Sta Hungry Stay Foolish

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

A blog by Leon Oudejans


16 May 2016


To my own surprise, I’ve never written about shame. I only noticed this in my 14 May 2016 blog on the psychological cost of reconciliation. Shame is the only topic that doesn’t have a link to any of my previous blogs. I suppose that my subconscious was keen to hide this topic. Clearly there are things which I am ashamed about. There are even things which I should – perhaps – be ashamed of but which I am not. How does shame work?

Shame is a consequence of having done (or said) things which you later regret that you have done (or said). Or things which you have not done (or said) and which you later regret that you should have done (or said). It’s about an action or lack of action and realising you can’t change time. Please also see my 15 October 2015 blog on regret (shame) versus remorse (guilt).

There’s another but similar type of shame which relates to things that someone else did (or said), or did not do (or say). Usually that someone else has a special meaning to you. The action or lack of action of that someone else causes vicarious shame shame to you (Dutch: plaatsvervangende schaamte). (source)

According to Wikipedia, there are a few more types of shame: false shame, toxic shame and secret shame. I do not relate to the last one as shame is typically something that is hidden from others. And the moment it’s out in the open, it’s called regret. At least in my view.

Again in my view, embarrassment is also a light version of shame, either caused by your own action or by someone else’s action. Usually embarrassment does not last very long. Probably, this human emotion lasts just as long as the blushing on our face.

Shame does not show and may last very long and could intensify or deteriorate over time depending on the outcome of the fight between our head and heart. Our mind is very capable of belittling our shame but our heart – or conscience – usually objects to that treatment. Our moral values largely determine the amount of shame we feel, unlike guilt. Even with low moral values, guilt may weigh heavy on someone’s mind. Shame may even grow into guilt, and guilt typically grows in time. This may also explain the phenomenon of deathbed penance

In 1976, Anja Meulenbelt wrote the book “De schaamte voorbij” (weblog), or in English: “Shame is Over” (Amazon). I like the title of this book as our actions are often governed by our intention not to bring shame upon ourselves – or others. It takes quite some mental courage to overcome this fear. Actually, it’s even quite hard writing these blogs if shame would still govern me. It’s quite liberating to experience this feeling of “shame is over”. Notwithstanding this, I do apply self-censorship in my blogs in order to prevent – or at least to restrict – the possibility of shame inflicted on others

Shame is like a dark cloud following us above our heads. We are always expecting that cloud to start raining any time soon. I prefer the sun and the wind, clearing the sky above me.

Shirley & Company – Shame shame shame (1974) – artists, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2


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