What Is Shame?



I found these notes I took from last year when I was examining my fears. The exercise was aimed at finding fears’ root causes. It went like this: First, list a fear. Then  ask yourself why you have it, to get to the underlying fear. Continue asking until you reach the core fear. Shame came up a lot for me during this exercise, so I reflected upon it. Here is what I wrote.

(Disclaimer: What follows are personal notes, written in short-hand, to capture my thoughts in a moment. Without a narrative, they may appear disjointed, but I hope you can bang them against your own ideas and spark something new.)

Definition of shame

  • Shame is defined as”the painful feeling of being wrong”.

Difference between guilt and shame

  • The object of shame is the person, whereas the object of guilt is the action.

What causes me to feel shame, and why is it harmful? 

  • Because I am self-centered, i.e., I view everything in terms of, or relating to, my self and the my own existence, which predisposes me to feel shame rather than guilt.
  • By definition, shame is denial of self, and denial of self impels self destruction.
  • I fear self-destruction because it leads to failure to attain my life purpose (which is Self-actualization, or the realization of God, realization of life) and, failure to attain that purpose would mean that my life is meaningless.

Relationship to the ego

  • My propensity to feel shame stems from my self-centeredness, which is a failure to appropriately separate my True self, the Seer, from the object, what is seen.
  • If I were to identify totally with my True self, I would not feel shame, because True self is infinite and incapable of being “wrong”. (I also would also be enlightened.)
  • Sidenote: Because shame causes self destruction,  and self-centeredness causes shame, this must be one reason why ego deflation is a key to well being. 

Who I Am

  • I am both  subject and object, the Seer and the seen. The term “spirit” describes  my formless and essential self, which is transcendent and immortal. Ego and personality describe personal identity, identity which is made up of emotions, memories and mental states. My physical self is the material expression of my spirit, and my ego is the function which allows me to experience life in human form. Ego has its necessary place and function, essential to experiencing the world in human form.

Shame’s relationship to  hyper-sensitivity

Shame partly explains hyper-sensitivity. Because as everything I feel, I feel about myself as a centered person, and anything I feel about myself, I feel acutely (or more so than I would if viewed with a degree of objectivity).

Shame is false

  •  Because shame refers to a fundamental denial of self, it can not be true, since by virtue of being conscious of myself, I know that I Am. I exist. Moreover, since all actions seek to validate underlying beliefs, shame must always the preamble of self-destruction.

Why I fear shame

  •  Feeling shame causes me to feel separate from the Truth of who I am (Divine/God), which is a failure to attain my purpose (ultimate failure).
  • I fear ultimate failure because that would mean God is loveless if he allowed me to fail, and if God doesn’t love me, then my Life is meaningless and my existence doesn’t matter…
  • Which would mean God does not exist, and therefore I do not exist (shame loop) and this impels my self destruction.

Subtext: I use the term “God” loosely here,  a short-hand, blanket term for how I understand the mysteries of life and consciousness. It doesn’t imply religion. 

See Brene Brown for groundbreaking, research-driven ideas about shame.


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