Shame: The excruciating, exquisite, and indispensable emotion

Last week, two shocking events occurred: the Norwegian killing rampage undertaken by Anders Breivik, and the death of singer Amy Winehouse. As it is online, many people, armed only with unexamined opinions and a keyboard, lined up to diagnose Anders as mentally ill. Others are certain that Amy died of an overdose, though no evidence of that has been found (her toxicology inquest will resume in October).

photo of ashamed manThere is also a lot of shame being thrown around. Amy and Anders are of course being publicly shamed, but so are fans who suggest that Amy was not merely an addict, but also a brilliant musical talent. The shame-throwers’ position is that if we admire Amy for her talent, we are therefore glorifying her substance abuse — which they assert is not a disease, but a choice. The shamers want us to know that Amy had choices, but made terrible, unforgivable decisions and should be publicly mocked and demeaned — so that others (mostly children, I think) won’t get the idea that drug abuse is a romantic and artistic activity.

Public shaming, mockery, and denigration are being touted as cures (or aversive therapies) for addiction — as if the reason Amy Winehouse was (or anyone is) an addict is that she didn’t have enough shame thrown at her by total strangers. People have also been heaping shame upon Amy’s friends, managers, family, and parents — again, as if the problem was that none of these people tried to help Amy, and as if the solution is for total strangers to publicly shame them (this eulogy from Amy’s friend and fellow addict, Russell Brand, speaks instead to the tremendous devastation addiction wreaks on everyone).

Shame is also being heaped upon people who focused on Amy’s death (rather than the Norwegian deaths), as if there is a rulebook about how to mourn — as if being aggrieved about the tragic life and death of Amy Winehouse somehow makes us less horrified and aggrieved about Norway’s victims and their murderer’s long descent into the hell of radical hate speech, political extremism, and violent xenophobia.

I can understand the shamers’ point about the relative scale of these two tragedies, but I can’t join in with the shaming, because it’s easy to understand what’s going on. In many ways, it’s less overwhelming to think about Amy, because we have a connection with her. Even if we hadn’t heard her songs, we all know musicians, many of us know people struggling with substance abuse, and most of us saw at least one of the wrenching photos that the predatory jackals of tabloid journalism continually posted of her. She was someone we knew about, and her addiction was known to us.

photo of Norwegian fjordBut I’d say that the Norwegian situation was a shock not just because it was a devastating catastrophe, but because Norway seemed to be a functional and mellow place, or so we thought. Violent fundamentalist Christians? Isn’t Norway rather calm and secular? Violent right-wing political groups? Aren’t Scandinavian countries more politically advanced than that? Violent anti-Muslim hysteria? What? Youth camps for the children of a political party, what? The Norwegian tragedy was so much to take in, and the early hysteria about Islamic extremists being responsible really spun the story. So it’s easy to understand why some people focused on Amy Winehouse at first. There’s no shame in it; it’s just what happened.

But what is a shame is that shame itself is being used so inexpertly, and with such complete disregard for the actual purpose and value of shame. Shame is the emotion that helps us moderate our own behavior, but this moderation has to be an inside job. Being shamed by others is not the same as feeling ashamed of yourself. In fact, public shaming, if inexpertly applied, may lead to deep trouble with shame — and to shamelessness.

Too much externally applied shame may seriously interfere with your internal capacity to regulate and moderate your own behavior. Shame is indispensable, but as it is with all of the emotions, shame has to be balanced properly so that you can access its gifts.

The Gifts of Shame

Most of us were not taught to welcome or work with our authentic shame and remorse (which all of us feel naturally, especially when we’ve hurt someone); instead, most of us were taught about shame by being shamed. Authority figures such as parents, teachers, peers, and the media often attempt to teach and control us by applying shame from the outside, instead of trusting our natural ability empathize with others, understand our misdeeds, and moderate our own behaviors.

As a result, many of us can’t identify our own authentic shame, which is often sensible, momentary, and empowering: Your hand goes out for a cookie, you realize you don’t need it, and you walk away. That’s authentic, free-flowing shame working properly. Afterward, you feel strong and aware, and you simply live by a moral code. You floss because you like clean teeth, you avoid drugs, adultery, and crime because they’re uninteresting, and you treat people well because it feels right. That’s what your free-flowing shame feels like.

