The chains of shame.

iVillage Member
Registered: 05-16-2011
The chains of shame.
Sat, 11-19-2011 - 3:26pm

Someone asked me if I would share what I have been learning about shame and post it in here so I have taken some bits and pieces from posts where I have talked about shame and how facing this issue has helped in my healing. This is my understanding of shame, others may have different views and I would love it if others could also chime in and talk about how they were able to walk through their shame coming out of their affair.

Brene Brown explains in one of her books that shame is one of the least talked about emotions because it brings about feelings of worthlessness, never feeling good enough, a lack of value in ourselves etc. She also says the difference between guilt and shame is:

Guilt = I did something bad,

Shame = I am bad.

And the really interesting thing I found she writes is 'Shame needs three things to grow out of control in our lives: secrecy, silence, and judgement. So affairs really are the perfect breeding ground for shame.

Shame has the ability to control us in ways we don’t even realise. Perfectionism, filling our lives with external worth, addictions etc. All keep us trapped in the endless cycle of shame because the very thing we are trying to escape from causes us to keep making choices that feed it. Remorse and guilt are the result of our actions, shame is the driving force of our actions. So even though we may stop doing something that causes remorse and guilt which then helps those feelings begin to fade, unless the cause of what keeps us in shame is addressed, it will be hard to not slip back into self destructive patterns or negative thinking, which will continue to impact our lives and those around us.

The thing is we are always going to face shame at some stage of our lives, it is how we learn to walk through it, that will be the basis of how it affects us and our choices.
Brene Brown talks about being able to own your shame. Admit your failings but don’t be defined by them. If you were to fall in mud, you know it will eventually come off, it doesn’t make you dirty within but it sure makes you look dirty. Our affairs have definitely brought about shame inducing behaviours but remember shame needs to be seen in the right context. Shame has a way of making us perceive ourselves in a certain way. Own the behaviour not the perceptions. Allow the remorse and guilt to guide you out of it and stop feeding the shame.

Shame is a dark emotion and when we shine light on it, it slips away.
Shining a light on it may be by sharing your story – with safe people. People who will not judge you. That means if you mess up NC or are tempted to, you should never be ashamed to come on here and share that. How many of us dread posting something that makes us feel we are not worth being a part of this board or even worse, post something expecting to have our shame reflected back at us, as that is what unsafe people have done (like our xap’s). And by the end of the thread how often do we feel that shame slip away as we realise our actions were wrong but who we are isn’t, thanks to the wonderful and non judgemental support from others who can relate to our experiences. That is a step to becoming shame resilient.
Another way of shining the light is by looking back at what caused the shame. For me a lot of my foundational shame has been my childhood and the things I came to believe about myself through experiences that were damaging to my worth and value as a person. For me I had to face and are still facing those things. I am having to change my thought processes to one that makes me a survivor of those experiences and not a victim. It means stripping away the darkness of those childhood years and finding the core of who I really am. Allowing the true me to emerge without being hindered by insecurity, a need for external validation, anxiety, obligation, people pleasing and so the list goes on.

Finally walking through shame is realising, who you are is enough. No matter what you do or don’t do today or tomorrow, no matter how others may perceive you, no matter how much you think you have to be perfect so as to not feel the chains of shame, you are enough, right now. So let your actions reflect that instead of allowing them to be guided by shame. You are worthy, you are valuable, when you can find your self worth it is a lot easier to push shame away when it comes knocking.

This is the title of one of Brene Browns books, which turned my thinking around: The gifts of imperfection.

And here is her blog:

The core of who you are is not always obvious to everyone. But to believe what others may believe of you can cause you to deny yourself, the wonders, of who you really are.
iVillage Member
Registered: 07-24-2005
Sat, 11-19-2011 - 5:28pm

Thank you for posting this, RTMO

I don't believe we've ever delved into the real hard-core facts about shame, not that I ever saw anyway.

iVillage Member
Registered: 11-13-2011
Sun, 11-20-2011 - 11:06am
RTMO, thank you so much for this post. It has helped shed some light on my feelings and behaviors. I want to now read the gifts of imperfection. I have always been a perfectionist, very hard on myself and a people pleaser. I know where some of this comes from, like so many from things that happened growing up. I know I need to look deeper into myself if I truly want to heal. Prior to ending A I was in terrible pain, I didn't feel worthy of anything, not my family, friends, job etc and when I was being treated as an after thought in A I believed that was because that was all I deserved anymore because I was such a bad person. I was in a really bad place and starting to scare myself. Reading this I recognize that pain was shame, and just as you said, being able to come here, to this site, talk with those that understand and not be judged is a gift. When I would read the insights and caring that are shared here I saw that these are people just like me, they made a mistake, but by their postings I saw that they are wonderfully kind generous good people and I that helped me see that I too am a kind good person that just made a bad mistake, but I no longer feel like a terrible person. So thank you and thanks for link and book title. I will let you know when I have read the book. Very nice post RTMO.
iVillage Member
Registered: 05-16-2011
Sun, 11-20-2011 - 4:48pm

Hopeful, there is a sense of freedom when we can see what drives us and it does help with the healing side of things. When we realise that who we are does not need to be defined by what we have done, cycles can be broken. I have relearned that myself this weekend while dealing with my children. My parenting has definitely been shame driven and that is not healthy for either myself or my children. Facing shame for me at the moment is realising, I don't need to be the perfect parent and trying to be is just my way of trying to band aid those feelings. I feel deep shame when I think about how I left my children and what they and others think of me as a result which then makes me feel like I am a terrible mother. This makes me parent from that place of shame to try and prove I am a good mother. I am people pleasing and trying to seek validation by the way my children respond to me, so when they throw what I did in my face, I am back to feeling worthless as a mother. So I need to look at what I am thinking about myself in this area and walk through it.

You are right, you are not a terrible person and reminding yourself of who you really are is a great step to reclaiming your self worth. When we all come on here we are all broken and our shame is deep and when we continue to keep breaking no contact, it just heaps more shame on ourselves especially when we tell ourselves we are weak and don't deserve to be a part of this board. We may not consciously say it but our actions of returning to a situation where

The core of who you are is not always obvious to everyone. But to believe what others may believe of you can cause you to deny yourself, the wonders, of who you really are.
Community Leader
Registered: 06-08-2010
Sun, 11-20-2011 - 10:49pm


This is an excellent post.

Community Leader
Registered: 05-23-2003
Mon, 12-05-2011 - 1:30pm
Bumping up for Buddy.