I’m a psychology geek and a theory junkie. I love contemplating new therapeutic paradigms.
Some people read Popular Science or Time, I read psychology magazines and studies. I’m partial to longevity studies comparing the overweight mouse to the slim. Slim mice live longer, overweight mice die early, but have voracious sexual appetites. They easily find other chubby mice for tumbles in the maze. And subsequently, they appear to have absolutely no motivation to lose weight. So, mice don’t give a rat’s ass about living longer, and the chubbier they are, the better time living their short little lives they have.
Every two years I renew my license to practice clinical social work. During the month before the renewal date, I frantically fulfill my credit requirements. So, I have been doing a lot of reading, less about mice and more about humans. I’ve found some research to rival the never-boring mouse:
Brene Brown, PHD
, a social work researcher, offers a window into how some of us cope with complex issues like shame. Because
she’s a researcher, I presume she’s good at math. I’m enthralled by her research. And her mathematical prowess gives her studies validity (not to make a sweeping generalization, but here I go making one:
it’s unusual to have a social scientist who also has a handle on fractions). Brown’s research, her mathematical measurements of Emotional Intelligence, hold their place in the scientific world beside the Bunsen burner and beaker.
I like that.
Brown’s research revealed two coping mechanisms for shame: Some of us fall into a hole of shame and feel as though we are entirely alone, that nobody else has ever felt so horrible and worthless. And some of us have shame resilience.
Well, the picture that makes you realize you have to get serious about losing weight,
the one where you look puffy and your collar bones are indiscernible? Some of us are disgusted with ourselves. They (we) are not very resilient — ironically, self-loathing does not lend itself to self-care. But shame resilient
people are kind and compassionate with others and themselves. They understand in their bones that they are not the only person to have experienced the shame they are encountering. They are connected to something bigger than themselves: the sum
of others. They actually see 20 extra pounds in the picture and don’t feel disgusted?! They actually feel empowered to make a decision to a) change the photographic image with different self-care OR, b) decide they’re okay with no collarbones because cake is too damn good
.The corollary to the mouse? For the hefty mouse, rodent romps trump restricted calories. On the other hand, I don’t think a mouse has ever exhibited shame, so, really, there is no mouse corollary. But you get the point.
Here’s my question: if you identify with shame resiliency, what are the ways you create compassion for yourself. If you identify with the deep dark hole of self-loathing, what are your triggers?
Dear readers, let’s think about shame together. Certainly, as women and men, mothers and fathers, we have good reason to consider ways to be kinder to others and ourselves.