Negative Emotions: Shame and Shamelessness

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by Melody Fletcher on February 28, 2012

Today’s video is a continuation of the series on Negative Emotions. This time, I’d like to focus on shame and shamelessness.

Shame is one of the worst feelings we can experience. When you feel ashamed, you essentially feel as though you are not ok, that there’s something fundamentally wrong with you, that you’re broken. And Who You Really Are knows unequivocally that there’s nothing wrong with you, that you are 100% worthy and 100% right exactly where you are. So, when you feel ashamed, you’re actually denying Who You Really Are, and no thought feels worse than that.

Where does Shame Come from?

Watch the video to find out:


Video Transcript

Shame is a learned response. We are not born being ashamed of ourselves. It’s something we have to pick up. If you look at the animal kingdom, you’ll find that animals which have not been domesticated – animals in the wild, do not experience shame. It can be argued and it has been debated that domesticated animals such as dogs, do seem to display shame. Do they actually feel shame the way we do? Who knows? The point is, shame is not something naturally found in nature – we had to be taught to feel ashamed.

Where does Shame actually come from?

I believe that shame is a product of a fundamental, societal problem with self-esteem. It’s present in the most primitive of tribes, as well as the most sophisticated of societies and their subgroups.

Essentially, if I feel really badly about myself, and I believe that I’m not ok, I’m going to look for other people who are the same as me. So, let’s say that I like pink. Hey! You like pink! We’re the same! Let’s band together! Because liking pink is the unifying factor, we make a rule: If you like pink, you’re ok. Now, we can feel better about ourselves. We validate each other. But by that definition, anyone who doesn’t like pink is NOT ok. And of course, we’re going to let them know that by shaming them – hopefully, into compliance. The more people we can get to join our group and follow our rules, the better we can feel about ourselves.

We shame people into compliance. It’s a tool that we use in society to get people to comply with our rules, so we can feel validated.

Where do the rules come from?

These “rules” are completely arbitrary. They differ from society to society and from sub-group to sub-group. In every case, someone simply made them up. This is where you get such gems as “Don’t wear white after labor day.” This phenomenon goes far beyond survival and has nothing to do with protecting the greater good, such as “Don’t eat all the food so the tribe doesn’t starve.” These are absolutely arbitrary rules.

We often don’t even remember where these rules came from, or how they were formed. They generally make no sense to us, and yet, we still tend to live by them. When we break one of these “rules”, we feel ashamed, because we’ve been taught to feel ashamed.


At this time, in most societies, we are seeing a major increase in shamelessness. At first glance, this sounds like a really negative thing. But someone who is shameless is simply refusing to follow these arbitrary societal rules.

There are two reasons for someone to behave shamelessly:

The first reason comes about when someone feels so secure and worthy and knows their own power to such an extent, that they feel no need to follow society’s rules. If they want to go and do something, they do it, even if society won’t approve. When someone feels this secure, even if they’re completely shameless, we don’t tend to be offended by them. In fact, we usually find them very attractive. True shamelessness comes from supreme confidence and people tend to appreciate that and even revere it.

The second and much more prevalent reason for shamelessness today is when people rebel against the idea of shame. These individuals are sick and tired of feeling ashamed and like they’re not ok on a fundamental level. You can see this rebellion in action on the Jerry Springer Show. These are people who are engaging in extreme behaviors and doing so proudly. Or, at least they are proclaiming to be proud.  What’s actually happening here is that they’ll say that they’re feeling great about themselves, but they don’t, and you can hear the discord between their words and their vibration if you listen closely. Most of them are unknowingly lying to themselves and everyone else. They don’t actually feel secure, but they’re rebelling against the idea that they’re not ok. They will often try to shock people with their behavior, in an attempt to say “Stop making us feel this way!”

As more and more people are waking up these days, we are seeing an increase in shameless behavior. More and more people are sick and tired of feeling like they’re not ok.

So, it’s ok to be shameless?

Well, yes. You know that I don’t judge, so everything is essentially ok. But I wouldn’t necessarily recommend running through the streets naked in an attempt to overcome shame. It would be far more beneficial to work on your sense of self-worth, confidence, and on not feeling as if other people’s or society’s opinions have any power over how you feel about yourself. The only one who can ultimately control how you feel about yourself is you. If you take back your power from all of these arbitrary rules and you understand that you are fundamentally, absolutely perfect, then you can begin to live your life the way you truly want, regardless of what these “rules” say.

And when you live that way, when you’re live authentically, even if you do something that society may consider shameless, people will generally not be offended by you.  In fact, when we see someone with that kind of confidence shining through them, we find it very, very attractive. That’s because deep down, we all want to feel that way, don’t we? We all want to feel like we are ok. And when we see someone who feels truly good about themselves, we’re inspired to want to feel that way, as well.

