Shame

From Grey’s Anatomy Season 12, Episode 6:

“They say shame controls every aspect of human behavior. It’s about who we believe we are, but in the end you can’t hide and the body doesn’t lie.  The truth is right there for the world to see. Our shame can choke us, kill us, can rot us from the inside.  If we decide to let it.  Don’t let that happen to you.”

Shame is definitely something I think a lot about, and I think Meredith is 100% right that it can really get you from the inside out.  This quote made me think of an article I once read by Jane Shure about shame.

In the article, she talks about the difference between guilt and shame, and how shame leads to these automatic beliefs of inadequacy. Specifically, she says, “Shame is that feeling of being inherently flawed, damaged, and defective….people often confuse shame with guilt, but there are important differences that distinguish them. Guilt focuses on an action that we have done or failed to do. With guilt, we feel bad about our behavior, while with shame, the feeling isn’t that we have done something bad, but that we are bad.”

I know that I often say that I feel guilty about a lot of things, but reading that article made me realize that really what I have is shame. More so than feeling guilty for bothering a friend or being annoying, I feel shame because I think I am a bother or I am annoying, not just that I’ve done a single thing that is bothersome or annoying.

Even without thinking about it, feeling that way makes me turn to the eating disorder. I feel ashamed for being myself, so starving myself seems to be the “solution” in some sort of twisted way.  Ironically though, I feel a lot of shame about the eating disorder itself.  I am constantly trying to hide it, and whenever anyone brings it up, I often shy away from talking about.

I think what Meredith says rings true for any kind of shame, but it’s even more true with an eating disorder, particularly anorexia.  I can deny all I want and try to hide when I’m doing well, but if I’m losing weight or just overall malnourished, people notice. As she says, “the body doesn’t lie”, and it is right there for people to see.

As she says, the key really is to get it out in the open so it can’t rot you from the inside out. Talking about shame or bringing up things that feel shameful is like an exposure – it is really anxiety provoking and scary.  But in my experience, it usually ends up being far less painful than keeping it in.

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