Sandy Mitchell

Consciousness Researcher, Affect Psychology (Facebook page)
Mount Shasta, CA, United States

About Sandy

Areas of Expertise

Shame Psychology, Violence Reduction

An idea worth spreading

Imagine a society that realized that virtually all social dysfunction is the result of not valuing above all else: that every child gets off to the best possible start in life. And that then put the necessary resources in place to correct that. Our current "Billions for bombs, pennies for programs" would be reversed. We would realize that the TRILLIONS we've spent on "National Security" has been squandered; we'd be better off today if we'd simply made a bonfire and burned all that money...because we'd have spared hundreds of thousands of people around the world the unbelievable amounts of suffering we've financed with our ignorance. We'd spend money instead on education for better parenting, better health, social justice, infrastructure (physical AND social), understanding how to use our amazing diversity to build bonds between peoples, rather than dividing them. All of this is quite affordable - if we can get behind the idea that we need to reduce economic inequality.

I'm passionate about

Subjects like: Affect Theory, Attachment Theory, Trauma work, neuroscience - and connecting the dots between disciplines, to break down the walls of 'super-specialization' that academia fosters...

Comments & conversations

153163
Sandy Mitchell
Posted over 2 years ago
Brené Brown: Listening to shame
Hi Rich, I agree that shame has both a positive and a negative side. There's a large body of work to establish that it evolved as a tool to help human parents keep their offspring safe. (I described that in some detail in posts on the "Deepening the conversation" discussion page which I hope you'll check out) Unfortunately lack of knowledge about how it works has resulted in over-using shame to control children, leaving long-lasting negative effects on those children...who then grow up to do the exact same thing to their children; ad infinitum... But knowledge is indeed power, If we deem it important enough we can learn to undo the damage, and prevent further destructive effects... But your comment about changes that have happened over the last 3 decades is right on: we have indeed become accustomed to 'accepting' dishonorable & (previously) unacceptable behavior in the public sphere. You might want to read "A Brief History of Shame" in the book "Shame and Pride: Affect, Sex, and the Birth of the Self," by Donald L. Nathanson... Much of it is political: I have become increasingly more shocked and shamed by the behavior of 'our' government, for example, as it rains destruction down on innocents in numerous countries around the world. I agree with you that 'shame needs to come back in that regard.' There is great danger in our continuing to tolerate our government's increasingly arrogant and unchecked use of military power...
153163
Sandy Mitchell
Posted over 2 years ago
Deepening the conversation & dialogue about shame with other interested folks.
(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!
153163
Sandy Mitchell
Posted over 2 years ago
Deepening the conversation & dialogue about shame with other interested folks.
Hi all... I'm cross-posting this from a recent discussion list where a question was asked about embarrassment...it's in two parts. Here is the science behind shame/embarrassment. Human beings are all born with innate capacities to experience what we call ‘emotions,’ often called ‘feelings.’ It’s interesting that only in recent years has the study of this incredibly important part of our life-experience started to get significant study. Our emotions evolved as a means to interpret our experience. We all know from our own experience that our emotions can be powerful motivators in our lives, giving us important information about how we are reacting to events and people in our lives. Unfortunately, because humanity as a whole has not understood the realm of emotion very well, we are often confused about how to interpret the information our emotions are giving us. Sometimes we take the information our emotions provide (such as the anger we feel that gives us a message like: “I really don’t like this situation I’m in!”) and take misguided actions that only make a bad situation worse - because that's what we learned to do. We learn to give meaning to the physical sensations that our emotions arouse in us through how our parents and others respond or react to us when we’re displaying our emotions. In the specific case of embarrassment (which is one of the forms the basic emotion of shame takes), the feeling of it comes over us very quickly and ‘jams our circuits’ for a bit. We feel suddenly confused and unsure of ourselves. What happens when shame of any kind is triggered internally, is that our Sympathetic Nervous System (which is activated when we move towards something or somebody with the emotion of Interest) suddenly is squelched by our Parasympathetic Nervous System (which is triggered by the fear that we may have done something wrong) having been activated. . . (cont.)
153163
Sandy Mitchell
Posted over 2 years ago
Deepening the conversation & dialogue about shame with other interested folks.
Hey Derek, I'd recommend reading at least the first two chapters of Gershen Kaufman's book: "Shame; the Power of Caring (1992 edition)" 1) The Interpersonal Origins of Shame, and: 2) The Internalization of Shame and the Origins of Identity Also, in Ted Usatynski's book: "Instinctual Intelligence: The Primal Wisdom of the Nervous System and the Evolution of Human Nature," I'd recommend ch. 7: "What Holds Us Back?" You might even want to start with that - it's only 8 pages long, but is quite illuminating about how humans evolved the capacity for shame.
153163
Sandy Mitchell
Posted over 2 years ago
how does an embarassing moment brings out the weirdest person in us?
Hi again, Pranoy... . . . 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!
153163
Sandy Mitchell
Posted over 2 years ago
