About Me

My photo

With a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Nonfiction degree (Goucher College, August 2014), I am looking at a new phase in my life. From 1992 to 2009, I served as Founding Executive Director of Miriam's House, a residence for homeless women living with AIDS. I left this position when Chronic Migraine Disease overtook my ability to do my job. Now I hope that a writing career will both accommodate the migraines and give me a creative, productive outlet. And soon, September 4, I will launch my Inkshares author page in a bid to hit the 1,000 pre-order goal in 90  days. The book I want to publish is "Nowhere Else I Want to Be," a memoir of ten of my years at Miriam's House.

03 October 2014

Practicing "Shame Resilience"

I linked to an interview of Brene Brown on a previous post because she talks about vulnerability and shame in a way I've not seen before:

How Vulnerability Holds the Key to Emotional Intimacy

Her thoughts about shame, in notes at the end of the interview, are even more intriguing. I want to explore them in the next few posts, applying her formula to the kinds of shame we may feel with chronic illness or pain, emotional or physical.

"Everyone is going to experience feelings of shame, yet we can become more 'shame resilient.'"

Brown lists four characteristics to shame resilience:
     Know what shame is.
     Understand what activates your feelings of shame.
     Practice critical awareness.
     Reach out.

KNOW WHAT SHAME IS and UNDERSTAND WHAT ACTIVATES IT
Many of us avoid vulnerability because shame can be closely attached to it. We've shared with people who turned out to be untrustworthy and mocked our vulnerability. Or we have learned shame through religion (for example, the concept of original sin) or the way we were taught in school or disciplined by our parents.

Brown's first step is 'know what shame is.' She says that people who have a healthy relationship with shame can simply name it without guilt, without applying an emotion like embarrassment to it. I'm not sure why this is first on the list. To me, she has a process in these steps, and I wonder if knowing what shame is might come later in the process, if not at the very end. So I'm going to begin with her second step: understanding what activates our shame.

Being sick, in pain or emotionally distressed most of the time makes us feel very, very vulnerable. And though the vulnerability of having a visible illness is bad, the invisible illnesses -- mental health challenges, chronic pain from a hidden source -- can be as difficult in its hidden-ness. "You look fine." And there you are, self-esteem slipping away on that wave of shame that is often so overpowering.

Applying Brown's formula to living with chronic illness means you discover exactly what about your chronic illness causes you shame. Is it about being visibly different from others? Does it come from being unable to keep up, produce, or work in the way that your peers can? Are you afraid that others are judging you as lazy or unsociable or wimpy? Are you worried that your friends are tired of always having to accommodate your illness? Do you feel guilty because your spouse works hard to support the family while you cannot work at all?

Naming the source and character of our shame sets us on the course to healing, to what Brown calls 'shame resilience.' But even if we're accustomed to doing this kind of self-examination, it can be very painful to reveal to ourselves feelings we've hidden for a long time. It might be a good idea to have a trusted friend or family member, a counselor or a pastor talk this through with us.

Photo by William Marsh
I think this step is the hardest. But it's necessary in order to get to the healing. My brother and I have a saying: "You have to slog through the mud to get to the other side where the healing is." Naming our shame and talking about it sinks us deep into the mud. Don't start it without someone there to throw a rope.


Thank you for reading my blog. You can leave a comment below or email me at carold.mmarsh@gmail.com.

Everyone is going to experience feelings of shame, yet we can become more “shame resilient,” says Brown. - See more at: http://spiritualityhealth.com/articles/bren%C3%A9-brown-how-vulnerability-holds-key-emotional-intimacy/page/0/2#sthash.qUaqsvgD.dpuf
Everyone is going to experience feelings of shame, yet we can become more “shame resilient,” says Brown. - See more at: http://spiritualityhealth.com/articles/bren%C3%A9-brown-how-vulnerability-holds-key-emotional-intimacy/page/0/2#sthash.qUaqsvgD.dpuf
Everyone is going to experience feelings of shame, yet we can become more “shame resilient,” says Brown. - See more at: http://spiritualityhealth.com/articles/bren%C3%A9-brown-how-vulnerability-holds-key-emotional-intimacy/page/0/2#sthash.qUaqsvgD.dpuf

2 comments: