Shame

That's a damn, dirty shame.
I recently participated in a conversation about the epidemic of so-called toxic shame in society, and about how it stems from socializing children at a young age. Although it was unclear to me how one caused the other, I disagreed that proper socialization was a bad thing, or that it led to adults becoming paralyzed with chronic, or 'toxic', shame.

Furthermore, depending on one's conduct, a certain level of shame is appropriate, even necessary. If someone were to do something embarrassing, hurtful or harmful, either to themselves or someone else, isn't it appropriate to feel some shame or guilt because of what they did or said? Without shame, there would be no motivation to reflect on past actions and decide to do and be better human beings in future.

Some, however, suffer from toxic levels of shame that far exceed what's called for, fueled by a tyrannical inner critic which constantly seeks to decimate and undermine their sense of self-worth. It seems to me that increasing numbers of people are falling into this pit because they're unable or unwilling to either let go of, or properly integrate, the fearful, angry and hateful parts of themselves that formed when they were very young, when their boundaries were crossed and core needs weren't met. The result is that they are victims of discarded parts of their own psyche which are too taboo to be acknowledged, and therefore confronted and worked through.

If you, or anyone you know is like that, doing a search function on SOTT for 'inner critic', 'internal critic' and 'negative self talk' will bring up many articles that provide valuable insights into the problems of toxic shame. Also, books like: Healing Developmental Trauma: How Early Trauma Affects Self-Regulation, Self-Image, and the Capacity for Relationship (that's a long title!), Inviting A Monkey to Tea, and Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving are must-reads to help better understand and work through shame, when it becomes chronic and pathological. They are life-savers!

However, even though many New Age and 'spiritual' teachings claim that shame is 'bad', or that socialization is only meant to 'train' children to be automatons or machines that are either rewarded for following the social rules, or punished for not doing so (which is technically true), this doesn't mean that there isn't some merit to this idea. If there were no social norms or proper encoded modes of behaviour to inform how we should act in life, many people would be stranded in the middle of an ocean of choices with no compass to determine what direction to go in. While others would revel in it.

Most human beings have an innate sense of what is 'right' and 'wrong' (I hope), but base their actions and behaviour solely on what society tells them is good or bad. They don't think about the why's of it all, and in some respects don't want to. This can lead them to do terrible things because society said so, or stave off doing something horrible because it doesn't match with their expectations of how they 'should' act in that same society. Other people do have a conscience but choose to ignore it, while others, although they are rare and exceptional, live by their conscience and forge new pathways into realms unknown despite what society says. While others have no conscience at all and seek to bring about the destruction of civil society and the social norms that holds this delicate world in order.

I'll leave you with this short yet poignant clip of Jordan Peterson responding to 'activists' hijacking a talk he recently gave at Queens University in Canada, in which he explains why proper socialization and shame are necessary in our world - now, more than ever.