Jane's Mental Health Source Page

One of the Web's Oldest Personal Mental Health Sites [Est. 1998]

Getting Over Shame by Letting Go of Resistance

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Shame and humiliation are powerful weapons in emotional abuse and the control of the will of a human being. Once a person has internalized that shame and humiliation and begins to believe it, that person will then continue to perpetrate shame and humiliation unto himself and becomes his own abuser. The victim also becomes addicted to the approval of his original abusers, usually his parents.

It’s no wonder that shame and humiliation are issues that victims bring to therapists, who try to “change the person’s shame base”.

I can only speak for myself, but I “got over” it by “stop resisting” it. The reason why shame and humiliation works is when the person shamed and humiliated “resists” the rationale behind their perpetrators’ actions. This is akin to trying to use my own logic on people who are working on a different set of logic: my resistance is futile and it actually strengthens the power of the shame and humiliation.

So what I did was to neutralize this power by agreeing with the perpetrators’ logic, without ever actually “believing” myself that their logic is true or even makes sense.

For example, if I were told that I was such a bad daughter that I might as well have crawled out from under a rock, I’d agree and say “yes, I may have indeed crawled out from under a rock, that sounds pretty bad.” If I were told that I was not as good as {someone else who had way more figurative or literal trophies}, I’d agree and say “yes it sounds like I’m not as good enough and have less trophies, that sounds pretty mediocre and shameful.”

I’m not a therapist and I can’t say that what’s worked for me can work for others. My method is based on uncoupling the power struggle between the perpetrator and the victim in an emotional abuse situation, by poking holes in what “makes strong” the humiliation and shame. If silence strengthens shame, then the victim does not remain silent however s/he can (for me, I broke my silence by sharing personal stories on my site). If the struggle to “argue and make them wrong” strengthens the opportunities for humiliation, then the victim can simply allow the family members and friends the right to THEIR opinions without having to fight or disprove them, but also without having to BELIEVE and internalize/live these opinions.

There is value in moving away from toxic families as well. I see this as akin to realizing that the source of your injured ankle is stepping into a metal trap that clamps down on your ankle bone and you keep putting your foot back into the same trap over and over again. No matter how strong you “will” your ankle to become, you need to at least get away from the trap for long enough period for your ankle to heal, and to potentially strengthen.

(This was what I had to do, I left home to get away from the environment producing shame and humiliation in order to extricate myself long enough to “reclaim” who I really was.)

There is no reason, however, we should choose toxic friends in our lives unless we’re doing this to subconsciously reinforce our toxic family and trying to see if we can change these toxic friends (then if we were ever successful, to try our methods on our toxic families).

What changes a person’s “shame” base is when the person shifts this base to a new value or a new “shame” base that is based on the person’s own value system – on based on his/her family members/friends’ value system.

February 20, 2011 Update Here is a TED talk by Brene Brown on shame – and how the “less you talk about it, the more you have it” – it echoed what I’d written about in earlier articles although this was the first time I’ve listened to Brown’s talk (watching it as I’m typing this and sharing the video on this site!)

There is tremendous truth in her correlating shame with vulnerability.

Being comfortable with being vulnerable is how I’ve grown over the years.

Written by Jane Chin

February 17th, 2011 at 7:49 am