Why We Need Shame

April 3, 2016

Categories: Shame

This post is Part 1 in a 2-part blog series on Donald Trump and shame.

Shame gets a bad rap in our society today, and for good reason. Shame tells us negative messages about who we are.

“You’re not good enough.”

“Who do you think you are?”

“You’re a terrible… wife, mother, husband, father, friend, worker, etc.”

Shame can be debilitating and shut us down. Research has found that shame is associated with addiction, depression, violence, suicidal thoughts, and eating disorders. It’s a bad deal.

It’s no wonder that many of us have been trying to eradicate shame from our lives, and also help other people work through their own experiences of shame. (If you have some time, check out this excellent TED talk by Brene Brown on shame and vulnerability.)

But what would happen if we could completely eradicate shame from our lives? At the extreme, I think we get someone like Donald Trump. I think one of the most powerful things about Donald Trump’s presidential bid, and part of what makes him so appealing to a large percentage of the population, is that he doesn’t seem to feel shame.

For example, remember what he said about Fox news journalist Megyn Kelly?

“You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever.”

Most of us would never say something like that, because it would trigger a large amount of shame, humiliation, embarrassment, and distress. It’s as if we have a ‘shame radar’ that is on the lookout for when our behavior might cross the line or result in a negative reaction from others. When it’s correctly dialed in, our shame radar helps reign in our inappropriate impulses, and function better in our social world.

It’s a powerful thing when someone has a shame radar that is dialed back to zero. That person can do or say whatever they want, with little internal modulation or holding back. A certain amount of shame is probably necessary to function in a society that involves navigating complex social systems and interpersonal relationships.

The problems of having an overactive shame radar are well documented. But we probably all need a little bit of shame in our lives.

Discussion: How would you describe your ‘shame radar?’ Is it overactive, dialed back, or ‘just right?’


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  1. annlindberg@rocketmail.com April 4, 2016 at 11:28 am - Reply

    With as much shame as I often carry, Trump is such a breath of fresh air! He says what people often think but are afraid to say. And when people attack him, he rolls with it and keeps right on going. I need more of Trump in me, without the orange skin and that hair.

  2. Joshua Hook April 4, 2016 at 11:42 am - Reply

    Stay tuned for the post on Wednesday!

  3. […] of the things I have noticed about Donald Trump that makes him so compelling is he doesn’t seem to feel much shame. He has strong opinions, and he isn’t afraid to share them with whoever is willing to listen. He […]

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