Shame is a universal emotion. We all experience it at some time or another. Sometimes shame causes people to react in anger or aggression. Other times people become embarrassed and try to hide their shame. These ways of dealing with shame are not healthy. In fact, hidden shame can be damaging and can cause serious struggles for an individual as well as for groups; struggles that are behind many of the behaviors currently occurring in our society.
Shame can affect a person’s self-worth. Being told ‘shame on you,’ for example, can destroy an individual’s sense of value. “Emotions are like breathing and cause trouble when obstructed,” says Thomas Scheff, professor emeritus of sociology at University of California, Santa Barbara.
Scheff examined the ubiquity of hidden shame in an article published in the journal of Cultural Sociology. He suggests it may be one of the keys to understanding contemporary society. According to Scheff a society that fosters individualism (like ours) provides a ripe breeding ground for the emotion of shame because people are encouraged to “go it alone, no matter the cost to relationships,” he said.
In exploring the connection between shame and aggression, Scheff cites research conducted by sociologist Neil Websdale, author of Familicidal Hearts: The Emotional Styles of 211 Killers. “Familicide, the act of one spouse killing the other as well as their children and often himself or herself, stems from unacknowledged shame,” Scheff said.
What is even more interesting about the study, is the finding that there is a minority group of non-angry people. These people lose their job and feel humiliated, then pretend as though they are continuing to go to work every day, but they are actually planning the killing. They are known as the ‘civic respectable.’
On the contrary, shame is actually a very useful emotion and is in fact the basis of morality. Shame provides a weight for morality. Ever heard the phrase “listen to your conscience?” When you make a decision based on your conscience it is usually backed up by shame.
Instead of allowing yourself to succumb to shame, give yourself permission to laugh. Laugh at yourself often. Laugh at the universe. Laugh at your circumstance. As long as you are not laughing at others you cannot go wrong. Laughter is good for your health. It relaxes the body, boosts your immune system, triggers the release of endorphins, and protects the heart.
To learn more about the study, click this link: http://psychcentral.com/news/2014/03/17/resolve-hidden-shame-with-humor/67210.html
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