As we delve into shame, let’s make sure we have a working vocabulary for differing levels of this emotion. Here is the shame section from our Emotional Vocabulary List (you can download this list here):

Lite (free-flowing) Shame

Hesitant ~ Flushed ~ Self-conscious ~ Speechless ~ Discomfited ~ Awkward ~ Humble ~ Reticent ~ Abashed ~ Flustered ~ Withdrawn

Shame in its Mood State

Ashamed ~ Guilty ~ Embarrassed ~ Intimidated ~ Penitent ~ Regretful ~ Remorseful ~ Chagrined ~ Culpable ~ Reproachful ~ Sheepish ~ Rueful ~ Contrite ~ Humbled

Intense Shame

Humiliated ~ Guilt-ridden ~ Guilt-stricken ~ Disgraced ~ Stigmatized ~ Mortified ~ Self-condemning ~ Self-flagellating ~ Degraded ~ Shamefaced ~ Belittled ~ Demeaned ~ Ostracized

Though we all know shame: the rush of heat, the flushed skin, the clenching feeling that stops you from talking or acting … notice that intense shame, unlike the lite and mood state levels of shame, is miserably uncomfortable. In general, people tend not to identify shame until it’s in the mood state, so they miss out on the ways in which the lite versions of authentic shame continually help them moderate their behavior. If people only know the mood state and intense versions of shame, then it’s no wonder that shame has such a bad rap. Intense shame is so painful that we may do just about anything to avoid, ignore, repress, or run from it.

But that’s a mistake, because shame, which is anger at yourself, is the primary emotion that can help you become an honorable and socially capable person. Shame can certainly overwhelm you, but when you can get into a healthy empathic relationship to it, shame can be your best friend. Shame can make you very sensitive socially, so that you’ll be able to stop yourself (gently and appropriately) before you say or do something wrong. Healthy and appropriate shame will also help you make amends if you realize that you’ve hurt someone, stuck your foot in your mouth, or broken a social rule.

But it’s very important that your shame be authentic to you — that it be a part of your own moral code and your ethics. Your own authentic shame may be a bit grueling, but it doesn’t create misery. The miserable shame — the shame that pretty much ruins the entire subject of shame — is shame that is applied from the outside as a control mechanism. Mockery, denigration, public shaming, personal attacks … these externally applied forms of shame can cause unending pain that may feel unaddressable.

Shaming messages that are applied from the outside often attempt to break down your self-worth: they brand you as lazy, bad, insincere, untrustworthy, dishonest, unattractive, unintelligent, unlovable, or unworthy of respect. If you take externally applied shaming seriously — without challenging or questioning it — you may fall into a shame spiral. Whereas your authentic shame comes forward in response to a behavior or action that you really shouldn’t be doing, applied shame tends to make you feel as if there is an unaddressable and unforgivable flaw in your very being. And if you’re a broken and unaddressably flawed individual, where do you go from there?

With authentic shame, you can change behaviors, make amends, try new approaches … you’ve got options.  But with badly applied foreign shame that questions your worth as a human being, you may find yourself unable to function properly. Dealing with applied shame is a very difficult task, but we’ve got an empathic skill that will help (How to re-work a toxic emotion), so worry not!

For today, let’s welcome our authentic shame with open arms and learn about the gifts it brings us.

The Gifts of Shame: Restoring Integrity
Integrity ~ Atonement ~ Self-respect ~ The capacity to amend your behavior

Shame is a form of anger that arises when your boundaries have been broken from the inside – by something you’ve done wrong, or have been convinced is wrong. While anger is the honorable sentry that faces outward and protects your boundaries from external damage, shame is the sentry that faces inward and protects your internal boundaries (and the boundaries of others) from your own incorrect or ill-conceived behaviors.

Shame is a vital and irreplaceable emotion that helps you mature into a conscious and well-regulated person. With shame’s assistance, you’ll be able to skillfully monitor your emotions, your thoughts, your desires, and your behaviors. However, if you don’t have conscious access to your own authentic shame, you won’t understand yourself, you’ll be haunted by improper behaviors and compulsions, you may explode with the toxic shame that torments you, and you’ll be unable to stand upright as an individual.

The questions for shame are: Who (or what) has been hurt? and What must be made right? These questions help you turn toward shame and use it honorably. When you can approach your shame empathically, you won’t be painfully shame-filled or guilt-ridden; instead, you’ll have a compassionate sense of ethics, the courage to judge and supervise your own conduct, and the strength to amend your behaviors without inflating or deflating your ego unnecessarily. When you successfully navigate through your authentic shame, you’ll feel proud of yourself, and you’ll move naturally into happiness and contentment.

