Brene Brown on Shame

“After studying Dr. Uram’s work, I believe it’s possible that many of our early shame experiences, especially with parents and caregivers, were stored in our brains as traumas.

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From the book, “I thought it was just Me” by Brene Brown

This is why we often have such painful bodily reactions when we feel criticized, ridiculed, rejected, and shamed.

Dr. Uram explains that the brain does not differentiate between overt or big trauma and covert or small, quiet trauma—it just registers the event as “a threat that we can’t control.”

In her work on “remembering the wound” versus “becoming the wound,” Dr. Uram explains that most of the time when we recall a memory, we are conscious that we are in the present, recalling something from the past.

However, when we experience something in the present that triggers an old trauma memory, we reexperience the sense of the original trauma.

So, rather than remembering the wound, we become the wound.

This makes sense when we think of how we are often returned to a place of smallness and helplessness when we feel shame.

After our physical fight, flight or freeze response, “strategies of disconnection” provide us with a more complex layer of shame screens.

Dr. Linda Hartling, a Relational-Cultural theorist, uses Karen Horney’s work on moving toward, moving against and moving away to outline the strategies of disconnection we use to deal with shame.

According to Dr. Hartling, in order to deal with shame, some of us move away by withdrawing, hiding, silencing ourselves and keeping secrets.

Some of us move toward by seeking to appease and please.

And, some of us move against by trying to gain power over others, being aggressive and using shame to fight shame.

During a recent workshop, I was presenting these strategies of disconnection and they were lettered on my slide (a, b, c.).

A woman raised her hand and asked, “Is there a d for all of the above?”

We all laughed.

I think most of us are d’s—most of us can relate to all three strategies of disconnection.

I know I’ve used all of them, depending on why and how I feel ashamed and who I’m with.

I’m less likely to move against when there is a power differential (bosses, doctors) or someone I’m trying to impress (new friends, colleagues).

In those situations I’m more likely to move toward or move away.”
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