Shame and Anger: The Criticism Connection

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Shame Anger and Depression. Quieting Shame and Anger. How to Deliver Criticism Without Shaming. Our powerful reactions to receiving criticism are linked to the innate emotions of shame and anger. Evolved for survival in primitive circumstances, these sometimes overwhelming reactions do not always serve us well in civilized situations. Extreme reactions to real or perceived criticism can lead to serious psychological illnesses such as depression, addiction and eating disorders. This book gives the reader an understanding of the evolutionary function of shame and anger and the destructive ways in which they can manifest themselves in criticism situations.

To help with this problem, the author describes techniques as old as yoga and as new as neurofeedback for quieting powerful emotions and becoming more confident in the face of criticism. These techniques can be used by adults and taught to children to help avoid many of the painful and destructive emotional experiences that shape our self-image and often set the stage for depression and other emotional disorders.

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I wish to be contacted with the results of the investigation. Your notification has been sent Lulu Staff has been notified of a possible violation of the terms of our Membership Agreement. Our brains and bodies are naturally designed to express a range of emotions and to respond to the emotions of others. The emotions of fear, shame, and anger serve us in the most dangerous situations we may have to face.

The fear and anger not only energize us to run or fight, but also communicate our emotional state to those close enough to respond. Our anger lets others know we are energized to attack and they had better respect that. Fear communicates to others that there is something dangerous nearby, and they might want to get ready to run, too. It communicate surrender so that our foe will not continue to attack.

6 Types of People Who Do Not Deserve to Hear Your Shame Story - SuperSoul Sunday - OWN

We are also hardwired to express joy, distress, and surprise. The expression of joy communicates our relief at being safe among friends, while distress communicates our need for help and comfort. Surprise seems designed to help us assess the situation when something unexpected happens.

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It focuses our attention and opens our eyes. We also come equipped with the ability to recognize these basic emotional states in others. Mirroring structures in the brain help us to respond to others actions and emotions automatically. Very young babies understand the difference between a smile and a frown, a lullaby and a scolding and they respond automatically.

Direct uninhibited emotional response between two people is called intimacy, and babies are natural at it, which is why we often find relationships with babies so rewarding. Babies are not ashamed to show their feelings, whether they are distress, frustration, delight, fear, or shame itself. And when we are with them, we are not ashamed to mimic them with goo goos and gah gahs of baby talk that we would be embarassed to see on video, absent the baby context. We are free to be responsive to a baby's distress or frustration. We are rewarded by the good feelings of intimacy.

So what goes wrong later?

Shame and Anger

Somewhere along the line, we learn to try to hide our feelings because our own feelings scare us or we are ashamed of them. Expressing our feelings becomes associated with feeling vulnerable because others may make fun of us or try to use our feelings against us. So we work very hard to hide our feelings behind a mask of some kind, and in order to do this we work to suppress the emotions. We can get so good at this that we hide the feelings even from ourselves and feel horrified at the possibility that others could know about our distress, shame, or frustration.

Some of us drink, binge, purge, or work long hours in order to numb ourselves and make it easier to suppress the emotions rather than express them. And we lose the freedom and delight of intimacy in a habit of hiding behind our mask. We substitute sex for intimacy and busy routines for friendship. Underneath the masks, the busy routines, and the defensive habits, we are still hardwired to express our emotions and respond to others, still hardwired for intimacy if we can let go of the habits we have developed to protect ourselves.

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We can escape the trap of these new defensive habits, but we often have to have help to overcome the fear and shame that keep us stuck behind our masks. For more on Shame, Anger, Fear, and other enemies of intimacy, see www. Joel Achenbach, writing in the Washington Post today, noted a pattern of suspicion followed by silence among those who knew something about Sandusky's behavior with young boys. Those who work with survivors a term I prefer to victims of child sexual abuse know this pattern all too well and are often angered by it. How do we explain the reluctance of people to talk about their suspicions openly so that something might be done to stop these atrocities?

One of the explanations suggested is that the abuser is a person of power or status who could use that power to punish anyone who dared talk about what they suspected or knew. Though there is some truth to this, especially in the minds of the young person who has been manipulated and sometimes threatened into silence, I think there is a more basic explanation that comes clear in an understanding of the nature of shame and our responses to behavior that evokes shame.

Shame is one of the powerful survival emotions with which we are all hardwired. It is the emotion that compels us to surrender and try to hide when we are faced with an overwhelming threat or defeated in competition. It can save our lives in a primitive battle over status, and it has a complex function in forming our consciences and guiding our moral awareness. But although we use the word in a way that has many complex connotations, it is a fundamental and powerful basic emotion, and shares some characteristics with other survival emotions.

Shame compels an immediate behavioral response. Fear compels us to freeze first, then run. Anger compels us to attack. And shame compels us to surrender and withdraw, averting our gaze and trying to hide. We want to become invisible, and anything that draws attention to us makes the shame stronger.

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So when someone tells an inappropriate joke at a party, everyone wants to crawl under the table. And when someone in your group is behaving badly, no one wants to be the first to call attention to the problem. Like the panic triggered in a crowded theater when someone shouts fire, or the rage evoked in a mob when it is focused on a target, shame over someone's exposure evokes an emotional response in all of us. Depending on our relationship to the person shamed, the emotional response can be one of shame or anger, but if the person is a member of your family, tribe, or a group with which you identify, the shame will come first.

When Dad is drunk and making a fool of himself, everyone in the family wants to leave the scene. A secondary reaction of anger may set in soon, but the initial response is shared shame. If our political leader makes a gaffe, we all groan inside before we go into defensive action. Shame is followed by anger.

Take my word for it or read my book about it shame almost always leads to anger. But the anger may be expressed toward almost anyone.

Shame and Anger: The Criticism Connection by Brock Hansen, LCSW (Paperback) - Lulu

After feeling the sting of shame, we may be angry at ourselves, we may be angry at the world, we may be angry at the easiest person to be angry at - which may be the victim of the abuse - or we may fear the anger of others that we know is likely to emerge if we make a lot of noise about the shameful situation. So family members enable the alcoholic rather than confront, institutions shield and hide the abusers in their midst rather than share the shame of exposure, and people with suspicions of others, particularly leading members of the group with which they identify, keep their mouths shut and their heads down the classic posture of shame.

The fear of angry reprisals can extend to fear of legal action against the institution involved. But underlying this fear is the naive wish that it will all just go away if we can cover it up or keep quiet about it. Understanding the nature of our powerful survival emotions, how they compel us to freeze, run, attack, or hide, can help us resist the self defeating behavioral responses that can arise in response to emotionally loaded situations and help us solve problems sooner.

Wishing the problems and the feelings would just go away only prolongs the damaging situation.