Uttering ‘I am ashamed about…’ was about as close as I got to shame. I never knew what shame really meant. I think I substituted it for embarrassment. Often, I used guilt in place of shame. I learned the difference recently:
Guilt is the emotion you feel you have done something bad, made a mistake – gone against your values, beliefs, etc. The behaviour is separate from the self. Guilt can be positive and leads to sincere apologies and changes in future behaviours.
Shame is the emotion when you feel you are bad and not worthy. You associate your behaviours with who you are rather what you do. Behaviours become difficult to change or improve if a person sees the flaw within her/himself. It leads to a fear that we are not worthy of love and belonging.
Yeah, I have a lot of shame, more shame than guilt. Guilt can turn into shame. Someone can attack you or repeatedly bring up things you have done and this can turn into shame even if you felt guilt initially. How weird is that?
I realised that in my story that I recently wrote about in Worth (part 1) that Shame was along my side, enjoying the ride. (Thanks to Kara for introducing me to the concept of FOG (fear – obligation – guilt) by Susan Forward and Donna Frazier)
When I was 10 years old I failed my first social studies exam of the year. My mother was furious and she used FOG which led me to study for the next one only to disappoint her by getting a score of 98/100 because it wasn’t 100. Since 10 years old and until I graduated high school (17 years old) I received really good grades. Before this, my grades were marginal (mostly Cs and Bs and few As).
Somewhere during my school years I began to associate being a good daughter with getting As and being bad with Bs and lower. Shame was there every step of the way. It was shame that forced me to study not the love of learning. And it was shame that brought me good grades which allowed me entrance into university and to get loans to pay for it. Shame did me good, right?
I failed my first semester/term at university.
When I moved to campus, I was away from the FOG (fear-obligation-guilt). My study habits did not stick with me when I was alone. It was a hard first term and I pulled myself together because fear entered again – this time through the fact that if I don’t get my grades up I might not graduate and some companies don’t hire without a certain grade point average and ultimately that path lead back home (my greatest fear). I wasn’t going back to the FOG.
Much (not all) of the shame I have stems from my experiences in FOG. I often wonder if I ever felt guilt for anything I did at home?
And what about the Narcissist? What’s the N’s relationship with Shame?
xx T Reddy