and often do not act worthy and rational when it's on.
Shame and the fear of it can be debilitating for the individual and lie behind e.g. workplace bullying and be a barrier to developing honest, supportive relationships. Wouldn't it be great to have a cure?
Brain surgery over the coffee
Such a cure actually exists. The American shame researcher and author of, among other things, bestseller 'The Gifts of Imperfection' Brène Brown has interviewed thousands of people and has found the antidote.
It consists of empathy. If we share our experiences, thoughts and feelings with a person who is able to listen with empathy and understanding, the shame is lost.
And here we come to surgery. If we tell of our shame and are being accepted with empathy, there is a gradual physical rebuilding in our minds. New nerve fibers are formed and they grow together and grow stronger, so that we develop compassion and understanding with ourselves without being tempted to shut down. The old, corrosive, crippling shame gradually decays.
You can dissolve your shame - and that of others
Brain scars have shown it. I, the undersigned and many of my students, can confirm that it is also experienced from within: shame does not disappear, but it becomes softer and more manageable as we through empathy of someone develop sympathy with ourselves and make it easier to act diligently and relevant.
There are also other muscles that need to be trained to achieve robustness to shame, such as knowing its shame triggers, the preferred ways we stumble upon how we care for ourselves and our body, as well as appropriate portions play and rest .
Empathy can be obtained in individual doses from a listening, non-judgmental friend who refrains from advice and encouragement but is just with you, or from a professional like me.