how does an embarassing moment brings out the weirdest person in us?
Hi Pranoy, What you’ve described is a problem not just of this generation. Embarrassment is one of the many forms that shame takes, and all humans are vulnerable to it, for the following reasons. Here is the science behind shame/embarrassment. Human beings are all born with innate capacities to experience what we call ‘emotions,’ often called ‘feelings.’ It’s interesting that only in recent years has the study of this incredibly important part of our life-experience started to get significant study. Our emotions evolved as a means to interpret our experience. We all know from our own experience that our emotions can be powerful motivators in our lives, giving us important information about how we are reacting to events and people in our lives. Unfortunately, because humanity as a whole has not understood the realm of emotion very well, we are often confused about how to interpret the information our emotions are giving us. Sometimes we take the information our emotions provide (such as the anger we feel that gives us a message like: “I really don’t like this situation I’m in!”) and take misguided actions that only make a bad situation worse - because that's what we learned to do. We learn to give meaning to the physical sensations that our emotions arouse in us through how our parents and others respond or react to us when we’re displaying our emotions. In the specific case of embarrassment (which is one of the forms the basic emotion of shame takes), the feeling of it comes over us very quickly and ‘jams our circuits’ for a bit. We feel suddenly confused and unsure of ourselves. What happens when shame of any kind is triggered internally, is that our Sympathetic Nervous System (which is activated when we move towards something or somebody with the emotion of Interest) suddenly is squelched by our Parasympathetic Nervous System (which is triggered by the fear that we may have done something wrong) having been activated. . . (cont.)
153163
Sandy Mitchell
Posted over 2 years ago
Deepening the conversation & dialogue about shame with other interested folks.
Hi Linda! I was wondering if I'd hear from you again, and good to hear from you. Yes, I agree with your statement. I think human beings evolved the capacity for shame for pretty good reasons, and I'm not on the 'lets get rid of all shame' bandwagon. The only people I know of who have lost the capacity for experiencing shame are either brain-injured or sociopathic. This is a tough point to get across though, as I think I've been misinterpreted about that by some folks...
153163
Sandy Mitchell
Posted over 2 years ago
Deepening the conversation & dialogue about shame with other interested folks.
Hi Derek, Thanks for clarifying what you mean by 'scholarly.' And I want to reassure you that all the people who's work I've come to see as thoughtful and reliable are people who've been writing and publishing for quite a while - most of them a lot longer than Brene Brown! No 'random bloggers' on my list of experts...not that I wouldn't listen to a blogger who said something worth listening to! Help me understand your question about the 'text' you're speaking of - do you mean the Gershen Kaufman book I told you about? I do recommend that book because in the early chapters he's willing to be very specific about his personal involvement with the subject, and that humanizes his writing in a way that makes it clearer.
153163
Sandy Mitchell
Posted over 2 years ago
Brené Brown: Listening to shame
Hi Ron, I totally agree with you that both politics and business would become much more functional if people got how important it is to tell the truth. I think though that it involve challenging many long-held beliefs and traditions - there are plenty of reasons why people find that hard or impossible to do; lots of conditioning, etc. I've made it my life's work to try to understand what all the obstacles are that stand between us and telling our truths, and shame is an enormous 'blocker of truth.' I'm hoping that all these discussions that started 'post-Brene Brown' will result in more and more people questioning many of the assumptions they've been operating under that limit them in their lives. I started the discussion titled "Deepening the conversation," and am finding a lot of good sharing going on in the other discussions too...hope you check 'em out!
153163
Sandy Mitchell
Posted over 2 years ago
I would like a conversation that includes class and racial experiences related to shame.In particular owning/admitting privilege and how to
Hi Lena, "How to not shove this under the rug and still talk about the shame, guilt and denial and have empathy with one another?" That's such a great question! I believe that as a starting point we need to bring compassion to all parties to the conversation. That's not so easy when we're operating from the highly-reactive parts of our brain/nervous system, so we need to have some patience with ourselves as we learn to do that... One of the reasons I'm participating in as many of these 'post-Brene Brown' discussions it that I think BB has started a conversation that's been started before, but that eventually fades into the background and is then forgotten...partly because shame is indeed a painful topic, and also because it is a more complex issue than even BB lets on. I started a thread which you can find on the BB page, called "Deepening the conversation." It hasn't gotten as much action as I'd like, but I still hope people discover it. I think the greatest hope for us as a species is that we discover all the great relatively new information that's out there about how we humans actually develop neurologically and emotionally. I believe that a lot of what's been out there up to now hasn't been very helpful, but I see the potential for that changing. But it will require a willingness to seek out and understand new concepts, and to practice applying them in our everyday lives... More about that later! In the meantime I hope you'll check out some of the other discussions and find food for thought...