Everyday Shaming Interferes With Attachment

You know about horrible emotional shaming, right? Things like, you are such an idiot, who do you think you are? You are ugly, stupid, inconsiderate, and I wish you were never born. Of course you wouldn’t want to attach to someone who addresses you like that.

But what about all that shaming going on all the time. After studying people in family gatherings, work places, and my therapy office, I can show you those ways that are just as harmful but we are supposed to accept. These negatives impact attaching too, but it is more difficult to see why.

You know how it feels when someone pushes past you in a store, implying that you were in the way? Or the person who apologizes for it? Or a driver honks because you were in the wrong lane or cut him off? These are examples of everyday shaming.

Our culture is loaded with shaming that is seen as normal, to be expected. As appropriate if you are responding to something someone else did that was “wrong.” However, this shaming is harms us as does the more obvious kinds. If we can learn to see it we can prevent taking it in. And we can learn to stop doling it out.

The boss frowns at you when you are three minutes late to a meeting. A co-worker thinks she is doing more than her share and shuns you in the lounge. An employee treats you like the father who abused her. She’s afraid of you and walking on egg shells. The woman standing in the bank line glares at everyone.

A common shaming from parents and others is to ask, “What makes you think you could do that?” When I was writing my fifth book in a park, a man asked me what I was doing, then proceeded to tell me that it’s not easy to write a book and get it published, what made me think I could? I thought he was strange, but didn’t realize that he enjoyed shaming others and I was handy. He failed because I told him I had a major publisher, and had already published books. I felt victorious as I put him in his place. Now I see that he was medicating his shame by perceiving me as a stupid woman who thought she could do something done by few.

Even harsher shaming is the question, “What makes you think you deserve that?” When a friend was in high school, her troop won a competition that entitled it to a free trip to Japan. She was excited until her mother asked her that question. When a mother doesn’t feel loving and delighted for her daughter’s success, the girl can take it to mean there is something wrong with her, even while she and her friends will say it’s the mother who is bad.

Now we can all heal from the 

ordinary, everyday shaming

going on all around us.

In order to change the world’s human relating, we need to address acculturated shame. Healing begins with recognizing the mild, everyday forms. Then, we can stop this shame from coming in. Then we can learn to stop shaming others.

It is difficult to describe acculturated shaming because it is accepted as normal. It takes time for couples to see how they shame each other.

Gossip is a form of joining with others to shame those who are bad, stupid, thoughtless, too wealthy, too fat, too anything not approved of.

Voice tone communicates as much as words. Ask any dog. A couple sits in my office. The wife says that she doesn’t know if she wants to continue the marriage because he flirts with other women, and when angry, calls her names. Name-calling is obviously shaming. Both the husband and the wife could see this.

However, neither recognized that she was shaming him with her tone. She had a mildly hurt, how-could-you-do-this-to-me tone. He reacted defensively. When I pointed out her tone, she argued with me. I asked her to notice how her voice was coming from her throat, not from down in her chest. When she could speak from a deeply felt, empowered place, she was able to give him the same information but without shaming him. He was still defensive, but less so.

When another client laughs too loudly, or says something “inappropriate,” his wife gives him a look, or makes a sound, or says his name. She shames him in a culturally accepted manner. Others in the room may join her with chuckles and smiles and nods. Whenever people are out of touch and do odd things, others are allowed to shame them. Then everyone lives in fear of doing odd things, and being shamed for it!

Watch. Listen. Notice. Feel. Sigh. Breathe. Talk.

My job is getting shaming spouses to change how they speak to their partner. I worked with one woman on how she said, “I don’t like that,” to her husband. When she held herself back, she looked at him sideways, her soft voice communicating that he was really bad for doing something she didn’t like. When she was able to fully claim her dislike for what he did, and say it straight out, looking him in the eyes, she was merely expressing what she felt, what was going on inside of her. There was no shaming. Just facts.

We don’t see acculturated shaming going on all the time.

Critical, condescending humor is considered entertaining, bonding and witty. It is shaming. It was the foundation of TV shows including the highly successful “Everyone Loves Raymond,” and “Fraiser.”

Why is a yawning cat the cutest thing ever but people are suppose to hide their own yawning?

Notice how many TV ads shame one of the actors, and indirectly, shame you for not buying something.

My book, Shedding Shame and Claiming Freedom, has a long chapter describing the many ways shame is integrated into our culture. It’s on Kindle and on Amazon.

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