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Aneesah Bakker

Owner/Director/Developer, Creative Change Coaching

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Vulnerability is a risky business, mostly met by shame. How does one confront shame productively?

"Vulnerability is our most accurate measurement of courage" Brené Brown

Does this mean that practicing vulnerability is practicing courage?
This then seems to lead to the "fact" that practicing vulnerability, risks the experience of shame/being shamed by others.

Shame is an epidemic that needs to be confronted. How does one confront shame?

Brené Brown, from my understanding, offers multiple suggestions.

1. Question our assumptions - e.g. Is vulnerability really a weakness or can it be seen as a strength?

2. Redefine one's perception of what constitutes failure and what constitutes success. "Entering the arena" is an act of success no matter what the critics "judge"

3. Be willing to step out of one's comfort zone

4. Develop & practice empathy

5. Shift ones perceptions about the price one pays for vulnerability. To see that there is more to gain (than to lose) from practicing vulnerability and confronting shame. There is greater suffering in staying small than in daring greatness

6. Confront the practices of "secrecy, silence, (and) judgment"

7. It would be great if people shared their metaphors for vulnerability and shame and how this can be changed. For example, flying under the radar can be turned around to "stepping into the arena"

These are just explorations, and of course expose my vulnerabilities such as that I have no definite direction, no ready answers, no bullet-proof strategies... but it's a stepping into the arena...


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    Mar 23 2012: Understanding & Learning "Shame" as per brene brown is the only way to confront it. Self questions and analysis as suggested by her is given below:

    --I'm Never good enough.

    --Who do you think you are.

    --I'm sorry i am a mistake

    This self analysis technique can never help remove "The "Feeling" of Shame" that we all are vulnerable to.

    Shame cannot be resolved completely, rather one needs to focus and control the after affects (aggression, depression etc) that arise out it.

    With regards to adopting empathy " is a fallacy" because transforming from the word "Me" to the word "US" is rather difficult because it is either "My Interest" or "Your Interest" and its never "our interest". Resolving this can help us in confronting shame
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      Mar 24 2012: Dear Sunny,

      A thought that comes to mind is how much of shame is learned and how much can be unlearned? Are we taught to experience shame under certain conditions"

      If our response to shame is "I'm never good enough, who do you think you are, I'm sorry I am a mistake" I wonder if perhaps we can learn to respond differently. Part of this is as suggested, to question these responses.

      Shame I think is very much like a lot of things about life, it cannot be resolved completely. Perhaps it is an ongoing challenge that we continue to "face" but can suffer less from as we progress through life, with greater understanding and growing skills and resourcefulness.

      Personally, I am not too sure about the "control the after affects (aggression, depression etc)" part of your reply.

      I am confused about the relationship between empathy and "is a fallacy". It is an interesting avenue to explore and am sure will make for exciting conversation.

      Thank you
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        Mar 25 2012: Aneesah, I'm so glad you started this conversation! I meant to contribute earlier but got caught up in the conversation page that I started, so I didn't realize what an interesting exchange of ideas was happening here...

        Your questions about shame and learning are both important. I'll offer a perspective that I hope might be helpful. Some of the language I use to form my answers might be unfamiliar, it might sound very technical, for example, my use of the word 'Affect' is different that its common use as a synonym for 'feeling' or 'emotion. But I hope you'll bear with me and I'll try to be as clear as I can be

        The capacity of humans to experience shame appears to be hard-wired into our biology as part of a set of distinct 'Affects' that we all come equipped with. These Affects evolved in humans to help us survive. We're each born with 9 distinct primary Affects; we come equipped with twice as many negative affects as positive. That's because in the world that early humans occupied there were many dangers to avoid in order to stay alive. Many neuroscientists now describe the human nervous system as being 'primed for trauma' because of the way we're wired to detect and avoid danger. At bottom we are a very fear-based being: fear is another hard-wired primary Affect. Fear helps humans detect danger quickly.

        Each of our hard-wired Affects is like a circuit that gets activated by our environment, and we have no control over the circuit being activated. You can see this most clearly in infants - iff you watch an infant react to stimuli in it's environment: noises, sudden movement, almost anything that is noticed in the baby's 'field,' you can see that babies are kind of a bundle of reactivity. (there's a great book called: "What Babies Say Before They Can Talk" that describes our Affect System very well).

        We don't have to be taught to feel shame at its most basic level: it's hardwired. Shame will be evoked and experienced in us well before we're able to describe it.
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          Mar 25 2012: Sandy,
          You offer some interesting information regarding this topic....some of which I agree with.

          I do not agree that we are "hardwired" for anything, however. If you are using the term "hardwired" as one might use it for electricity for example, it means that it cannot be changed? It is permanent?

          This may be an older scientific theory, and we now see new scientific theories emerging which indicate that our brain/body can indeed change neural pathways. In addition to the ability to change neural pathways, the brain is growing in size because of evolution. The theory is that as we grow and evolve, we take in new information, which contributes to the changes in neural pathways.

          The information you bring forth certainly is relevant to the topic, and may very well impact the behaviors we speak of. However, I think it is limiting to believe that we are "hard wired" to believe or behave in a certain way, considering the new scientific information.

          I think by teaching the idea.... "Each of our hard-wired Affects is like a circuit that gets activated by our environment, and we have no control over the circuit being activated", you may be adding to the feeling of oppression? If a person believes this information, what is the motivation for trying to change? I believe we have more control than we sometimes give ourselves credit for.
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        Mar 25 2012: Shame at the level of Affect is like a circuit that gets triggered; something like a reflexive part of our nervous system, just as a fear reaction is like a reflex in a baby. Both of my earliest memories are of being awakened suddenly by people I'd never met before (strangers) and of automatically reacting with fear and crying.

        As we grow and our nervous system develops, and we begin to acquire language - and gain the ability to conceptualize - we begin to acquire a kind of repertoire of sensations and feelings that are more complex and nuanced that the basic Affects (though they are grounded in them).

        The kind of shame we experience as we get older DOES involve learning; we learn to associate the awful sensations shame causes with certain people and scenes in our lives, ones that are very specific to us as individuals. That's why what evokes shame in me might not in you.

        I'm concerned that I might be overloading you with information that might not seem immediately relevant, so I'm going to stop for now and ask for your feedback.

        But the questions you and others raise here are vitally important, IMHO. We all get perplexed about coming up with solutions for the complex problems we see all around us in the world, and we want answers and strategies. In my experience many of the 'solutions' that haven't worked came out of an unclear understanding of the origins of the problems or conditions being addressed. Most of the 'solutions for shame' I've seen proposed are too vague and not grounded in an accurate understanding of shame. Thus they mostly amount to 'good advice' by well-intentioned people… and we all know what the road to hell is paved with...
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          Mar 25 2012: Hello Sandy, I'm glad you returned.

          It was easy to follow the information shared about Affect (well and clearly presented).

          There may be many parts of this equation that are out of our control. One starts to suspect this when studying Mythology and going back into history and observing the dynamics in so many areas of life (work, parenting, schooling, politics, religion...)

          The immediate hope and solution seems to come from the part that we have a relative degree of influence in. You point out that

          "The kind of shame we experience as we get older DOES involve learning; we learn to associate the awful sensations shame causes with certain people and scenes in our lives, ones that are very specific to us as individuals. That's why what evokes shame in me might not in you."

          What are the "solutions for shame" you propose?

          (ps. This will be greatly appreciated, you probably need to make a new comment to continue the conversation)

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