What makes you feel ashamed? Can you identify any “rules” that make no sense but that you’ve been adhering to, nonetheless?

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patricia February 28, 2012 at 23:37

I have to admit, I do not feel like I am perfectly and exactly where the Universe has placed me. I never fit into my family tribe, though I tried hard, and I never fit into the extended family tribe, and I do not fit into society very well….about age 40 I decided this was fabulous…I did not rebel negatively instead I did some wonder work that just poured out of me…and I knew was what I should be doing.

Now I feel a bit of shame because as other retirees take up working out, eating out and traveling and enhancing their lives…..I have nothing to retire from and no money if I do…
I am ashamed that I have no money…I keep attempting to make this into an inspiration for others -”See I can live without health care. I can lose weight and be healthy. I can achieve my goals and dreams and not fit in and yet be happy and contended.” It’s just these fears keep bubbling up

Facebooked, tweeted, – pressed all the buttons :)
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Melody Fletcher February 29, 2012 at 01:06

Hey Patricia,

Do you see how all of your shame stems from comparing yourself to others and how you think you should be the same as them? And also in how you think that you have to have money to inspire others? What you DO and what you HAVE doesn’t truly inspire anyone. Perhaps short term, but not really Who you ARE is an inspiration. But you can’t be ashamed of yourself and still shine brightly. And guess what? If you shine brightly and don’t care about all of that other crap anymore, the other crap shows up. Huh. :)

Stop beating up on yourself you wonderful woman you. And just shine! You have no idea how bright you are.

Huge shiny hugs!
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John Cali February 28, 2012 at 23:58

Hi Melody,

I love this article! As you said, we’ve been taught to feel ashamed if we stray from “the rules.”

When I was growing up, it was a “sin” to admire someone’s physical appearance, especially someone of the opposite sex. “The rules” of those days included a long and boring litany of all the “thou shalt nots.” I’ve always admired anyone who felt secure enough to ignore or defy society’s standards of behavior. It took me many years to reach that point, but I’m there now.

As Winston Churchill said, ” If you don’t have any enemies in life you have never stood up for anything.” And what’s better to stand up for than yourself, and your natural, God-given right to determine your own destiny?

Big hugs,

Melody Fletcher February 29, 2012 at 01:13

Hey John,

I totally get what you’re saying. I grew up going to Catholic School in Germany and they were very old school (without the beatings, though…) They tried to shame me for asking questions. Only, that led to more questions, since the idea that asking questions was wrong, simply didn’t make sense to me. I spent a lot of time being told to just be quiet. The more I learn about myself and the freer I feel the more “rules” I discover that I did, at some point, adopt to some degree. Like the idea that if you walk out of the house looking, well, less than great, and then you see someone you know, you have to be ashamed. Huh? I was for a long time, but truly, now I wonder why? Unless I’m covered in poo, I’m pretty sure the other person doesn’t even really notice that I’m not all dolled up. I still look like me, no matter what. And yet, the fear of that shame made me put on makeup to go to the grocery store for years. I love how good I can feel now, no matter what I look like. What freedom! And all the rules are like that. :)

Thanks for sharing John! It’s always an honor and a pleasure to see you here! :)

Huge hugs!
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Mary Carol Moran February 29, 2012 at 00:26

Hi Melody,

Everything you say makes perfect sense, and yet for me shame feels like something a little different. I feel shame when I do something here in my physical body that I know through my spirit self was not the best thing to have done in the circumstances. For example, if I lie to a friend. Maybe it’s the shame of breaking the rule “thou shalt not lie to your friends,” but to me it feels more like a consciousness of a disconnect with my soul-self, which as you say is very uncomfortable. Yes, I forgive myself, but I still feel shame for doing something that I know in my heart was a poor choice.

Between Facebook and comments and emails, I’ve lost count of the hugs. How about if we call this giant happy shameless hug #7/1000!

Mary Carol
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Melody Fletcher February 29, 2012 at 01:21

OK, Mary Carol,

Let’s say you lied to a friend. Instead of feeling all guilty and ashamed, how about this: Determine why you found it necessary, in that moment, to lie to your friend? What were you are afraid of? What would’ve happened if you’d told the truth? You’ll dig up a vulnerability issue, or some kind of fear. And when you do, you can clear it. Then your lie actually served you in the long run. And you can always go back and tell the truth after you cleared the fear and maybe even explain to your friend why you lied.