When shame arises in response to your own authentic and addressable flaws or missteps, it flows appropriately (and often a step or two in front of your behavior). If you welcome your appropriate shame, you’ll stop yourself before you do something foolish, before you say the wrong thing, or before you enter into unhealthy behaviors or relationships.

Authentic and appropriate shame will help you turn away from your own maliciousness, charlatanism, and thievery – even when no one’s looking. It will keep you punctual, polite, and upstanding, and it will lead you gently but firmly away from the path of temptation. Authentic shame will stand at your inner boundary and monitor everything going out of your psyche and everything occurring within it. With its honorable assistance, you’ll become a conscientious and well-moderated asset to yourself and our world.

Working with your shame

The first task in working with shame is to welcome it with open arms. When your shame arises in the presence of others (it usually appears first as an internal pull in the gut, a flush of heat, a momentary speechlessness, or a sense of internal caution), it’s important to listen to your shame. If your shame stops you before you say or do something shameful, you can thank it and make your necessary preemptive corrections.

If you don’t know why your shame has come forward, you can ask yourself or the people around you if you’ve done something incorrect (Who – or what – has been hurt?), and apologize or make amends if necessary (What must be made right?). When you can openly welcome your shame, it will recede naturally (and swiftly) once it has helped you make your correcting actions (Emotions are action-requiring neurological programs). Then, your contentment and happiness will arise naturally, and you’ll move forward as a smarter, stronger, and more honorable person. Go you!

But if you can find no reason for your shame to have appeared, then you may be dealing with foreign or inauthentic shame. This kind of shame doesn’t help you manage your behavior. It trips you up, pulls at you, confuses you, makes you feel rotten, and wastes your time. If you’ve ingested too much foreign shame, it can essentially knock you sideways and make you less able to function.

photo of people in a shaming stockadeThis kind of unhelpful, disabling, and self-destructive shame is the kind that some people have been focusing on the memory of Amy Winehouse, on her friends and family, on Anders Breivik and the hate groups to which he belonged. And I have to tell you, this public shaming is the opposite of helpful. Enforcing shame upon others really doesn’t do anything but make them feel attacked and isolated. In children, a shaming approach laced with physical punishment can actually impair cognitive skills. In addicts, a shaming approach can increase psychological pain and lead to isolation or self-destructive behaviors.

Public shaming may succeed in getting people to stop publicly performing a behavior shamers don’t approve of. But if the behavior is important to people, they’ll find a way to hide it from view, and they’ll continue to do it (or they’ll fight back and act out even more openly). Shame applied from the outside doesn’t help people develop self-regulating skills. Public shaming really backfires, though it can be a fairly effective way to manipulate and control people who don’t have a good connection to their own healthy shame.

I read an article today about the use of emotional manipulation and shame in the cosmetics industry, and it’s a wonderful teaching lesson about the importance of identifying applied shame and public shaming tactics. Emotional skills are not just for relationships, art, drama, and music. Emotional skills can help you protect yourself from manipulation and exploitation.

Shame is one of the most important and powerful emotions you have, but because it’s so very powerful, it’s crucial to keep a close eye on it. Welcome your authentic shame, get to know it, learn to rely on it, and it will help you identify and separate yourself from the toxic effects of applied and foreign shame.


42 Responses

  1. Michael Stumpf
    | Reply

    Hi, Karla is it possible to get a another copy of the newsletter I believe that you some steps to working with the emotions, like feel the emotion then name, using the language of neurological-patterns of action, also about how our perceptions of reality can be misperceived. Thank You for your help, Peace Be Upon You, Mike

  2. Michael Stumpf
    | Reply

    Thanks, Karla; That’s what I needed, have a nice August. Peace Be Upon You, Mike

  3. Terre Spencer
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    The anger that most kids feel is from being given things instead of time and emotional repartee. They don’t feel entitled, they feel duped.

  4. Terre Spencer
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    Hi Karla,

    A little off-topic, (but maybe not since addictions are thought to be shame-based) but wanted to share this newsletter with you:

    Trying to get the words out that feelings are our friends and your book and work is much-needed and much appreciated.

    • Karla
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      Thanks for the link, Terre! About shame: I’m also looking at the current idea that “kids these days” are self-centered and unempathic because their self-image is inflated by permissive parenting. I’ve seen people call them “entitled,” and sort of throw their hands up. For me, I see the unearned sense of entitlement as a problem with anger (too much, dishonorably held) and shame (not enough, which is why the anger has no honor). Turning toward shame, rope-a-doping the foreign and applied shame, and embracing authentic shame — wow, it can heal a lot of really dark things. Shame rocks!

