The third chapter in Brene Brown’s book Daring Greatly is about shame. Here are a few thoughts I have culled from what I’ve read until now:
Shame is a universal emotion. There’s no one who doesn’t feel shame.
We often use the words Shame and Guilt interchangeably, but they are not the same at all!
(Didn’t I say say she clarifies and redefines words so that ambiguity is cut out and you know exactly what she is saying?)
The difference between Shame and Guilt is determined by your self-talk, she says. This is how it differs:
Guilt: I did something bad.
Shame: I am a bad person.
Once you’ve declared yourself as a bad person, you automatically become unworthy of any good thing that the universe can give you- whether it is love, admiration, joy or belonging. You cut off all possibility of establishing nurturing and fulfilling connections. You isolate yourself as effectively as if you’ve imprisoned yourself in a dingy tower with no stairs. And you aren’t Rapunzel as we all know. So there!
If you wouldn’t say those things to someone else you love, why are you saying them to yourself?
~ Elaina Marie
Shame cannot be resisted or deleted from your emotional map. Despite your most vigilant effort, shame will take ownership of you at times. The only way you can hope to recover from the beating shame gives you is to become Shame Resilient. Using a pleasing Harry Potter (yes, I’m a big fan) analogy, she talks of an incident when she was called a Defense Against Dark Arts teacher. In fact, she thinks of herself as Professor Snape, she confesses. Shame is the darkest art there is and Ms Brown teaches you how to protect yourself from this particular, most terrible darkness.
At the root of Vulnerability is the fear of failure. Failure makes us feel unworthy and less-than. Somewhere along the way, we have been taught to hitch our self-worth to what we are able to do or produce. We are commodities, not people. Our value is equal to the value others say we produce. Others decide what we are worth… they are omnipotent. We have no right to exist if they deem us unworthy.
Thus do we learn shame!
Shame makes you feel disconnected and isolated by convincing you that you are unworthy of connection, love and belonging. This sense of isolation not only makes you feel more vulnerable but also compels you to hide it like a shameful secret- thus coming full circle.
Shame gains its power when it is kept hidden. Since you don’t like to talk about shame, it becomes stronger and stronger. It takes over your self-talk entirely and makes it debilitating and toxic.
She attributes the source of this destructive self-talk to Gremlins. Gremlins are tiny green creatures that like to make mischief and are manipulative and destructive. They cannot tolerate light. Shame induced self-talk is a Gremlin too. The only way to kill it is to bring it out in the light and talk about it.
Your subconscious mind is always listening to and believing in everything you repeatedly say about yourself. So try not to become your own enemy of progress.
~ Edmond Mbiaka
Referring to your destructive self-talk as a Gremlin is a very powerful ruse to break its stranglehold. By attributing the behavior to a creature external to yourself, you protect yourself from further shame. You are able to bring in some much needed objectivity. It is easier to analyse (and thus reject) someone else’s words and opinions. You can stand aside and examine the words without internalizing them.
In an example, Ms Brown talks of the time she was stuck while writing an article. When she spoke to a friend about it, her friend asked, “What are the Gremlins saying?”
That’s a very powerful question. In a moment it externalized the self-talk. There is almost a sense of ridiculousness associated with the question… as if you were dealing with a grumpy neighbor’s idiosyncrasies which were annoying and exasperating. Who can take the petulant complaining of such a neighbor personally? It needs to be dealt with perhaps, but why on earth would you make that unreasonableness a measure of your self-worth?
Ms Brown replied to her friend and said, “There are a few of them. One is saying that my writing sucks and that nobody cares about these topics. Another one’s saying that I am going to get criticised and that I’ll deserve it. And the big one’s saying, ‘Real writers don’t struggle like this. Real writers don’t dangle their modifiers.’”
There surely cannot be a sillier set of statements to apply to Ms Brown and her life-changing work.
– Her writing sucks!? When I don’t have words enough to express my admiration for the way she elucidates and the clarity she gives in a few concise sentences! That’s totally nonsensical.
– Nobody cares about these topics! If by nobody you mean brain-dead then yes, I’ll agree.
– Going to get criticised! This is too foolish to even refute.
And so is the rest of it! It is just a pack of lies.. the entire Gremlin talk. I bet your Gremlin talk is pretty nonsensical too. I know mine is completely bizarre.
Be mindful of your self-talk. It is a conversation with the universe. You are a being, full of infinite possibilities! Focus your mind with positivity and you will have dictated the direction of your journey, your soul and your being, cascading in infinite abundance.
~ Angie Karan Krezos
Ridiculous beings, these Gremlins. They spout such absolute twaddle! To borrow a Harry Potter analogy, Gremlins are your personal Boggarts. They try to terrorize you by using your secret fears of inadequacy and shame. The only way you can render them ineffective is to use the Riddikulus Charm on them and make them absurd and ludicrous.
(On an aside, isn’t J.K. Rowling simply awe-inspiring? What a beautiful and powerful culture she has created. There will come a time (I’m sure) when people will believe Harry Potter to be a flesh and blood character just as they believe so of Sherlock Holmes.)
Making the Gremlins look silly is an important step in silencing them. The second is to stop their food supply. They feed on your reluctance to clothe your shame in words- even private words that only you will hear/ read. Wrap words around your shame and the Gremlins food supply will be cut off at source. With these two steps, you will have developed Shame Resilience.
What are YOUR Gremlins whispering to you today?
Note: This is a series of posts. I will be recording the most arresting thoughts the book provokes in me. If you have read the book, please do share your impressions too. If you haven’t, why not read it with me? I would be so much fun, wouldn’t it?