Sometimes, though, I think lying is ok. If, for example, telling the truth would help no one and would end up really hurting someone, it could be ok to lie. I’ve never had that happen in my life though. I’ve omitted information lots of times (not everything needs to be said, or there’s a better time), but I can’t remember ever lying outright because the truth would’ve done damage. I’ve lied, sure but it was always out of fear and an unwillingness to be vulnerable or something like that.

Lying isn’t “wrong”. you’re not betraying your friend. And you’re not betraying yourself. It’s a reaction, like getting mad or bitchy. If you pay attention to it, and then use it to figure out what your fears are so you can clear them, you’ll naturally become a person who has very little need to lie. Ever. :)

Huge hugs (Um yeah. I lost track, too. Also 1000 isn’t really enough, is it?)
So… Random hug – just one of the infinite number of hugs yet to come. :D


Mary Carol Moran February 29, 2012 at 04:11

Thanks Melody. I was reaching for an example. I don’t think I lie much. The shame I had to let go of to feel whole was that I couldn’t make my mother happy. Thank you years of therapy! At one point I wrote in lipstick on a mirror, “Mommy make Mommy happy!” Side note, it’s hard to get lipstick off a mirror.

Cathy’s comment below makes me think I’m confusing shame and guilt. If shame is “I’m a bad person” and guilt is “I did something bad,” then what I was writing about in the comment was guilt. And you’re right also, in that pretty much the first thing I do is talk to the person and apologize. I found that was especially important with my kids. I wanted to model that if you make a mistake, you apologize, learn from it, try not to make the same mistake again, and Let It Go!

Random shameless adopted puppy hug!

Mary Carol
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Cathy Taughinbaugh February 29, 2012 at 03:39

Hi Melody,

Great post and great topic. Feelings of shame can lead person astray as they seek remedies for the pain they are feeling due to their feelings of shame. There was a study I read about that said when children as early as 10 or 11 felt shame as opposed to feeling guilt, they were more likely to abuse drugs or alcohol later in life.

Children and adults can be made to feel “ashamed” of their actions where the implication is that they are bad because they did something wrong, rather than letting them know that even though they are a good person, they made a mistake, need to make amends, but can move on with their life.

Thank you for this insightful post!
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Melody Fletcher February 29, 2012 at 17:34

Hey Cathy,

Thanks for sharing that information! For many of us, shame and guilt was how we were disciplined. And it makes perfect sense that the worse we feel about ourselves at our core, that the more likely we are to reach for drastic measures of relief. There’s a difference between doing something bad and being bad. And even when a child or person does something we consider bad, they ALWAYS have a reason. Exploring that reason instead of simply shaming them into compliance will make for a much better and happier long term result. :)

Huge hugs!
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Paige | simple mindfulness February 29, 2012 at 04:35

I grew up in a house where I was made to feel ashamed for not being like everyone else in the family. Basically, I was a quiet introvert while my brother and parents were all extroverts. My father frequently called me “weird” in a not-so-loving way. My parents frequently compared my brother and me. Fortunately, even at a young age, we would look at each other in disbelief that our parents would say such ridiculous things. It made no sense to us. We just got the message loud and clear that it wasn’t OK to be ourselves.

Over the years I have definitely felt ashamed for not being a top performer in whatever I chose to do. Or for generally being myself. In childhood I mastered the art of disconnecting from my emotions to feel safe. As I grew up I mastered the art of hiding behind “appropriate” personas (like the whole corporate thing). It’s just been over the last couple of years that I’ve become deeply aware of how much I did this and have been turning it around. At 44 I’m finally getting comfortable being and expressing my true self. And what is funny is that I’m allowing my true self to shine more when I get confirmation from others that the real me is OK. I just had to get around a different group of people whose “pink” is to be themselves.

Am I just joining a new clan that rewards being ourselves and shames those who don’t? :)
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Melody Fletcher February 29, 2012 at 17:38

Hey Lauren,

I think that just about everyone in your generation can relate to your upbringing in some way. Even if our parents didn’t shame us, society certainly did. And continues to try and do so. But we don’t have to play.

You make an interesting point – just because we figure out how to be more of ourselves doesn’t mean that we don’t still seek out that validation and as a consequence, shame or look down upon those who aren’t as “enlightened” as we are. In fact, a lot of spiritual people fall into that trap. So they judge the Jesus freak while evangelizing about their new epiphany. It’s two sides of the coin, as far as I’m concerned. But that’s just a phase, too. When we become truly confident in ourselves, we no longer need validation. And when we no longer need validation, we find like-minded people everywhere. Isn’t that something? :)

Huge hugs!
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Lauren February 29, 2012 at 06:19

After reading your article I’m trying to figure out how to not feel ashamed for something I think everyone would consider a “wrong doing”. I took a peek at a friend’s text messages on his phone while he was napping. I have a romantic interest in the guy that is not fully reciprocated. I’m aware of another girl in his life and knew they exchanged texts frequently. I was curious as to what their texts were like and his phone was right in front of me. After looking at them I felt I had betrayed him by invading his privacy and I honestly feel guilty for doing so. Isn’t shame a natural feeling that keeps us from doing the wrong things in the future?

