Shame is a powerful emotion that can cause people to feel defective, unacceptable, even damaged beyond repair. We often confuse shame with guilt: when you feel shame, you’re feeling that your whole self is wrong. When you feel guilt, you’re making a judgment that something you’ve done is wrong. When you feel guilty about something you did, you can take steps to make up for it and put it behind you. But when you feel convinced that you are what’s wrong, then you offer yourself no clear-cut way to “come back” to feeling more positive about yourself.
There are some cultures that can be seen as having a moral compass governed by guilt, and others that are governed by shame. In a culture governed by guilt, you know you are good or bad by what your conscience feels. In a culture governed by shame, you know you are good or bad by what your community says about you, by whether it honors or excludes you. In a guilt culture, people sometimes feel they do bad things; in a shame culture social exclusion makes people feel they are bad. It could be said that the integration of social media has created a new sort of shame culture. Facebook and Instagram provide a stage for constant display and observation, that play on the desire to be embraced and praised by their community. People dread being exiled and condemned. In a shame culture, moral life is not built on the continuum of right and wrong; it’s built on the continuum of inclusion and exclusion.
…So, with that, perhaps one step towards healing those who have been excluded in a shame culture is to offer them a space to be seen in their shame and embraced and included for it. That is what this workshop is about.