Today I had a meeting with my therapist. Yes, I am one of those pretentious people who sees a therapist. Or maybe not one of those pretentious people, but more so one of those fucked up people who needs to see a therapist.
Little background: I suffer from anxiety. There’s a long history there, but I don’t think I need to touch on it too much. Basically it has kept me from accomplishing much of anything until just recently when I’ve started to learn healthier coping mechanisms.
So anyway… at my therapist and we’re starting this new program that’s a lot like being in a college lecture class with only one student: me. However, being that I would be a perpetual student if I could I am actually enjoying this method of therapy quite a bit. So the topic of the month is emotions. More specifically the evolution of feelings.
Today we discussed what these feelings would be useful for if we were still in caveman tribes. For example: anger is a protective mechanism. Anger not only causes you to personally want to do better at something for whatever reason, but it also is a very good indicator to other people in the tribe that they should keep their distance. And so we went through all the basic emotions: Fear, Guilt, Love, Happiness, etc. And even in today’s world there are uses for these feelings. And most of these uses are close to what they were used for back in the caveman days.
The only emotion, and it’s a strong one, that really there seems to be little to no use for that we still frequently feel is shame. I looked the definition up online and got this: the painful feeling arising from the consciousness of something dishonorable, improper, ridiculous, etc., done by oneself or another. Seems like it would still be pretty useful in today’s world right?
But shame is a lot like guilt. I looked guilt up in the dictionary too and got this: a feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offense, crime, wrong, etc., whether real or imagined. So guilt is remorse where as shame is just painful. Guilt means you’re sorry and should try to take actions where applicable to remedy things. Shame means you done fucked up and you’re kicked out of the club.
So in caveman days when their top priority was to stay in the group because there was power in numbers shame was the equivalent emotional pain to the physical pain of touching something sharp. You felt it to learn that the action leading it to was bad. And shame, being the big bad brother to guilt was more effective. It is a more visceral emotion.
But now, in today’s world where there are many different groups of people, and where you can exist without a group and not get eaten by a dinosaur shame isn’t really needed. Guilt is good, it prompts you to fix a wrong doing. Shame just hurts. There’s really nothing to do to fix shame. And actually it seems in today’s world that shame is usually felt even when there seems to be no real action from the group stating that one should feel shame. But boy does the media like to perpetuate it.
Shame becomes a black hole that must be fed by anything the commercials say will make you more acceptable. But because of its black hole nature, nothing will ever be enough. You can’t fix shame. All you really can do is try to understand what made you feel it in the first place and address that stimulus. If you feel shame about your appearance, figure out why. Is it because the beauty magazines tell you that you need to look like models to be accepted? What makes you ugly the way your are right now? Why? Who says?
Ok, I think I’ll hop off my soapbox now. I am perhaps one of the greatest sufferers of shame. I’ll definitely have to look a little deeper into the motivations behind my feelings. But I figured in the mean time I’d share my musings with you.
On another note: Went to the gym again this morning. Still lovin’ it like a fat kid loves the gym! (I’m bringing it back, really.)