Oh, and what I read of their texts did not leave me feeling good either. It was basically a conformation that he’s not that into me, and he’s definitely into her.

Melody Fletcher February 29, 2012 at 17:44

Hey Lauren,

The reason that peeking at the text messages felt so bad, is NOT because the action is somehow determined to the be “bad” by the Universe or God or society. The Universe doesn’t judge your actions or you. The reason it felt bad is because this action was no in line with who you really are. You acted from a place of fear and insecurity, and THAT’S what felt so bad. When you evaluate why you felt compelled to check the text messages, you’ll realize that the reasons are what feel so off. You “need” this guy to like you so that you can feel good about yourself. The fact that he doesn’t hurts you – it’s triggering a fear or not being lovable or not being good enough. The fact that you checked his messages and then experienced bad feelings is a MESSAGE – you have a belief that really isn’t serving you.

Take it as a valuable lesson and start working on how you feel about yourself. You learned something about yourself. This is a good thing. Pay attention to that and use the information to move closer to who you really are. :)

Huge hugs!
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Jason Anthony February 29, 2012 at 17:51

Very, very, poignant… shame is a simply feeling and like you mentioned, Melody, directly a result of our self-esteem.

To the person with high-self esteem, mistakes are just… mistakes. Move on, try again. No big deal. To the person with low self-esteem, mistakes are much more. They feel that they are an attack on their character, who they are as a person, and represent them (in a negative and hurtful way).

Measuring our level of worth (to those around us) has been conditioned in us from right around the time we’re able to walk and talk.

You’re right on in mentioning that once you’ve had that “aha!” moment and realization that you are the only one in control of yourself and your feelings, things will start to change drastically for you.

We can choose to be proud of our accomplishments, just as we can choose to feel shame or guilt for what we have or haven’t done. I think for those who are out there struggling with shame, a great way to improve is to work on strengthening and defining healthy personal boundaries. Great post, Melody!
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Melody Fletcher February 29, 2012 at 20:22

Hey Jason!

Welcome to Deliberate Receiving!

Thank you so much for your wonderful words and for sharing your own point of view. Shame, like all emotions, is ultimately a choice. We choose what we focus on and we choose our perspective and so therefore, we choose our emotions indirectly. And we can change them. How freaking awesome is that?! He, he.

Great to have you here and hope to see you around more!

Huge hugs
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Fran Sorin February 29, 2012 at 21:34

Hey Melody…
I don’t think it’s possible to be a human being and not to have experienced shame. I’ve never spent time thinking about it but I would guess there may be some people with more of a propensity for feeling shame.

I can think back to dozens of incidents as a child and adult when I’ve experienced intense shame. As I sit here reflecting, I’m laughing at things that happened to me that at the time they happened felt beyond terrifying. And of course, my feelings were swirling about with fear and shame.

Today, there is a lot less shame in my life. I continue to work hard on it. I surround myself by non-judgmental people who love and accept me for who I am.

The bottom line is that no one else can ‘make me’ feel shame. I’ve got the power to control it! Thanks for your thoughts…as always…xxoo-Fran
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Melody Fletcher March 1, 2012 at 19:35

Hey Fran,

That’s so awesome that you’ve been able to let go of a lot of your shame! I think it’s sometimes really helpful to go back and see our childhood through a new perspective (as long as we don’t use that to beat up on ourselves). It lets us realize that there are many different perspectives to issues. Just because we can’t see them in the moment, doesn’t mean they don’t exist. And there’s always a perspective that feels better. :)

Huge hugs!
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Sameer March 1, 2012 at 09:02

Hey Awesome Melody,

Nice topic to discuss and excellent video.

I have always believed that if it is beneficial to all then, everybody should speak openly but, people in societies are expert in spending time discussing things in code language like those things are not natural.

I know one person, who says why only men can roam around topless why can’t women also? Especially when, we are talking about no gender difference?

I strongly believe orthodox things will change as generation changes hence, we will shift to things which we want slowly (openly) and that doesn’t mean people who were there earlier didn’t do things which we do today as part of shamelessness. Shamelessness is also a trend the way we have trends of ashamedness :)

Huge Hug & Love,

Melody Fletcher March 1, 2012 at 19:42

Hey Sameer,

You’ so right – we often don’t talk about things or do so only in hushed tones because we’re ashamed. Money and sex are topics such as these. And sure, I don’t need to know someone’s deepest, darkest secrets at a dinner party, but people often have a hard time opening up to their family and friends or ANYONE about these topics and that’s not healthy.

