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Shame - a sign of trauma or natural human vulnerability?

For several decades I explained the discomfort I felt after certain situations, as the result of having gotten beaten as a child by my mother. It felt evident to claim that I beat myself up verbally whenever I talked "too much", took "too much space" or laughed "too loud" because of my traumatic experience as a child. And of course, it can be part of the explanation as to why I often feel awkward after taking up space. The impact from the painful memories of getting slapped and being told to stay on my bed until I calmed down affect my nervous system to this day.



It is easier it is to listen inside and learn what I can do instead of beating myself up or withdrawing from situations that might be embarrassing or vulnerable. Because even though the feeling of shame is there as a natural protector, most of us will need to learn how to fine-tune our awareness and learn how I listen to the core of shame, instead of believing in the content of the self-critism.

When I have befriended shame, I can transform the inner signal without believing in what “the inner critics” are saying. I don't want to just push that signal away, as I have come to realise that it shows up in situations where I have needs that are important for all humans, like belonging, acceptance and dignity. So I want to embrace and include the shame, transforming it instead of pushing it away.

The more we befriend our shame, the more human we become. We are no superhuman, we all need to belong and experience acceptance.

One of the answer to why shame is so challenging for many of us and affect how we feel as adults, is that it is a mixture of history, our childhood, our nervous system, cultural shame, vulnerability and our strong human needs to belong, experience respect and acceptance for who we are. Is has a strong impact that has to do with many things at the same time. Our individual sensitivity, our culture, our family patterns and history etc. We can have toxic shame, carried all the way from our childhood mixed in with the natural sensitivity for how are connect to others. And emotions of shame will be there, even having worked with ourselves as at the core it is as natural as sadness, joy and curiosity.

One of the challenges with Shame is that it interrupts all other emotions and mostly the pleasant ones.

Shame jumps in and interrupts anything from being turned on, enthusiasm to joy and engagement. And it might be tempting to try to numb out the shame in different ways. Just remember, in doing so, we will also numb out all other emotions. Numbing out or emotions will come at a high price. We cannot selectively numb out shame and humiliation but we will then also numb out our feelings of joy, curiosity and enthusiasm. Maybe better to become friend with that inner reaction of ours and not let it have so much power over us?


Learn more about this approach to shame from my book

Anger, Guilt and Shame, Reclaiming Power and Choice.

Available in English, Swedish and German in our webstore - right now at a reduced price.


If you already have some training in Nonviolent Communication and wants to go deeper - welcome to our online one-year program The Next Step.

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