Shame and Contempt, Part 2: In our Daily Lives
by Jonathan Hart, LPC
My previous blog is this series proposed that shame and contempt shape our worlds more than we know. Do they? Here I am going to look at the vicious villians of shame and contempt in our daily lives. Listen to your words and your thoughts. Pay attention to your verbs.
It may surprise you how often you use “being” verbs in your daily life to describe yourselves and others.
Every time I shout at another driver in traffic, “Idiot!” (the full sentence by implication is “You are an idiot!”) I express contempt. I express my feeling that the other driver’s intelligence is defective, that they are in their very being worthless. And this, because they did something careless or something that I didn’t expect.
When I make a mess of things, make a mistake or deliberately do or say something hurtful, if I beat myself up about it, I am operating in shame. “Idiot! I can’t believe I did that.” I am expressing self-contempt, saying that because of this thing, and maybe others like it, I am of no real value in the world. I believe that everyone who hears of it would agree, and that they would be correct in having me summarily executed, that the world would be better off without me.
Of course, we don’t articulate either of these thoughts fully. If we were to articulate them fully, we would have to retract our statements.
So if (a) Shame and Contempt themselves are lies in their essence, and (b) most often we don’t really believe in the full extent of what we are actually saying, then there is a lot of falseness in our daily lives that we simply accept as “normal”.
Listen to your verbs. I challenge you to change your being verbs into descriptive action verbs and see what changes in your experience as you walk about your life. –JH
(Coming Soon: The Flipside of Shame and Contempt)