The topless thing is very cultural. The mythos that’s been built around the female body and around nudity in general is quite fascinating to me. I don’t think it’s degrading so much to women as it is to men. Because the origin of many of the rules of covering up the female body have to do with the idea that the mere sight of certain body parts will incite a lustful rage in men and render them uncontrollable. As if men were wild animals. But when you go into an environment where nudity is ok, where the human body is what it is, the issue falls apart. Seeing a nude body does not immediately incite sexual urges in people, unless they never get to see one. It’s the repression of these images that makes them so powerful. So by covering up the human body we’ve actually achieved the opposite of what we set out to, as well as making generations of people ashamed of their own bodies. Interesting, isn’t it?

I think you’re right. People will increasingly figure out who they really are and act the way they really want to. Most people don’t really want to run naked down the street. But they do want the freedom to feel absolutely ok about themselves. :)

Huge hugs!
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Katherine Gordy Levine March 1, 2012 at 16:40

Wrong on many accounts and not helpful. Shame is a useful emotion designed to keep us from doing the unthinkable. Read the Development of Morality in Young Children by Jerome Kagan and Shelia Lamb. Shame develops in all cultures at the same time and generally in respect to two things. The first is shame that you hurt a weaker person or thought of doing so. The second is that you could not protect yourself from hurt. Both have survival advantages. The human race will not survive if we kill our younger siblings–and Kagan and Lamb make the point that shame develops when an older sibling can act on that desire. We will not survive in a hostile environment if we are the weaker of those out to hurt us and we do not know how to appease and submit.

That said shame is increased or decreased by learning experiences which is why it varies from culture to culture. Sadly, see it as mainly caused by bad parenting or bad teaching only increases anger and anger can over-ride shame and lead to shamelessness.

Will post your article and discuss it at greater length on my blog next week.

Melody Fletcher March 1, 2012 at 19:57

Hi Katerine,

I appreciate you sharing your point of view here. I think that we view shame from very different angles. First, I’d like to separate the feeling of having hurt someone or “I’ve done something bad” (guilt) from feeling fundamentally broken, or “I am bad” (shame).

Of course, we don’t want to hurt others. And when we do, we feel negative emotion, even as the smallest of children. Because whenever we lash out against another, there is a reason for it. Always. When a child hurts another child, it’s because he was feeling powerless and lashed out to get his power back, or felt that someone could take something away from him (scarcity) or that he had to defend himself (vulnerability). These are all false beliefs that children are born into and generally pick up vibrationally from their environment. And they fight against them, because they don’t feel good.

In the end, it doesn’t really matter what we label the specific emotion. When we do something that makes us feel guilty or ashamed, it’s a message that the REASON we acted the way we did came from a belief that’s not serving us. Get rid of the belief and the behavior will stop automatically. So in that sense, I agree that shame is a useful emotion, just as all emotions are useful in what they tell us about ourselves.

I don’t disagree with your description of what Kagan and Lamb have concluded. Of course we don’t want siblings killing each other off. But their conclusions are based on a stable platform of beliefs. They presuppose that scarcity and vulnerability are the norm. That children will always fight each other for possessions and the stronger will always beat up on the weaker. I beg to differ. I’ve visited societies where this was not the case and where these behaviors only developed later in life (if at all). It was beautiful. My argument is that if we get rid of the underlying beliefs that caused the behavior that caused the shame, then the behavior stops and so does the shame.

I look forward to reading your blog post about this.

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Katherine Gordy Levine March 1, 2012 at 20:27

Kagan and Lamb’s point is that shame emerges at a time anger and the capacity to act violently on the anger come together. That is why shame is so powerful and all encompassing. Otherwise, the unacceptable behavior would not be stopped.

Moreover, the kind of beliefs that you speak of come into being when the child is six or seven and not even then for some. Which is why most cultures do not allow pre-schoolers to have full care of their younger siblings or of animals. Shame can be over ridden by fear, hurt, and anger. It requires a higher level of thought to control strong emotions. Guilt as an emotion is not thought to emerge until six or seven. It indicates the movement from emotion based action to thought based action.

But as you point out, beliefs play an important part in what we feel ashamed of or guilty about. That is where parents and culture come into play.

It is a yes/and situation once the child reaches the capacity to think more broadly and undergoes another important shift for many when adolescence is reached.

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Melody Fletcher March 2, 2012 at 00:39

Oooh, I’d have to disagree on that one. Shame (essentially “I am broken”) leads to anger. Shame doesn’t stop anger. My next video is actually about anger so I’m going to leave it at that for now.

