I think I’ve already shared my favorite quote about shame: “Shame is like mold. It grows the best in the dark.” I usually add – “exposure to the light is the only way out”.
What does it mean to expose it to the light?
Shame’s most important objective is to NOT be exposed. That’s why it’s so important to be aware of our truth – and to be willing to share it – if we want to be healthier. In the program, we often say “we’re only as sick as our secrets.”
If we can allow ourselves to acknowledge our own vulnerabilities, we begin to shed the light. The next step is to share those with someone else – someone who can be trusted to meet us where we are and not judge us. (So be careful who you choose. If you don’t trust your ability to choose someone healthy enough, it might be wise to find a therapist or minister or a sponsor in a 12 Step program, etc). Once we’ve opened up to someone else – and realized that they didn’t fall over because of what we have been so shameful about – we feel the light stream in. (Very often, in fact, we discover they may have had very similar experiences or feelings).
All of us carry shame. It’s a part of the human condition. It’s passed down from generation to generation. Until someone decides to stop the cycle, we carry our ancestors’ shame and pass it on to our own children.
Most people who are shame-based don’t even know it, though, because shame is often disguised as what it’s not: indifference, an overwhelming need to control, depression, obsession to use/drink/act out, perfectionism, numbness, the need to run, ect. . . .
So shame feels vulnerable and threatened.
It’s the opposite of
People in healthier families learn to deal with the shortcomings we all have as humans. Their sense of well-being comes from accepting themselves for NOT being perfect.
In a chemically dependent or otherwise unbalanced family, we couldn’t afford to be imperfect. So when you’re around someone who can’t admit they make mistakes, or who aren’t able to allow their vulnerabilities to show occasionally, be aware that the person is carrying a lot of shame. While it’s difficult to be around someone like this, maybe we can silently send them love and hope that they will someday be able to forgive themselves and find some peace.