Shame may be defined as a painful emotion arising out of a feeling of humiliation or distress.
It is in short a painful feeling about oneself.
This sense of shame makes its appearance when one becomes aware of one’s act or behavior that one later considers as being deplorable.
Shame is a powerful negative emotion.
It can lead one to harbor a permanent sense of guilt which in turn impoverishes the quality of life.
At a lower level, a persistent feeling of shame can lead one to contemplate harming oneself and entertain thoughts of suicide.
This is because the thoughts of self blame and the subsequent experience of distress along with painful emotions of hatred towards self become intolerable and incompatible with leading a normal life.
Apart from a self inflicted sense of shame, one can be shamed by another by words of reproach or criticism.
In both the above mentioned instances, low self-esteem is the foundation on which the feeling of shame thrives and flourishes.
One with low self-esteem harbors a sense of poor self worthiness.
An incident or experience that tends to validate this feeling further cascades into a deteriorating state of shame in which one entertains thoughts and feelings of unworthiness and humiliation.
In this context, one who is weak willed contemplates escaping from the situation and experience that brings about the sense of shame and isolates himself or if this isolation turns out to be unbearable, contemplates ending his life as the only way to liberate himself from this distressing situation.
On the other hand, someone with a stronger will handles the sense of shame by becoming defensive and resorts to blaming others for the shameful consequences of an event or situation thereby mitigating the feeling of humiliation for self.
In this instance one learns to continue living with the underlying persistent sense of shame but bears the brunt of poor interpersonal relationships that arise as a consequence of inculcating the habit of blaming others.
The feeling of shame can be overcome
The first step towards achieving freedom from shame is to become aware of its existence in oneself.
Having realized its existence in oneself one must next observe the situations and circumstances that bring about this feeling of shame.
At the same time it is prudent to observe one’s responses and reactions to the feeling of shame.
These observations give us a deep insight as to the way we perceive events in relationship to our sense of worthiness.
We realize that due to the presence of low self-esteem we allow our interpretation of events and even others to belittle us and show us in poor light.
This is the cause for the feeling of humiliation and distress that ultimately ends up in us experiencing painful feelings about ourselves.
Having thus realized that the source and root cause of shame lies within us, we can then go about to change the way we see ourselves and the way we interpret life events.
This is accomplished by taking efforts to acquire a healthy self-esteem.
A few quotes on Shame
“Bite us once, shame on the dog; bite us repeatedly, shame on us for allowing it”. – Phyllis Schlafly
“Shame is the lie someone told you about yourself”. -Anais Nin
“Shame is a soul eating emotion”. – Carl Jung