TED Conversations

Sandy Mitchell

Consciousness Researcher, Affect Psychology (Facebook page)

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Deepening the conversation & dialogue about shame with other interested folks.

While Brene Brown's TED Talk is a wonderful conversation-starter about shame, and I give her full credit for courageously putting the difficult subject of shame on the table; the subject is much deeper than she could go into given the length of her talk. I have been studying shame for a long time, and have found much wonderful work done on the subject by lots of people in a variety of fields. Unfortunately most of that work goes unrecognized and so most people are unable to benefit from it. I'd love to participate in an on-going conversation that has the potential to continue long after this TED forum page expires.

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    Apr 7 2012: (cont.)
    . . . this all began when we were toddlers. Having just discovered that we could stand, walk, and run – we wanted to explore everything in the world, and as fast as we could. That was was our Sympathetic NS coming ‘on line’ and propelling us to move forward into the world…

    But since we were so young, we didn’t have the life-experience that would protect us from moving towards things that could harm us. The job of protecting us fell to our caregivers. One of the tools available to them was that they could intervene to stop us, with a shout, command, or maybe just a sternly disapproving look…which is all that it took to activate our Parasympathetic NS, which then ‘shuts us down’ long enough for our caregivers to rein us in, so to speak…by evoking the 'shame circuit' that exists in all of us.

    As we get older, and our verbal and cognitive capacities increase, we begin to make ever more complex associations between the interior experiences of emotions and the reactions we get from others – that is, we start to make ‘meaning’ of our experiences. Whether the meanings we make are positive or negative depends a lot on how our early experiences shaped the way we learn to think about ourselves…

    The branch of psychology I’ve found most helpful in understanding human emotion is called Affect Psychology, based on the work of psychologist Silvan Tomkins, who created Affect Theory. His work has not received the attention it deserves, but I hope to live long enough to see that change!

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