The second edition of CircleSpace
Downcast eyes, pursed lips, rigid spine and a tumult of thoughts : irrefutable symptoms of a body turgid with shame.
Shame sweeps through us all, making us feel alien to our own bodies, immobilizing our spirits with its frigid grip. It also makes us flush and burn with the emotions of guilt, confusion and an exigent desire to set things right, justify ourselves or escape our predicament. How then, does this disconcerting emotion help us?
The bedrock of shame spans almost the entirety of human experience. It would rather serve us better to observe its effects than its roots.
The intensity of shame has only a threadbare connection with its temporal aspect, for flashes of excruciating experiences assail us with unmitigated force regardless of our age at the time of their initial occurrence. Coupled with this is the unpredictability of such revisitations. Our minds dip into the vast repositories of the unconscious ( credits: Sigmund Freud ) and exhume emotionally surcharged memories at the feather-touch of a stimulus. Rarely do we have an explanation or exculpating evidence to blur such memories and our souls regress to suffer time and again for our errors.
As our schemas become more accommodating we may find in us the courage and rationale to obliterate some of the factors of our shame. It is therefore necessary to sift through these implanted fears and superstitions to determine their substance. A deed or thought for which we might have been castigated may truly have proved deleterious had it not been pruned at the time.
This is consistent with the third stage of psycho-social development as proposed by Erik Erikson: if we did not feel the pinch of guilt, we would become reckless, even ruthless in the long run.
However, we may also be plagued by milder yet more abrasive, ubiquitous kinds of shame suspended in the air like allergens. These harass us by constantly reminding us of our shortcomings and may be far more debilitating than other crucial instances in the past. Karen Horney’s theory of these tyrannical ‘Shoulds’ embodies this condition. All of us have a goal we want to reach, feel it necessary to reach or are coerced to reach. In this uncharted territory of mirages, we often feel inadequate, under-appreciated or hapless. Small victories give us a boost but are more often than not, short-lived. This cycle closely resembles a rat race, leading inexorably to neurosis.
In the words of Lily Tomlin : “The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you’re still a rat.”
Self-help can be successfully employed in these cases, and in practicing the same, we learn that there are some ailments that arise from miscalculation and can be ameliorated by self-correction. Rather than viewing ourselves as victims of our sorrows, envy or shame, we could consider ourselves to be litigants in the tribunals of our psychological investments. We can thus assess the prospects of our well-being, evolution and hardiness.
Carl Rogers, the legendary humanist, proposed the benignant course of Unconditional Positive Regard according to which we must, under all circumstances, be kind to ourselves and all around us. He looked upon all vices as malignancies caused by frustration of one’s potential.
As rosy as this sounds, it is a Herculean task to be kindly towards everything at all times. It is natural to be rueful under circumstances of disappointment or failure, and that whiff of acrimony leads us to re-examine the scheme of things. Anger is of course the red signal for impingement on one’s boundaries. Interpersonal harmony can only be achieved through practicing patience and civility in discussion. Attention and pragmatism are the need of the hour.
The last word in this must be awarded to Rogers: There is no fixed recipe for success, and life is lived in realizing the intrinsic value of its vagaries.
I would love to hear you thoughts in the comments!
This is a part of the new initiative by thehumblehumanists called Circlespace
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Eager for your thoughts as always,