  5. Michael E. Stumpf
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    With all due respect Terrie that’s a rather simplistic perspective,there’s some truth to it ;but there’s a developmental stage where kids/adolescence just want what they want without having to earn it,some adults are stuck there.Anger being an emotion to express a no/boundary,it seems we all need to feel that no,yet we forget it has two sides (the person saying it & the one receiving it).I have had to learn the skill of both ,in many kinds of relationships take your pick? MY most intense training came in raising two children ( a boy & a girl),plus with their Mother.My long winded response is to say it’s at times a mess,thanks to Karla’s teachings I at least feel more confidence in engaging the issue. Peace Be Upon You,Mike

    • Karla
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      Hi Terre and Michael! I know you both as commenters well enough to know that you won’t get riled up at each other. Let’s hug it out!

      Actually, none of our four theories is completely wrong or completely right, because as you know, humans are some wildly complex things. Our competing theories reminds me of an interesting assignment I had in a Contemporary Sociology class. We were given the choice of five sociological theories of conflict, and asked to choose one to explain what happened in Nazi Germany. I went home and wrote a great theoretical piece about what I thought was the best theory.

      But when we all came back to class, and I heard the other students utilize their chosen theories, they were all totally insightful and true! For me, the takeaway was not that all sociological theories are interchangeable, but that when you look at something as deeply complex as genocide (or in our case, youth disenfranchisement), you’ve got to bring a prismatic, multivariate series of approaches to the issues. Humans are almost never one thing or another, the sneaky, gorgeous bastids!

  6. Terre Spencer
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    My computer at work crashed as I was trying to post yesterday afternoon. Only part of my post is there, which no one could have known from reading the two sentences that did get posted. No worries, I am not often called simplistic, so I will enjoy that. Mostly, I get accused of making things overly complex. I took a stance against porn recently and was called a conservative—now THAT was really funny! Had to print that one out and frame it for the occasional giggle.

    I am referring to a really specific splice of kids that I see in my somewhat narrow white, upper middle-class suburban day-to-day life. Urban and rural kids have entirely different challenges and I do no pretend to speak for them. Ditto with immigrants and diverse populations.
    The kids that I have watched grow up for the past 15 years are expected to perform, compete and excel at everything. Their lives have been centered around competition in school, activities/interests and social milieus—and mostly for the glory of their parents.

    Yes, they are angry. Heck, some of them are so pressured that I am angry for them. Their lives are so metered, regulated and performance-based that the poor souls are barely more than robots by the time they are finally accepted into the college of their parents’ choice. They have every possession and material want satisfied and their parents are mostly just the providers of expectations and stuff. Most of them are so lonely and really ache for connection. Having despaired of having emotional ties, they settle for stuff.

    In my experience, people will demand extraordinary amounts of what they have settled for and be truly grateful for modest amounts of what they really want. So what I am say is—that what appears to be entitlement for this bunch of kids is actually resigned despair,; demanding large quantities of what they are settling for (stuff) because what they really want (connection) is a hopeless dream and they know in every cell of their bodies that the connection is not ever going to happen.

    And as for Nazi Germany, I like Alice Miller’s psychological exploration of that piece of history. 🙂 A chance finding of this book in the early 1980s changed my life:


    • Karla
      | Reply

      Thanks for the unsimplification, Terre! I love Alice Miller’s book. Hers is another theory about what happened in Nazi Germany, and it’s a good one.

      Cyborg! Computers are such wonderful distraction buddies, research buddies, loneliness buddies, communication buddies … let’s face it, they’re a part of our families now. I honestly don’t know what I’d do without them. I mean, can you imagine waiting to find out if it was Robert Stack or Leslie Nielsen who said that line in that movie that time? Waiting is oppressive. It’s barbaric!!!!

      Remember back when we had to go to the library to look things up, or use a phone book? Scandalous.

  7. Terre Spencer
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    Wholly off-topic: I was listening to a podcast earlier yesterday about how our technology is becoming part of “us.”

    When my computer crashed at work, my first thought was: “at least it was not my laptop.” Kind of like seeing the tornadoes that are going to strike somewhere besides where you currently are on the weather channel.

