Shame & Shaming


Shaming - The difference between blaming and shaming is that in blaming someone tells you that you did something bad, in shaming someone tells you that you are something bad.

Feeling Deeply Stained

Shaming is a technique used by abusive people to divert attention away from their own behavior and  issues by putting pressure on a victim so they can maintain control. The victim is put into an impossible situation, where they feel they are inherently flawed and so can never measure up to the standards being imposed on them, and therefore must dedicate themselves to attempting to make up for their ‘badness’.

As a tactic, shaming is often used by Personality Disordered parents who misdirect their anger at their children. Unchosen children and adult children of Personality-Disordered parents are often made to feel worthless, useless, unloved and unappreciated.

Some examples of shaming statements include:

“You were a mistake”
“You could never do what he/she does”
“You’ve ruined my life”
“We are all disappointed in you”
“Shame on You!”

How it Feels

If you have been subjected to Shaming or Emotional Blackmail then it is likely that you have been living in a FOG of Fear, Obligation and Guilt

Fear – that if you don’t do what this person wants there will be hell to pay.

Obligation - you are somehow made to feel indebted to this person - you believe you owe them something even though you have taken nothing from them.

Guilt - you are unworthy - you have broken some unwritten rules - rules which you never agreed to and which were never fully justified or explained to you.

Characteristics of Adults Shamed In Childhood

The following is quoted from Shame & Guilt: Masters of Disguise by Jane Middelton-Moz, Ph.D.

1. Adults shamed as children are afraid of vulnerability and fear exposure of self.

2. Adults shamed as children may suffer extreme shyness, embarrassment and feelings of being inferior to others. They don't believe they make mistakes. Instead they believe they are mistakes.

3. Adults shamed as children fear intimacy and tend to avoid real commitment in relationships. These adults frequently express the feeling that one foot is out of the door, prepared to run.

4. Adults shamed as children may appear either grandiose and self-centered or seem selfless.

5. Adults shamed as children feel that, “No matter what I do, it won't make a difference; I am and always will be worthless and unlovable.”

6. Adults shamed as children frequently feel defensive when even minor negative feedback is given. They suffer feelings of severe humiliation if forced to look at mistakes or imperfections.

7. Adults shamed as children frequently blame others before they can be blamed.

8. Adults shamed as children may suffer from debilitating guilt. These individuals apologize constantly. They assume responsibility for the behavior of those around them.

9. Adults shamed as children feel like outsiders. They feel a pervasive sense of loneliness throughout their lives, even when surrounded with those who love and care.

10. Adults shamed as children project their beliefs about themselves onto others. They engage in mind-reading that is not in their favor, consistently feeling judged by others.

11. Adults shamed as children often feel angry and judgmental towards the qualities in others that they feel ashamed of in themselves. This can lead to shaming others.

12. Adults shamed as children often feel ugly, flawed and imperfect. These feelings regarding self may lead to focus on clothing and makeup in an attempt to hide flaws in personal appearance and self.

13. Adults shamed as children often feel controlled from the outside as well as from within. Normal spontaneous expression is blocked.

14. Adults shamed as children feel they must do things perfectly or not at all. This internalized belief frequently leads to performance anxiety and procrastination.

15. Adults shamed as children experience depression.

16. Adults shamed as children lie to themselves and others.

17. Adults shamed as children block their feelings of shame through compulsive behaviors like workaholism, eating disorders, shopping, substance-abuse, list-making or gambling.

18. Adults shamed as children often have caseloads rather than friendships.

19. Adults shamed as children often involve themselves in compulsive processing of past interactions and events and intellectualization as a defense against pain.

20. Adults shamed as children are stuck in dependency or counter-dependency.

21. Adults shamed as children have little sense of emotional boundaries. They feel constantly violated by others. They frequently build false boundaries through walls, rage, pleasing or isolation.

Characteristics of Shame-Based Adults in Relationships:

1. We lose ourselves in love.

2. When we argue, we fight for our lives.

3. We expend a great deal of energy in mind-reading. We frequently talk to ourselves about what our partners are feeling and needing more than to our partners.

4. We pay a high price for those few good times.

5. We often sign two contracts upon commitment, one conscious and another which is unconscious.

6. We blame and are blamed.

7. We want them gone, then fight to get them back.

8. We know it will be different but expect it to be the same.

9. We often feel that our partners are controlling our behavior.

10. We are frequently attracted to the emotional qualities in another that we have disowned in ourselves.

11. We often create triangles in relationships.

12. We seek the unconditional love from our partners that we didn't receive adequately in a shaming childhood.

Source: Shame & Guilt: Masters of Disguise by Jane Middelton-Moz, Ph.D.

What NOT to do

  • Don’t believe what a Shamer tells you. Nobody who truly loves you will want you to feel bad about yourself.
  • Don’t argue or debate with a Shamer - if someone is trying to shame you then they are not interested in seeking the truth. Save your arguments for a time when they are ready to listen with respect.
  • Don’t stay in the same room with a person who is trying to shame you. Remove yourself politely and tell them you’ll be back when they are ready to treat you with respect.
  • Don’t give into their demands - if you give them what they want when they use shame you might as well say to them “keep doing it”. Instead wait until they are ready to speak respectfully to you and then tell them you will negotiate on what you BOTH want.

What TO do

  • If you find yourself questioning the shame another person is dumping onto you then it is quite likely that the problem is with them - not with you. Healthy people don’t go around dumping shame on others.
  • Confront the Shamer gently and tell them, “I am choosing not to accept what you have said because I believe it is not true. Please stop speaking this way as it hurts me and I will be compelled to remove myself from your presence whenever you speak this way.” Then end the conversation right there.
  • Surround yourself with healthy people who will tell it like it is with kindness. Find a few supportive friends or trusted acquaintances who can reality check both your self-perception and any shaming statements you have internalized.
  • Get out from under the control of a Shamer if at all possible. Remove yourself from their influence, their poison tongue or their manipulative behaviors - that’s not a healthy place to be for anybody and shame never brought out the best in anybody.
  • Write down the qualities you like about yourself. Remind yourself you have gifts and talents and that you are unique in this world.