Updated: Aug 29, 2019
Our final week on building Shame Resilience! The fourth and final element we're diving into here is Speaking Shame.
Building Shame Resilience
1) Know your Body Shame Triggers
2) Practice your Critical Awareness skills
3) Accessing your Connection Network
4) Speaking Shame
So what does it mean to Speak Shame? Brené Brown, PhD, Shame Researcher and Storyteller, describes it as developing fluency in the language of shame. This language allows us to engage in personal thought and dialogue about shame and shame resilience.1 In other words, it gives us a way to think about shame and communicate it clearly. It gives us a context and framework. It allows us to receive empathy, set boundaries, express needs and work together to build shame resilience.
In her research, Brené found that we all experience shame. It is one of our most primitive human experiences. It's also (unsurprisingly) one of the least talked about. No matter who we are, shame hits us like a heavy blow and leaves it's wounding mark. Parts might heal but pieces remain and set down roots. The wound doesn't heal itself. It is only through healing connection (aka empathy) that we become free and whole again.
There are different "shame situations" where we have the opportunity to speak our shame. Here are a few examples.
Sharing our story about shame wounds from the past that have not yet been healed.
Setting boundaries with somebody in our Shame Web.
Inviting our safe person from our Connection Network to be empathize with us when we are in the midst of a shame attack.
It is only in voicing it with God and the safe people in our Connection Network who have earned the right to hear our story, that we can receive the powerful life-giving shame-killing empathy.
If you've been along for the whole of this series, you're now at the point where you can begin to speak your shame. Up until this point, we've learned and practiced:
Recognizing our shame when it's happening, "the when"
Acknowledging the areas that are vulnerable to shame, "the where"
Stepping back to see the bigger picture by using our critical awareness skills, "the why"
Identifying the safe people in our Connection Network with whom we can mutually empathize, "the who"
Equipped with this knowledge, we're ready to look at "the how".
How do we speak our shame while inviting empathy? How can we begin to be vulnerable and say what we need? We're going to take a practical approach here by starting to build our own shame vocabulary.
HOW do you speak your shame?
As we start building a shame language, keep in mind that 1. shame breeds fear, blame, and disconnection 2. Vulnerability and empathy kill shame. 3. Our shame defenses of moving away, moving towards, and moving against, will almost certainly kick in. But being aware of this, we're able to choose how we respond rather than react.
Here are some practical examples for you to use as a template as you build your own language around shame. They're laid out in a general flow that takes you from testing the waters with your safe person all the way to receiving and acknowledging the connection.
There are also some examples of what to say when somebody wants to hear your story when they haven't earned the right to hear. And finally, when either you or they didn't respond the way that was needed, i.e. when the hearer's reaction did more damage than heal. Modify any of these example templates for your own life. These are here as a springboard for you to launch from.
Testing the Waters of shame and expressing our needs
"Have you heard of Brené Brown? She's a shame researcher with some brilliant insights."
"I've been learning about it and did you know there is a difference between guilt and shame?"
"I know I don't usually just bring up topics and talk about myself, but I really need to talk about my day, are you feeling like you could just listen for a while?"
Building a shared language to talk about shame attacks as they're happening
"Girl, I'm wrecked. All I want to do is go hide under the covers. The last thing I want to do is talk about it. But I think I need to. Do you have the bandwidth to feel this with me right now?"
"The (shame) gremlins are kicking my butt. I need to fight back but I'm low on energy. I need some serious encouragement right now."
"When she said that, I just folded. I felt the shame and went right back to accommodating. Now I'm going to have to go back and let her know what I can realistically do. But the thought of it feels like a punch in the gut."
"My (Enneagram) 2 kicked in and I committed without even thinking about it. Now I'm double booked and I have to disappoint someone. I'm really just so disappointed in myself that I can't stand it."
Expressing unmet needs while speaking shame
"I really do appreciate your helpfulness and I value your insight but right now I need you to listen."
"I'm feeling frustrated. It's hard for me to be this vulnerable right now and it feels like you are trying to fix it. Can you just sit here with me? I'm not expecting you to make it better right now."
"I'm feeling a little shaky from all the energy around this vulnerability, I need to take a few deep breaths."
Clarifying needs and expectations
"I know you want to listen, but it still feels like you are in advice-mode. Do you feel that?"
"I know you're willing to be here with me in this, but you seem pretty uncomfortable right now. Can you fill me in on what's going on for you?"
Responding compassionately when somebody else speaks their shame
"Oh man, I know that feeling. It feels terrible. You are so not alone."
"Ohhh yeah. I've been there. Right there. I would've done the same thing. Actually I have done the same thing."
Recognizing shame triggers in ourselves as we listen empathically to somebody speaking shame
"You're being vulnerable with me and I'm so honored but I'm realizing a response in me that I need to pay attention to."
"I thought I could go there with you right now, but something is coming up in me. It's not you, but I need to take a break and process through what's coming up."
"I really want to, but I feel like I can't be there for you like I want to right now."
Acknowledging the connection
"This has been so helpful and healing. I was really nervous to talk about it but I'm really glad that we did."
"I really appreciate the way you listen to me and empathize. I was so afraid to be judged about this and I didn't feel judged by you at all."
Protecting ourselves from those who haven't earned the right to hear our stories
"That's actually a vulnerable area for me and I don't feel like talking about it right now."
"I can see how this seems like not a big deal to you but it is to me. And I don't want to share it."
"I don't feel comfortable talking about that."
What would it sound like to take one of these templates and make it your own? Pick one and try it out.
1 "Brené Brown, "Shame Resilience Theory: A Grounded Theory Study on Women and Shame", Families in Society: The Journal of Contemporary Social Services, vol. 87, no. 1