    A month ago, I had to replace my laptop after I cam back from my morning walk and my old laptop was completely unable to power itself up. A lunchtime trip to the Apple store later and I came home with a replacement. No loss of data or any other digital tragedy, just took the new one home and restored everything from a backup of earlier that morning. As computer issues go, it was a mere blip on the digital landscape. Yet, it felt like being physically/mentally/emotionally disabled for the few hours that I was without one. A very interesting kind of loss in that experience. The podcast was especially pertinent given that I did not lose anything and knew that, yet, not having a laptop for several hours felt like an amputation. I may have become a cyborg. 🙂

  8. Sarah
    | Reply

    Hi Karla,

    I learned about you via my professor at school – your book is required reading… and I just recently subscribed to your newsletter, facebook page, and just received my emotion cards in the mail.

    I want to tell you how much I get out of what you write… you have a way of putting the “unspeakable” into words that make total sense. In a simple, elegant way… this is no easy task and I realize it is the culmination of a lifetime of introspection and work and creative thinking.

    So much of my psychic energy is spent on processing emotions in what feels like a void. As if I am alone in my thoughts and feelings and have nowhere to go with them. But when I read your words, I feel a connection, finally, to other humans.

    Thank you for your words and wisdom. It means so much to me to be able to read what you write and have light bulbs go off every time. How cool is that?

  9. Latoya J. Williams
    | Reply

    A little over ten years ago, your book “Your Aura and Your Chakras” and your two audio series: Energetic Boundaries and Emotional Genius helped me navigate through a very deep spiritual crisis. So, I wanted to take a moment to express my gratitude and appreciation for your work. I’m also a Facebook fan of yours.

    I have an empathic nature and was able to learn to protect myself from being overwhelmed by other people’s emotions, in part due to my learning about your work and incorporating practices that you suggest. In meditation this morning, I recognized the experience of an emotion that I would label “shame” and wanted to hear/read your thoughts about the experiences that I’ve had. So, I did a quick Google search and found a couple of articles you’ve written about shame. And, I’m not sure if my experience quite matches up with how you describe shame.

    Because my grandmother never graduated from high school, I have distinctly felt her emotional state about not feeling like she’s “good enough” or “smart enough.” In fact, on some level, I think she judges herself as unintelligent. Since I understand that about her, I’ve been able to reflect back to her the ways she is intelligent and ask her for advice.

    Yesterday, I felt a similar emotional state from a friend that I hadn’t seen in almost 16 years. He’s been judging himself harshly because he’s not in the place in his career that he thought he would be. I also believe that he holds “shame” about his father not being a savvy businessman and struggling to provide for their family when he was young, even though we both recognize that his father did the best that he could do.

    I know this emotional state well because I’ve judged myself about not living up to a “vision” that I and others had for my career/life. Even though I know that I’ve done the best that I could do in my life, I still feel this sadness/tension about where I am in my career/life. I also know that there are larger forces than just my own actions at play that have shaped my life. And, that what has happened in my life is what was supposed to happen or it would not have happened! I continue to make peace with my life as it is, while I taking steps to live my best life.

    I think that this emotional state is a type of foreign or “internalized” shame. However, I am wondering if you would label these empathic experiences as shame or something else? Would you suggest using the burning contracts practice or some modified version of it to deal with internalized judgment/shame about not being good enough or not living up to internalized expectations?

    • Karla
      | Reply

      Hello Latoya and welcome!

      Yes, I agree with your take on the situation. This sounds like an applied shame that comes from not living up to the expectations of others or not having what others have.

      But it’s also feeling like a mixed emotional state. There might be some grief in there about the utter loss of the thing that wasn’t attainable. There might also be some jealousy or envy about the unfairness, or in regard to watching people getting through high school or achieving things in their careers for reasons having nothing to do with their intelligence or talent.

      It also feels as if there’s also some structural issues pressing on the people, which means that there might be some anger about injustice. However, it sounds as if the anger isn’t being directed outward at the structure or the injustice, but is being internalized and turned into shame. We see this a lot today with men and women whose bodies are naturally larger than the current fad. There are many emotions that come forward for these people, but the constant and open shaming of larger people tends to keep these emotions internalized and turned in on the person.

      And yes, I would definitely suggest Burning Contracts — good call. However, I might also suggest finding community with people who have also experienced these structural problems so that the ashamed people can begin to see their struggles in the larger sociological sense, rather than feeling isolated and particularly incompetent. Does that make sense?

  10. Latoya J. Williams
    | Reply


    Thank you for your quick and clarifying response! Yes, I’m feeling a sense of grief mixed in with the sense of “shame.” Fortunately, there’s no envy at play in these scenarios. I have no desire to live the lives that I see other people are living, even though they may have achieved a certain career level that others would deem “successful.”

