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............ With this lack of secure and loving attachment, a deep level of shame occurs. Not so much the left brain cognitive type, as in “I feel badly I did something wrong”, which is actually the experience of guilt. But rather a core shame reflecting a visceral feeling, usually unconscious, that says, “I am bad, defective, dirty, or unlovable.” And this often starts at infancy (and even in the womb) and goes on through childhood. The parents of these children often have no concept that their inability or unwillingness to take the time to connect and that many of their behaviors are shaming to their children. These parents are simply “dysregulated” themselves and hence unable to provide this all-important core sense of Self.
Patricia A. DeYoung explains this in her book Understanding and Treating Chronic Shame:
Shame is an experience of one’s felt sense of self disintegrating in relation to a dysregulating other. When we are at our most vulnerable (infant or child), our experience of being an integrated self depends on the emotional attunement or “regulation” we receive from those closest to us. A “dysregulating other” is someone close to us whose emotional responses leave us feeling fragmented instead. . . . A caregiver’s affective attunement, or lack thereof, profoundly affects a child’s chances for emotional well-being.
. . . Then I become a self-disintegrating in relation to a dysregulating other. This is what happens . . . when the other’s response fails to help me manage what I’m feeling. Instead of feeling connected to someone strong and calm, I feel alone. Instead of feeling contained, I feel out of control. Instead of feeling energetically focused, I feel overwhelmed. Instead of feeling that I’ll be OK, I feel like I’m falling apart. Instead of feeling like a magical presence in the eyes and smiling face of a loving present mom, I come to believe: “I am bad”, or as a “no thing”.
Brene Brown, Ph.D. is a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. She has led the research in shame for over 16 years and has integrated 200,000 pieces of data accumulated over 60 years. She states Shame is a Universal feeling that has been mostly unspoken about until very recently. And it is this very secrecy, silence and judgement that has had it growing so intensely over the years. Her definition: “Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.
Sadly, this belief can become pervasive across the course of a life. Hence, a deep feeling of disconnection ensues, that is not correctable by any outer actions, other than bringing it out into the open with a truly safe and empathic other. However, it is also possible to transform by learning how to give love and acceptance to each and every previously unlovable or denied part of ourselves This can be supported with one on one work in addition to other Keys addressed in 7 Keys to Connection. (More on shame in Key 3 Chapter 6 and how to transform it throughout.)