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Health and Sanity

Melissa Hutsell
Freelance Writer and Editor
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piqer: Melissa Hutsell
Wednesday, 20 February 2019

The Pros And Cons Of Feeling Shame

All in the Mind is a podcast that explores the brain, and human behavior. This episode focuses on shame, and how it influences us in positive and negative ways.

Shame is a core part of the human condition; it is a driving force for our behavior.

The feeling is often masked by addiction, self-loathing, or narcissism – but shamefulness can also have benefits for the individual, and society at large.

Dr Joseph Burgo, clinical psychologist and author of the book “Shame,” describes the feeling as a family of emotions, which all share the common characteristic: a painful awareness of self. Embarrassment, humiliation, social anxiety… it manifests itself everywhere in our daily lives. “It is genetically encoded, we all feel it the same way,” he adds.

Burgo proposes that shame is a core aspect of emotional difficulty. Controlling, denying or avoiding feelings of shame can overwhelm us and lead to mental illness. Social anxiety and alcoholism are examples of this.

Host Lynn Malcom says there's an important relationship between the way we manage emotions of shame, and feelings of self-worthy, and our parents play an important role in our understanding, and management of shame.  

Babies’ brains need exposure to mildly shaming experiences in the second and third year of life, Burgo explains. “And by that I don't mean humiliation, I mean things like, 'Mummy is talking to Adele's mummy right now, please don't interrupt,’ or, ' 'Wait your turn.'” Mild reprimands like those release cortisol, which is essential for normal brain development during these stages. “It helps us to socialize,” Burgo adds, “It helps us to get control over our impulses so that we can live in a community in which our needs aren't always paramount, when other people matter and we have to take them into account too.”

The episode also discusses the history of shame, its effect on indigenous populations, its influences on people with narcissism tendencies, and its role in the #MeToo movement. 

The Pros And Cons Of Feeling Shame
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