    I’m going to continue to reflect on these experiences because I know that they have something more to teach me. I got the notion that it’s ok for this sense of internal “shame” to exist in me. I believe that this emotion can exist in an enlightened form. For me, the question, “What must be made right?” that you pose in relationship with shame is central and turns into “What can I do to live as close as possible to the vision that I have for my life?”

    It’s simply not my nature to seek external forms of validation. It was impossible for me to stay on a career path that paid a lot of money and provided the outward appearance of success while my soul was dying at the same time. However, things still don’t feel quite right. My friend and I both are grappling with the question that goes something like this: “How could I have done all of this work, just like everyone else, and have not found my place?” So, the emotion of this energy is still driving me to move forward in the direction of a deeper acceptance of who I am and possibly a reconciliation with how my life/career reflects that.

    And you’re right, the conversation that I had with my friend provided a safe and supportive space for both of us to voice our experience and be witnessed. I blog about my career path in the hope of helping others who have found themselves on the “road less traveled.”

    • Karla
      | Reply

      Shame is such a beautiful emotion, but when it’s inauthentic or forced on people, it can be a monster.

      Envy and jealousy are also such wonderful emotions when they’re allowed to speak, but they rarely are allowed, doh. I think that we could call all three of these emotions “aspirational,” because they point toward what people long for, or wish for, or should be. That can be very painful if the current environment doesn’t support the person at all. Ouch.

      I remember when I was homeless and in a very unstable relationship, and having powerful, palpable longings for love and safety. And comfort! And money! And a set of matching dishes.

      My jealousy and envy kept me looking for and hoping for those things — thankfully. My shame was a bit too active, but I think I understand it. I was never able to panhandle, and I really wasn’t safe out on the streets — so I think my jealousy and envy were pushing me forward because my shame and anger knew that I wasn’t going to make it. Thank goodness I survived that time, and many thanks to my emotions!

      Okay, that was a detour, but homelessness is just up in my consciousness this year.

  11. Latoya J. Williams
    | Reply

    The word “aspirational” also came up in my mind as I’ve been meditating about my connection with shame! So, I can definitely see how envy, jealousy, and shame all relate to human longing/desires.

    Wow, I don’t know if I remembered reading that you were homeless at a time in your life. I worked at a homeless shelter for 6 weeks about four years ago and my consciousness/awareness around certain issues definitely expanded.

    I’ve read/watched two news segments about solutions for homelessness in the past few weeks: 1) a segment on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart about strides being made in UT to eliminate homelessness: and 2) new sleeping bag technology for the homeless that was created by students at my alma mater, Carnegie Mellon: So, I think there’s some larger awareness/movement going on about homelessness.

    • Karla
      | Reply

      Oh, thanks for those links! The homing program is so awesome. It needs to be rolled out everywhere, because it really is a better financial, empathic, and human-rights solution.

      Capitalism is a brutal system, and it needs to be humanized, so yay! It’s interesting, however, that this sort of program can only happen when there is a money savings attached to it. But hey, in an imperfect country with a conflict-based government, we’ll take what we can get.

  12. Laura Fraser
    | Reply

    Hi Karla – your Language of Emotions is becoming something of a bible for me. An incredibly useful and empowering resource; thank you. I am looking for information about how people who experienced abuse as a child can feel shame as an adult and was wondering if you have written about this at all? Thank you, Laura

    • Karla
      | Reply

      Hello Laura, yes — I focus on that in the Anger and Forgiveness sections, and in the trauma sections, and also in the skill Burning Contracts — which is an awesome practice for inauthentic, foreign, or toxic shame.

      Something I’ve been doing recently is working with Shame Shrines, where I have people actually write down their shaming messages and put them on a shrine or altar they create, perhaps on the top of a chest of drawers — something simple.

      We’ve been finding that this is a powerful way to do what I call “disembodying without dissociating,” because people can have a sense of getting the shaming messages out of their psyches, but also putting the messages in a place of honor so they’re not telling their shame to stfu and go away.

      We want shame to be able to get back to its vital regular work, so we don’t want to stifle it. But we definitely want to get it out of its feedback loop, and we definitely want to cleanse the shame of old, toxic, foreign messages. It’s a very healing practice!

  13. Laura Fraser
    | Reply

    Thank you Karla – will check out those topics – the Shame Shrines sound wonderful. Ritual is a lost art in our culture – Robert Johnson talks a lot about it in his work which you are probably familiar with so thank you for giving me something real to work with, Laura

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