Shame is a painful emotion that is created because of a sense of failure to meet a certain standard. Shame says that we are flawed and unworthy of connection. In response to shame people will isolate themselves or numb their feelings using TV, gaming, eating, sex, gambling or drinking. There is usually a deep pain which creates anger, either at self or someone else.
In her ground-breaking research, Brené Brown explains the power of EMPATHY in the face of shame. She says that shame needs us to believe that we are, at our core, unworthy, and deserving of isolation. If we don’t buy into that, and rather talk about the shame with a trusted friend who is able to listen with empathy, shame will die. It is about allowing another to be with us to acknowledge our shared humanity.
So, what might that conversation sound like?
I’m 35 and I’ve been trying to get pregnant for 5 years. I have started IVF treatment and I have put on a ton of weight. I feel disappointed in my body and shame around my infertility and weight gain.
My friend, who has a young child, is a great listener and generally very empathetic. I choose her to talk to.
‘Jill, I have really been struggling. You know how long I have been trying to get pregnant. It is so painful; I have started to give up on my body and lose faith in myself as a woman. I have started IVF because I don’t know what else to do. The drugs are giving me huge mood swings, and I have put on so much weight. I have been in a huge shame pit for the last two weeks.’
‘Oh, Jill, I have heard about how hard IVF can be, and I get how the weight can affect your self-confidence. To be honest, I have been feeling really down with myself about my post baby weight too. I’m with you on this journey. You are not alone’.
Being empathetic can take practise, it is about stepping into someone else’s shoes and hearing how the world is for them.
I hope this is useful,
Reference: Brown, B. (2012). Daring Greatly. Penguin Books: UK.