Shame and humiliation, embarrassment, guilt, and hurt

June 22, 2014

This is a just a brief addendum to my previous post, before I head out to take on digging out invasive flowering plants from one of my gardens.

It’s about what I think is correlated with people falling prey to addiction, or not falling prey to addiction.

I am wondering whether people who are prone to addiction feel shame where other people might feel embarrassment or guilt, and feel humiliation where other people might feel hurt.  My sense is that a primary emotion is transformed into another sort of emotion because a tint of a negative view of the self is added.  So instead of, “I messed up, I am so embarrassed and want to put things right,” we get “I screwed up, I am so ashamed, I think I’ll just deny and/or hide.”  Or, “That experience was really painful and I feel hurt and I am not sure how to make myself feel better” turns into “I feel humiliated and it confirms my worst thoughts about myself.”

Because I suspect that a key difference in the two outlooks is how the person views themselves — lovable but flawed, or unworthy and in need of perfection.  The problem, as I see it, that people who view themselves too harshly actually “mess up” more than people who find a way to manage their flaws and deal with their secondary consequences more constructively.  Harshness I think digs a hole where a more gentle approach encourages improvement.

I am not advocating that people not take responsibility for their mistakes and misdeeds, but that we use a framework that actually leads to constructive action instead of to paralysis and corrosion.

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6 Responses to “Shame and humiliation, embarrassment, guilt, and hurt”

  1. Matthew Brooks Says:

    I’ve been growing milk thistle in my side yard (with the clover). Well, I haven’t been growing them – I’ve just been allowing them to grow. The plant has grown taller than my oldest daughter, who is 9; we’ve been waiting for the seeds to generate, and yesterday they finally did, and we ate them. I ate a few stalks of dandelion seeds as well.

    I eat the seeds from the straight, umblemished stalks. I leave the rest. It seems a little counter-evolutionary – then I remember that the primary selection for dandelions is not human.

    • Diana Moses Says:

      What a pretty plant! I wasn’t sure what milk thistle looked like, so I looked it up.

      • Matthew Brooks Says:

        I learned, upon investigation, that another name for the flower is “St. Mary’s thistle”, my eldest’s first name.

        Her middle name is Rose, another beautiful and beneficent flower with thorns. In ww2 England advised its people to grow roses for the hips – rich in vitamin C, because citrus shipments from the tropics were compromised by German uboat patrols.

      • Diana Moses Says:

        I think it’s my rosa rugosa bushes whose hips turn a beautiful red in the fall.

        Does anyone ever compound “Mary” and “Rose” into “Maryrose”? Together or separate they make a nice combination.

  2. Matthew Brooks Says:

    We call her Mary and Mary Rose.


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