Building shame resilience - notes from Brené Brown’s research findings

Session Details - August 1st - Compassionate Body Scan and Soften - Soothe - Allow for Shame practice followed by a discussion on shame resilience and the important role MSC plays.

My past personal experiences of shame had been soul crushing to say the least. When I began practicing MSC, the common humanity component was my way in. I knew how to be mindful (even if it was with a good set of blinkers at times). I knew how to be kind (just not to myself). So including my whole self in that wonderful disclaimer of 'am human - will make mistakes', was more than a blessing, it was life changing, freedom and growth. Bringing light, warmth, courage and connection to my seemingly not acceptable parts was a welcome and natural flow on. 

So in reading Brené Brown's, ‘Daring Greatly, how the courage to be vulnerable transforms the way we live, love, parent and lead’, it was no surprise that she found self-compassion, empathy, courage and loving connections top of the list of qualities in people with shame resilience. 

“Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging” (B. Brown: 69). It is a very innocent emotion that comes from our primal need to connect – therefore the fear of disconnections.

1. We all have it. Shame is universal and one of the most primitive human emotions that we experience. The only people who don’t experience shame lack the capacity for empathy and human connection.
2. We’re all afraid to talk about shame.
3. The less we talk about shame, the more control it has over our lives.
(B. Brown : 68)

Language around shame:
Guilt is I did something bad, shame is I am bad.
Humiliation is when you do not feel you deserved a certain treatment or outcome, shame is where you feel you do deserve it.
Embarrassment is normally fleeting and eventually funny.

Shame resilience:
Shame resilience as a strategy for building connection and empathy, because shame resistance is not possible. This requires us to embrace our vulnerability, checking in with gender specific cultural norms – questioning them and our internalised messages regarding them. In her research Brené found that there were four elements to shame resilience:
1. Recognising shame and understanding it’s triggers. Feeling into the body and mindful of the messages and expectations that triggered it.
2. Practicing critical awareness. Reality checking the messages and expectations that are driving shame. Are they realistic? Attainable? Are they really what you need or want to be?
3. Reaching out. Owning and sharing your story, to truly experience empathy.
4. Speaking shame. Language and story bring light to shame and allow you to get your needs met.
(B. Brown : 75)

The role of the compassionate inner voice:
You are ok, you are human, we all make mistakes, I’ve got your back, this too will pass.
If you own this story you get to write the ending.
Being vulnerable is courageous – I just showed great courage.
I know this feeling, I am not alone in this feeling.

“I am not what has happened to me. I am what I choose to become.” – Carl Jung

Shame and creativity:
Shame is the invisible killer of creativity, creative expression can be a helpful tool on the path to shame resilience.

How men and women experience shame differently:
Brené found that men and women are both equally affected by shame, but the messages that fuel the shame are different. Women tend to feel the most shame around body image and motherhood, men suffer the most around needing to not be seen as weak.

The enough mandate:
Shame, comparison and disengagement all feed the core belief of scarcity – not being enough.
Believing that we are enough can transform the protective armour we can build around our sense of self, freeing us from what the meditation teacher Tara Brach refers to as the trance of unworthiness.
• I am enough (worthiness versus shame).
• I’ve had enough (boundaries versus one-uping and comparison).
• Showing up, taking risks and letting myself be seen is enough (engagement as opposed to disengagement).
(B. Brown :146)

In practicing shame resilience – ‘vulnerability is the path and courage is the light’ (B. Brown: 110). The courage to support and love ourselves and each other: loving, connected, presence, the three components of compassion.
1. Kindness - loving
2. Common humanity - Connected
3. Mindfulness - Presence

The words below speak to how knowing you are loved is transformational to becoming ‘real’.

The Velveteen Rabbit – Margery Williams
"What is REAL?" asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. "Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"
"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real."
"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit. "Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."
"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?"
"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand." "I suppose you are real?" said the Rabbit. And then he wished he had not said it, for he thought the Skin Horse might be sensitive.
But the Skin Horse only smiled.

Brené Brown, ‘Daring Greatly, how the courage to be vulnerable transforms the way we live, love, parent and lead’, 2012, Penguin Random House, UK.

Comments from participants

“I have found mindfulness a key to coping." 

“Learning to be still and kind to myself." 

“Tina, you create a safe, warm, kind and comfortable environment."

“I could not think of a better way to start my week." 

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