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Shame is an unspoken epidemic, the secret behind many forms of broken behavior

Mainly Mattias

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Came across this TED talk on shame. It’s by a research professor at the U of Houston. http://www.ted.com/t...g_to_shame.html is the link to the actual talk (20 minutes) but reading truncated excerpts of the transcript seems more efficient…


There's two things that I've learned in the last year. The first is vulnerability is not weakness..

How many of you think of vulnerability and weakness synonymously? The majority of people. Now let me ask you this question: This past week at TED, how many of you, when you saw vulnerability up here, thought it was pure courage? Vulnerability is not weakness. I define vulnerability as emotional risk, exposure, uncertainty. It fuels our daily lives. And I've come to the belief -- this is my 12th year doing this research -- that vulnerability is our most accurate measurement of courage -- to be vulnerable, to let ourselves be seen, to be honest.

.. the second thing I learned is this: We have to talk about shame.

When you walk up to that arena and you put your hand on the door, and you think, "I'm going in and I'm going to try this," shame is the gremlin who says, "Uh, uh. You're not good enough. You never finished that MBA. Your wife left you. I know you don't think that you're pretty enough or smart enough or talented enough or powerful enough…" Shame is that thing.

And if we can quiet it down and walk in and say, "I'm going to do this," we look up and the critic that we see pointing and laughing, 99 percent of the time is who? Us. Shame drives two big tapes -- "never good enough" and, if you can talk it out of that one, "who do you think you are?" The thing to understand about shame is it's not guilt. Shame is a focus on self, guilt is a focus on behavior. Shame is "I am bad." Guilt is "I did something bad."

There's a huge difference between shame and guilt. And here's what you need to know. Shame is highly, highly correlated with addiction, depression, violence, aggression, bullying, suicide, eating disorders. And here's what you even need to know more. Guilt, inversely correlated with those things. The ability to hold something we've done or failed to do up against who we want to be is incredibly adaptive. It's uncomfortable, but it's adaptive.

Shame feels the same for men and women, but it's organized by gender. Shame, for women, is this web of unobtainable, conflicting, competing expectations about who we're supposed to be. And it's a straight-jacket. For men, shame is not a bunch of competing, conflicting expectations. Shame is one, do not be perceived as what? Weak.

Very quickly, some research by Mahalik at Boston College. He asked, what do women need to do to conform to female norms? The top answers in this country: nice, thin, modest and use all available resources for appearance. When he asked about men, what do men in this country need to do to conform with male norms, the answers were: always show emotional control, work is first, pursue status and violence.

If we're going to find our way back to each other, we have to understand and know empathy, because empathy's the antidote to shame. If you put shame in a Petri dish, it needs three things to grow exponentially: secrecy, silence and judgment. If you put the same amount of shame in a Petri dish and douse it with empathy, it can't survive. The two most powerful words when we're in struggle: me too.

If we're going to find our way back to each other, vulnerability is going to be that path. And I know it's seductive to stand outside the arena, because I think I did it my whole life, and think to myself, I'm going to go in there and kick some ass when I'm bulletproof and when I'm perfect. And that is seductive. But the truth is that never happens. And even if you got as perfect as you could and as bulletproof as you could possibly muster when you got in there, that's not what we want to see. We want you to go in. We want to be with you and across from you. And we just want, for ourselves and the people we care about and the people we work with, to dare greatly.

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Haven't actually had the chance to listen to this talk yet, but it seems interesting already!

One question, when it says

Shame is a focus on self, guilt is a focus on behavior. Shame is "I am bad." Guilt is "I did something bad."

Shame is highly, highly correlated with addiction, depression, violence, aggression, bullying, suicide, eating disorders. And here's what you even need to know more. Guilt, inversely correlated with those things.

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This is actually one of the main reasons I don't support widespread privacy, as it leads to two of the three factors that cause shame: silence and secrecy.

Problems always seem to get worse the more into the shadows they are pushed, privacy makes us comfortable in a lot of situations, but that comfort results in some level of shame or guilt in a lot of people. If you have to hide it, your subconscious will pick up on that and immediately assume it must be bad, depending on the makeup of the individual's mind this will lead them to either believe the action is bad (guilt) or they are bad (shame). However the op did make me think, as I see judgement as the third factor, and that is usually stronger whenever someone is exposed.

Interesting how they talk about those three factors, as they are kind of at odds with one another, easy enough to avoid judgement if you hide, but then you fall into silence and secrecy, get away from silence/secrecy and you expose yourself to judgement. Probably the reason so many feel trapped and have difficulty with this sort of thing.

Interest post at any rate.

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shame is a motivator for so many behaviours, most people aren't even aware of the personal shame that motivate them.

The worst part about it is that the feelings of shame often lead to further destructive behaviour, causing more shame thereby reinforcing the spiral of shame and self destruction.

Seriously good TED and good read thanks for this.

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I've struggled mightily with shame for as long as I can remember. I am pretty typical in that I was never taken seriously as a kid and constantly had these dissociative influences restricting the range of my experience into a tiny keyhole with reference to the size and beauty of what is actually possible in life. I think it is one of those inevitable outcomes from living in a society where behaviorism is the lens through which everyone is evaluated and through which everyone is somehow expected to grow. Even though if you examine the theory logically and empirically it is kind of insane to use it as the paradigm for raising and educating the young.The problem with constantly being manipulated with punishments and rewards is that you can easily lose all sense of your own experience, your own core sense of worth and ability to judge the facts for yourself. If you are treated as a lab rat constantly doing trick for the next treat, how can you learn to know who it is that you really are?

It is all rather extraordinarily absurd of course. I know that I strive to be unrepentant in my self love.

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Given the fact that people these days have little self-esteem, extreme disregard for others around them, I'd say people aren't being shamed enough. I'm finding more people pointing the fingers at everyone else instead of holding themselves accountable for their own actions. A person kills someone. "Oh it's because I lost my job..". A person steals. "I had my favorite toy taken from me as a child..". A person embezzles millions, "I didn't get hugged enough as a child".

People spill coffee on themselves, and sue the restaurant. People get into an accident, that tree jumped out of nowhere!

I'd say we're in a society that is shameless, and has blatant disregard for themselves or others.

/end rant.

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