I also don’t agree that these beliefs are formed at six or seven. We do not need to have certain psychological faculties in place to form beliefs. We can pick them up vibrationally. Since everything is energy, the vibrations that we are born into, both those of our culture and location as well as those of our family affect us. I have personally cleared beliefs and have helped many clients clear beliefs that they picked up when they were 2 or 3 years old. We can form beliefs by deciding to adopt a certain perspective and yes, this doesn’t happen until our decision making process is developed enough. But we can also pick up beliefs as energy. And that can happen at birth.

I love debating psychology versus energy. More often than not, we end up coming to the same conclusion, only through vastly different channels. :) Thanks for the stimulating and thought provoking discussion, Kat! I’m sure anyone who reads this will benefit.

Huge hugs,

Kimmie Gibbons March 2, 2012 at 00:37

Hello Melody, I love your posting. So, if shame is an emotion I feel often (and it is) what would be the first step to feeling better? At this point, it seems as though it is a foundational life issue for me. For example, with the vibrational ladder…if I feel BAD for “who I am” (which is how it presents itself) then what would be a very simple easy next step on that ladder? Hope this makes sense :)

Melody Fletcher March 2, 2012 at 00:49

Ooooh Kimmie! The next video is for you.

The way out of an emotion like Shame or any other form of powerlessness is anger. This coming Tuesday, I’ll be uploading a video about anger which should answer your question fully. Just watch this space. :)

Huge hugs!
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Katherine Gordy Levine March 2, 2012 at 02:58

Two points. No where did I deny that shame could create anger.

My point was not that beliefs do not form from early on, but that beliefs that drive feeling and behavior are not subject to reason until the child’s thought process become more sophisticated at the age of six, seven or eight. That is when emotions come under better control.

The way to deal with all negative emotions is to self-sooth so you can think and ask if what the emotion suggests doing makes sense. In regards to shame the question to ask remains is your shame related to an unspeakable behavior on your part. Are you molesting a child? Planning to murder some one. Betraying a dearly beloved. Then the shame needs to be listened to and the behavior changed. If you are not doing the unspeakable then, see the shame as unreasonable and continue with the behavior.

All the scientists who study emotions say the best thing to do is the opposite of what the behavior is suggestion. BUT only after a reality check. Afraid of someone pointing a gun at you, fear says appease or if you can run and that is what one should do. Afraid of riding in elevators, fear says don’t and to overcome fear, ride the elevator.

Promoting anger as the way out of negative emotions sounds extremely destructive to me. Have you read Carol Tavis on anger?

Have to run.
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Melody Fletcher March 3, 2012 at 01:01

Hey Katherine,

Thanks for clarifying your thoughts further.

In terms of the reactions you describe to the feeling of shame or any other emotion – my own approach is different. I don’t see the behavior as the cause of the emotion. I see the underlying belief as the cause, which is causing the behavior (in an attempt to escape the belief) AND the emotion. Linking the behavior to the emotion and trying to apply simple behavior modification is not only a very difficult way to go about it, but it has a huge failure rate. Although, psychologists today are very much aware of this and for the most part, no longer engaging in simple behavior modification.

I’ll hold off on the anger discussion for now, since the video will explain it in detail, except to say that the view of anger as a destructive force has done more damage to our psyches and our society than almost any other belief. Anger, expressed in a constructive and positive way and when not suppressed, is not destructive but healing. It turns destructive when it’s been disallowed for years or even generations. I have not read Carol Tavris, but have just looked her up and plan on reading at least one of her books. Thanks so much for the tip.

Huge hugs,

Katherine Gordy Levine March 3, 2012 at 02:17

Looking forward to your video. My expertise is with children. I taught human development at Columbia University School of Social Work, directed mental health crisis teams for families and youth, finally, my husband and I care for a great number of angry acting out foster children.

That said, my thoughts are you are dealing with adult anger. The baby knows only pain and comfort. But very soon puts together his or her ideas–beliefs–about the world. Four things seem involved in determining how the baby’s beliefs eventually become adult beliefs.

Biology–just as one example: some of us are born tough and hard to hurt physically or emotionally, others tender and easily hurt.
Experiences–and this includes our experiences with other people.
Beliefs–the ideas we form based on our own thinking about what our experiences mean, but also on what we accept from what others tell us to belief
Behavior– the things we do. Jogging can release anger. Cursing someone might release anger, might make us angrier.
All four of these things inter-weave and can change or create our biology, experiences, beliefs, and behavior.

So it is all very complicated and very few competent clinicians now-a-days are stuck on just one avenue to how we become or how we can change.

I look forward to your video.
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Melody Fletcher March 3, 2012 at 19:40

Uff. Dealing with Angry foster kids. Respect! That’s got to be one tough job.

