Thursday, November 15, 2012

Shame, Shame on You - Shaming and BPD: Part 2

Yesterday I started talking about Shame in Part 1. What is it about this emotion that makes people respond in an “any way necessary” type of way to avoid experiencing it? Deflect, defend, lash out, attack first, re-direct… ANYTHING to avoid having to face that feeling… face themselves. 

In a crazy twist of maladaptive coping mechanisms, in order to avoid feeling shame people will even blame and hate… themselves.

They’ll act as if it’s something real. But not play-acting. It actually feels real. It takes time for this level of self-defense kicks in, but sometimes it’s easier to believe you actually did something, something tangible, as a one-time incident, that you can focus that negative emotion at, instead of feeling a pervasive inner sense of self-worthlessness.

As Dr. Kaufman postulates, those mechanisms such as blame or contempt can be used as a defending strategy against the experience of shame. Someone who has a pattern of applying them to himself/herslf may well attempt to defend against a shame experience by applying self-blame or self-contempt. This, however, can lead to an internalized, self-reinforcing sequence of shame events for which Kaufman coined the term "shame spiral".

Which is an interesting idea. Shame presents in a variety of different ways.

Genuine shame: is associated with genuine dishonor, disgrace, or condemnation.

            Kicking a puppy is wrong no matter what. Bad. 

False shame: is associated with false condemnation as in the double-bind form of false shaming; "he brought what we did to him upon himself". Author and TV personality John Bradshaw calls shame the "emotion that lets us know we are finite".

I associate this with secondary wounding as well.  When there’s already a wound and now someone is digging their nail into it while they ask, “Does this hurt?” Yes, you dick!

Secret shame: describes the idea of being ashamed to be ashamed, so causing ashamed people to keep their shame a secret.

This is me all over. Even looking at this I want to defend and say it’s stupid, but no, it’s just true. At least it's no longer debilitating. I can look at myself and laugh a little at least. 

Toxic shame: describes false, pathological shame, and Bradshaw states that toxic shame is induced, inside children, by all forms of child abuse. Incest and other forms of child sexual abuse can cause particularly severe toxic shame. Toxic shame often induces what is known as complex trauma in children who cannot cope with toxic shaming as it occurs and who dissociate the shame until it is possible to cope with.

This is also something that I believe comes with much of the pain of Borderline Personality Disorder. Also, eating disorders and Body Dysmorphic Disorders.  I have an intense amount of shame if I perceive my body as not being “perfect” and no matter how much perception changing material I research, no matter how many friends, family, or lovers tell me otherwise, I always feel flawed and ashamed to let people see what I feel are flaws.

Vicarious shame: refers to the experience of shame on behalf of another person. Individuals vary in their tendency to experience vicarious shame, which is related to neuroticism and to the tendency to experience personal shame. Extremely shame-prone people might even experience vicarious shame even to an increased degree, in other words: shame on behalf of another person who is already feeling shame on behalf of a third party (or possibly on behalf of the individual proper).

Hm. I’m familiar with this as well. In fact, it colors a lot of my actions and the things I choose to tell or do for people, or choose not to tell or not to do for people. I’m hyper-aware of how other people feel and how they’ll react and I often work very hard to make sure situations do not arise where they could feel shame or embarrassment. Hell I think I did the 3rd party shame at our Halloween party when Doc started arguing with K. I could sense Monroe’s discomfort on Doc’s part, and probably on my own, and I felt bad that she had to feel that for us. It just, keeps spiraling. And people think Borderlines don’t have empathy? Hah!  Then again, I was also freaked out that Doc was picking a fight with someone I was working so hard to repair burned bridges with and I was acutely aware of, and in fear of, making K uncomfortable… And seeing how Twiggy felt in respect to herself in the conversation and how she was feeling for K... And on, and on. Hyper-perceptive is great, except when you have an almost visceral physical sensation that accompanies that awareness. Then it’s overwhelming and anxiety inducing.

Thanks, Wiki.

It seems like shame is the real opposing force of self-acceptance. It’s almost the fear of self-acceptance b/c in order to accept yourself, you have to be willing to face yourself. So it’s the fear of facing your inner self. Hm.  Heh, I think I’ve mostly defeated my shame on that level, otherwise I think writing this blog would cripple me, haha.

Tomorrow we’ll take a look at the longer term effects. I defy you to not identify with at least some of them. If you don't, you are incredibly lucky and have my envy… and with that, I depart! 


  1. Wow, nice to read the different ways of shame together with your explaination. By defeating it on this level I hope your mind will remember it too! Sometimes we just have to act to show our shame and see that nothing will happen, we won't die by doing so, I mean. Probabely you'll gain. (I hope)

  2. Wow, all of your posts are very insightful, and make me look at myself and my actions so much closer. I identify with everything you've written, though never really understood the implications or meaning behind my actions.
    I can't wait to read more.
    love always,


Leave me a comment! It makes me feel good and less paranoid about talking to myself =)

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