Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Tomorrow, I will be reviewing Dancing at the Shame Prom and Marcia Yerman is one of the contributors to the book, so I am excited to share a guest post from this writer.

Without further ado . . . 


The Ramifications of Shame

Shame is a heavy burden. It falls particularly hard on the shoulders of girls and women. In countries all over the world it flourishes like an ivy vine, wrapping itself around female necks in the name of cultural values and norms.

In Dancing at the Shame Prom, I joined twenty-six women in writing about how shame had impacted my life. I had to bypass two histories of psychological shame that involved other people’s stuff. I felt it was a privacy issue. Needless to say, I had plenty of material left over.

That’s how it is with shame.

In addition to my essay for the anthology, I researched and wrote an article for the women’s health site EmpowHER. I needed to drill down on a clinical examination of the impact of shame on the budding psyches of young girls—which hangs over them and remains as they grow into women. Low self-esteem, a reduced sense of self-worth, and a repetitive tape of negative thoughts are elements that plague those carrying shame.
Women are extremely invested in relationships, and often bring a “less than” mentality from childhood shame into their grown-up connections. Self-perception and shame go hand in hand, becoming an internal monitor of how you think people perceive you. What results is a core value that keeps one feeling small, invisible, and afraid to take risks.

Each of the mental health experts I spoke with underscored the role of society in keeping girls and women tied up in knots due to shame. While striving to fit in, they struggle to bend themselves to the strictures of the dominant standards. Boys and men have shame as well—because the rules of class, economic status, race, and shared ideology affect us all. (Moreover, shame is a tool and a methodology for keeping group identities intact and inviolable.)

For girls and women who feel entrapped in meeting superficial standards of beauty, self-hate and shame can be dual constant companions. Body image shame can lead to a cycle of eating disorders, isolation, and depression. A history of sexual abuse and the self-recriminating, “I should have,” can result in adult dysfunction. Addiction shame can be a barrier to growth and recovery.

In Dancing at The Shame Prom, the narratives related encompass parental suicide, racial identity, alienation, hoarding, alcoholism, sexual trauma, and more. They serve as an acknowledgment of shame as a root problem. Most importantly, readers experience the reassurance that they are not alone, as they become witnesses to the expiation of specific individual shame.

It is important to remember that naming the shame is the first step to a path of release and healing. It can be quietly to oneself, out loud to a therapist, or privately on paper. (The Shame Prom has a Tumblr blog where anyone can post a shame narrative, either with a name or anonymously).

It is a journey. However, laying down the oppressive load is like opening a window…and letting the fresh air in.

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