Shame is a painful feeling that can be felt through out our body. It has many variations and never looks exactly alike in any two individuals. The shame affects any individual on four levels:
The shame experience does have common features: definite and strong physical response, uncomfortable thoughts, troublesome behaviors and spiritual agony.
A two- year old child exposes the world. She finds a special place in the garden where she digs happily in the soft soil. She feels proud of her self accomplishments. “Look at me;” she wanted to tell the world. “Look at what I can do. I am good.”
“Just look at you!” shouts her mother. “Look at this mess. You are dirty. Your clothes are ruined. I’m very disappointed with you. You ought to be ashamed of yourself”.
The child feels very small. She drops her head and stares at the ground. She sees her dirty hands and clothes and begins to feel dirty inside. She thinks there must be something very bad about her, something so bad she will never really be clean. She hears her mother’s disdain. She feels defective.
An older man spends much of his time criticizing everybody around him. His wife is stupid; his son is lazy; his daughter is foolish; his friends are crude; the world is rotten. He does not hesitate to tell others that he is smarter, more sensible and just generally better than they. He advertises his sense of superiority. He expects to be honored.
Perhaps few people buy his image. But others recognize that this man is wearing a mask. They see through his pomposity and arrogance to the insecure and flawed person inside. They realize that this man tries to convince the world that he is better than others, when he really feels he is worse. Still, living around his man is quite difficult, since he is so disapproving of others. Rather than honoring him or worshipping him, they pull away, avoiding him, and hesitating to tell him anything about themselves.
It has variations and never looks alike in any two individuals. The little girl’s shame, for example, is much more physical and less intellectual than older man’s. The teenage girl immediately sense of exposure and humiliation contrast with businessman’s long-term doubts. The older man hides his shame from himself more than from others, while the business has kept his shame a complete secret. Only the teenage girl in these examples converted her shame into rage.