Everyone experiences shame. Few have the courage to become aware of the shame they carry and how it is consciously and unconsciously impacting their lives. Fewer still have the courage to talk openly about shame and help others discover and heal from shame in their lives.
Brene Brown, acclaimed researcher and author of I Thought It Was Just Me defines shame as “the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing we are flawed and therefore unworthy of acceptance and belonging.”
Shame experiences include:
- When people see you fail.
- Being wrong.
- When people see your mask pulled off and you are exposed.
- Being defective.
- Feeling like an outsider.
- When people think you are soft, weak, or not enough.
- Your flaws are revealed.
- Showing fear.
- Being criticized or ridiculed.
The Power of Shame
Shame is huge in our marriages. Shame does not have to happen to us in our marriage relationship for it to significantly impact our marriage relationship. In fact, most shame that a spouse carries did not occur in this relationship. It happened as a young child at home or in school, on the play ground, in the neighborhood, by our siblings or parents or some other relative, or someone really close to us.
Spouses also experience shame culturally. Marketers in commercials tells us we do not look right, we do not have what it takes, something is wrong with us, we are too poor, we don’t deserve whatever it is we are desiring. Our culture tells us boys should never cry because they are weak and girls must have a certain figure or no one will ever love them.
Power In The Shame Secret
Most spouses experience shame and then hide it. They “go on” or “handle it” and act as if it never happened. As we hide, repress and deny our shame experiences and stories, they do not just go away. The less we talk about shame, the more power we unintentionally give it.
Shame affects everything you do. It is directly tied to our God-given need to connect and love. The things we hide, repress and deny, actually keep us from having the deeply connected marriage that we desire. Because we hide shame from our spouse, we become disingenuous, unauthentic, and unable to openly love and connect.
Our Shame Hurts Our Spouse
Shame breeds fear, blame and disconnection. We fear being disconnected from other people and yet our shame keeps us from the openness and courageous vulnerability needed to truly and deeply connect with our spouse.
When we feel shame, we almost automatically begin blaming. We either turn inward and begin to blame ourselves for what shame we have experienced, or we turn outward and blame others. We turn against our spouse for an immediate relief of the pain of shame.
Shame makes us feel confused, afraid and alone. Because it is a secret, we become paralyzed and it makes us feel powerless. We get into a crisis mode and all we can do is react. And our reactions do not bring our spouse closer to us. Instead we react in ways that cause our spouse to want to move away from us.
Shame is healed when we take the power of secrecy away by telling our story to our spouse or a trusting and nonjudgmental soul. We heal our spouse when we create a safe and trusting relationship by being with them in their pain, empathically and non-judgmentally, without giving advice.
What do you have to say?
We love to hear from readers. How have you experienced shame in your life? Do you believe that sharing your shame stories with a trusting soul will remove it’s power from you? What is keeping you from sharing shame stories with your spouse? Do you believe that listening to your spouse in a non-judgmental compassionate way without offering advice will help them heal their shame? What recommendations would you add to heal from shame? Do you know someone who you need to forward this article to?
This article was written by Roy and Devra Wooten, authors of “The Secret to a Lifetime Love”. Learn more at www.LifeTogetherForever.com © Roy and Devra Wooten 2016. All Rights Reserved. You may replicate this article as long as it is provided free to recipients and includes appropriate attribution. Written permission for other use may be obtained at Secret@LifeTogetherForever.com.