Shame Resilience: Contextualizing Shame

Shame Resilience Contextualizing shame2

When we start contextualizing shame, we investigate where it’s coming from. Does our experience have roots in what we expect mothers to be like in our society? Perhaps it's based on our expectations of the “American dream”; college degree, good job, 2.5 children and the white picket fence. Maybe our shame is related to our physical body—what it’s “supposed” to look like, how many pounds it's supposed to be, whether or not it has rolls and stretch marks and fat in all the right places.

Where does the shame come from? Would the shame exist without any context?

For our purposes here, let’s consider the shame of being unable to “just have one” drink. We have marketing that tells us to “please drink responsibly,” suggesting that anyone who can’t drink “responsibly” has failed. We live in a boozy society that uses alcohol to celebrate, mourn, and have fun. We grow up in families who have their own stories of alcohol—whether it’s great or terrible or something that carries a lot of stigma. We also have our own expectations of willpower and moderation—how we’re supposed to be “stronger” and in control of our behavior. This might be rooted in all sorts of expectations of autonomy and power and control, coming at us from the media and our families and our religions and so on.

The point is, all of our experiences have context, and shame carries a lot of this context. The more we can name it, deconstruct it, the more power we reclaim over shame.

Today, consider the 4/10 shame experience that we began working through yesterday. Can you contextualize this experience, continuing to put words to it? What are some of the primary driving factors of this shame? Is it rooted in messaging you get from magazines, from the news, from your family? Does identifying the context change your experience of the shame in any way, does it reduce its potency or the degree to which it physically activates you? This is the Shame Resilience Theory at work.

Brown, B. (2013, January.) Shame v. guilt. Brené Brown.

Selva, J. (2020, September.) Shame Resilience Theory: How to Respond to Shame. Positive Psychology.