“Do not dishonor me”: why we are ashamed of others and what to do about it
Man among people
She is five years old. She sits and sunbathes in front of the porch on a plywood board in shorts and a hat. Like on the seashore. Neighboring grandmothers chuckle and play along. They ask if the sea is warm today and where does she get such a beautiful hat. She is very happy with her game, she likes so much attention. And then a shadow looms over her. She does not have time to look around, as someone roughly grabs her and drags up the stairs.
Mother’s distorted face looks so alien. She does not understand what is happening. Something terrible happened, it seems. But what?! “Do not dare to dishonor me. I don’t want to be ashamed of you! ”But no matter how hard she tried, her mother was often ashamed.
She is sitting in front of me. She is 35, mother has long been gone. But still ashamed. For everything – and as if for nothing. And the worst thing is that I am ashamed of others. For the groom, who laughs out loud and asks her friends such indecent questions. For a colleague who is rude to customers. And even for strangers who fall into different awkward situations.
Shame for another simply haunts her, and if you can at least somehow come to terms with your shame, then this is simply unbearable. Why is this happening to her? And not only with her.
Often this is an “inheritance” from parents who themselves felt a lot of shame and fears “but what others will say and think about me.” Parents could talk about their shame directly: “do not disgrace me”, “make it so that I would not be ashamed of you”. But the mission was impossible.
Parents looked at us and saw beautiful, obedient, unusual and almost perfect children. And we were real and alive. That is, they did stupid things and made mistakes – not very, very much, accidentally, or even deliberately. In general, they did not coincide with that beautiful view of us.
Shame was unpredictable, like ball lightning. And from every “blow” I wanted to disappear
It was more difficult when parents did not talk about shame at all. But they looked so that I wanted to fall through the ground. Or maybe they severely evaluated and criticized: “this is wrong”, “this is stupid”, “ugly”. Or fell into a rage, hysteria due to minor errors or misconduct. Or just joked, teased, laughed. But for some reason it was not funny, but painful.
Shame was unpredictable, like ball lightning. And from every “blow” I wanted to disappear. Because we are not like that, it’s a shame for us like that. Over time, this message “I am ashamed of you” became a two-way mirror (one side is its own, the other is its parent). If I look at myself, I am ashamed of myself. If I see another in this mirror, I am ashamed of him.
And what to do with this shame? There are several fairly simple techniques that help, if not “get out” of shame, then at least take a few steps towards the exit.
Feeling shame for another:
• Speak to yourself: “This is not my shame.” That is, you feel it, but it is not yours. You did not choose him, he passed on to you by inheritance. And you have the right to refuse it, not drag it further into your life if it bothers you.
• Find three similarities and three differences from the other — the one you are ashamed of. Remind yourself: “We are different, this is not me, this is not about me.”
• Be courageous and try to plunge into this experience. Imagine yourself in the place of another and say to yourself: “If it were me, I would be very ashamed, but I could handle it, I could survive it, my relatives would not refuse and the world would not collapsed. “
At first glance, these methods may seem ridiculous. Surely there will be strong resistance, but you still try. Each time you will feel that the situation is slowly changing. And now you are looking at yourself in the mirror and smiling, not blushing.
about the author
Natalya Anischenko – Clinical psychologist, gestalt therapist and coach.
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