Men in Balance
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Resources to Become a Man in Balance

Shame

Shame may be a subject you did not expect to read about in our newsletter, but it's a tool that is used against us and we use against others for the purposes of keeping people in line. I am fascinated by the work of Brenee Brown in this area and I strongly recommend her book, The Gifts of Imperfection. It is a good read and costs less than $10. You might also find useful her TED talk and blog.

In a nutshell, Brown says that by not allowing ourselves to be authentic, we stifle communication and connection between us and others, especially those we love. Rather than allowing ourselves to feel shame by revealing our true selves, we make pretenses and facades thinking we can present ourselves to be better than we are. Of course the opposite of this is to be vulnerable and genuine in communication and many men find that very difficult. However, I believe it is the only route to deep communication.

Below are some additional thoughts about shame from goodtherapy.org.

  • Focus on learning about yourself, not punishing yourself.

  • Separate the behavior from your identity; you can overcome the (shameful) behavior, and it doesn't have to define who you are.

  • Be honest with yourself.

  • Breathe, calm down, and tolerate the unpleasant feelings.

  • Take responsibility for your behavior.

  • Apologize, if possible.

  • Commit to being the person you want to be.

What not to do:

  • Lie to yourself.

  • Blame the victim.

  • Beat yourself up.

These suggestions are sometimes easier said than done. It can take time, patience, and emotional support to work through these steps. A person may not get the understanding and forgiveness he or she desires. It's important to do these steps anyway, regardless of the reaction. Just because someone becomes aware of his or her behavior doesn't mean it won't happen again. Hopefully, with repeated awareness and commitment, the person can learn to stop it faster.

In families carrying histories of substance abuse and/or physical abuse, the level of damage can be extreme, resulting in a greater need to justify, ignore, or suppress awareness of these behaviors. Twelve-step groupssupport groups, and psychotherapy can assist individuals in regaining clarity and self-compassion in order to end abusive behaviors, including the abusive behavior of self-loathing and self-abuse.

No one is perfect. There is no shame in learning, growing, and striving to be your best self.