Learning to Live Without Shame

Have you ever wondered how it would feel to free yourself from the legacy of shame?  If so, this is the blog for you.

We inherit shame from previous generations.  The burden of shame is both internally and externally inflicted, transmitted by the mothers of our generation; whose smothered ambitions and unfulfilled expectations have spilled over and contaminated us with a legacy of shame.

The meanings of shame have changed in our lifetime, and the mid-1970s formed the watershed years for that change.

Shame is inherently social and has its roots in social contradictions that begin at an early age.  In order to feel shame, we have to have been shamed.   The fusion of identity with shame is formed and reinforced through repeated and elaborated experience of those contradictions as we grow.  

The blog draws heavily on my own personal narrative,  along with references to popular culture, fiction, history,  philosophy and the social and cognitive sciences.  We make use of writing prompts in order to deconstruct our historical narratives of self and reconstruct them in accord with the self that we want to become.

As women who are old enough to have forgotten the 1970s, we suffer from a loss of continuity with our former selves.   We survived what I call the “watershed years” and have led successful lives; but we continue to struggle with issues of energy, meaning and purpose.   We seek a deeper connection with ourselves, a feeling of being really and truly alive.

I maintain that we can’t understand ourselves unless we retrace our history and connect our personal narrative to the larger social forces that played upon us.   We can’t know who we are unless we know who we were and how we came to make the choices we made.

A conversation involves taking turns, but someone has to go first, to say, “This is what happened to me.”    I have come to realize that while my experiences are somewhat unique, I am not alone.  The same things that happened to me happened to a lot of women, and for good reason.

We have been systematically shamed and manipulated by identifiable forces in American culture as well as by the contradictions imposed on us from within and without.   We have grown so used to being smothered in shame that we accept it as a natural condition.  It is time to once again to free ourselves from the outworn burden of shame and allow our true selves to emerge into the light.  It is time to cast off our humiliations and to grow.

Start the journey What do we mean by shame?