Actually, although kids manifest their emotions differently (in my experience they often act them out more readily, but correct me if I’m wrong), the underlying reaction comes from the same place. If a child feels powerless, they are going to get angry. When they throw a tantrum, they are doing so because they couldn’t get something they wanted. But they KNOW that they’re supposed to be able to have anything they want, they just haven’t quite figured out the rules of this physical world yet. And so they lose it.

When a child has been abused or has gone through some other trauma, they will also tend towards anger, but it can be much harder for them to get there. They will get stuck in the feeling of powerlessness that comes from blaming themselves. Anger is the way out, but not anger at themselves (that’s destructive).

Everyone does experience their emotions in their own way. And I agree that some people are naturally more sensitive. I think nature AND nurture play a role.

You made SUCH an excellent point – some expressions of anger will actually make things worse. I guess you’ve just inspired Anger: Part 2. :)

The video comes out next Tuesday. I look forward to your thoughts.

Katherine Gordy Levine March 4, 2012 at 17:07

Just a quicky. Whether and how a kid will act out varies. Trauma can totally shut you down and that could be defined as acting out, but is not what is generally meant by that term. For some kids it doesn’t take much to shut them down. Fear and powerlessness operating together, but the fear comes first.

To me thinking fear or hurt leading to anger is more productive than focusing on the powerlessness. Realizing you are powerless and children usually are when being bullied or abused is a major hurt. But the hurt and fear of further hurt comes first. Acting wisely when in the grip of the fear or the anger is what is so hard and that does require feeling you can act.

My anger management program is called Righting Wrongs. You have to look beyond the anger to correct the wrong. You have to feel able to act and anger can fuel that, but also lead to destructive anger.

Again, will watch your video.

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maja July 9, 2012 at 14:29

I just read your article and i completely agree with the written.
I am full of shame when it comes to talk about my fears that are also the things that i am ashamed of. When i was a little girl I was full of energy and would be a very talkative person. Now as a teenager I have (for a while actually, perhaps since enrolling in the school) problems with human interaction. I am afraid of it. I am ashamed to meet new people, I think that they already think the worst about me so why the trouble?! And I know this way of thinking is… wrong. But I do suck at meeting new people, making friends and keeping them. e.g. Right now I am staying at my sister`s for a month or so. She lives with 4 room-mates and they only share bathroom and kitchen. I am so ashamed of myself and fear of meeting them that I always check the hall if sb is out there before I go to toilet. I know it is stupid, but I don`t know what to do. Even now when I need to go to the toilet I don`t go, just so I would`t meet them.
At different camps, volounteer projects is the same. it seems as if I am ashamed of myself, I am afraid of meeting new people..??
I really don`t know what to do. Since this thing is really going over the boundary of reasonable. I really need to do sth about it, but I don`t see how or what…

Thanks for your help

Melody Fletcher July 9, 2012 at 16:38

Hi Maja,

thanks so much for connecting with me here. I have to tell you, the release of the cause of your shame goes WAY beyond anything I could do in the comments here. This requires quite a bit of conversation. I strongly suggest you get yourself some help – I offer coaching myself, or you can find a counselor or a therapist. You don’t have to do this alone. I realize that my coaching may be out of your price range, but perhaps your school offers counseling? There are always free programs that you can take advantage of. Ask your school counselors or look on the internet for your region.

Something has been triggered by your school experience – a deep seeded thought that you are not ok as you are. Something must’ve happened to you to cause you to form this belief. Working with someone will help you discover what that was and form a different decision, which will let this fear go.

Don’t be afraid to get help. Reaching out here, on this blog, was an excellent step. But you really need to work 1 on 1 with someone. Set the intention to find someone who can truly help you and that person will come in a way that you will be able to afford and allow.

Sending you huge hugs and love,

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Alice July 14, 2012 at 09:37

Hello Melody,
1)Inside you’re video I saw you said: “I think everythings’ OK” I noticed that style of yours- non-judgement.
I’m sure you could calmly talk to Hitler or any other famously notorious person claimed to be “evil” or whatever. (why we always use him as an example but he’s the most well-known)
It does help your readers express themselves in a safe and honest environment and they get to find answers and share insights. This is really helpful to you, themselves and other readers. It’s great you do not shame people.
However it’s hard to gauge a perspective using this manner. Because you are looking at WHO PEOPLE REALLY ARE which is always this heavenly, kind, perfect being.
So you’d have the same answer essential about your opinion on most people. (you are human so I’m sure there is a limit- but it’d have to be pretty bad to miff your Zen)

2) From my experience in an unemployment office the most shamed people of society were there. Why does society feels better to heap shame on the most vulnerable?
The unemployed were shamed, the mentally ill… Actually even within the mentally ill there were levels of shaming depending on what illness was most accepted. The lest accepted were BPD and Schizophrenia. People were afraid of the latter and the former had losts of negative stigma tied to it.
Personally I admit these conditions are really confusing to me. But I don’t shame them. I just don’t get BDP or what it is.

