Shame Resilience: Connection
Once shame has been moved from the feeling brain to the thinking brain through identifying and contextualizing it, we can then proceed to Step 3 of Dr. Brené Brown’s Shame Resilience Theory: connection with others. This step is the most simple, and often the most difficult step of this four-part theory.
When we are deep in shame, a core component of our experience is disconnection from others. It begins slowly, but as we dive deeper and deeper into shame, our mind tells us that we are inherently unworthy of connection. That we are unloveable, that we are awful, that we’re a terrible friend/parent/spouse/employee and so on. The self-perpetuating cycle of toxic internal dialogue ensures that we move farther and farther away from those who love us and could potentially disrupt this internal feedback loop.
Remember: shame tells us we’re terrible, we internalize this, confirm it to ourselves, and then dig our way farther into shame.
The quickest antidote to this experience is to connect with other people and allow them to disprove our unloveable-ness, our unworthiness. Simple connection with others counters this internal dialogue that says everyone hates us because we’re a trash human, that that thing we did makes us a horrible person. When people end up hanging out with us anyway, that throws a kink in that feedback loop.
Though Step 3 seems simple on the surface, it’s often the most difficult step of the Shame Resilience Theory to accomplish. Because we’ve so deeply convinced ourselves that we do not deserve love and connection, it becomes increasingly difficult to put ourselves in the position of being wholly seen and loved. We put on a mask around other people, construct impossible walls around ourselves, or even remove ourselves from the company of others entirely. It feels acutely painful to be around people, especially those who know us well, because our shame is telling us we’re seconds away from them confirming how terrible we are.
The brain is a powerful thing, for better or worse.