Shame Resilience: Contextualizing Shame
Now that we’re an expert at identifying and naming shame (we’re an expert, right? Kidding—this idea of tuning into our bodies and learning to speak their language is a lifelong process, so be gentle with yourself as we walk through this information), let us discuss step two of Dr. Brene Brown’s Shame Resilience Theory: Contextualizing Shame.
Everything has context. If we lived on a brand new baby planet full of brand new humans with no culture and no language and no expectations of who and what we were “supposed” to be, we might be able to experience a world without context. (Yes, it’s an imperfect metaphor but roll with me, here.)
But that isn’t the world we live in, is it?
Instead, we have culture and religion and shared family histories and media and politics, and on and on. We have societal expectations of who we should be, who others should be, and what it all means. We’re receiving constant messages of what our bodies should look like, what sort of job we should have, how we should parent our children… you know what I’m talking about here.
And because of this, our shame has context.
When we learned how to describe our physical and emotional experience of shame, we began putting language to it. We add to this better understanding of our shame by including context—through this more cerebral experience of shame, we can begin to depersonalize it, intellectualize it.
Part of the shame resilience theory is moving the experience of shame from our emotional brain into our thinking brain. When we do this, we’re able to use our higher brain functioning (like our Prefrontal Cortex) to understand that we are not inherently bad for the thing we did, something our feeling brain (like our amygdala) can’t quite get a hold of. Putting a name to it, understanding where it comes from, helps us make this shift.