3) Why does shaming the unfortunate feel good? Like kicking a homeless man or people yelling “get a job”?

Melody Fletcher July 16, 2012 at 20:54

Hey Alice,

1.) You’re right. It would be hard to miff my Zen (love it!), but not impossible. But here’s the thing: If something does throw me out of alignment, I notice and then work through it so that this same issue won’t trigger me again. Issue by issue I become more Zen. :) And as I do, I have more and more experiences that feel like that. It took some work to move into non-judgment the way I have (and I’m not 10% there by any means, as you pointed out, I’m human), but it’s been worth it and continues to be.

2.) Labeling disorders can be a way to bring some acceptance to different people’s conditions, which can help with the shame, at first. This is helpful to people who feel like they are broken. But then, once they raise their vibration a bit and no longer feel broken, the label can be used to keep them stuck. They have this condition and can’t do anything about it. That’s not beneficial.

3) We like to shame others because it makes us feel better about our own insecurities. Those who are truly secure have no need to shame or disapprove of others. Those who are insecure like to feel superior by bullying others. And that’s not just the bullies in school – it’s everyone who looks down upon someone else to make themselves feel better. So, if we can get people as a whole to feel better about themselves (less ashamed), there will be less and less incentive to shame others and the cycle will be broken. :)

Huge hugs!
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Alice July 17, 2012 at 03:22

3) I completely agree. Something I learned in customer service jobs is that if you can give your customer “self-esteem” or make them feel less shame they will be less likely to be reliant on you to solve all their problems and then yell at you for not doing it perfectly. When they reach a level of self-esteem it has roll-on effects for the people around them. It was fascinating to learn that by benefitting the other person we make the job easier on ourselves.
Yes, I think comments such as: “at least I’m not like so-and-so” come from insecurity. To compare to someone doing it “worse” than us to deflect our own lack.

2) This is huge. I am a strong believer in the damage of psychological labels. I don’t know how a person would be convinced the label doesn’t apply to them. Especially if they don’t follow LOA.

Melody Fletcher July 19, 2012 at 23:56

They can’t really be convinced unless they’re ready to (applies to everything). Generally what happens is that they become so sick of feeling so bad (the label makes them feel ashamed or broken) and they rebel against it. Then, they set the intention to feel better, to find a better way, even if they’re not yet sure what it is. And by doing that, they open themselves up to finding that way and no longer identifying with the label.

It’s all perfect.

Huge Hugs,
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Brad Smith December 11, 2012 at 15:29

Excellent article and video.

I’ve only just discovered your blog, whilst looking into shame society- I like to question things.

I think that shame can be found in primate groups and animals can be ostrachized from the group/ herd for breaking the rules of the group. So it makes me think- is shame simply a control mechanism by the rulers, used to keep the citizens in line? It has simply evolved from primate groups to early human groups then to religious groups then rulers/governments and is now ingrained in the ‘moral fabric’ of society itself- therefore citizens keep each other in line allowing the rulers to carry on ruling without being questioned because everybody is too scared to step out of line- and too wrapped up in what everybody else is doing… so in a sense it can be seen as a survival mechanism for the elite..

The song ‘working class hero’ comes to mind. Society and it’s rules tells children from the age of 4 or 5 (when they first go to school in the UK) that they should follow the rules and herd together. Those that don’t follow the rules and told off and forced to conform… No wonder why their are so few people with real confidence.

Melody Fletcher December 24, 2012 at 14:34

Hey Brad,

I would agree with your assessment. In primate groups, it’s usually the young males who challenge the eldest male who are ostracized (or, I believe that sometimes young females who challenge older females can also suffer this fate). There’s a pecking order and if you upset it and don’t have the support or physical force to pull it off, you get ousted.

You see this with other animals, too, lions for example. Only, the young males usually go off and start a new herd. So, in that case, one could say that it benefits the survival of the species. It helps the gene pool diversify and so on.

In humans it’s more about power struggles than survival. In fact, while we try to shame those who are different, we revere those who are different and won’t be shamed. We don’t revere those who conform. This is contradictory. It’s almost like a test, isn’t it? We pressure each other to conform, but those who can withstand the pressure and refuse, get raised up as our heroes or role models. Why play the game at all? Well, I obviously argue that we don’t have to. :)

Thanks for participating! Huge hugs,

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