counseling, psychology, self-help

How We Manage Our Shame

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In a previous post, I discussed shame and how OTHERS may try to shame us, the reasons why, and how shame has its roots in one’s upbringing.

Equally important is how we are able to manage our own feelings of shame towards ourself as it is pivotal to our well-being. Shame can undermine our relationships and often runs our lives without us even knowing. Shame is a silent killer if you are not able to recognize its powerful presence in your life.

Everyone experiences shame. For healthy people, the shame they feel passes.

For others, shame is an emotion they try to cover up with other emotions-anger, aggression, passive aggression, rage, envy, jealousy, anxiety.

Shame is something we may to try to project on other people–terrified of being judged we may attempt to point out the faults in others to keep the spotlight off our own imperfections.

Perhaps we become self-deprecating. We may shame ourselves as a way to acknowledge our faults and failures before anyone else can point them out.

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Shame can also be such a fundamental part of our experience that it shapes our sense of self and identity.

Many people who struggle with shame develop into one of the two distinct personality types: the narcissist or the codependent.  (A codependent cannot be a narcissist, but a narcissist CAN also be codependent). These personalities are based on an undefined self. In both, shame and control are intricately tied together. Narcissists and codependents rely on OTHER people for their sense of self.  Each of these personalities place a lot of importance on what other people think of them.

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The only way to over come these shame based personalities is to give up your attachment to control, you will find your shame disappearing.

For narcissists, they hide their internalized shame with an outward expression of arrogance, contempt, rage, and criticism towards others. Narcissists lack empathy.  These are people who very much live in fear of being found out. Narcissism is the mask they use to cover up their deep-rooted feelings of self-loathing and toxic shame.

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Narcissists are famous for unloading their shame onto others with insults and put downs. By making others feel bad about themselves, a narcissist can ease their own pain. Shame is the cause of their aggressive, mean-spirited behavior.

This shame based personality type truly feels they are right and you are wrong and that you are an idiot in comparison to them (obviously you feel GREAT being in their company).

A narcissist will battle to the death if they feel their sense of self (their false sense of self) is challenged. Narcissists can dish it out but hell hath no fury like a narcissist scorned!

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Another shame based personality type is the codependent. Codependents try to control their internal feelings by controlling other people, events, and circumstances.

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For codependents,  their shame is also internalized, but expressed outwardly in a different form than the narcissist’s.  Similarly, a codependent’s sense of shame leads to other painful feelings and destructive behavior. With codependents, their shame plays out in care taking, passive aggression, people pleasing, control, resentment, and non-assertive communication. Codependents can’t speak their minds and similarly to narcissists, have a tendency to blame others. Often they are martyrs who are proud of their giving, self-sacrificing, long-suffering, and a selfless devotion to you (something they will hold over your head when it suits them).

Codependents try to be puppet masters pulling strings behind closed curtains. They are super focused on others. Their desire to feel needed is intertwined with the desire to feel important.

Codependents vacillate between feelings superiority and inferiority. Shame can come out as jealousy, envy, or judgement of others. By diminishing others, a codependent gets a superficial boost to themselves and get to hide their feelings of shame from their self.

If you are ruled by shame you may find yourself isolated–from family and friends. You may be cut off from your own authentic feelings which for you are too scared to feel.

Both narcissists and codependents hate to feel their feelings and the subsequent vulnerability that expressing our true self entails.

Vulnerability is very threatening to narcissists and codependents alike.

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Codependents and narcissists as you can see are BOTH sides of the same coin.

Outside of the more extreme personality types of narcissism and codependency, shame can present in others way in our lives. Shame can affect how we function in relationships.

If you struggle with shame and control, you may find you either under-function OR over-function in your relationships.

While most people understand that balance is key to a fulfilling relationship,romantic or otherwise, it seems that many of us can’t escape the trap of either under-functioning or over-functioning.

Signs you overfunction in your relationships:

~You worry a lot

~You struggle with controlling behaviors

~You do for others what they can do for themselves

~You love to give advice (feeling a sense of responsibility for others and how things turn out)

~You are concerned with managing your image

~You moralize (moralizing is the tendency to harshly judge certain behaviors)

~You triangulate (triangulating is a manipulation tactic where one person will not communicate directly with another person, instead using a third person to relay communication to the second, thus forming a triangle)

~You overparent—both your kids AND other adults (taking care of others is a way to keep you from having to pay mind to your own issues)

~You take on the role of care-giving

~You try to change others

~If someone does not stay in sync with you/agree with you (how you think, how you feel)–you can’t be friends or in a relationship with them

Signs you underfunction in your relationships:

~You set goals and don’t follow through

~You let your partner make the decisions

~You ask numerous people for advice rather than make decisions on your own

~You let others do for you things you can do for yourself

~You struggle with addictions-food, alcohol, drugs, etc.

~You frequently are physically or emotionally ill

~You become less competent under stress

~You are underemployed

~You self-sabotage

~You zone out to tv or video games

~You seem lazy or unmotivated to others

Whenever someone is underfunctioning, someone else is overfunctioning.

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Narcissism, codependency, overfunctioning, and underfunctioning all have their roots in shame based feelings. These are ways our feelings of internalized shame manifest in our lives.

Shame and control go hand in hand. When you give up your attachment to control, and instead choose compassion toward yourself and others, you will find your shame dissipate.

If you explore it carefully, if you navigate shame with compassion, you find the comfort that comes from no longer hiding from yourself—or keeping yourself hidden from others and the world.

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